What does a Consultant Bring to Parking Planning?
The following group of Walker Parking Consultants answer the question. Sue Thompson, Consultant, Peoria, Arizona; Kevin White, Parking and Mobility Consultant, Minneapolis, Minnesota; An Nguyen, Director of Business Development, San Diego, California
Q: Why should Parking Today readers use a consultant for parking planning needs?
A consultant brings a wide range of experience from working across various sectors, including airports, higher education, municipalities, hospitals/healthcare, and private campuses. Walker views our role as one of a trusted advisor for a long-term relationship, not just one project. Based on what the client needs, our team may tap into exclusive models and databases to right size parking supply for a new development; support cities with data-based policy; design and procure parking revenue and guidance technology; improve access through mobility; and audit parking operations to industry standards and contract compliance. These are only some of the services we provide - our consultants’ breadth of knowledge means we will partner with our clients to provide the appropriate expertise to tackle even the most challenging scenarios. For example, we worked with a developer in California on a recent new office build where it was discovered that the minimum parking requirements in this city per code was 536 stalls for the proposed project. Following a comprehensive shared parking study, Walker determined the actual need for this development, based on local data and conditions for similar uses, was 308 parking stalls. That’s a 43 percent reduction from code required parking which saved the city and the developer from over-building their parking supply. If we assume a cost of $25,000 per stall to build new parking at an efficient design of 350 sf per stall, our study resulted in a savings of over $5.5 million to the cost of development and returned 79,000 sf of usable space to the community.
Fully vet both the firm you choose and the consultant who will be leading your project.
Q. Why should Parking Today readers use a consultant for parking design needs?
A: A qualified consultant brings experience with structural and architectural systems that results in attractive facilities that are well above industry standards, are functional and architecturally supportive of any development.
With today’s rapidly changing landscape of Ride Apps, new mobility options, autonomous and electric vehicles, and sustainability, parking facilities must be designed with flexibility to accommodate new usage patterns and vehicle characteristics. Throughout these changes, parking facilities must still be designed to be efficient, user-friendly, durable and cost-effective. An efficient functional concept is the foundation for a well-designed facility that begins with understanding the requirements of the facility’s users today and in the future.
Q. How should potential clients evaluate a consultant?
A: Ask about their experience and for client recommendations. Talk to their previous clients, walk the garages and campuses. Ask for case studies with true and meaningful results. Question one-stop-shop technologies and the “easy” button. Dig deep into the consultants’ critical thinking: are they bringing something useful and executable to the table that is specific to your organization?
Q. We’ve worked with consultants before and it wasn’t a success. What can we do to ensure quality results in future projects?
A: The reason for an unsuccessful project can run the gamut from the consultant not being the right fit for the project, to not taking the necessary steps to acquire stakeholder buy in, to the inability (for example, lack of budget or lack of staffing) to implement the recommendations provided, and everything in between. Fully vet both the firm you choose and the consultant who will be leading your project. Ensure that the full scope of the project is spelled out, including what work is included and what is not. Include regular meetings and stakeholder outreach as part of any project plan. Ensure the consultant has collected all the data they need, has access to those key players and “boots on the ground folks” who know the day-to-day operations and can provide first-hand knowledge. Ensure the consultant knows your business and your needs and that they spend time at your facility with your staff. Work together with the consultant and set up check ins on project benchmarks - for example, 30 percent, 50 percent, 80 percent completion, ensuring your consultant is hitting all the marks. Socialize the recommendations well before you want to put them in place to work out any concerns by stakeholders, and work with your internal groups on a schedule, plan, and budget to implement the recommendations.
Q. What differentiates all the consultants from one another?
A: Local market experience. For Walker, our geographical reach means we understand not only your local needs, but the forces of the surrounding community as well. We provide realistic, implementable solutions. We get to know our clients and develop a rapport. We can bring national best practice level experience to bear on projects of any size and complexity. Also, experience really does matter. Walker’s 55 years of experience in the industry means we’ve been through recessions, pandemics, the evolution of the built environment, vehicle types, modes of transportation and can provide that outside POV that’s so crucial to the success of a project. Whether it’s EV, TNC or Autonomous vehicles, Walker provides informed solutions for today and the future.
These three consultants can be reached through the Walker website at www.walkerconsultants.com