Magazine

Centro Comerciales Estacionamiento*

By Dennis Cunning

What paid parking facility averages 17,000 transient tickets and 1,250 monthly customers every day Monday through Thursday, and 20,000 transient tickets and 1,000 monthly customers parking each day on the Friday through Sunday weekend? Oh, and during the Christmas season, the volume peaks at 27,000 transient tickets and 1,700 monthly customers a day?
The answer – Centro Comerciales Santa Fe, an upscale shopping mall in the suburbs of Mexico City. * The article’s title, “Shopping Center Parking,” was a clue for our bilingual readers.
Sometimes, we parking folks in Europe, the U.S., Canada or Australia think we are all-knowing in parking operations, especially large-scale facilities. Many of us would never think of Mexico having such a facility, the skills to operate it or the economy to support such a facility. Well, take a step back and discover what is involved in running a major parking complex by any world standard and one that is difficult to match anywhere in the U.S.
Centro Santa Fe, as it is commonly called, is off the highway between Mexico City and Toluca. Let’s put the shopping center into perspective so that you can compare it with your own local mall. The development is set on about 20 acres. There are 322 tenants in the 650,000 square feet of retail space, and 5,320 parking spaces. It has 13 entrance lanes and 16 exit lanes, with seven central registers located within the mall.
The parking management company Entra has a 90-person staff to operate the 24/7 facility.
Comparing the 2005 ticket volume with the 2008 volume of 6.48 million collected tickets shows a growth of 11.2%, (Even more staggering are the revenues generated by this operation.) Add in the 500,000 monthly vehicles, and you have more than 6.9 million vehicles a year using this facility.
Take a moment to reflect on how many vehicles this is on a daily basis. It is more than many garages do in a month or months, and Centro Santa Fe does it every day. Just keeping the ticket dispensers full is an issue. Ordering a million tickets every eight weeks and the lead time to get them through Mexican customs is another task that most garage operations never think about on a monthly basis
The average ticket is 2 hours and 10 minutes, and the average ticket price is about 22 ($1.45) pesos. That’s not a bad average when you consider that 35% of all tickets collected (2.23 million of them) are within the 15 minutes free grace period.
Transient rates range from 20 pesos for 16 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes – the first paid rate increment – up to a 24 hour maximum rate of 100 pesos. There are seven incremental steps between the 22 peso and 100 peso rates.
All who work at Centro Santa Fe must pay for parking, including the parking operator and its employees. Space is simply too valuable to permit free parking for the eight to 10 hours a day that an employee works and those “long term” spaces do not turn over. Monthly rates for employees range from 150 to 390 pesos per month. There were 2,530 paid monthly cards in January 2009.
(The transient turn on the space, adjusted for monthly vehicles, is three to four turns a day, depending on the day of the week. During the Christmas season, the space turnover increases to almost six times a day.)
The parking operation at Centro Santa Fe is an all-cash collection business, as credit cards are not accepted at this time. About 30% of the cash collection is in coin; the task of moving this amount of coin daily is better than a workout at the gym! The logistics of simply collecting the money from the individual cashier booths, transporting it to the parking office, counting and banding the money, and then transporting the cash to the bank is understandably a closely guarded secret, but I understand that many days there are in excess of 20 bank deposits. Think of the task of reconciling that bank statement at the end of the month!
At peak times of the day, the parking facility’s PARCS is processing more than 400 transactions a minute between tickets being issued, monthly card dips, and cash register transactions. With 6.4 million tickets and the amount of cash collections, even PT the Auditor and his entire litter would have their work cut out for them at this facility.
By November 2009, an estimated 200,000 square feet of retail space will be added, along with an ice-skating rink to complement the existing golf driving range, health club and 16-screen movie theater. This will bring the shopping center to about 400 tenants.
The developers also are adding a 30-story office building and two hotels, which will come online in late 2010 and early 2011. And the piece de resistance (at least for us parking aficionados) is 4,200 parking spaces will be added to address the needs of this development.
The addition of 2.2 acres of land to the project will mean five more entrances and 12 exit lanes, for a total of 18 entrances and 28 exits for 9,500 parking spaces. With 46 lanes of traffic, add in 35 or 40 pay-on-foot machines within the mall – now that is impressive! Adding hotel and commercial office parking into the shopping center mix makes this development a world-class facility, and parking is at the very core of it.
We don’t know what the final traffic volume at full build-out and occupancy will be, but 27,000 to 32,000 transient tickets and 4,000 monthlies a day is within expectations on average days, and at Christmas time, a 50,000-ticket day is certainly within reach. Now you are talking about serious parking and a lot of pesos!
Other than the SM Megamall in Ortigas Center, a suburb of Manila, Philippines, I do not know of any other shopping center with paid parking and this level of sustained parking volume.
Dennis Cunning is an auditor and consultant. He can be reached at dlc_park@is.netcom.com.
For more information on this project, log on to www.centrosantafe.com.mx. Or contact Jesus Garcia at jsgarcia@centrosantafe.com.

Article Abstract from April, 2009




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