Automated system for Boston garage

Someone is actually trying to make it easier to park in Boston.

A new system planned for the 1,350-car Boston Common Garage would use dynamic signs, ceiling sensors and indicator lights to alert drivers to open parking spaces, so they don’t have to aimlessly circle the three-level garage looking for empty spots.

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority expects to spend an estimated $800,000 on the automated parking guidance system and aims to have it installed by mid-2018.

“It’s an amenity for our customers as well as good for the environment,” said Jim Folk, the MCCA’s director of transportation.

The hope is for dynamic signs that would tell drivers entering the garage how many parking spots are available on each level, and additional dynamic signs at each row of parking showing how many spots in that row are open.

Sensors above each parking spot would detect whether there’s a vehicle in the space, and green or red indicator lights at each spot would show whether it’s empty or occupied. Other colored lights would indicate spots for handicapped drivers, and hybrid and electric vehicles.

“This cuts the (car) emissions down, which is good for the environment,” Folk said. “Also, it will cut down on electricity, because our exhaust fans won’t be operating as much.”

Workers now manually count the number of available open parking spaces to determine when to close to additional customers.

“It will cut down on manpower that we could reallocate,” Folk said.

Garage public safety workers would monitor feeds from new cameras at each parking spot.

“It will be a safer environment even though we have a 24-7 public safety department,” Folk said. “Instead of doing patrols, we could actually be watching live on camera ... to make sure everything is safe.”

Also being considered are license plate-recognition capabilities that would allow customers to find their car by level and spot using a mobile app.

“Sometimes people will think their car is stolen in our garage, and so our public safety department will take them around to all the levels, and finally they find their car,” Folk said. “This will prevent that.”

The app could also be integrated into the garage’s payment system to allow mobile payments.

MCCA staff reviewed a pilot automated parking guidance system at the TD Garden garage before soliciting bids. Owner Delaware North is testing Park Assist’s smart-sensor system on the first level of that Hub garage, but hasn’t decided if it will permanently install the system, a spokeswoman said.