Gettysburg battlefield to install ‘smart’ parking

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — There are iPhone apps that map out the Battle of Gettysburg. A climate-controlled system at the visitor center in Gettysburg is so precise it will detect the change of a few degrees. And soon parking lots at the Gettysburg battlefield will also be equipped with the latest technology.

Sensors will be installed to make the lots “smart,” meaning they will become able to direct tourists to overflow areas when the parking spaces fill up.

The project comes as part of an ongoing effort to employ modern technology to relate the historic battle.

To build the smart-parking system, crews will install an induction loop at the entrance to parking lots at the Gettysburg Museum & Visitor Center. The loop operates much like those used at traffic lights and will count the number of cars passing into the lots.

Once the lots reach capacity, the system will activate electronic message signs installed along U.S. 15 to direct drivers to an overflow parking area at The Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg.

Visitors will be directed to The Outlet Shoppes only after additional lots fill along Taneytown Road near the National Cemetery.

From The Outlet Shoppes, Freedom Transit buses will offer free shuttles to the visitor center.

Backup systems will be installed using cameras and cellphone technology to ensure the cars are counted accurately.

“Essentially, the idea is no one system determines when the parking lots are full,” park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said.

Parking lots fill up only a few days each year, Lawhon said. But the system is designed to prevent headaches during the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 2013. Tourism officials expect as many as 4 million people to visit Gettysburg next year.

Battlefield officials also hope the system will encourage visitors to use the Freedom Transit buses, which carry tourists to the downtown area and Gettysburg College.

“We hope that more of our visitors become familiar with Freedom Transit and they will realize what a great opportunity they have to use the trolley to visit other sites,” Lawhon said.

The project is being funded mostly by a $750,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The National Park Service and Gettysburg Foundation are both contributing $6,125 to the effort as well. That money will go toward constructing and launching the system, which is expected to be completed this summer.

“We want to have a whole year to test it out before the anniversary,” Lawhon said.

Project officials are already working to expand the smart-parking system. As part of a second phase, Freedom Transit buses will be equipped with GPS devices and park visitors will be able to use smartphones to obtain arrival times for the shuttles.

The second phase will also fund five new alternative-fuel vehicles to be used as shuttles for the overflow parking areas.

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