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The Changing Perception of Parking

Brett Wood

I have a secret obsession: I like to find online articles about parking management decisions in various communities and read the comments that the local folks add at the end. Sometimes I don’t even read the articles. I shoot straight to the bottom and read the comments. Most times, those comments read like this:

“I can’t believe they are going to charge for parking…nobody is ever going to come downtown again!”

“Why does the city constantly try to hurt business? More parking management means less customers.”

You almost never read:

“Why, what a wonderful idea! Now I will be able to find a convenient parking space.”

For so long, our industry has been plagued by perception: there is not enough parking, parking costs too much, suburbs with free parking are better than downtowns with paid parking, parking enforcement is only out to get people’s money.

It’s up to parking professionals to change those perceptions, and it’s amazing what little decisions can do to help change a customer’s mind about parking. A focus on improving customer service goes a long way in changing the perception of parking, both inside and outside of our industry. The ultimate goal of parking managers today should be maximizing customer experiences rather than focusing on maximizing revenue. Because, just like they told Kevin Costner’s character in “Field of Dreams,” “If you make the parking experience better, they will come.”

We don’t have to go that far to improve the perception of parking. We just need to start thinking about how our customers will use and appreciate our parking decisions.

Six Words About Parking

Helen Sullivan

Are you familiar with the six-word project that originated at Smith College and launched a movement? The idea is that you can sum up your life in six words. Here’s a six-word example from John Grogan, the journalist who cashed in big with his memoir Marley & Me: “The dumb dog sure paid off.”  There are websites and a growing list of books devoted to this endeavor. Six words about love, six words about work, six words about everything.

IPI’s Parking Matters® program in six words: Changing perceptions about parking through education. That’s six words. And, often that’s about all the chance I get to convince a reporter to write an article about parking or persuade an editor that there is another side to the negative spin on a story in the works.

Here are a few of my favorite six-word sound bites that serve as conversation starters about the importance of parking and the value of parking professionals:

  • Parking professionals focus on customer service.
  • Parking laws: Needed to prevent chaos.
  • Parking problem?  Consult a parking professional.
  • Emerging parking trends: Technology and sustainability.
  • Sustainable communities depend on parking expertise.
  • Prioritize parking in planning urban projects.
  • Parking is integral to urban planning.
  • A successful downtown depends on parking.
  • Economic development hinges on smart parking.
  • Police find criminals via parking violations.
  • Parking First Observers are trained anti-terrorists.
  • Parking is about moving people forward.
  • Technology is driving a parking revolution.
  • Counterintuitive, but parking and sustainability mesh.

One six word request:   Help me add to this list!