With Coronavirus reinventing our relationship with the outside world, no industry remains unaffected. The parking sector is reeling from the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, with people working from home, there is a low demand for parking spaces. Besides, the public health recommendations are keen on limiting physical contact in touchpoints within parking lots.
The drastic shift in parking demands is devastating to many car parks. However, the parking industry is stepping up and reconfiguring car parks to adapt to the circumstances. The pandemic’s silver lining is the shift in technology, which will enable parking facilities to provide convenient and sustainable parking solutions. How is the parking industry adjusting to the changing market? What innovative technologies are they adapting to weather the storm?
1. Increased Focus on Frictionless Parking
As the pandemic spreads, many governments are recommending social distancing and minimal use of common touchpoints to avoid the spread of the virus. The parking industry faces difficulty in ascertaining the user’s health and safety due to the numerous touchpoints. However, the innovation of automated car parking solutions designed to work without human intervention is reducing the health and safety concerns within parking facilities.
With frictionless parking, a car park manager can control the entire parking from a mobile application. The app allows customers to reserve a parking spot and guides them through the car park. Using licence plate recognition software, customers can check-in at the entrance or exit without slowing down because the gate opens automatically with contactless payment. Automatic parking is becoming prominent as the hands-free approach to parking. It eradicates tickets, cash exchanges at pay stations and swiping a credit card. Apart from the benefits to the hygiene conscious commuters, a hands-free parking solution improves convenience in car parks.
2. Emphasis on Contactless Payment
Contactless payment methods have been around for years, but many people ignored them. Parking operators have struggled to incorporate the digital payment options in their car parks. However, with the Coronavirus pandemic, people are changing their payment options from cash to digital. Apart from e-wallet payment options, people are using cards and international payment options. Hands-free payment services reduce touchpoints and contact with employees. Therefore, it minimises the risk of spreading the virus within the parking facility.
3. Cleaning Is Taking Centre Stage
Before the outbreak of the pandemic, the cleaning of car parks was not a significant concern to customers. It was a process that happened in the background, with minimal interruptions of the customers. However, with COVID-19 public health measures, parking operators pay more attention to the car parks’ hygiene. Customers are also concerned about the cleanliness of the facility. They will be looking for visible signs that the parking operators are complying with hygiene recommendations.
Parking facilities can incorporate measures to show that sanitisation is a priority. Some of the visible signs of acceptable hygiene standards include:
- Providing sanitisers in high traffic areas.
- Frequent cleaning and disinfection of the parking facility during business hours.
- Encouraging the use of automatic car parking solutions.
- Providing additional waste bins for safe disposal of masks and gloves.
Traditionally, the purpose of cleaning parking lots was for aesthetics and maintenance of infrastructure. However, car parks need to develop effective cleaning programmes like training employees on PPE usage and how to minimise the spread of contagions. Maintaining a clean environment will give parking operators a competitive edge.
4. Changes in Parking Preferences
Before COVID-19, many drivers were wary of smart parking systems, and some still relied on cash payments and tickets at the gate. However, the pandemic encourages the utilisation of innovative solutions. Many people are now embracing automatic parking and contactless payment. The behavioural shift in consumers means parking operators need to install smart parking solutions in their facilities. Drivers are becoming increasingly conscious of the state of the parking facility and the payment options.
Drivers who previously utilised valet parking are now willing to drive a few more metres and park the car themselves. That means parking facilities that usually offer valet services have to make adjustments to accommodate self-parking. However, if the parking operators want to retain the valet services, they must use personal protective equipment to protect themselves and customers from infection.
5. Need for Adequate Space in Car Parks
The pandemic led to a dramatic shift in culture, perspectives and behaviours. People are attuned to their surroundings and are wary of spending time in crowded spaces. While the parking garage may not attract crowds, people can congregate at pay stations, valet pick-ups and elevators do. Customers will be hesitant about waiting at the curb for valet pick-up or using the elevators at peak hours. That means parking operators need to plan and rethink the spacing in garages. They can start by marking off safe waiting areas that accommodate social distancing. So, If the waiting bays and the curb cannot provide adequate space for the crowds, they have to use some parking spaces as waiting areas.
Parking operators also have to assess all the enclosed areas and develop a plan to manage traffic. Maintaining social distancing in elevators can be tricky, and managers should find ways to improve ventilation in the car parks. Operators should also disinfect enclosed areas frequently to minimise infections.
6. Decline in Ridesharing
Ridesharing and public transportation were popular travel options before the pandemic. However, people are now opting to drive to minimise contact with strangers. The 70% decline in ridesharing is increasing the utilisation of parking facilities. Therefore, parking operators should brace for high traffic in the short-term. However, when the threat of the virus reduces, people may resume using public transport and ridesharing.
COVID-19 has brought about irreversible changes to consumer behaviours. Most commuters are hyper-aware of their surroundings, and parking facilities need to take proactive steps in building their customers’ confidence. Smart parking gives car parks a competitive edge during the COVID-19 crisis by ensuring both safety and convenience.