USC Ensures Parking Security With High-Speed Gates

New doors prevent access of unauthorized individuals to the University of Southern California’s parking structures.

On game day when the highly ranked University of Southern California (USC) Trojan men’s and women’s basketball teams battle it out at the Galen Center over on the campus’ west end, upwards of 10,000 fans pack the arena to cheer them on. In between these games at this recently opened multiuse facility, volleyball games, concerts and many other major events take place at an often-packed house.

The USC campus owns and operates a six-story, 1,200-car-capacity parking structure within walking distance of the arena. During these special events, the garage doors leading in and out of the parking structure — what USC calls PS-1 — are kept open before, during and after the event while ticket takers are stationed at the doorways to admit cars to the building. The parking structure also services events for the renowned Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on the other side of the building. 

Garage Booths Don’t Require Staffing

The structure was built for USC students, staff and faculty to park in the structure so they can access buildings on the University Park campus and the USC Credit Union. There are no staffed booths at doorways. Instead, four automatically operated Rytec Spiral security doors rapidly open and close at 60 inches per second as cars pass through, while tightly sealing up the doorway between vehicles. The doors are also used on the PS-2 structure, which also serves the Galen Center along with the nearby Radisson Hotel and other USC business establishments.

Along with the university’s education and research mission, security and safety is important for USC. The University’s Department of Public Safety is one of the largest university law enforcement agencies in the United States. A full-time staff of 281, along with contract security officers and 30 students protect the two campuses in south and east Los Angeles.

View our photo gallery of this installation.

In the absence of manned booths at the entrance to the parking structure, cameras monitor the PS-1 doorways. “Still,” says USC Chief of Campus Security Carey Drayton, “all unmanned parking structure doorways have to deal with the problem of piggybacking. This happens when intruders time the interval between when the vehicle passing through the doorway and the door closing, and then they slip into the building. The speed of the roll-up doors makes criminals think twice about piggy backing and discourages them from using our parking structures as possible crime sites.”

High-Speed Doors Prevent Traffic Backup

As vehicles approach the doorway, the door’s control system detects an RFID chip in an adhesive strip attached to the car’s rearview mirror. USC provides this RFID chip to everyone who rents a parking space at PS-1. The faculty, staff and students are also given a key card to get back into the building through card-reader-accessible pedestrian doors.

As the car approaches, the RFID reader mounted directly above the door detects the chip from as far as 10 feet away and then opens the door if the car is authorized.  The door opens at a sufficient speed so that the car can glide in and out of the parking structure without stopping to wait for the door to open. The door speed also means that an unauthorized vehicle cannot enter the building right after one that is authorized.

Where traffic patterns near the doorway are tight, the high speed minimizes potential damage to the door by rolling up the panel faster and out of the way than conventional doors. 

New System Requires Little Maintenance

Pablo Sahugun, the USC parking facilities manager, learned how the speed of the door could benefit the school’s ability to move traffic through their parking garage doorways at an industry trade show. Sahugan appreciates that this kind of door has had very few maintenance issues, even with the high volume of traffic and open and close cycles.        

Related Article: How to Protect Your Parking Structures

On this door, there is a compact, variable-speed, 2HP AC drive with a three-phase motor that offers smooth starts and stops, and longer drive life. A weather-resistant NEMA-4X enclosure protects the UL/ULc-listed controls. Preprogrammed menu options allow the USC maintenance crew to easily adjust door operation to match the specific needs of each location, while self-diagnostic capabilities help keep maintenance-time to a minimum.

The tight coil of the roll-up door design enables parking garage applications like PS-1 where headroom is sparse to fit in only 11 inches of clearance. Space along the side is spared as well. The door guides mount to the inside wall, providing full access to the doorway.

When closed, the doors reinforce doorway security for both cars and drivers because of the rigid aluminum slat construction and integrated locking system. The panel has no metal-to-metal contact and therefore is quiet when operational while requiring low maintenance.

A durable rubber membrane connects the slats, which run along galvanized steel side frames with full-height weatherproofing. This creates a complete seal against debris blowing into the parking structure to reduce cleanup. Despite the bright California sun pounding down on the doors, the anodized aluminum coating has kept the doors looking good.

Doors Support Aesthetics, Protect Pedestrian Safety

Rather than the standard parking structure look, PS-1 emulates the style of the Galen Center and the roll-up doors maintain appearance of the building design.

If a vehicle or pedestrian happens to be in the doorway, standard dual photo eyes prevent the door from closing. This safety system is backed up by a reliable, pressure-sensitive edge that causes the door to reverse instantly upon contact.

In the case of a power outage, a mechanical brake release lever on the side column allows the door to be opened manually.

Thanks to their high speed, the doors at the USC parking structure don’t get in the way of traffic, only intruders.

Keith Schmitz is the communications contact for Rytec Corp.

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