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25 Years of Parking Today: What’s Changed?

April 5, 2021

Ann Shepphird

Michael Bigbee


CEO, Orbility


First job in parking: toll tag tech company


There are two changes I’ve seen in the last 25 years, one small and one major. The smaller change is that technology has continued to improve and the cost for it has remained stable or, in some cases, gone down. The biggest change has been that the revenue control providers are no longer siloed systems. Before, you either used a particular technology that the vendor offered or that was it. Now, with software APIs, there is a tremendous amount of integration with third parties for a variety of systems and services.


Ongoing changes include new PARCS entrants, more growth towards hands-free or frictionless or low-touch interaction with customers, and the ability for customers to pay in a variety of ways. New business processes such as online reservations and dynamic pricing are now possible, which increases the occupancy, revenue and throughput for garages.


Brandy Stanley


Parking Services Manager, City of Las Vegas


First job in parking: parking valet


In college, I took a job as a valet parker. It was pretty good money for a college kid and I just never left the industry. It has been a rewarding career in all respects. I don’t feel like there has been a lot of substantive change until the last 5-7 years. Most of the change since then has had to do with the adoption of technologies that enable online transactions such as mobile payments, reservations, cloud-based systems and way-finding. 


The other thing I’ve noticed is (outside of the operator world) there is a ton more diversity. The industry also continues to grow in terms of revenues and importance. I think parking is less taken for granted these days and seems to have much less trouble getting a seat at the mobility and transportation table. 


Bob Harkins


CEO, Harkins Consulting LLC 


First job in parking: university parking and transportation department


The three greatest changes in the last 25 years have been the growth of technology (our industry was literally run by the use of a “cigar box”); the merging of parking and transportation entities; and the growth of parking as a profession. Each year as an industry we grow in professionalism. 


Another significant change is an ongoing awareness and concern about cost: the cost of the land used for parking, the cost of parking management systems, the cost of parking equipment and transportation vehicles, the cost of construction, and the cost of salaries. All of these must be balanced by the most important the cost of all, which is the cost to the customer. The leaders of our industry must continue to manage all of these conflicts with their eyes on the needs of the customer.


Julie Dixon


Principal,
Dixon Resources Unlimited 


First job in parking:
enforcement officer


The rapidity of the growth of “smart technology” — from the introduction of smart cards transitioning to credit card to mobile devices — is moving very fast when you look at where we were to where we are going. The first vendors to integrate their systems before smart technology existed used a lot of components including servers and hardwire connections, but it was possible. Our current era is allowing our industry to create and prepare for the next innovation. 


 I feel lucky to work in this industry and also feel that while the technology is impressive, it is really more about the people behind the technology. The innovative ideas they come up with will continue to help our industry excel as it moves forward.


Dale Denda


Co-Founder, Parking Market Research Company


First job in parking: I'm in it


Looking through the lens of the construction side of parking, the biggest change in the past few decades has been the huge growth in U.S. population (up 45 percent between 1980 and 2020). That stunning population increase has led to a growth in demand for private vehicle use and, thus, parking. At the same time that demand has increased, the cost of construction has also been increasing. This has forced people to see parking as part of the larger commercial real estate and transportation infrastructure. Parking is now a given whenever a new commercial building is constructed. 


Based on everything seen in actual critical market analysis, driving (and parking) is expected to continue to grow. Ultimately, I’m optimistic about the parking market, but it should be noted that as growth continues, what has been a boutique industry might ultimately become more industrial. 


Roamy Valera


CEO, North America, PayByPhone Technologies


First job in parking: enforcement officer


There is no question that the industry’s advancement in the past 25 years is credited to technology innovations, which moved a very primitive industry forward. The industry was extremely static, and for many of us there was not much excitement about the progress we were making. Of course, all that has changed and technology will continue to play more of a role in our industry. In the end, parking will continue to find its place within the mobility eco-system. The need and demand will shift and change, but the industry will evolve with innovations in technology. 


The other change has been a visible one and that is the increase in diversity in the industry, which we never saw 25-30 years ago. This continues to be a people business and people are making a difference. 


Sarah Blouch


President/CEO, CampusParc LP


First job in parking: university parking office


The shift from manual to technological solutions has been dramatic. In 1996, paper files were the norm and commercial software for managing parking permit sales, citations and adjudications was just emerging. Parking gates were used in stand-alone parking garages and surface lots, and didn’t communicate as a group (or if they did, it didn’t work well). There are now technological solutions for any problem and while integrations between them are still a bit rough, hopefully, that is coming, too.


