The parking revolution
Boosting customer satisfaction
When it comes to parking technology and strategy, it's not all about on-street: garage parking technology can also revolutionize systems. Joe Morehouse, deputy executive director at Ann Arbor, Mich., says installing new equipment made a world of difference in his surface lots and garages.
"We put in e-park machines [solar-powered meters that accept credit cards] and central pay stations, mainly to help our customers," he says. Morehouse says revenue bumped up about 2 percent almost immediately at the same time customer satisfaction went up.
"People don't have that much change in their pockets anymore," he says. "These all take credit cards. And it helps us as well. Instead of collecting from 10 meters, we now only have to go to one. Instead of having to check how much money is in the meters, the meters let us know when they're getting full."
Additionally, the city's garages boast a system that tells patrons how many spaces are available before they enter. "I didn't think that would be of any use," Morehouse admits, "But people love it. They know there are 25 spots in that garage, and they can decide whether they want to park on the roof or go find another spot somewhere else."
The decision to install so much new technology, he says, was easy. "Our equipment had reached the end of its useful life. So we didn't look at it as a huge capital investment. We had to buy new equipment, so it was just a matter of which way we wanted to go with it."
And, he says, an added benefit has been a little more warm and fuzzy than most people think of when considering parking. "The automated parking equipment have meant our cashiers get out of their booths," he says. "They can interact favorably with people."
Pricing based on demand
There's one more benefit to installing meters and systems that run on computers rather than clocks: dynamic parking pricing. Dynamic parking pricing means that rates are adjusted as demand goes up, boosting revenue and keeping spaces open during crunch times.
Day says Washington is well along the road to implementing dynamic parking pricing, thanks in no small part to the success with its pay-by-phone system. "The City Council gave us $25 million over the next three years to revamp our parking meter program," he says. "Part of that will be implementing performance parking." He hopes to have the sensors installed by the end of this year and launch the program shortly after that.
Getting started with new parking technology can be as simple as hiring a parking consultant to conduct a study of supply, demand and what is or isn't working in a specific area, or calling in suppliers of meters, sensor technology, apps or computerized machinery for a consultation.
"If you look at your whole program in terms of revenue and cost, this all makes sense," says Dey. "When we switched our standard coin meters with smart meters, revenues went up by 40 percent. When we talked about the benefits associated with our new assets and getting real-time occupancy levels, the leadership of Washington, D.C., recognized all of that and we got the money to implement dynamic pricing. It's not totally revenue-driven — that's not the intent at all. It's about better customer service. The revenue is a bonus."
Kim Fernandez is the editor of The Parking Professional magazine and frequently writes on topics related to parking, transportation, urban mobility, and sustainability. The International Parking Institute offers a free online buyer's and consultant's directory at www.parkingbuyersguideandconsultantsdirectory.com.