Is This a Solution in Search of a Problem
There are a number of applications for smart phones that allow you to find parking facilities and the cost of parking in those facilities. The idea is to determine before you leave home or during your trip just where the most convenient and least expensive place to park. Some also allow you to reserve a spot, often in tandem with purchasing event tickets.
I was having dinner with a very knowledgeable industry mover and shaker the other night and this topic came up. Fueled with a few adult beverages we began to gently tussle over the topic. He took the position that using your phone to locate parking and making decisions based on pricing was the thing of the future and we had better get used to it and plan for it. Being a contrarian I took the opposite view.
I held that in general most people don’t think about parking when they leave home for dinner or a show and that they expect that parking will be available when they arrive. They accept the fact that they will have to pay (probably hate it, but do it nevertheless) and pick the most convenient space available.
My friend said that I was living in the 1960s and that young people today live and die by their smart phone and in a few years finding parking through the use of the phone will be the only way people will do it. He cited examples of half a dozen companies that provide this information.
We moved from dinner to the event we were attending and found ourselves sitting behind a group of 20-somethings who were chatting amongst themselves about this and that. I jabbed my friend in the ribs and then tapped one of the young people on the shoulder.
“When you go somewhere, say out to dinner or to a club or show, do you plan your parking in advance, and if there were a convenient app on your phone would you use it?”
The young man thought for a minute and said: “Frankly I don’t think about parking. I just go and find a lot and turn in and park. I pay what I have to.”
Granted our survey was fairly limited, but I think that a larger sample would find a similar result. Certainly there will be some people that will use the app and be affected by pricing and location. However generally prices are pretty similar in the same areas — the market takes care of that. We know that pay by phone receipts are a very small percentage of all revenue in cities (in the 1-3 percent range) so people aren’t fighting to jump on board that wagon.
SF Park is relying on apps to help people change their parking habits by providing the location and price of parking space. News reports have noted that even with relatively severe changes in pricing block by block, parking habits don’t seem to change much. Even with a $5 per hour swing in pricing, people still park in the more convenient and expensive spots than walk an additional two or three blocks. One of the reasons may be that they don’t know the pricing difference, that is they don’t check parking price and availability before heading out, and know that its difficult to do when you are underway in your car.
I use ATMs, pump my own gas and often scan my own groceries. I use on line check in when I fly, and use the GPS on my phone when I don’t know where I’m going. I do all these things because it makes my life easier and more convenient. However I don’t really check out parking in advance because, like my young friend mentioned above, I don’t think about it, and I’m in the industry. I just assume there will be a fairly convenient place to put my car and there usually is and I put it there.
Could this change? Of course. If Don Shoup gets his way and parking minimums go the way of the Dodo, then perhaps there won’t be convenient parking and I will have to start planning for it in advance. However my destination (club, restaurant, shopping area, theater) if it wants my business, will most likely provide for parking, whether its a structure, a lot nearby, or some type of valet operation. If I find parking too difficult, most likely I will car pool or take public transportation, or not go.
But then, that’s just me…Anyone out there disagree?