The University of Texas Southwest (UTSW) Medical Center in Dallas began using an automated parking guidance system (APGS) in one of the garages at William P. Clements University Hospital, which opened in 2020. The system proved so successful that UTSW is expanding the system to a second, 950-space garage at the same facility scheduled to open in the second quarter of this year. 

UTSW partnered with TKH Security, an international supplier of smart electronic security and parking guidance systems, to supply the APGS used at the hospital. 

The APGS uses colored lights — red for occupied, green for vacant and blue for Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking — on sensors suspended from the ceiling over driving lanes to expeditiously direct hospital visitors to the easiest open parking spaces. Informational signs also hang at the entrance to the parking facility and at key decision points in the garage.

The automated system can enhance the hospital patient’s experience, says Pete Messman, general manager of North America for TKH Security. “The first and last experience of the patient’s hospital visit is going to be in the parking garage — including how easily they can get in and out.”

By directing visitors to available spots, it can reduce the time to park by up to 63%, allowing them to reach their appointments faster and with less stress, he says. 

More than that, it can give operational managers at UTSW a better sense of who is using the garage, when and for how long. For example, are staff parking in designated patient parking areas? The automated data it provides helps managers to understand traffic flow in the garage. 

“Parking guidance is becoming critical infrastructure as people become more accustomed to wayfinding and facilitated parking experiences,” Messman says. “It is also one of the relatively few areas where a hospital can have some control over the patient experience.” 

The parking system also offers enhanced security and surveillance, with cameras able to view every parking spot in the garage and the space between. 

At UTSW, the parking system is part of a suite of applications incorporated into its UTSWMyCare patient care app, which also connects visitors to clinic wayfinding, links to shuttles and ride-share services, and access to prescriptions, medical records and lab results.

“With the systems, we’re able to maximize occupancy, enhance security and utilize the data to adjust parking operations to meet driver and medical center needs,” says Rick Harbaugh, UTSW senior operations manager. “Since installing the AGPS in garage A, our patients and visitors praised their parking experience. Adding it to garage B was an easy choice.”