More than standing in the direction of the arrow

an Zeil 1802 vacant spaces in multi-storey car parks, 608 on Mainzer Landstraße. The numbers on the screen may be correct, but it will be a coincidence. Frankfurt’s parking guidance system has not been connected to the city’s traffic control center for more than six months. Instead, the data is entered manually and is therefore only up-to-date to a limited extent. Until a few months ago, the reason meant something only to computer experts: Log4j. The Federal Bureau of Information Security warned in December of a vulnerability in this software module that hackers could use as a Trojan horse to attack computers. Since the traffic control center, like the displays, is part of the critical infrastructure, the parking guidance system installed in 1992 was separated from it for safety reasons. Its technology is outdated, the manufacturer no longer supports it, and it is expensive to operate.

So Frankfurt should get a new traffic and information control system, abbreviated VLIS. The judge recently approved the €500,000 planning costs. So it will take some time before the first 65 large format LED dynamic display panels are in place. It replaces not only the parking guidance system with its numbers, but also the black “Mainziel” dashboards created in 2005 and can display various texts. It’s not just traffic information. “Even in the time of Corona, these boards were very useful,” says Mobility Director Stefan Mager (Die Grünen). They urged people to stay away from them and wear masks.

Boards can perform different tasks

New panels, like the previous “Main Ziel” banners, which will be placed on important access roads to the city center, can also perform various tasks. Their purpose is to provide information about road closures, traffic obstructions, air pollution, weather events and events. In addition, it can play a role in civil protection in the future because it can be used to issue warnings in a prominent position in the event of “major disasters”. According to Majer, it is examining whether and how signs can be incorporated into the city’s warning architecture. Experts in Augsburg, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Wiesbaden and Würzburg considered models for advertisements, the large version of which is 1.80 x 2.80 meters in size.

Outdated: the steering system can no longer be trusted to park a car.

Outdated: the steering system can no longer be trusted to park a car.

Photo: Maximilian von Lachner

However, dynamic signals also take over the tasks of the previous parking guidance system. They are based on the new concept in 2012. In the future, drivers will be guided through the so-called parking loops. One runs in a loop in front of the main train station, and the other like the “stadtmitte target area” covers the area between Anlagenring and Berliner Straße. The capacity of single multi-storey car parks is not specified, but the panels display the free parking spaces in a certain direction at the corresponding “exits”. The multi-storey car park in Sachsenhausen was not included in the first expansion phase. According to the Road Traffic Bureau, it is possible and desirable to include occupancy of private parking in the “target areas” of the city center and the main train station. But in the past, private parking operators have shown themselves to be more data-efficient, according to the spokesperson.

In addition to the old parking signs and “Mainziel” signs, there are other guidance systems in Frankfurt. In the stadium, Hessen Mobil operates variable signs, complemented by municipal display panels. A dedicated traffic control system with 34 LED displays was also installed at the trade fair in 2017 and 2019. This is technically independent, according to a spokesperson for the Frankfurt Road Traffic Office. However, it can be linked to the traffic control center, which will also control the new traffic control system.

The cost of the planned 65 dynamic scoreboards, including civil engineering works and technical preparations, is currently €9.2 million. Preparations began more than three years ago to develop an integrated replacement system for the two old display systems. According to the Department of Transportation’s chief, Majer, the Office of Road Traffic used funding from the federal government’s “Instant Clean Air Program.”

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