Shoup, Profit in Parking, Reinventing…

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Shoup, Profit in Parking, Reinventing…

I was thinking about dear old Donald Shoup the other day. I believe that the most important part of his opus, “The High Cost of Free Parking,” was not his thoughts on parking standards, pricing and how parking services were re-invested in the community, but his critique of the parking standards derived from the ITE research. That work truly was a false god with feet of clay and yet seems to have been taken as gospel by town and city planners not only in the U.S., but all over the world. 

I have come across it in other countries where the work has been used to plan parking, even although it has absolutely no relevance. Now towns and cities all over the USA seem to be rushing to abandon this shibboleth with little more thought than what led them to adopt the standards as policy in the first place. Perhaps some clear thinking from first principles might be the way forward? 

Of course, no one is abandoning minimum standards completely, just think handicapped spaces. I don’t know about you guys, but over here we have a minimum standard which seems to be based on the proportion of disabled people in the population rather than any study or measure of parking need. As a result, aisles of never occupied disabled spaces are a feature of almost every parking facility in the UK, including those that are otherwise full, and any suggestion by any rational person that maybe we should just think about this a little more leads to a public burning. 

Parking matters. We are often seen as an ancillary unimportant part of what goes on in towns and cities, good only for generating vitriol and hate when someone’s granny gets a fine for overstaying by just a few hours. But stop the presses! It turns out that we might just be a little more important than that. 

Hammersons, the multibillion-pound property company that has something approaching 25 million square feet of retail space has just upped its predicted earnings for the year by 25 percent or more, in part because of increased parking revenue from its shopping center car parks! This good news story even made it into the Times business section.

Once again, the papers over here are getting their knickers in a twist (do you guys know what that means?) over the number of people getting parking tickets for parking on private land. Under our law, if someone parks on private property, but doesn’t obey the rules, they can be ticketed. 

Before the pestilence, there were something over 8 million such tickets. The numbers halved in 20/21, but look set to be back around 8 million the current year. 

Certainly nothing about the crime wave of trespassing and mass attempt by drivers to avoid paying for what they use. Let’s call it theft because that is what it is. But it seems that for the popular media, stealing from the parking industry is OK.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a new system of robotic parking that was just about to go live at London Gatwick airport. The system was provided by the French company Stanley Robotics and was apparently already up and working in at least one French airport. 

Well, time passed, and it was still going to happen soon, only it didn’t, and it hasn’t, as far as I know. Now the system seems to have a new use jockeying cars around in a facility where new cars are stored pending loading on to transporters for delivery. It will be interesting to see just what the added value is, because right now I am not seeing it.

Question: when is a car park not a car park? 

Answer: when it is a delivery hub. Suddenly, our major car park operators are doing deals with logistics companies to host last mile delivery services in their town center garages. It seems that the logistics companies will deliver packages to the garage where customers will either “click and collect” or have their Amazon goodies delivered by zero emission vehicles to addresses within ten minutes of the facility. 

This actually looks quite sensible. Indeed, British Land, another billion-dollar property company has plans to move away from its traditional business of shopping malls to urban retail hubs based in, amongst other things, repurposed car parks. 

Any comparison with small mom and pop local shops serving their community should not be mentioned for fear of giving offense. Sometimes the sound of wheels being re-invented is almost deafening!

Article contributed by:
Peter Guest
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