Are we, as a parking industry, supporting all our customers? Astrid over at parknews.biz has posted article after article bemoaning cities and parking organizations that are requiring their customers to use various parking apps to pay their parking. This, it appears, leaves many, including seniors, out of the game. Let’s face it, many seniors, and others, simply don’t want to use complicated apps required by many cities.
The process of downloading, loading in credit cards, actually trying to figure out which of numerous apps on your phone to use in a particular location, can be overwhelming for some.
Sure, a 22 year old who has grown up using a smart phone may easily navigate the myriad of programs now available. But what about the rest of us?
For instance, the city of Pensacola, FL, has just installed its third app in four years. Seems the other ones for whatever reason didn’t meet the needs of the enforcement staff or frankly didn’t work. Well, what about the needs of the parking public. There was a lot of chuckling and smiling written into the story published on parknews.biz and it all came from the new head of parking enforcement. Personally I don’t’ find anything funny about it at all.
I live in Los Angeles. It’s actually an amalgamation of many cities. Within a 15 minute drive from my home there are Culver City, Santa Monica, El Segundo, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Inglewood, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Torrance, Manhattan Beach, and of course Los Angeles, itself. That doesn’t count nearby cities like Pasadena, Monrovia, Long Beach, and countless of others.
Each city has different rules, and most have different apps you need to navigate to pay for your parking. And in many, there is no alternative. No pay on foot, no parking meter, no way to pay except use your phone.
I’m not talking about private parking operations which have differing apps and systems required to pay for parking. I periodically visit half a dozen doctors in different locations and each one has different systems requiring different actions to pay. Some use Pay on Foot, some apps, some require you to enter a credit card into your phone to pay. The one I like the best has a helpful attendant at exit to send you on your way.
The British are finding considerable push back, particularly by seniors, when they are faced with downloading and using complex programs in their phones to pay for parking. Many downtowns are finding that a lot of folks simply aren’t coming to shop because the parking is so complex.
Let’s face it, those of a ‘certain age’ simply don’t have the patience, or the skills, or the knowledge, or frankly the desire to operate complex computer programs. A parking colleague and I went to dinner here in Los Angeles last month and were faced with a Pay by Space parking system. Between us we had 75 years experience in the industry. After we futzed with the machine for a few minutes, we simply gave up and went to dinner. We figured if we got a ticket the experience fighting it would be worth it. In this case we won the parking lotto.
I consider myself pretty savvy when it comes to computers and being able to suss out the ins and outs of their, as C3P0 would say “rusty innards.” I’m just not sure I want to stand in the rain or hold up a line of people just to pay for the ‘right’ to park. I’m not sure I want to download various programs onto my phone and then try to figure out which one to use. – Note I use the words ‘program’ and ‘app’ or ‘application’ interchangeably since an ‘app’ is nothing but an algorithm or program we are required to use to make the electrons flow properly through the silicon chips in our phone or laptop.
Are we doing our customers a service? Parker Technology tells us that they receive millions of calls for help each year from people who for whatever reason cannot make the various parking systems they face daily work. It’s a good thing for Parker, but is it a good thing for our industry.
Is it not time to make parking simple, rather than complex. Just because we can complicate the process, does that mean we should.
This year at PIE2023 in Shaumburg, Il, at the end of March we are addressing their and other questions about just how we treat our customers. Join us. Log on here to get details.