Parking is everywhere: When you visit someone, go shopping or to the movies,if you need to go to the hospital or to the airport: everything that involves traveling and a car involves parking.
In every location and situation there are different needs when it comes to parking. Sometimes it’s important to the customer to be able to park for a long period of time without having to pay too much, for example at an airport. Other times it’s more important to find a parking space within a few minutes, for example when you go to the grocery store, and at a university it’s important to have enough parking spaces available on campus for all the students. The key of a good parking operational system is to put yourself in the shoes of your customers and tackle their potential parking problems and possible confusion.
At airports you see two types of parking: short term parking and long term parking. Short term is usually for 7 days or less, and long term parking is cheaper if you park for more than 7 days. The main customers are people that have booked a flight and leave their car at the airport for the time they’re gone.
People who drive their car to the airport and then take the plane are in need of affordable parking. Plus they don’t want to have to worry about the safety of the car while they’re gone. Also, navigating at airport parking lots can be quite confusing sometimes, so an effective parking guidance system is required.
Meet & Greet parking is a common additional service at airports.
Shopping Centre parking
People who visit a shopping centre want to be sure they can park their car safely and conveniently. The parking facility is the first and last impression people get from your shopping centre, since most people use their car for transportation when they go out shopping. The most important thing for people is probably the knowledge that they will find a parking space within a few minutes. Parking availability is the key factor in choosing a shopping centre. Not only availability is important, the parking experience should be as convenient as possible. People live busy lives and visiting a shopping centre should be something fun. The first experience in your shopping centre should set the standard for the whole shopping experience. Stress in the parking lot, not being able to find a parking space and traffic congestion means less time for shopping a and a bad mood, which leads to less spending.
The parking lot is the first (and last) impression most people get when visiting your hotel. Don’t look at it as ‘just a parking lot’, but as a part of your hotel. That is how your guests see it. A messy parking lot is not a good impression. Mostly hotel guests have had a long drive to the hotel, and they’re happy they finally reached their holiday location. You don’t want them to stress them when they arrive.
Hotel parking lots must:
- Be clean and tidy. Remember it’s the first impression. A nice, clean coat of asphalt can already make a huge difference. Make sure there are no potholes, no litter and no oil- or gas stains.
- Have enough parking spaces available for all guests. Count how many people can stay in your hotel and then calculate the maximum number of cars possible. If your parking lot doesn’t have enough parking spaces available, make sure guests reserve a parking space when they book a hotel room, so you know how many cars to expect. Nothing is worse than to have to say ‘No’ to your guests.
- Be easy accessible and easy to find. There should be clear signage directing to the parking lot so when people arrive at the hotel they don’t have to exit their vehicle, go inside and ask where to park. It should go without saying. Because your guests have probable already driven for a long time, you don’t want to stress them when they finally arrive. That is why it should be an easy task to park their car at the hotel.
- Be easy to navigate in. A parking space must be easy to find and easy to park at. Remember that you as a hotel manager or employee are familiar with this parking lot, but guests who arrive for the first time aren’t. Make sure that, if your parking lot has lots of spaces, there is clear guidance to available parking spaces. But not only parking should be easy, also navigation towards the entrance of the hotel, exit of the parking lot, possible elevators and emergency routes should be easy. Make sure you have enough directional signage in your parking lot so guests won’t have to wander around.
- Be well-secured. Make sure you have some level of security to ease your guest’s minds. Guest shouldn’t have to worry about the safety of their car. Hotel parking lots can, for example, have CCTV cameras, have a gated entrance, get locked at night, etcetera. Also the lighting plays a big part in the guests sense of safety. Make sure your parking lot is well-lit. Especially the entrance and exit should be very well-lit so guests feel comfortable at night time.
To make your parking lot even more special, you could add several additional services. Some hotels offer additional valet service. This service gives the hotel guest a sense of luxury plus it’s a lot less stress. You can also place vending machines inside your parking facility for extra convenience. Some hotels use cross-promotion with other local businesses. This can add an extra value to your customers as well; they can see the different activities and facilities the city has to offer to tourism.
Municipal parking can be both on- and off street: In the streets or in public parking lots owned by the City. It’s a very broad user group and difficult to define. The city parking department has two types of customers: Residents and visitors. This last group can either be people visiting the city or people visiting residents.
It’s important for a city to have a smooth parking operation in the city centre. If people can’t find a place to park, or have to drive around for too long, they won’t visit your town which means less revenue coming from shops, restaurants etc. Also when parking is too expensive or too difficult. Usually cities provide drivers guidance to available parking spaces. A parking guidance system improves the traffic flow and benefits the overall occupancy of parking spaces. Plus, drivers get less frustrated while finding a place to park.
