Parking is Part of a Sustainable Transportation Network
August 17, 2011
Technology Drives Customer Service Expectations
Technology is projected to be the next big thing in parking. Results from the International Parking Institute’s (IPI) recent survey of emerging industry trends highlight economic and environmental concerns, but also focus on technology’s potential to streamline operations and improve customer service.
Notably, about one third of parking service providers who participated in the 2011 survey reported an increasing demand for cashless or electronic payment methods. More than 25% of respondents anticipate an increase in the use of smart phone apps to find, reserve and pay for parking, while a similar number noted a move toward innovative technologies to improve access control.
Such developments should also support ways to increase parking revenue, which was the number one priority identified by 44% of survey respondents. Analysts point to the many cash-strapped local governments that are now relying on parking revenue to fund a wider range of community services beyond the traditional practice of reinvesting it in parking and transportation-related maintenance and services.
“Parking professionals are feeling the squeeze from having to do more with less,” says the 2009-2011 IPI Chair, Cindy Campbell. “There’s no doubt this has been a source of frustration for our profession, but the counterpoint to that is an explosion of new technologies, a focus on sustainability and a wider acceptance of parking as integral to transportation that is fueling a positive paradigm shift for our industry.”
Demand for green and sustainable parking solutions were cited by 36% of respondents. In a related concern, 19% specifically identified the need to accommodate electric cars and provide charging stations in the near future.
Parking operators offer many specific visions of the coming technology. Nearly half of all respondents mentioned smart phone apps, cashless parking, automatic vehicle identification or simply a continued push to integrate and expand technology to increase the efficiency of parking operations and traffic flow. They also foresee parking facilities that are more energy-efficient and feature plug-ins for electric vehicles and accommodation for vehicles using alternative fuel.
Changes in parking demand, which may result from transportation demand management and/or commuters shifting to alternatives such as public transit, obviously catch parking operators’ attention. Others see possible momentum in links between transit stations and parking, public-private partnerships and new pricing models.
“Parking is at the crossroads of so many disciplines – transportation, sustainable mobility, development,” observes the incoming IPI Chair for 2011-2013, Casey Jones. “When parking expertise is utilized early in the planning process, many problems can be avoided.”
Survey respondents were asked to identify some weaknesses they commonly encounter in parking operations, design or management. The majority of feedback related to poor planning and design. Nearly one-quarter of respondents pointed to frustrations with garage design, vehicle and pedestrian traffic flow and/or way finding. Many respondents also suggested that municipalities fail to anticipate parking needs.
Yet, industry advocates maintain that parking is an important element of a city’s transportation network, which can support the use of public transportation and reduce congestion from drivers cruising for parking.
“The industry is focused on ways to make the parking experience more efficient, more environmentally friendly and more satisfying,” pledges IPI Executive Director Shawn Conrad. “Parking matters to people and we never lose sight of the need for customer service.”
Complete survey results can be found on the International Parking Institute web site at www.parking.org.