The Finest Parking System on the Planet


The Finest Parking System on the Planet

A friend of mine walked into my office the other day and started to rant and rave about a parking location he knew about that was a disaster. A ‘system’ had been installed and the result was angry parkers, lawsuits by the tenants, and an overall huge mess. He blamed the “slick” marketing operations of the vendors. “Its happening everywhere. Our industry is being destroyed by the lying suppliers.”

I beg to differ. For every disaster, and there are some, there are absolutely wonderful successes. Case in point.

If you scan down the list of blogs here you will find my comments about Westfield’s Century City in Los Angeles. They have invested a huge amount  (north of $2 billion) in updated the shopping mall and spared no expense on parking. You can read about my first experiece below but here is my second.

Before heading out to the mall, I spent five minutes entering my license plate (and my wifes) on line plus my credit card number and downloaded the Center’s app. This was a one time event.

When I arrived and rolled up to the gate it opened. No ticket, no waiting. I parked and went to the movies. There was a QR code displayed in the theater and I scanned it with the Westfield app. Seems there is one of these in every shop and restaurant that offers validation. Had I pulled a ticket, I could have scanned it at the same spot.

When I left, the gate opened as I approached it, and I left. I was damned impressed. When I got home I had received an email with my parking reciept – no charge – because the theater validated 4 hours. I think it would have been $6 had there been no validation.  Had I wanted I could have reserved a space on line (throught the app) and been directed to a personalized space with my name on a video screen above it. I could also valet park had I brought the Rolls. If I knew nothing about the technology I could pull a ticket and pay at a POF or on exit. It was all about choices. Frankly I would go there simply to experience the parking system.

The system my ranting friend talked about forced every parker to pay a certain way and if you didn’t like it or didn’t understand it or simply didn’t want to use it, tough.

Westfield knows that not everyone fits into every slot. Its about choices. Not everyone wants to download an app, reserve a space, go on line, or pay by cell. If they did, there would be no parking meters on our streets. In the pay by cell case, they are lucky to get 20% participation. There must be a reason for that.

An idea for Westfield. Why not have kiosks around with young men and women with ipads who can set the parking app for you.  You would take three minutes (they would be faster than I was at home) and voila. You would be hooked up to the finest parking system on the planet.

Congrats to Sentry Controls and Skidata. Well Done.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

3 Responses

  1. Not sure how any competent parking operator could be fooled by a vendor’s “slick” marketing scheme. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of phone calls to peers, or a simple field trip to determine how well any system functions. If you know your customer base then you should have a pretty good understanding of what features will or will not fit with your operational requirements.

    Your analogy of Westfield is a great example of an operator that went with some of the newest technology available, but they also made sure to include more traditional options for those “old timers” that haven’t quite embraced all of the latest and greatest advances.

    If I had to guess, my gut tells me that the decision to install the “disaster” system was based in large part on the lowest bid. It is also my guess that Westfield did NOT go with the low bid, but rather with the system that scored highest on the level of service.

  2. Its not quite that simple. Westfield has an entire group that reviews technology and ensures it fits into the company culture. In the case I mentioned, the operator wasn’t involved. The owner made the decision based on the input of traffic engineers (who had little parking experience.) The technology was new — it was “sold” as a perfect solution. But the owner’s representative saw a solution. BTW It cost millions and was not the low bid.

  3. “Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.” – Thomas Sowell (1930 – )

    Marketing has a role, but one should never base their decisions solely on the advertising. Then again, I’ve never heard a salesperson tell me to slow down and do a little more research and comparisons before I buy their product.

    First day of marketing class walked in, and on the board in huge letters was; “Sell the sizzle, not the steak”. Too many decisions seem to be based on the sizzle, not sure if the fault for that is on the marketing or the consumer.

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