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The Future of Parking

This seminar at PIE 2017 had standing room only.  People were queuing in the hallway trying to get in.  I didn’t go. But I was struck with the interest.

Why were literally hundreds of attendees at a trade exhibition so concerned about what the future had to offer. I noticed that most were under 50. Why?

I’m told that we go through three phases in our working lives. First, we are indestructible. We start out and if a job doesn’t work out, there’s always time.  Then we are focused. We have families and bills to pay, so we settle in and work. Then we are in the home stretch. We see the finish line. So we coast.

I’m sure you know someone in each of these phases.  Why were those under 50 so concerned about the future of parking? They weren’t coasting, they are still working and concerned. Maybe they should be.

I spoke with someone this week who told me that he felt that parking operators were becoming obsolete, that with automation, use of credit cards, LPR, AVI, parking reservations, and the like, the need for traditional parking management in garages was becoming less and less.  The concept of allowing parkers to communicate with a central office, and have all aspects of the garage monitored off site meant fewer and fewer staff on site.

But as I looked around the exhibit hall, I began to wonder if operators were the only ones that could be experiencing a change. Were the dozen or so PARCS manufacturers, the half dozen ticket printers, the gate manufacturers…where they set to become the buggy whip makers of our generation.

What will the parking facility of a decade from now look like? Will there be refrigerator sized pay on foot machines, ticket spitters, card readers, gates, and the rest? Or with parking reservations, prepayment, credit cards, license plate recognition, and the like, will there be a need to collect cash, issue a ticket, and have gates to control access?

Will the changes come quickly?  I asked my friend how long it had been since he started receiving ‘chip’ cards to replace his mag stripe cards. Less than two years.  And now, how many places can you go (except filling stations) where mag stripe cards are even accepted. Change is coming at light speed.

If the parking reservation companies have their way, I will make a reservation to park my car and pay in advance. My license plate will be scanned on entry and exit. There will be no need for any expensive hardware in the lanes. Fantasy? I’m not so sure.

Are those people crowding into the “Future of Parking” seminar worried about their future, curious, or simply hedging their bets. Its probably a combination of all three.

Now is not the time to run for the bunkers, but it might be time to rethink our business models. Perhaps operators could look more to marketing, providing concierge services, and space management, maybe equipment providers need to rethink their business models and sell information and services, rather than hardware.

My crystal ball is still hazy, but it clears a bit as each day goes by. And what is see is change.

JVH

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