Pedestrians in parking garages are at great risk of being hit by vehicles, and this is particularly true of airport garages, where many drivers are not familiar with the garage and may be driving rentals, with which they are also unfamiliar. New, whiter lights offer an opportunity to brighten all surfaces in garages and make it easier for drivers to see pedestrians and signs.

Lighting expert Ron Gibbons, director of the Center for Infrastructure Based Safety Systems at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, has received funding from the National Academy of Sciences to research “Airport Parking Garage Lighting Solutions” and create a guidebook.   

Gibbons points out that traditional light sources, such as high pressure sodium lights, have an intense amber color. New light sources, such as LEDs and plasma technologies, provide more control over light color and can be very white, “which appeals to the human eye, meaning driver and pedestrian will have greater visual performance,” said Gibbons. “It is also energy efficient because it can be dimmed during daylight or no traffic periods and comes back on quickly.”

The new technology is also friendlier for airport security needs, such as where facial recognition technology is in use. “Lighting is important to detection and identification of people and their activities,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons’ team will review airport parking garages as case studies and create a guidebook for parking garage lighting, specifically for airports. “The guidelines must consider the impact of the light source, lighting controls, and airport operations and must provide a method to compare lighting system and calculate a cost-benefit factor,” said Gibbons.

The guidebook will be submitted to the Airport Cooperative Research Program for review.

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