People like to park their car closely to their homes, that’s understandable. Residential parking is also part of municipal parking. The city has to keep the residents happy by making sure everybody has a place to park their car. Also the people who live close to the downtown area. Usually the city manages residential parking with parking permits, to be requested by residents. These streets are called residential zone parking, The purpose of residential zone parking is to provide parking spaces to people who live in high-density areas and their guests. This can be for all time, or for certain hours or days.
Municipal parking is usually run by the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT is responsible for the city’s transportation infrastructure and manages day-to-day maintenance of the city streets, traffic lights, parking spaces etc. Also the parking enforcement is usually run by the DOT unless it’s outsourced.
In today’s world it becomes more and more important to be green; also in the parking industry. People are more focussed on energy efficiency and sustainable solutions. It’s not only better for the environment; it also saves costs in long term use. There are many different ways to make a parking facility more energy efficient. For example, if there is no one inside the facility, should the lights be on? No need for that, so you can use sensors that detect motion and automatically turn on the lights when someone enters. Same goes for parking kiosks, entry stations, and so on. Another example of green parking is the use of alternative energy sources like solar energy. But also an efficient waste management can contribute to the environment. Even using recycled paper for printed tickets makes a different.
Hospital parking customers can be divided in two main groups: visitors and employees. Off course, also other people will use the parking facility, for example vendors and maintenance workers, but it is easier to only consider the main groups of visitors. Every group you identify, you give special privileges. The more groups you identify, the more groups you have to manage. It’s the hospitals choice whether or not to identify the smaller (sub-) groups.
Visitors include patients and patients’ visitors. This is the main group the hospital needs to focus on. A hospitals main function is to serve its visitors and patients and that is why their parking should be as convenient as possible. The parking spaces for visitors should be closest to the hospital. If the visitors parking situation isn’t convenient, they might come late for appointments, they will complain to others (mouth-to-mouth) and eventually it could lead to people going to another hospital instead of yours. The whole process of parking should be easy to understand for all types of people.
Employees need to park their car at the hospital site daily or almost every day. Employees who have to park everyday should have their own parking space assigned. This space should not be closest to the hospital and even though the employees are probably unhappy with their assigned parking space, it is the parking operators job to make sure they park there. The parking spaces should not be closest to the hospital, because the employees are not the main group to focus on: A hospital needs its visitors and patients.
You often hear horror stories about campus parking experiences. Students that drive around for hours not being able to find a parking space and traffic congestion caused by bad parking guidance. Because campuses have so many parking spaces and so many students trying to find a place to park, traffic management is the key to an orderly parking process. At universities the student body grows on a yearly basis, but the amount parking spaces stays the same. Add those two together and you get a serious problem in parking availability. In some cases the university even handed out more parking permits then there are available parking spaces, leaving the students with no other choice than to park illegally or in the nearby residential area.
Universities must have an eye on the future and are in need of a system that allows the parking to grow as the student body does. Here are some ways universities improved their campus parking management:
Increase parking rates
Now, students are not going to like this, but it has been proven effective. The University of New England raised the parking fees with more than 300% to discourage new students to bringing their car to campus. They increased the parking rates in combination with offering and encouraging alternative transportation.
Encourage alternative transportation on campus
If you encourage the use of bikes, buses, or other transportation, less people will use their car and less people will need to park. You could hand out benefits to people that use alternative transportation or make use of carpooling. At the University of North Carolina they hand out special passes for people who use alternative transportation. When these students show this pass they can get discounts on various local merchants. One university allows carpool drivers to park at prime locations. It’s also useful to point out the health benefits of alternative transportation: It’s healthier to ride a bike or walk, and it’s better for the environment to take the bus or carpool.
Efficient traffic direction
The University of Central Florida installed electronic billboards that are also used for displaying emergency messages. When you provide guidance to available parking spaces, the traffic flow improves and people find a parking space quicker and easier.
Close the campus site during the day
The University of Virginia decided to close the campus for cars during the day. They installed barriers at the entrances that close at 7:30 AM and open again at 4 PM. Authorized staff has transponders that automatically open the gate. There is a downside that comes with these barriers: They often break cars get trapped. Also people tailgate authorized staff in order to get through the gates.
Event parking calls for good parking management. You know you can expect lots of people entering the parking facility at approximately the same time. Entering the parking facility and paying for parking should happen fast to avoid queues. That is why people normally choose for e-payments (e.g. creditcard, permit) at the entrance of the lot. Paying afterwards is avoided to prevent lines at the paystations. One solution could be pre-selling parking tickets, perhaps in combination with tickets for the event itself. At the entry station people can scan the barcode on their printed permit, which benefits the traffic flow. If you reserve one lot for pre-paid parking only, you have the advantage of knowing how many cars to expect in that particular lot before the event starts.