I asked to guest blog during my trip to Shanghai for the InterParking Shanghai 2010 and the annual meeting of the International Parking Association. The first question asked: Do the Chinese see parking differently than Americans and Europeans. The resounding answer is no.
I have had multiple conversations with various people who are from China and they are shocked that I can have a career in parking and much less have a magazine/website dedicated to it. But once they begin to think about it you can see the light bulb go on.
One of these conversations actually turned into an interview. I was being interviewed. Han Yo and his business partners had just put in a large convention center in Shanghai and they just decided on a parking operator. There were three companies who were in for the bid (2 Australian companies and 1 Chinese company). Ultimately the Chinese company won the bid (one of the business partners who put in the convention center also has a business interest in the Chinese parking company-so not a surprise who won the day).
While Han Yo was making conversation he also asked my opinion on what they should do next. “Set up quarterly checks on what the operator is doing and have some one who knows parking independently audit the parking operation a minimum of every 6 month and“……It was at this point that Han Yo’s eyes began to glaze over, he said “Since my business partner is also a partner in the parking company then everything should be fine.”
Even though I am half a world away, the same issues in regards to parking are still alive and well. A person who should be strongly invested in knowing what is happening in the parking operation (the owner) is now going to leave it to the operator to run things. That might work out but it might not. The parking operator knows parking but may not know the priorities of the owner. What is most important-profits, customer service, safety, etc.? A hands off owner does a disservice to the parking operator, the owner and ultimately the customer. And that is true in Shanghai, London, Rio De Janeiro or Los Angeles.
Access and Revenue Controls are needed everywhere
Here are some pictures of a parking lot in one of the busiest tourist areas
The sign says “Restaurant Parking” but anyone can park there for a fee. How much that fee is varies on many factors and the person who owns the lot may not care. There are no revenue controls, so this is definitely the “Wild West” of parking. This area of Shanghai has been recently renovated and has turned into a major tourist destination. Parking seems to be an afterthought and was placed where it can.
My guides mention that they do not drive to thisarea (they either take taxi’s or the subway) because there is no where to park. This part of town is located on the west side of the river (Pushi) and has been the main part of Shanghai for as long as it has been in existence. Trying to retrofit an area is much harder than building anew. The east side of the river (Pudong) has changed from farm land to a major metropolitan and business center in the last 30 years. Most of the parking on this side is subterranean and has access and revenue controls. Every parking structure that I entered on the east side of the river was well lit, clean and we knew what we were going to pay (many parking payments can be done by a card that also can be used for taxis, subways, ferries, etc. at least in the areas that have revenue control systems). This is not an east side vs. west side (cue the Leonard Bernstein music) but rather controls vs. lack of them. As a customer I appreciate knowing that my car is safe, well cared for and I am willing to pay a price to make sure of that.
World Expo and what will happen next
The World Expo in Shanghai has been around for approximately 5 months and will end in about 2 more. By then more than 40 million people will have been to then event. As a parking person I was curious as to how they got that many people into this huge event. First they have made it much easier to take another form of transportation than to drive your own car. There are 24 parking lots but 5 off those are not within walking distance (have to take an expo bus) and 3 are quite a hike from the event itself. There are 36 different bus or shuttle lines that people can take from all over Shanghai that either are direct bus lines (16 of those) and 20 other routes that have multiple stops but will get you to the Expo, eventually. There are three subway lines that take you to stops within walking distance and 2 different ferry routes that take you directly to the expo. If you are staying in one of the many fine hotels in Shanghai you are probably within a short walk of public transportation (bus, ferry, or subway) that will take you to the expo or your hotel has a special shuttle service that will take you straight to the Expo. If you live in Shanghai, you can drive to one of these locations to take public transportation or you can drive to one of the parking lots. If you are taking a tour then your bus will drop you at the Expo and pick you up. The plans were well thought out for an area where most people are used to public transportation.
Now unless you took the ferry or subway, you took a method of transportation that needs to park at some point (and even those need to park). I have seen some large bus parking areas that are being used. These are unpaved surface lots like these:
I asked what would happen when the Expo closes, the answer was that the lot would be turned into a building of some kind because the land was too valuable to use as a parking lot. Looking at where many of the car parking lots are located that may also be true for those as well. I only hope that there is enough foresight to include parking for these new buildings as well.
More on the exhibition tomorrow