Magazine

Building Flexibility Into Parking

By Nick Thompson

It’s 6 a.m., and you are two parking attendants short. Your monthly parkers and permit holders are entering the facility on a day that you anticipate a larger-than-normal event attendance with a heavy ingress – and you’ve just realized that your staff and your equipment are not in sync with today’s planned activities.

Indeed, it is too late; and now your facility, your staff, your revenue and your reputation will potentially suffer. All of this could have been easily prevented if only you

were flexible.





In parking, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all remedy for conducting business in any operation. Whether it’s on-street, or parking for a surface lot, an office/residential building, event facility or valet operation, you must

be flexible.  

Acute Flexibility in parking refers to a crucial sensitivity to all details surrounding the necessary requirements at any given time in order to operate effectively and efficiently.



Flexibility is essential in parking because it allows us to effectively maneuver through the changing dynamics of our operation and the market.

 If we expect to influence the results of our revenue, relationships and reputation, it starts with us – the parking operators and the parking systems we have in place. More to the point, if a person doesn’t work in parking, it’s very difficult to understand the intricacies of what it takes to maintain a viable operation.

As a result, it’s imperative that we know our market, know our staff, know our operation and equipment, and know when to adapt.

Essentially, I believe parking equipment is what defines us. In a sense, besides staff, it gives organizations their personality. Is your system sleek, efficient and cost-effective? Or is your equipment outdated, cost-prohibitive, ineffective and plagued with repairs?

Parking equipment is similar to the foundation of a house or building. If your operation does not have the right equipment/parking system in place, or if it’s faulty or improperly assembled, there’s no doubt that operational challenges will continually haunt you.

 Let’s assume you believe you have the best system in place since sliced bread, because every day you’re able to take care of your transient parkers, monthly parkers; everyone knows your processes; and everything is fine.

Not so fast! Keep in mind that you’ve just been thrown that 6 a.m. curveball with the heavy ingress, and you’re two attendants short with four lanes to open. All of a sudden it hits you: Your system will not work in this instance. Unfortunately, this may cause some parkers to be late for their event, and how can you make sure your monthly does not wait in line to get to his or her reserved space?

There’s no time to wish you had a better system in place to serve all, and not upset anyone. Reluctantly, you have to suck it up and deal with it this time, and try not to end up in the same situation again.

No matter the operation or system you have in place, it’s only effective if it serves all of your parkers’ needs at the same time. Similarly, if everyone’s needs cannot be met at the same time under typical conditions, a flexible system allows feasibility with minimal adjustments to your operation.

Is your system automated? Do you operate solely with parking attendants/cashiers? Single-space vs. multi-space. Entry pay vs. exit pay. Those are the questions. Never expect your system to become a chameleon for all situations in the blink of an eye if it’s just not the right system for your operation.

In fact, such an inadequacy can cause a tremendous amount of stress on staff, and it compounds the ineffectiveness of your processes.

Coordinate and implement new methods as if your operation depends on it, because, frankly, it does. Previous policies and ideas may not be the proper solution to an evolving operation.

As an operator, typically you have a few shots to get it right with parkers in a lot of areas including signage, rates and policy. But you cannot disregard other important components, such as your system, and expect to receive buy-in or be effective in the market among competitors.

Just like sliced bread, your operation gets stale, and sometimes has a specified shelf-life. Therefore, encourage new ideas, employ new technology and seriously consider what works in your environment.

Additionally, nothing is more essential to an operation than the relationship with your staff, vendors and the community. Sometimes we forget how much of an integral role they play in making parking the industry that it is.

Day in and day out, our relationships with them can assist our operation in becoming either the ultimate customer experience or the ultimate customer service failure. With that said, there’s a certain amount of flexibility you must also maintain with staff, and this can be done in various ways.

For instance, maintain flexibility in ideas between management and the frontlines. Keep your staff involved in the operation and dust away particles of complacency by encouraging feedback and sharing their thoughts and ideas.

Sometimes, in management, we can become so focused on the overall goals of the organization, we neglect some of the actual daily processes that may or may not work for a variety of situations. Many times, those answers can come only from the frontline staff.

 In regards to vendors and the community, keeping them informed of certain organizational goals and partnering with them is a big plus as well. As a parker, nothing’s worse than arriving at a facility where you’re used to a certain process, and you have not been informed of recent changes or adjustments.

Moreover, if you live in an area where you are adversely impacted by a parking facility, a quick email or meeting may be just the remedy to an otherwise volatile situation.

In parking, most of the challenges we face are those that stem from our own decisions as organizations. So many decisions must be made, and many are so crucial that they can either make or break our reputation as parking operators.

We all strive to provide excellent customer service, efficiency, and the one thing that no business can live without, parking. If all of the aforementioned are done effectively, revenue is an added bonus to a substantiated reputation.

The main ingredient every parking operation must possess is the ability to be flexible. Not just flexibility in the sense of theory without action, but having an acute flexibility with your parking system, decision-making and relationships.

All of these elements will allow us to have the heightened sensitivity needed to maneuver in any operation under any circumstances.

So tell your parkers, your staff, your vendors, your community

and other stakeholders not to worry. You have it all under control – you’re flexible.



Nick Thompson, a Parking and Transportation Administrator in Texas, can be reached at (512) 404-4178.

Article Abstract from June, 2013




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