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Uber, Parking, Hotels, and Airports

Last year about this time, I had meetings in Chicago.  I drove to LAX, dropped my car at the Parking Spot, took the shuttle to the airport and flew to O’Hare where I rented a car.  I drove it 10 minutes to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and parked in their giant structure. I crossed the bridge to the hotel, pulling my bag, entered the lobby and checked in. The process from plane to room, about 45 minutes.

The next morning I drove downtown – an hour and 15 minutes on the Kennedy “Expressway.”  I parked in one of the many SP Plus run garages in the loop and walked to my meetings. I then reversed the process and returned to my hotel. (I stay at the Hyatt O’Hare because it’s the location of PIE and I get a cheap upgrade.)

The following morning I checked out, drove to Budget, turned in my car, took the shuttle to the terminal. Transferring my bag four times (room to car, car to shuttle stop, stop to shuttle, shuttle to terminal.  Total time room to terminal: 40 minutes. At LAX I caught Parking Spot’s shuttle and picked up my car. Total cost, car rental plus parking, $325.

This week, I had meetings in Chicago. I decided to try something different. I took Uber to LAX and was dropped at my terminal.  I arrived at O’Hare and took the hotel shuttle to the Hyatt. Total time, plane to room, 30 minutes. Bag schlepping – twice – on and off shuttle.

The next morning, I took Uber from the hotel to my meetings downtown. A relaxing ride of about an hour and I had time to check email and return a few calls. I was dropped in front of my meeting. I walked a few blocks to the second meeting, then caught Uber back to the Hyatt.

The next morning I took the shuttle to the terminal – Total time room to terminal 20 minutes. Total cost for Uber $150 (OK I splurged on Uber X.)

A week ago I interviewed Jerry Skillett of Manhattan’s Icon Parking (and four other parking companies) and asked him about the affect he saw Uber had on his business. “Minimal,” he said. “Uber and Lyft only touch parking companies significantly in two places, hotels and airport parking.”

People are taking Uber to the airport, he told me and that’s causing problems for airport parking companies. Car Rental firms are taking a huge hit, too, but that’s another story.  Jerry went on to say that hotel valet and self park was in decline because those cars that weren’t rented weren’t parking at the hotels where business people stayed.

He noted that although I stayed by the airport and drove downtown to my meetings, most business travelers stay closer to their meetings and then after parking their car at the hotel walk or cab it to their business.  So the loss of local parking business due to Uber was minimal.

From my point of view, the ease and convenience of Uber like services far outweighed the fact that I was actually saving money. And according to Jerry, with the exception of hotels and airport parking, he is seeing virtually no reduction in his business.

I was in Chicago for a photo shoot for the cover of the next Parking Today, our Parking Technology Today issue. On the cover will be four “young guns” representing three new parking companies, Mark Lawrence of Spot Hero, Wen Sang and Diego Torres-Palma of Smarking and Harlan Karp of Parkonect. This discussion came up over a post shoot lunch. More on these four and our very spirited conversation later.

We could learn from the taxi industry and why they are failing. First Don’t Panic.  Second be nimble enough to change with the times. I use Uber because its easy, fast, and the cars are clean. The drivers are good too. I wonder why taxi companies can’t have an app, clean cars, and drivers that don’t snap at you when you want to go from LAX to the Marina.

If people use apps to take Uber, why not use apps to find parking. Spot Hero, Parking Panda, Park Whiz and the rest are there looking for garages to sign up. We need to rethink our business model. Do we want full garages, or do we want to increase the per space revenue?  Smarking might be able to help with that.

It was a great time in Chicago, even though it did rain on our outdoor shoot. These young men didn’t seem to care. My umbrella worked just fine.

JVH

 

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