Event parking probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of technology’s ability to shake up an industry and making it more efficient and profitable. That’s exactly what is happening in the parking industry, however, as a number of exciting technological applications are changing how we find and use parking spaces.
The days when the gate arm was the most complex piece of technology in the parking garage are gone. Green technology, mobile phone apps, image recognition, and other innovations are all set to change how we find parking, how we pay for it, and how parking facilities make money. Owners and operators need to take notice of the changes, as failing to adapt to the times could leave them with lonely valet podiums and empty lots.
A $100 Billion Industry Ripe for Disruption
The parking industry is a $100 billion business, including both on-street parking and off-street parking. On-street parking consists of metered parking largely controlled by municipalities and cities. Off-street parking includes surface parking lots and parking decks. Off-street parking is the largest segment of the industry, accounting for about two-thirds of all revenues. About 40,000 off-street parking lots and garages are found in the U.S., and they are owned and operated by a wide variety of real estate entrepreneurs and management services providers.
Fragmentation of the industry, and consumer behavior, has stymied a big technological revolution in the parking industry up until now, but changing circumstances may contribute to long-awaited changes. According to recent business analysis by Frost & Sullivan, parking lot owners are expected to invest between $200-$250 billion over the next few years in modernizing parking facilities to increase efficiency and customer convenience. These renovations will include a number of new technologies, allowing consumers to have an easier time finding and paying for parking.
Changing consumer behavior is providing much of the impetus for the change, as consumers accustomed to using their smartphones to find nearby restaurants and businesses, and to book travel arrangements and hotels, now want to use the technology to find, reserve, and pay for parking spaces. Rising costs associated with operating parking facilities are also pressuring owners and operators to find new ways to hold costs down and make optimal use of their facilities.
New Technologies Boost Efficiency, Convenience
What will new technological innovations for parking facilities look like? Will they replace familiar sites such as honor boxes or make cones redundant? The following are some likely technologies parking facilities may employ to increase efficiency and improve customer convenience:
Mobile apps – Mobile technology has perhaps the most potential to shake up the parking industry. New apps that allow users to find available parking in areas near their destination and compare prices will help consumers find the most convenient and least expensive parking options when they’re attending events or traveling to popular destinations. Apps can also allow customers to pay for their spaces online and keep track of where their vehicles are inside the facility.
People using parking facilities, on average, spend about 20 minutes cruising around looking for a facility to park their vehicles. Using mobile apps to make the search easier, parking lots can draw more business to their facilities and do their part to reduce traffic congestion in urban areas.
With regard to metered parking, an app could text customers when their time is about to expire and allow them to reserve more time by paying online. This could greatly increase convenience for visitors to city centers and help them avoid costly parking tickets. Mobile technology has the potential to make the sometimes aggravating process of finding and paying for parking in big cities less stressful and more user friendly, making investing in these apps worthwhile for parking facility owners.
Solar panels – To reduce energy costs over the long term, a growing number of parking decks and garages are expected to install solar panels on their roofs to supply electricity. New generations of solar panels are producing greater amounts of electricity, and prices for panels are coming down as the technology improves. In sunny parts of the country, rooftop solar panels can provide enough electricity to power an entire facility and, on occasion, are known to produce an energy surplus. Facilities owners can reduce the impact solar panels have on rooftop parking space availability by installing the panels on raised poles above the roof surface. This leaves room under the panels for vehicles to park.
EVC stations – Electric cars still have yet to become a major presence on America’s highways, but their day is coming. A growing number of automobile manufacturers are producing the vehicles, with Tesla being a notable example. As pressure to reduce dependence on fossil fuels continues to grow, electric vehicles will become more common. These electric vehicles will need charging stations to replenish their supplies of power, and parking garages and decks can reap a substantial profit by incorporating EVCs into their facilities. Parking decks with spots equipped with EVCs will attract electric vehicle owners, and the facilities will be able to charge customers for powering up their parked vehicles, creating a new revenue stream for the facilities. For facilities powered by solar panels, the cost savings and revenue enhancement could be quite amazing.
Fluorescent and LED lighting – Simply changing how parking structures are lighted can yield significant savings for the parking industry. New lighting technologies are much more energy-efficient and durable than old lighting infrastructure, and have the potential to save parking facilities significant sums on lighting. Lighting is a big cost for parking facilities. Parking decks and garages must be sufficiently illuminated at all times to ensure drivers and facility staff can see where they are going, and to deter theft and promote safety. Lighted signage is also quite common in parking facilities. Fluorescent lighting and LED lights can help parking garages save money on one of their most significant expenses. New fluorescent lights use less energy than older lighting solutions and provide better functionality in cold temperatures. LED lamps have a higher up-front cost, but LED lights have a significant longevity advantage, saving facilities over the long haul. They’re also very energy efficient. LED lighting also provides an advantage for parking facility signage. LED light signs are energy efficient and durable, and they are also more readable than other lighted signs
Image recognition technology – Technology allowing software systems running a parking garage to identify license plates of customer vehicles can help consumers and facilities alike. The technology can be programmed to automatically admit monthly parkers, eliminating the need for tickets. The technology can also protect facilities owners against unscrupulous parkers who try to use lost ticket excuses to pay lower fees.
Owners and operators for parking facilities would do well to closely monitor the technological developments in the industry, and the successes and failures of competitors in implementing new technologies in their facilities.
Although technology is disrupting the parking industry and bringing great change, there still is some gear that event parking facilities need in order to operate, including cones, parking stops, deposit bags, and more. Parking Zone distributes a variety of parking lot supplies and valet equipment, as well as provides solutions for traffic enforcement and revenue management in parking decks. Established in 1987, the company strives to offer quality parking gear that lots and parking decks need to operate a safe and profitable business. For quality parking supplies you can depend upon, visit Parking Zone.