All Roads Lead to Technology

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According to a new survey released today by the International Parking Institute (IPI), technology, sustainability, revenue-generation, and customer service are the top trends in the parking industry and the things most parking professionals are looking for.

The 2012 Emerging Trends in Parking Survey was released at the IPI Conference & Expo in Phoenix, Ariz., this morning. It showed that cashless, electronic, and automatic payment systems join apps that provide real-time information about parking rates and availability and wireless sensing devices that help improve traffic management as the top in-demand technologies in the industry.

More than one-third of respondents said that demand for sustainable services is a top trend, and that they’re talking about energy-efficient lighting, parking space guidance systems, automatic payment process, solar panels, renewable energy technology, and systems that accommodate electric vehicles and/or encourage alternative methods of travel. Technologies that help people find parking faster take cars off the road; an estimated 30 percent of people driving around cities at any time are looking for parking, wasting fuel and emitting carbons.

Survey participants also said that convincing urban planners, local governments, and architects to include parking professionals in their early planning processes is a priority; doing that, they said, would help prevent many design problems in final projects. And when asked where parking should be included as a course of study in academic institutions, nearly half of the survey participants said schools of urban study, followed by business or public policy schools.

The full survey can be accessed on IPI’s website.

The Conundrum of Paid Parking

Brett Wood

We are often asked about the implementation of paid parking within a community. Citizens, business owners, property owners, employees, and employers all want to know three things:

  • How will this affect business?
  • Who is going to be accountable for the system?
  • How do you measure success?

These are difficult questions to answer, but we find ourselves trying to answer them more and more. Every community reacts differently, and the success or failure of a parking system depends on everyone involved. Your community should consider these thoughts:

The community has to support implementation. You don’t have to believe in it, but if you want your business to succeed in the new environment, it’s imperative that you educate yourself, your employees, and your customers about the benefits and use of the system.

Forget about revenue. Paid parking shouldn’t be a cash grab for the general fund. For successful implementation, everyone has to understand that paid parking is about management, providing incentives to park away from premium spots, and encouraging prime spots to turn over.

Give something back. Provide some tangible benefit to the area through benefit districts that pay for transportation and community enhancements, and tell people you are doing it. Put a sticker on every meter that tells your customers where the money goes.

Ease up on the tickets. If you implement paid parking, focus on compliance. Ease up on citations. By educating your customers about how and where to park, violations should go down and revenue should be unchanged.

Market, market, market. Before you implement paid parking, start educating your customers about it. Pilot studies are a great way to test new technology before you buy. Don’t be afraid to try three or four vendors and equipment types. Test them all at one time. Ask people what they think.

Be flexible. Provide payment options. Don’t be afraid to raise or lower rates if you don’t find the balance you like. Go into the implementation with the mindset that year one is a trial, and include your stakeholders. Because they are using the system, and they are educating your customers.

Giant Twinkies

Mark Wright

I’m staring through a tall expanse of picture windows at a parking lot as I tap out this post on my iPad. The windows are just about the only thing between me and the parking spaces a few feet away that house vehicles pointed directly at me. A very shallow curb extends a few feet out from the building.

Sitting here is stupid, given my history. But it’s a bright sunny day. The big windows draw my eyes out toward a beautiful blue sky. And I’m watching every vehicle that pulls in so I’ll be ready to leap if one of them fails to stop — or if a driver’s foot mistakenly hits the gas instead of the brake.

None of the people around me seem concerned as vehicles come and go from the spaces a few feet away. They’re chatting. They’re reading. They’re using mobile devices.

Well, far be it from me to interrupt them (“Who the heck was that wacko…and what’s a bollard?”).

If a parking professional sat next to me, of course, he or she would surely notice something missing. White-lined parking spaces? Check. Blue disabled-only symbols where appropriate? Check. Proper drive lane widths and clear sight lines? Check.

The missing element: a safety barrier between vehicles and the people sitting here behind all this glass.

An observation by the ever-insightful Homer Simpson seems fitting: “You know that little ball you put on your antenna so you can find your car in a parking lot? That should be on EVERY CAR!”

Ditto for safety barriers—bollards, boulders, planters—whatever’s appropriate for the site. Why shouldn’t every parking facility use them?

If we were to ask Homer for an idea about protecting pedestrians and building patrons from moving vehicles in parking areas, his answer might be, “Ummm, giant Twinkies?”

I’d hate to block that great view in front of these picture windows with four-foot Hostess products, though. (D’oh! Now I have the munchies.)

What are your thoughts? Post them in the comments below.