As real estate becomes more expensive and as costs associated with running parking facilities continue to rise, parking lot owners are seeking ways to maximize the number of spaces they can put in their lots and the profits they can derive from those spaces. Improved design, along with new parking lot equipment technology, can help parking lot owners squeeze more revenues from their property.
Parking lots are big business in the U.S. Conservative estimates place annual parking lot revenue in the $25 to $30 billion annual revenue range. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 105 million commercial parking spaces – parking spots that generate revenue – exist in the U.S. Industry experts peg the number of commercial spaces between 100 million and 750 million.
Although real estate prices were depressed for several years during the Great Recession, they’re on the rise again, and the cost of buying property to build new parking spaces will likely be greater in coming years. Making every square inch of available space in parking lots will be important, as this space comes at a higher premium.
Another key concern for the commercial parking industry is the rise of car-sharing services and the inevitability of automated vehicles. Car-sharing services like Uber make hitching a ride more practical and convenient, reducing the need for travelers to use their own vehicles to visit urban spaces and park. While a proliferation of self-driving vehicles is still a decade or more away, the option of calling an automated vehicle to pick up and drop off travelers also presents a challenge to commercial parking lot owners. The time is now to make parking lots as efficient as possible to respond to these challenges.
Parking Lot Design
To get the most profitability from their real estate, commercial parking lot owners need to provide as many parking spaces as they safely can within the area of their facility. In the past, parking lot design was just a matter of eye-balling it and painting some stripes. Today, computer aided design has made planning parking lots a science.
Some critical factors that designers of parking lots must consider when planning these facilities include:
- Stall width must be maximized, but the parking facility typically needs to be flexible enough to adapt to changing vehicle dimensions. For example, if larger vehicles become popular, stalls need to be large enough to accommodate them. Conversely, if slimmer vehicles are widely used in the area, the parking facility can reduce the width of some spots to accommodate more vehicles. Right now, a large mix of vehicle sizes is common in most cities, including larger vehicles like mini-vans and SUVs, and smaller, fuel-efficient compact cars. Parking lot owners have three options to accommodate this trend, designing all spaces for larger vehicles, a mix of small and large spaces, or a lot that offers all-intermediate spaces – too large for small vehicles, but a tight fit for larger cars and trucks.
- Stall length is an aspect of design that offers parking lot facility owners some leeway in developing more efficient parking lots. The key is to provide enough space to comfortably park a vehicle without dedicating too much length to the stall. CAD programs can help designers find the plan that makes best use of available space.
- Angled parking spaces can help parking lot owners increase the efficiency of their lots. In many cases, 90 degree and 60 degree angled parking lot layouts require the least amount of area per car space, making them a good design. Angled lots can also help when the parking lot shape is irregular, or there are obstacles in the lot such as trees, buildings, and medians.
Technology is taking an increasingly important role in the parking industry. When asked what the top technological trends in the industry were, parking lot industry insiders identified these five:
- Technologies that improve access control and payment automation – 53 percent of respondents.
- Technologies that address demand for electronic cashless payment – 44 percent of respondents.
- Mobile applications – 47 percent of respondents.
- Applications that provide real time pricing and availability information – 41 percent of respondents.
- Wireless sensing devices for traffic management – 22 percent of respondents.
High tech parking lot equipment can have a huge impact on commercial parking lot profits in a variety of different ways.
Mobile apps that let motorists know where available parking spaces are located are a hot commodity right now. There’s nothing that a driver who is in a hurry to get to work or to a show or concert hates more than having to cruise around looking for available parking. By tracking parking space availability and making it public using various smartphone and mobile device apps, parking lot owners practically put up a “vacancy here” sign that the whole world can see. For motorists who want quick access to a parking space, that’s a real plus.
Keeping traffic moving is vital to getting customers in and out of parking facilities. Automated gates and systems that more quickly take payment can help keep customers moving through parking facilities. Apps that allow customers to pay via smartphone for their parking can greatly reduce the time taken up by paying at a booth or kiosk.
Fraud is always a concern for commercial parking lot owners, but today’s video and scanning technology makes it easier for facility managers to track access and crack down on illicit parking.
With all the available technology to capture information, there’s little wonder that the use of data is becoming increasingly important to commercial parking lot managers. Parking lot owners can now have a wide variety of data at their fingertips, including information about peak times for parking, length of stay, state and county of origin for customers, impact of rate structure, and much more. There’s so much information that it’s hard to organize, but a growing number of software applications do just that.
The latest data management systems for parking lots can track and organize information and provide insight into the impact of new rate structures, how to maximize profitability, and how to boost performance. Armed with this information, parking lot owners can establish more efficient work schedules for employees, improve fraud detection, and more quickly identify causes of revenue loss.
Although it does not directly impact parking lot profitability, sustainability can have an impact on your bottom line. The public is increasingly aware of and concerned about environmental issues, and companies with good environmental records get a significant amount of goodwill. Companies with poor environmental records can fall victim to boycotts or negative press. By designing sustainable parking lots, companies can gain some goodwill from potential consumers, making it more likely they will choose to use eco-friendly companies’ facilities. Sustainability comes in many guises for parking lots – it can involve the materials used to build the lot, or it can involve technology used to reduce idling time in facilities.
There’s a lot more to managing a commercial parking lot than laying some asphalt and painting a few lines. Using careful design and the latest technological applications, commercial parking lot managers can enhance the profitability and longevity of their facilities.
Good design, and the latest bells and whistles aren’t the only components of a successful parking lot, however. Parking lot supplies, including cones, barricades, and signs remain important to commercial parking lot owners. ParkingZone provides parking lot owners with high quality parking lot equipment and supplies made by trusted manufacturers. In business since 1987, ParkingZone has more than 1,700 products clients can choose from to enhance the efficiency of their parking lot facilities.