By Chris Hylton

Earlier this year we sent out a survey to members of the Canadian Parking Association.  The survey asked a variety of questions about issues to identify the emerging trends and help the industry respond.

Regarding data, we asked about how organizations were using data, real-time and projected, to drive parking policy and design.  We also asked about the relationship between data and funding expansion projects.

Regarding technology, we asked about how organizations were implementing new technology and the success rate.  This included things like parking and payment apps as well as charging stations.

Regarding customer experience, we asked about how technology and online relationships via social media channels have helped to improve the overall customer experience.

Data Use Trends

93% of respondents reported that they were seeing an increased use of data to drive their service and design.  Just a few of the data points that organizations are tracking include: number of vehicles, fees, payment methods, type of vehicle (i.e.: gas, hybrid, electric), turnover, event usage, parking via permit, versus daily, or hourly paid.

Digital Technology Continues to Drive the Industry

Common technological trends mentioned by survey participants included the emergence and adoption of parking apps, mobile payment options, and the provision of charging stations for electric vehicles.

Over time parking apps have simply exploded. A few years ago, Calgary’s ParkPlus system which permitted payment by phone, was revolutionary.  Now apps cover every conceivable aspect of our industry.  From the customer perspective there are apps involved in guidance, payment, all in one, and even handsfree no touch apps.

As automakers rush to meet customer demands to turn vehicles into four wheeled smart phones, parking apps are hitting vehicle screens with increasingly sophisticated parking support.

Ford Motor Co. has developed FordPass, a vehicle system that can, among others, find and pay for parking. BMW has developed Parkmobile, featured on BMW’s central display screen. This app populates the vehicle’s GPS map with a growing number of Parkmobile-enabled locations. With over 1,000,000 spots and +3000 locations across North America, Parkmobile claims to “have you covered”. Drivers choose the amount of time they need, make payments through the car’s screen, and once parked, drivers may extend their time using the app.

Another app that is emerging into the marketplace is ZipBy.  This app allows users the freedom to enter and exit ZipBy enabled facilities without even having to open the app or enter any information to start a parking transaction.  Truly an autonomous parking solution for the modern era.

FordPass screen shot

Parking is now a Partnering Industry

This highlights a growing trend in our industry; the consolidation and sharing of data use across broad partner platforms.  Parkmobile provides the platform, BMW provides the customer/driver, and various parking operators provide the spaces.  Non BMW drivers are also welcome to sign up, online or via a mobile app.  All of this is done without the control of the operator.

Want to park at the Air Canada Centre or the Rogers Centre for an event? Parkmobile has you covered as they have partnered with Standard Parking and Central Parking to provide you a spot before you even get there.

Standalone apps are proliferating: Impark’s hangTag™, Passport, EasyPark, ParkPlus, Google Maps to name a few, all rely on parking spaces owned by parking operators.  The difference is that the marketing of these spaces is increasingly in the hands of non-parking operators.

The Sharing Economy

The Sharing Economy is also having an impact. You can share transportation, a room in a house, tools for a project, and now, yes a parking spot. HonkMobile’s HONK, ParkChamp and others permit owners to rent their private driveways and parking spaces, just like Airbnb or VRBO.

HONK’s goal is to connect anyone who owns a spot – from a single stall in a condo to a lot with a few thousands spots – with drivers: “If you think about parking, you have an industry that was stuck in the 1950s … it was pretty much the only thing you couldn’t find on the Internet.” Michael Back, Founder & CEO, HonkMobile.  The pitch to this latest form of parking operator from ParkChamp is compelling. “You earn money every time someone parks in your parking space. You never need to meet or exchange money with the driver!”

In terms of the long term impact on services like this on parking, it is difficult to calculate.  A recent article in Forbes Magazine cited researchers found that Airbnb’s growth through 2014 reduced hotel variable profits by up to 3.7 percent in the 10 US cities with the largest Airbnb presence.  Will renting out one’s parking spot have the same impact? Time will tell.

Customer Experience

Survey participants listed an increasing emphasis on providing a superior customer experience.  To aid in this customer surveys were being used increasingly. Many participants mentioned success with engaging and monitoring customers on social media channels.  Several indicated that customers desire to have charging stations resulting in efforts to provide charging stations in parking facilities. Operators spoke of the increased need for parking of car share vehicles.  Many spoke of the need to embrace parking apps and mobile payment options that are reliable and easy to use for the customer.

