How Soon will Parking Operators be Obsolete?


How Soon will Parking Operators be Obsolete?

I have been blessed (or some say cursed) with being in the parking business for nearly 40 years. Parking Operator, parking technology provider, consultant, and advocate. That is a long time. For about 25 or more of those, I have heard several verses of a song titled: The end of the parking operator is near. 

More than one person is singing the most recent version with the announcement of the sometimes labeled “parking operator killer,” Metropolis, announcing its purchase of the largest U.S. operator, SPPlus. Assuming the purchase goes through (and I believe it will), it seems timely to ask: How soon will Parking Operators be Obsolete?

This author believes the answer is quite simple and transparent. The parking operator will cease to exist as soon as parking operators stop providing value to their clients. The good news is that coming from me, someone who spends a significant amount of their day job evaluating operators, technology, proposals, and specifically Request for Proposal Responses, we in the industry should stop making it easy for “technology” to eliminate operators, as easily as we have eliminated cashiers in booths. 

Since you probably don’t do what I do, let me provide some insight. Would you be surprised that if I recapped four recent proposals I received over the past two months in Miami, LA, and Chicago, and removed the logos and operator names, a full 75 percent or more of their proposals would be virtually interchangeable? Your only choice would be to evaluate the price. That is a dangerous game for a future article. 

There is no shortage of: “industry leaders,” “best people,” “innovators,” “proprietary technology,” “best practices,” “award-winning,” “APO,” and finally, “Partners.” Please do not misunderstand, they are well-written proposals, with many good people and tons of sincerity; but imagine if you are an unsuspecting client. How do you tell the difference when you read six of them? 

When I was in my Introduction to Radio class in 1987, my (then) 91-year-old broadcasting instructor, a unique and pioneering radio legend, railed against the way everyone could be number one in the then-crowded radio market. (Imagine what he would think of cable and streaming today). He explained that “demographics” (today, insert technologies, perhaps) allowed everyone to be number one in some obscure category. Everyone could be number one. 

The most recent rounds of proposals tout that every provider has the best technology, BI (Business Intelligence) tools, and dashboards, and that the client has direct access to each tool. The CLIENT has access to them—direct access to all of the data. 

Many operators or former operators will tell you clients don’t read reports. That is why they need operators. Those are operators who have not sat in the room with a client lately, a client who suddenly (post Covid-19), is VERY interested in parking incomes, and may very well log in to those dashboards (with convenient search features) and start seeing things that the poor operator (who has on average 7-10 locations each and more paperwork than ever with the new ownership focus and the loss of up to 50 percent of their reliable monthly parkers and full-time in-office employees) has missed. 

I love technology, I do, but it is a tool. Good technology with an operator who understands it and reviews their work can be a valuable asset to their clients. The human element, the well-trained and insightful operator, and their well-trained prodigy are still winning and are invaluable because, guess what, anyone serious in the industry has some pretty good technology. What they don’t all have is great people. Everyone is hiring/stealing talent, which will surely accelerate in the coming years. 

What value do you bring in addition to your technology? Do you want your client to review your data and ask why you aren’t doing this or that and what new ideas you have for them and their half-empty building? Isn’t it better to know your locations, know your numbers, know the answers the dashboards, and the BI tool shows you?

Clients depend on us (and will as long as we add value). It is up to you to create value. Generate ideas, deliver on promises, create value and showcase the value you bring to their location, their portfolio, and keeping them employed, and perhaps you, too. 

Are you walking the garage, seeing the things that need to be seen? Are you aggressively and regularly bringing innovation and insight to your client? Are you relying on your technology as a crutch, or is it a vital tool you have harnessed, and only one of the many things you review with your client on a regular basis? Are you adding value to your relationship with your client every day?

How soon will Parking Operators be Obsolete? That is up to you.

Article contributed by:
John Oglesby
Only show results from:

Recent Articles

Send message to

    We use cookies to monitor our website and support our customers. View our Privacy Policy