The parking industry is going nowhere fast.
Put less paradoxically, it’s not going anywhere and growing fast. At least for as far into the visible future as anyone can clearly see.
In about two short years, the parking industry is expected to tip the scales at $5 Billion—up from $3 Billion in 2016. Keep in mind that this $2 billion expected increase comes at a time when the hype around automated cars and death of parking has never been hotter.
Those of us in the industry are listening and responding to that hype similarly to those in the tech industry during the countdown to Y2K… by shrugging and staying focused on reality. And the reality is that as the parking industry continues to grow, it brings with it many opportunities for financial growth in both the public and private arenas.
From the perspectives of retail stores, the sound of a car pulling into an on-street parking spot may as well be the cha-ching of a cash register—or whatever onomatopoeia is associated with credit card processors.
Why? Well, a single on-street parking space can be valued at around $20,000 in yearly revenue to street-front retailers.
Parking spots are also valuable to city governments, though the revenue often incites derision from drivers, at least when paying parking fees. These fees, however, account for millions in city revenue every year. In New York City, car owners paid about $5,395 in parking fees in 2017, according to INRIX. The gross of this revenue helps chip away at budget deficits and pumps money into the municipality.
Sure, if you own a car in NYC, that figure may sting to hear. But what’s worse is the amount of money wasted on looking for parking. Last year, those same NYC car owners each threw away an average $3,334 in spot-hunting.
It’s a bizarrely vicious circle: Looking for parking leads to congestion; congestion leads to looking for parking.
Can you believe 30% of traffic congestion in cities comes from drivers circling for parking, often at crawling speeds, blinkers working overtime? This is a problem. But a profitable solution may lie in smart parking.
SMART PARKING AS A SOLUTION MEANS REVENUE FOR CITIES AND
In 2011, the San Francisco initiated SFpark, an app-like system that helps drivers quickly find on- and off-street parking, as well as what they’ll pay for a spot. It uses responsive pricing to keep a targeted ratio of 85:15 occupied to open parking spaces, “[enabling] citizens to decide whether they should walk, take public transit, or drive their own vehicles,” explains this article on Parking.org.
SFpark is now looking for partners in the private-sector to help grow the reach, adoption, and efficacy of real-time, responsive price data for parking around this city. If successful, it means both more revenue for the partner company and continued municipal revenue from paid parking—all while reducing congestion and emissions from cars on the crawl for open spots.
Instead of adhering to the tradition of adding new fines and taxes for vehicle use, cities may want to explore collaborations with parking and technology leaders. After all, reducing congestion via smart parking initiatives benefits everyone. Whether you’re running the muni budget, running a street-front retail store, or simply running late to work.
THE FURTHER FUTURE OF PARKING
I have to say, being in the parking industry is often inglorious. When drivers can’t find a spot, they blame you; when they don’t want to pay the per-hour rate, they blame you; when they get a ticket or towed, they blame you. But when they find a spot right away, they thank God.
Despite it all, it’s an amazing opportunity to help influence the mobility infrastructure of rapidly growing cities for the better. It’s exciting to work side-by-side (figuratively and literally) with technology solutions providers and local governments to solve problems in a way that benefits—and pays—everyone.
Cities need money. So do businesses, and so do people. We in the industry understand this and don’t see parking as the solution, but part of the solution. And whether it’s by managing a city-owned lot, providing a shuttle service that integrates with public transportation routes, or collaborating to unify trolley passes with bus and parking passes, parking and mobility companies are adding to the solution in a way that drives everyone forward. Even when driving forward means stopping to park.