Future Proofing Your Parking Operation: Best Practices for Navigating Multiple Technology Solutions
By Kristen Locke, CAPP
Parking technology has transformed significantly in recent years. In the parking and mobility industry, there has been a surge of new enhancements to the traditional options for technology including frictionless hardware, efficient enforcement systems, smart sensors and wayfinding, and mobile parking platforms. Leaders throughout the industry now have the opportunity to innovate with their systems more than ever, and they also have the option to customize their operation with the right solution to fit their unique operational needs.
While this explosion of new technologies can come with many exciting opportunities for the municipalities, universities, private operators, and others looking to start managing increasing parking demand, adopting new technologies also comes with a lot of pressure. Not every solution is right for every organization. How does one choose between all of the options available? And what solution (or combination thereof) will provide the best experience for your users, while meeting all of your organization’s goals?
Each organization faces different challenges, serves a unique audience, and has different long-term goals. It is important to refocus and have a comprehensive understanding of what your organization is looking to accomplish before ultimately selecting the new technology that is right for you.
I’m in the market to start using a new technology solution. What do I need to know?
Prior to purchasing and implementing a new parking and mobility technology or platform for your organization, it is critical to ask the right questions. These questions should address your current needs, as well as future goals.
Some of these questions include:
• What are the biggest challenges our organization faces today and what solution will best help to alleviate them?
• What is most important to our users?
• What solution will provide the most consistent experience for our users?
• How will this make my team more efficient?
• Will the technology be intuitive to use to encourage our team’s adoption?
• How will the solution integrate with other technologies in use at our operation?
• What kind of data and reporting will we receive, and how can we utilize it to help our team work effectively, while enhancing the user experience?
• What are the goals and objectives of our organization five to ten years from now? Will this solution be able to adapt to our growing and changing needs?
While there are many more questions you can ask, these will help you think through some of the key considerations before implementing a new technology.
The Right Solution for Now and the Future
While all the questions outlined above are essential to consider before selecting a new parking and mobility solution, the most important element is to ensure that you are taking the right step to “future proof” your organization. You want to select a technology that will not only serve the needs of your team and your users now but is modular and has the capacity to grow with your organization in the coming years.
As we have seen in recent years, our industry is constantly changing. Ten years ago, most of us could not have predicted today’s advancements, made possible by today’s parking and mobility solutions. We don’t know what the next ten years will bring, but choosing a solution that has the proven ability to adapt to changing environments, grow with the needs of your organization, and provide consistency for your users through these changes is essential.
One clear example of being in an industry that faces significant change, both anticipated and unexpected, is the recent COVID-19 crisis. This has already had a dramatic impact on our industry, and will no doubt transform the way parking and mobility moves forward. Specifically, this crisis has sped up the development and implementation of contactless solutions, with organizations looking for opportunities to create a safer and cleaner experience for users. It will most likely significantly increase mobile payment adoption, as users look for opportunities to limit contact with both other people and surfaces.
While COVID-19 is just one (albeit major) event to impact our industry, it proves how quickly things can change. Major global pandemics aside, we will continue to see a dramatic evolution of the parking and mobility industry and how organizations globally manage their operations. Ultimately, when deciding on new technology, future proofing is one of the most important considerations.
The user experience remains priority number one. Providing a consistent experience for your customers, even as technologies continue to evolve, should always be at the top of this list. While you may have one technology today, that may change tomorrow. Selecting a solution, or combination of solutions, with a proven ability to work together will help your operation to navigate these changes over time.
Creating Seamless Transitions: Navigating Complementary Technologies
In the past, implementing complementary technologies resulted in a complex web of disjointed solutions that did not talk to each other. But looking ahead at the development of thoughtful and intelligent integrations by parking and mobility vendors, operations are now seeing the potential of having a platform that lets you manage these unconnected technologies together.
Many parking and mobility operations face similar challenges. For example, a city may manage an operation of multiple on-street parking meter vendors, as well as a separate parking app. When rates or policies change, each system must be updated individually. If a mistake occurs somewhere along the way, it will result in significant confusion for users and customer service issues.
In addition to user issues, this can also create many problems for your team attempting to manage the changes. From the parking enforcement personnel handing out violations, to the managers attempting to track and effectively utilize parking data, this can become extremely inefficient for cities and operators attempting to best understand their performance and results.
Working with multiple technologies that don’t integrate well with each other is a significant challenge to the teams managing these operations. Has your current technology prevented your operation from growing in complexity? What will the impact be to users if you don’t innovate? How will a future that includes autonomous vehicles, curbside electric vehicle charging, artificial intelligence, and other mobility innovations affect how you operate today?
Of course, all these complex issues take time to navigate. But the world is continuing to change, whether organizations are ready or not. Now is the time! When selecting a solution provider, it is of course important to identify the vendor that can best meet your needs. However, moving forward it will be as important to select one that has proven that they can work well with other vendors to create a seamless solution to serve you, your team, and your customers well into the future.
About the author: Kristen Locke, CAPP is currently the Senior Regional Sales Manager representing ParkMobile in the West. Kristen has over 10 years of experience in the parking technology space focusing on sales, consultation, and support for mobile payments, enforcement, permit management, and hardware. Kristen began her parking career in municipal parking operations in her hometown of Fort Collins, CO. firstname.lastname@example.org