Parking: Where We Are and Where We Are Going


Parking: Where We Are and Where We Are Going

A small group of parking professionals gathered in February 2004 for a weekend of discussion with a single intent: In an unaffiliated manner, we would attempt to envision the future of the parking industry, so that we could begin to plan and adjust in preparation for the coming changes.
Early on, the group realized that the general public perception of our industry is either poor or lacking. The consensus was that while we cannot change the actions or perceptions of the past, we can change the perception going forward.
The participating parking professionals wish to remain in the background; however, they wanted their work shared with the rest of the industry and asked if they could present their findings at the Parking Industry Exhibition in April. What follows is a compilation of that report.
Where We Are:
There are many examples of what most outside our industry think of it. From stock brokers calling us a “dirty little industry” and advertising campaigns trying to save historic buildings using parking facilities as examples of what “shouldn’t” be built; to the guy you meet on the golf course who wonders if the parking business is anything like the “waste disposal” business and the person at a party when finding out what you do wonders out loud when you are going to get a “real job” — our peers in other industries see parking as simply a place to put their car.
If we do a great job, we are invisible; if we do a poor job, we are vilified. Certainly few believe that they should pay for parking. (Isn’t there an article in the Constitution about all parking should be free?)
The discussion group mused about “typical” morning conversations:
1. Cell phone
* “I’m just checking my voicemail.”
* “My babysitter should have called half an hour ago.”
* “Look at how small my new phone is; it fits in all my pockets now.”
* “Look at all the new features on my new phone. I’m going to voice-dial your picture to my friends right now.”
* “You wouldn’t believe what kind of deal I got on my calling plan.”
2. Coffee
* “A grande breve latte, please.”
* “I’ll have a vente double-shot latte, with vanilla flavoring.”
* “I drink Arabian Mocha Sanani.”
* “I prefer Special Reserve Estate 2003 – Sumatra Lintong Lake Tawar.”
* “Well, it’s obvious you haven’t tried New Guinea Peaberry.”
3. Parking
* “Hey, that new striping sure is perky.”
* “I switched to the garage next door; the color of the pay-on-foot machine matches my new car.”
* “That pay-at-exit voice sure is sultry, don’t you think?”
* “I don’t mind the latest rate increase. I always pay top dollar to get to use the latest technology.”
The first two might be commonplace, at least in New York, Seattle or Los Angeles The third would certainly be fiction. No one talks about parking the way they talk about their morning coffee, their cell phone, or the price of their house.
Do we want them to have those kind of conversations about parking? It would be nice, but in reality, it’s the overall image of our industry that needs a bit of dusting off. The discussion group felt that before we could attack those outside our industry, we needed to attack our self-image.
The group decided to list the different functions needed to make parking operations work. Those included people with skills in engineering, architecture, contracting, electrical, project development, planning, legal services, cashiering, valet, enforcement, marketing, accounting, information technology and human resources. It’s rather all-inclusive. Our industry touches many skills and disciplines. In fact, these same functions are found in many if not most industries.
Our industry is huge, with garages and surface facilities in shopping malls, hospitals, airports, developments, office parks, universities and, of course, on-street parking in virtually every city, town and village in the country. Together, we generate nearly $14 billion in revenue and spend an additional $4 billion in construction every year.
OK, got it; we are great. Let’s stop patting ourselves on the back and begin to tell our story.
Our industry is part of the transportation infrastructure. If it did not exist, streets and highways wouldn’t work. Cars would just drive on and on, never stopping, never reaching their destination. Parking is like a bridge. It covers that gap between the highway or street and the driver’s destination. Our industry enables the driver to complete his trip. Without our services, no one would get anywhere.
Yes, but what do we say? We define parking as more than a garage. We are part of the transportation infrastructure. We must operate clean, well-lighted garages. We must develop multi-use facilities that give a sense of security. And we must work on the image of front door-back door, showing that there is a connection between parking and destination.
Some members of our parking profession do that already, but let’s face it: Many do not. They give our industry a black eye.
Where We Are Going
What’s going to happen to the parking industry in the next decade?
We are in a state of rapid change. Everything from how garages are designed, built and used to the way money is collected is changing. The discussion group put on its fortune teller hat and came up with some projections:
Garage Facility Design
* Aesthetics required by local regulations will drive up the cost of garages. One major factor will be the requirement that the facility blend into the environment.
* Security, and its perception, will be designed into garages.
* Stack parking and valet assist will provide more parking in smaller spaces.
* We will see selective use of automated garages in areas that require it.
* Garage design will be driven by customer service and wayfinding.
* We will see more and more entry-exit directly off freeways. This ties in to the use of AVI.
Auditing, Management, Human Resources
* Auditing will change based on “no cash” orientation.
* More and more, IT staff will be driving operations.
* It will become more difficult to promote from within, due to lack of specialized qualifications.
* More technical training will be required at all staff levels.
* Frontline staff will be reduced.
* Parking information will no longer be isolated to a single garage or group of garages; it will be inter-related across many garages in a region.
* There will be “knowledge management.”
* Operators will have to rethink their role in the
Government Regulations
* Planners and a master planning process will be increasingly involved in parking.
* Restricted size of parking structures in central cities, often driven by zoning requirements.
* Certified equipment (ala San Francisco).
* Elected officials will continue to impact the industry.
* The manufacturing process will become more sensitive to regulations, and the specification process will be driven by them.
* Taxes on parking will continue to be enforced.
* Parking fees could be increased as a tax on entering the city (ala London).
Information Technology
* The Internet and intranets will provide more and more parking information — reservations, payment options?
* Parking will quickly move to a predominantly “no-cash” industry — AVI, cell phone, prepayment, debit and credit cards, Smart Cards.
* Industry revenue control manufacturers will move from a “hardware orientation” to a “software orientation.”
* IT and Data Sharing will drive the industry. Frontline auditing will change to software security auditing.
* Independent clearinghouses will become more and more involved in cash collection and distribution.
Industry Growth
* The goal will be to keep the number of cars from increasing.
* There will be more enforcement of parking regulations.
* Parkers using mass transit will receive free or low-fee parking.
* Price will become the determining factor as to where people park, with “condo” parking spaces in urban areas becoming more prevalent.
* Restrictions in urban areas will require that parking moves to suburban areas and that rapid transit be used to enter the cities.
The discussion group has prepared a PowerPoint presentation and associated guide. It would be happy to provide the information to you to use in your next staff meeting, or to present at local service clubs, groups, or to anyone looking for a presentation.

Let’s get our word out.

For more information or to get a copy of the presentation, contact Tim Phillips at or Diana Perey at

Article contributed by the Parking PT team.
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