If you’re an owner or manager of a commercial parking property, nothing is more annoying than an empty spot. Evolving technologies enabled by ubiquitous smart devices might finally offer a solution to this perennial pain.
For many lots, garages, and decks, every minute a parking spot goes empty is a lost opportunity for revenue and a direct hit to ROI. Parking properties operate on a variety of different models, but almost all of them benefit from having as much of their inventory occupied as possible by paying users and tenants at any given moment.
Even getting just a few cents per hour for a spot is better than nothing — as long as you can keep operating costs down and avoid missing out on higher-paying opportunities in the future.
The Parking Industry’s Billion-Dollar Missed Opportunity
The battle to maximize inventory utilization in parking has been ongoing for decades, with many creative innovations. Yet too often large portions of parking structures go underused for long stretches of time; even those in ‘hotspots’ with plenty of demand.
A lot of factors contribute to this inefficiency, but the primary one is a disconnect between information about available inventory and the people who might want to use it. Parking availability can shift dramatically from moment to moment, and so does parking demand.
Getting them to line up in real-time is difficult, but not impossible. We already have working real-world models to work off to get more value from the underutilized time and real estate.
Companies like Airbnb and Uber pioneered innovative new ways for people and businesses to offer up spare inventory when it’s available, whether it’s a spare room in a home, a summer condo that goes unused for much of the year, or a few hours a week of car travel.
It’s a win-win: the car or property owner has an opportunity to extract revenue from time and space that might otherwise go unused, while users get more flexible access to resources when and where they want it. It represents a huge opportunity for parking owners and managers.
Flexibility in a World That Demands It
Beyond just connecting consumers with the services and products that they want, the great thing about these platforms is how well they respond to the market to maximize revenue at any given time. In places and times of high demand, rates go up quickly: usually manually for Airbnb, and programmatically for rideshare apps like Uber. The inverse is true when demand dips: prices drop quickly to attract buyers who otherwise wouldn’t consider purchasing.
After all, some revenue is always better than none—as long as you can keep operating costs down.
This all sounds quite obvious and intuitive, especially now that we’ve become so used to companies like Airbnb and Uber as part of our everyday lives. But it’s a stark contrast to much of the parking industry, which operates on comparatively rigid and inflexible models.
Typical short-term lots still charge nearly-static rates year-round for hourly or daily parking. Longer-term parking solutions might offer monthly or yearly rates to apartment tenants or office building commuters, but do nothing with the long stretches of the day when spots are vacated.
Bucking the Trend
There are innovators who are working to shift the way we approach parking. Some are local or regional technology companies offering targeted solutions to specific audiences, while others offer larger-scale solutions that seek to disrupt the way we park our vehicles, much in the way Uber and Airbnb shifted the way we travel.
Mobile Access: The Missing Ingredient
There’s no shortage of solutions trying to cross the supply/demand gap for parking. Some are seeing modest success, but none have exploded into near-ubiquitous use on the scale you see from platforms on the scale of Airbnb and Uber. Why not?
It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. But one of the most glaring deficiencies present in the parking world is the relative lack of convenience when it comes to entering and exiting a paid lot or garage.
For someone looking for a quick parking solution, it’s just not tenable to deal with the typical entry and payment solutions: ticket kiosks, access gates, parking attendant booths, and so on.
Mobilizing the Troops
The extra complication to users (and cost to owners) of these extra steps make the large-scale adoption of dynamic space sharing and renting unappealing. But a new solution has emerged in the form of remote mobile access.
How it Works
Mobile access streamlines the logistics and monetization of dynamic parking spot rental and consolidates the entire experience into a simple mobile experience. Getting in, paying for, and exiting any garage, deck or lot can be handled automatically by a mobile device with a simple enhancement to conventional access points like gates and ticket stands.
This kind of enhancement can be added atop any parking access point, whether it’s a cutting-edge new system or one with a few years of use under its belt. And it means anyone with a mobile device suddenly has the potential to be a paying customer—no access badge or fob or magnetic striped ticket required.
A user can simply drive right into a lot with available spots, leave at the necessary time, and get billed automatically based on the length of time the spot was used and the rate they agreed on when entering.
Keeping Down Costs
So much of making parking structures profitable depends on keeping down operating expenses. It’s great to acquire new incremental revenue, but the added costs of doing so are one of the main obstacles preventing the widespread adoption of more dynamic and adaptive business models.
If you want to get more flexible and dynamic with your inventory, then security, space management, and revenue enforcement become more complicated, too. You’re opening up your space to more unknown users, monitoring a greater variety of uses, and need strong control overutilization to prevent any of these interim customers from interfering with obligations to longer-term tenants and partners.
It’s great to be able to offer up space in an office building garage at night when office workers are gone to bring in some extra income—but you need all those spaces back by the time the workers return the next morning.
Fortunately, mobile access solves these problems as well without requiring big investments into new technology, infrastructure, or headcount. It enables 1:1 identity verification, digital payment, remote access management, and effortless parking self-service.
A good mobile access solution will be able to integrate with any of your proprietaries or purchased parking management systems and applications and feed you invaluable data about when, how, and by whom a given spot is getting used.
Opt for mobile access and maximize your parking inventory to its fullest potential!