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How a Mobile Payment App Can Improve Campus Parking Operations

July 29, 2020

Carmen Donnell

Colleges and universities tend to adopt technology sooner than other organizations. Institutions of higher learning exist for the purpose of sharing knowledge and teaching young adults how to acquire it on their own, so it makes sense that they would lean on the latest and most useful technology for achieving that mission. 


For most college-age people, their smartphones are practically an extension of their bodies.


However, that reliance on the latest technologies doesn’t always extend to campus parking operations. Many campuses still rely on sticker permits and hang tags to manage parking for students, staff, and faculty. Even those with advanced PARCS and LPR systems don’t always combine them with other useful technologies. One such technology, mobile payment apps for parking, is particularly useful for universities and college campuses.


 


The Perfect Tool for Campus Parking


Mobile payment apps are the perfect tool for campus parking because they work with something almost everyone already has: a smart phone. In 2020, smartphones are essentially ubiquitous. Most staff and faculty already carry them, and virtually all students have them. For most college-age people, their smartphones are practically an extension of their bodies.


As many cities and private developers have found, not to mention hundreds of millions of drivers, mobile payment is a useful customer service amenity. When drivers can pay with an app on their private devices rather than at kiosks or smart meters, the parking experience is much safer, easier and more convenient. In a college campus setting, mobile payment apps can provide the dual benefit of allowing both short term and longer term stays, while making the payment process easier for visitors and other transient parkers. 


With uncertainty around the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19 as it relates to longer term permit inventory needs, more campuses are looking at shorter term, on demand options to better manage the many scenarios they might encounter.  Perhaps students will have a hybrid of in-class and on-line learning environments, reducing the need for an annualized permit.  Perhaps the same will occur for staff and faculty, creating more need for flexible options.  A mobile payment app will be integral to providing options that are flexible, safe and trusted.


Imagine not needing gates for your parking lots and garages and not having to manufacture and supply hangtags or permit stickers. This is doable with license enabled permits, mobile payment apps and LPR enforcement systems.  Not only does it save a lot of money, but it also makes for a better parking experience for the university parking staff and the parker.


 


Data Driven


But the real hidden benefits come from the data that mobile payment technology can provide. Mobile payment solutions collect key utilization data that can help colleges and universities better understand who is using their parking asset and how. How many of your daily parkers are longer term permit parkers and how many pay by the hour or day? How long is the typical parking session? What are your most popular parking facilities and which go underutilized? What days and times are busiest? This information is essential for operating campus parking more efficiently and effectively, and it can be provided by mobile parking apps, typically at no additional charge and without requiring physical infrastructure.


Benchmarking is a vital element of any campus parking program. You need to understand your parking trends, and mobile payment solutions can record and analyze those trends for you. Year-to-year, semester-to-semester, month-to-month—however you need to have your trends broken down, mobile parking solutions can do it for you. When you understand these trends, you can make better decisions about how to allocate parking resources, how to effectively market various assets, how to support parking facilities that are underperforming, and how to staff parking facilities in the most efficient manner. In short, when you understand your parkers and their parking behaviors, you can make better, more informed decisions about how to manage your parking asset.


Relying on mobile apps to manage parking payments can also free up resources for other uses. For instance, by eliminating the need to staff payment booths, mobile payment solutions allow universities to redeploy parking staff to serve as parking ambassadors or customer service reps. This further improves the parking experience. 


 


Benefits Recap


Mobile payment solutions can offer many potential benefits to colleges and universities. The most visible—and the benefits that are most familiar to parkers and parking professionals—revolve around making the parking experience better. There’s no easier way for students, staff, faculty and visitors to manage their paid parking sessions than with their own personal devices.


The efficiencies and cost effectiveness provided by mobile payment apps can also be critically important to colleges and universities. These efficiencies can permit the reallocation of parking personnel in ways that can make parking systems safer and more parker-friendly.


But perhaps the most important benefit is the data that’s collected and analyzed by the solution. This data can tell campus parking managers exactly who is using their parking assets and how. This information can help campus planners understand parking trends and make more informed decisions about how to manage all campus parking more efficiently and effectively, now and well into the future.


Carmen Donnell is Vice President, Sales - West  for PayByPhone. She can be reached at cdonnell@paybyphone.com



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