Going Virtual - The Instant Permit Solution
Most lot owners and managers are aware that sooner or later they will have to offer virtual parking permits. With more cellphones in the world than landlines, parking lots that don't offer the convenience of phone based services will eventually be at a competitive disadvantage. And the race to provide consumers with user-friendly, phone-based services is accelerating.
Unfortunately, most of the virtual parking permit systems that are currently available are not ideal for all sectors of the parking industry. They tend to be most suitable for municipalities and very large operators, and many small and medium-sized lot owners and managers have been slow to get involved in virtual parking.
“Instant parking permits” may be the solution for those reluctant owners and managers, and there just might be an unexpected windfall for some.
Most virtual parking permit systems are account-based. Generally, the parking client must open an account by telephone or computer and register their vehicle. A credit card number is linked to the account and charged each time a parking session is initiated from the account holder’s telephone. The system can work well if a high percentage of lot users are regular customers, allowing the regulars the convenience of phone access and credit card payment. It has great potential for municipalities because of the sheer number of spaces they operate.
On the downside, this type of virtual parking permit system involves both a financial investment and a commitment to technology that not all lot operators are in a position to make. Perhaps more important, the requirement of opening an account discourages casual or one-time-only parking clients from using the system.
Instant parking permits allow any lot, even a single parking space which is available only after-hours, to be operated on a pay-for-use basis without any machines, equipment, attendants or financial investment by the operator.
Service providers such as Toronto-based Park-It operate sophisticated, patent-pending systems that process parking permits for lot operators on a charge-per-call basis. Because all the technology to process the permits is operated and maintained by the service provider, the lot operator needs to install only some informational signage.
Customers obtain an instant parking permit by calling the posted phone number and following a few simple steps. No account is required, because payment information is provided by the user at the time of the call. The entire process takes about a minute.
The applications for instant permits are limited only by one’s imagination – medical facilities, part-time pay lots, colleges, offices, apartments, event parking, etc. Lots that use pay-and-display equipment or attendants can enhance their services by providing patrons with a convenient way to “top up” a soon-to-expire machine-issued ticket or to pay for parking in the middle of the night when no attendant is available.
So, not only will instant permits get the average lot operator into the phone-based virtual permit world without any equipment or investment, it also will allow many lot operators to increase revenue by providing new services and locations that could not be previously be offered on a profitable basis.
Non-account-based instant parking permits are so easy and inexpensive to offer that it may well be the average lot operator and the occasional parker – not the big players – who truly make virtual parking an everyday reality.