Analog bodes well in metro centre garage

Convincing case for the technology at multi-level facility


Every day thousands of commuters crowd into the station in Owings Mills, Md., to catch the Metro electrified train into downtown Baltimore. Owings Mills serves as the starting point for commuters, traveling from a number of surrounding counties, who park in the new nine-level Metro Centre garage before stepping onto a subway train. All day long while these commuters are miles away at work, a system of over 100 video cameras from Panasonic keeps watch over their vehicles in the Metro Centre garage, owned by Owings Mills Transit, LLC.

Providing more than 3,000 parking spaces for commuters who use the Baltimore subway operated by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), the current Metro Centre garage is the first of several structured parking garages that will serve an adjacent planned development of office, retail, residential and public buildings. The transit-oriented development (TOD) will include another 30 or so buildings on the now mostly undeveloped site. Additional traffic expected from the planned commercial development will undoubtedly keep it fully utilized. A second garage planned nearby will one day accommodate another 2,500 cars and the two sites will be linked by fiber optic cable that will enable the existing control room to manage both security systems.

“Panasonic’s corporate resources, capabilities and reputation contributed to the decision to go with their video equipment for the garage,” said Nick Sachs, asset manager for David S. Brown Enterprises Ltd., Baltimore, the property firm that manages the existing garage and is involved in the planned development. “Anytime you stack 3,000 cars together, you have security concerns, in addition to the fact that the subway system can attract crime. There will be another garage here and an entire community in the future and we knew that the vendor could handle that.”

But that wasn’t the only impetus leading to the installation. It was the fatal shooting of a teacher in a Baltimore-area mall parking garage in 2005 that raised local awareness of related security issues and led to a mandate that, with certain exceptions, all retail parking be 75 percent covered by video surveillance. The Metro Centre garage has video coverage approaching 100 percent, including the exterior, elevators, public walkways and stairwells. “Baltimore County is looking over our shoulders because they know retail is coming,” said Sachs.

Analog gets the go-ahead

Braving the cold, a challenge for installers tasked with pulling cable during the 24-month installation period were Signals Communication Systems’ lead technicians David Persing and Matthew Houser and crew. The system at Metro Centre garage is built around robust analog technology.

“We looked at all the possibilities,” said Robert W. Harry Jr., president of Signals Communication Systems Inc., based in Owings Mills. “We did several scenarios before finally deciding on the design.”

Given the physical configuration of the existing Metro Centre facility, analog proved to be the most cost-effective platform for this specific application. Installing an IP-based system would have been complicated by the maximum allowable cable length of 100 meters (328 feet) between routers using Category 5e Ethernet cables. The garage’s 200- by 600-foot dimensions and layout would have made it necessary to install a fiber optic backbone and additional equipment in order to keep cable lengths below the Ethernet maximum. With no network closets in the concrete parking structure to accommodate the additional routers and switches, it would have been necessary to install them outdoors, and “hardened” equipment that can withstand the heat, cold and humidity is more expensive.

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