With increasing app and online parking shopping ease, comes the need to provide a superior customer experience.  As the FordPass graphic shows, customers know what the competition charges, what spaces are available, and with a couple more clicks what the customer experience is like.  If your parking offering is not competitive, you will lose customers, it is that simple.

The Elephant in the Room – Ridesharing

If car ownership is declining, and ride sharing is increasing, will there be as many cars to fill garages and long term lots?  Maybe not.  Ridesharing use is driven primarily by cost. Millennials and members of other generations are not interested in spending their hard-earned money on cars, parking, insurance, maintenance.

Their mobility needs can be met with public transit, Uber/Lyft, and all the other transportation sharing tools at their disposal. Nearly one-fourth of Uber users ages 17 to 64 in the United States delay buying a car specifically because they have access to the Uber service.

Is this bad news for the Parking Industry? Not necessarily.  The automaker may not sell as many vehicles to the private driver, but it will sell more cars to ride sharing companies, and research indicates that miles driven will increase dramatically as fewer vehicles drive further distances.  For the parking operator, additional stalls for short term parking, for drop off parking, for shared vehicle parking will all increase.

Survey Purpose

Questions for the survey were developed by CPA member Chris Hylton of Calgary, based on comments from the Municipal round table discussions held on October 17, 2017 at the CPA’s Annual Conference and Trade Show in Banff. The Canadian Parking Association (CPA), representing a broad range of members within the parking industry, conducted a survey in early 2018 of its parking professional members to determine emerging trends and solicit input on a range of topics.

Methodology

Survey Data was collected between Dec 19 2017 and Jan 26 2018

There were 22 participants, with close to 70% of participants coming equally from Private Parking, Municipal Parking, and University Parking.  Additional respondents were from parking planners, hospital and airport parking, associations, software developers, engineering, and consulting.

Geographically, there were 8 responses from Ontario, 4 from Alberta, 3 each from BC and Nova Scotia, and one each from New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. 2 skipped the question.

A link to the survey was distributed via email to CPS members and the link was made available on the CPA website. Respondents included private parking operators, municipal parking operators, planners, consultants, university parking operators, as well as hospital and airport parking operators.  Results that follow were tabulated and analyzed by Chris Hylton.

1. 93% of respondents agreed they are making greater use or parking data to drive parking policy and parking design

What type of parking data does your organization collect?

In general participants wanted to have as much data as possible so they could make informed decisions about what is driving their parkers’ needs.

Data collected by respondents includes:

Vehicle activity, occupancy, turnover, time, date, capacity, location, designated parking areas (accessible, courtesy, car pool, parent & infant, electric, hybrid).

Type of vehicle (gas/diesel, hybrid, electric).

Type of parker: hourly, daily, permit, monthly, exhibitor, employee, tenant, special event, concert, sporting, student, staff, faculty, trip origin.

Revenue by station/product, method of payment (credit, debit, tap, P&D, mobile pay app).

Compliance, rates vs competition, cost per stall, enforcement stats, requests for service, parking stall construction costs, class schedules, enrollment forecasting.

How do you use this data to drive the design of your parking facilities?

Participants mentioned data help determine capacity and maintenance needs, expected growth, including EV, car share demand, ROI and locations, both short and long term.

Participants were mixed as to the importance of data in terms of parking design, with 65% saying yes and 35% saying no.

2. 100% of respondents agreed that funding parking facilities is becoming increasingly difficult.

How do you fund the building of your new parking facilities?

Funding solutions ranged from mortgage financing, use of reserves, tax base, partnership agreements with developers.

What is the average construction cost per stall for surface parking, for underground parking?

Responses ranged from $5000 to $15000 for paved surface parking, and from $30000 to $70000 for underground parking.  Above grade building came in from $30000 to $50000

What other funding issues do you see emerging?

Other important emerging funding issues noted by participants include:

The balancing of revenue with that of Smart Commute. Encouraging people to think about other options while ensuring budgets are met. Developing EV / AV and technology infrastructure.