Another change has been the understanding and embracing of the concept that parking managers are really the conductors of the orchestra when it comes to logistics. Nobody just parks cars anymore — we facilitate travel. That ability is now being marketed as an expertise (which it is), and more widely recognized by those not in the parking industry. 


Tom Wunk


President, Intelligent Parking Concepts


First job in parking: installing parking gates


In terms of what has changed over the last 25 years, the first thing I’ve noticed is that it seems that now everyone is younger than I am. Second to that is the continued use, expansion and dependence on technology — sometimes at the peril of fundamentals. I do also see a more general understanding and appreciation of parking and transportation as economic lynchpins. 


A smaller, but significant, change would be the general transference of commercial exchange responsibility from the “store” to the “customer.” Examples of this from other industries would include what took place in banking with the onset of ATMs, the changing of roles at gas stations, and the role of the customer in self-checkout situations and online exchanges. The pandemic has accelerated this transference in parking to a degree that no one would have predicted just five years ago.


Dennis Cunning


CEO, DLC Consulting


First job in parking: manager trainee at Lincoln Center


Without question, the biggest change in parking has been computerization and technology. We are quickly changing from a total cash payment system to a total electronic payment system. Many operators — both national and regional — are not expending the time and effort necessary to train front-line employees on how to move forward with technology. Equally important, operators appear to not be recruiting college educated individuals to work at the garage level and really learn parking. The letter “p” on the gear shift lever can only take you so far, the rest you have to learn on the job.


It has always been about using the data to better understand how to maximize the profitability of operations while being efficient. Without knowing and understanding the data, operators do a disservice to owners and, long term, ownership will find someone else who can answer their questions.


ROBERT MILNER


Director of Parking and Transportation, University of Maryland, Baltimore


First job in parking: garage area manager


Technology plays a much larger role in the parking industry than when it was a cigar box operation and all you had to know was auditing. In those days, the finance people ruled everything. Now it’s the technology people, especially when looking at new equipment and ways to do things. Because of that, trade shows have also taken a larger role in the education process.


The other thing that’s changed is that experience used to count for a lot. When I was starting out, if you hadn’t parked cars yourself you couldn’t go anywhere. Now people are learning the industry from technology and think that if they understand a spreadsheet and a camera, they can run a garage. Maybe they can, but I think something is lost if you haven’t lived and experienced it yourself.


Tom Carter


President and CEO, Toledo Ticket Technologies


First job in parking: parking ticket field sales 


The onset of smart(er) technologies — smart ticket issuing equipment, mobile communication for parking access, HID/RFID access, touchless entry and payment options, parking reservation platforms and cars that communicate directly with parking technology, etc. — has basically led to the need for fewer employees and reduced human interaction in the parking industry. We’ve also started to see new uses for and revenue streams from unused parking space, including storage, housing, retail/restaurant, advertising and even green space.


While I believe we will see continued consolidation of the larger operators and technology suppliers, new smaller parking operations and suppliers are also popping up. Toledo Ticket Technologies and many other companies are continually pivoting to keep up with the changes, and working to develop new ideas and make our own changes to be able to forge ahead in the industry.


John Hammerschlag


President,
Hammerschlag & Co.


First job in parking: controller


One of the biggest changes I’ve seen over the last four decades in Illinois is the dramatic rise in parking taxes. The city kept increasing its tax, then the county introduced a tax, and then when the state decided it wanted to fund infrastructure, it decided to copy the county. It has made the parking industry less profitable and inhibited growth.  


The other noticeable change is technology, which has improved significantly. Technological advances have made parking garages more structurally sound, efficient and aesthetically pleasing. Also, garage automation is important in securing revenue and access control, providing real time data and analytics, and allowing efficiency in the deployment of labor in today’s world where every dollar counts as financial resources are scarce!


Clyde Wilson


President and Owner, The Parking Network


First job in parking: operations manager 


There is no question that the biggest changes have been the reduction of staff and movement from cash to credit card. These two have totally changed how parking is managed. There has also been some consolidation in operating companies and supporting industries. Technology has, of course, also had an impact. From my perspective, it has only been a small impact to date, but the next five years will bring technology to the front.


I feel the industry has lost its leadership and, as a result, lost its way. The vultures have already stopped circling and are starting their descent. It will be a battle to the finish. The industry will win, but it will be a hard fight. I can’t tell you why the industry will win. I think it will be more fun for you to think through your version of the challenge.


Ann Shepphird is a technical writer for Parking Today. She can be reached at ashepphird@gmail.com



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