We embrace technology. Research and innovation have given us everything we need to run our parking operations. But are we better off? In some ways, of course. We can collect money in many different forms, get reports on what is going on in our garages and on our streets, and we can use that information to better market our product. But do we?
How many cities, universities, commercial parking operations, airports, venues and the like simply purchase the ‘latest and greatest’ technology, install it, and then sit back and let their parking money flow in. In each of those cases, how many actually thought about what they were trying to accomplish, not just with the parking technology, but with their parking product itself.
At Texas A and M, arguably the most technological advanced higher ed parking operation on the planet, Peter Lange has built an organization that markets a product, and uses the technology to that end.
He and his staff believe that they are there to serve their customers, and go out of their way to make that happen. They have half a dozen ways to let people into and out of their parking facilities. They collect money any way the parker wants. They have a database of information that is at their beck and call so they can assist any customer with any problem, issue, or desire. Sure the technology allows them to do that, but they needed to understand their mission and their goals before putting the the technology in place.
In addition, they needed to be able to ‘adjust’ their technology to fit new requirements that may not have even been considered when they began their project. To do that they had to not only work with their vendors, but also have in house programmers to help them develop systems to fit their particular needs.
The problem with most technology is that no matter how flexible it seems, the day after you install it, someone will want something it can ‘t do. You end up fitting your parking program to the technology you own. Sigh.
Of course you can’t think of everything up front. But you need to understand that having a camera in your iPhone doesn’t mean you can make Gone with the Wind. We need to understand our limitations.
By the same token, many innovations can be done without little or no application of silicon and electrons. A and M’s Theater had a problem. They couldn’t figure out how to collect for parking; prepay, post pay, collect at the gate it was chaos. Peter suggested they charge every patron $2 additional for their ticket and give the money to the parking operation. Parking would then appear to be ‘free’ to the customer. Problem solved, and not a bit of technology in sight.
Technology is important, but first you have to understand what you are trying to accomplish and then be sure the technology you use gets you to that goal.