375% of respondents agreed that parking is being viewed more as one cog in the overall transportation and mobility system.

Comments ranged from the emerging importance of MaaS (Mobility as a Service), and the first and last mile concept, which are big picture topics for municipalities that need to be addressed over the next decade.  Others commented that with new code changes requiring more new parking to provide EV charging stations, parking may become more akin to a “gas-station”!

4. How are accessible parking needs determined within your community?

Responses ranged from ADA Standards, to Civic By-laws, to building codes, and personal requests.

What other accessible parking trends do you see emerging?

83% of respondents indicated an increased demand for accessible parking.  Respondents noted that demand is rising with the growth in the senior’s population.  Another commented on the creation of “Courtesy Spaces” for those not quite needing accessible but rather a spot closer to a destination.  The question of how to integrate different accessible parking time demands with traditional paid on street parking limits.

5. What parking apps does your organization currently use?

Participants noted the use of various apps, including: Mobile Pay an app developed by the City of Toronto Parking Authority, MyParking by ParkPlus System, Way to Park, McKay Pay, text2park (under consideration), Hotspot, and other mobile payment platforms.

Please describe what the mobile apps you use do?

Respondents outlined how their apps, permitted the parker to pay for parking, add to their balance if they need more time, while hotspot also allows them to search for available parking in their area.

One commented how the app integrates payment, location mapping, find my car, personal profile, allows multiple vehicles, park a friend, and payment by zone or stall.

What is the public’s acceptance of your parking apps?

Those who had recently introduced mobile apps, commented that public acceptance was slow due to its newness.  Others commented that acceptance over time is steadily growing and close to 60% of users pay with via mobile. Independent surveys have indicated a 90% customer satisfaction rating.

What other parking app trends do you see emerging?

Participants suggested that the use of apps to show parking spaces in real-time, the ability to reserve a spot, along with GPS guidance to get there is a trend that will capture the customer’s attention.  The integration of transit and parking, being able to do all aspects of parking on-line, and business advertising matching parking location, were other trends mentioned.

6Dwindling Parking Inventory was noted by 83% of respondents.

What are you contemplating doing to meet the dwindling inventory?

Some respondents mentioned being in the early stages of deciding if a new garage facility is the right choice, others were looking for land.   Others commented on promotion of transit, bike lanes, car share options, developing improved payment and customer service options, mixed use development, partnerships with developers.  The use of price increases and more focus on Transportation Demand Management, were mentioned by others.

Regional variations were clear.  Halifax indicated continued high demand was driving increased needs in the city centre.  The opposite was at play in Calgary where large downtown vacancies have muted demand. Car share vehicles have increased dramatically in locations such as Vancouver and yet Vancouver has not seen a decrease in demand for parking.

7. How has car sharing impacted your service delivery?

One respondent noted that they are now required to ensure they have shared vehicle companies in their plans as it relates to traffic management and parking plans. Another mentioned the increasing calls from citizens complaining about the increase of car share vehicles in their neighbourhoods, and the need for further education.

8. Charging station demand is increasing.

Are you providing charging stations at your facilities?

75% of respondents responded yes.  Others mentioned that this was an emerging trend. Several mentioned that charging stations would be coming soon.

Have you been able to meet demand?

The vast majority of respondents responded yes, and in fact commented that spots were often empty.

What other charging station trends do you see emerging?

There were more questions than answers in this emerging area. Questions arose as to if or when electric vehicles will hit a tipping point. What about the cost of infrastructure and electricity?  Do parking operators charge customers for electricity or does it need to be a premium charge for access to a charging spot?

9. Use of parking space, when not used for parking, creating parking space flexibility.

Are you developing new ways of making use of unused parking facilities?

Respondents mentioned permitting a variety of uses: markets, private use, tents, car shows, bike swaps, and farmers markets. Others are not actively involved in this but would welcome it under the right conditions.

10. Collecting feedback, customer and community engagement methods, social media, interviews with customers, etc.

How have you engaged with citizens with respect to parking issues?

Municipal operators were the most active with this question, and agreed that social media, annual surveys, constant community feedback, working groups, were all excellent methods of collecting information to make improvements and design changes.

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