By Matt Jobin and Kevin Bopp

During the past 18 months, the parking industry has experienced dramatic change, perhaps more than at any other time–at least since Model Ts started rolling off the assembly line. There’s no crystal ball that enables parking owners to see the future and recognize whether these changes are permanent or how long temporary shifts will continue. But after many months of COVID-induced effects and halting efforts to return to some semblance of normal life, one thing has become increasingly clear: parking owners need to be more agile and adaptive.

Parking behavior may never completely return to pre-COVID patterns. Businesses will permit employees to work more from home some percentage of the time while also instituting shared office arrangements; restaurants and retail businesses will continue to offer curbside pick-up. These changes will dramatically affect how much parking is needed and how existing parking resources can be optimally managed. Also, the auto industry’s pending switch to all-electric production will change what parking facilities look like.

Technology will be the key to ensuring that parking operations are able to maintain the agility and adaptability they need to thrive as the world continues to evolve. We tend to think of the most important parking technologies—PARCS, guidance, mobile payment, etc.—in terms of how they improve the parking experience. But they also collect and analyze vital utilization data that can (and SHOULD) be leveraged to keep operations agile and adaptive.

When you know who (shoppers, office workers, theatergoers, residents etc.) is using your parking asset and when, you are equipped to make better decisions about how to allocate parking resources. This also extends to decisions about whether to reallocate parking spaces for others uses such as EV charging, micro-mobility infrastructure, or TNC drop-offs. You might even set aside some space to rent to Amazon for their fleet of delivery drones!

The changes facing the parking industry are challenging, but by staying flexible and using data insights strategically, parking owners can overcome them and thrive. Technology is the key.

Matt Jobin is  an architect/project manager with Rich & Associates, and Kevin Bopp is CEO of Park Rite. They will present on this topic at the 2021 IPMI Parking & Mobility Conference & Expo, Nov. 29 – Dec. 2, in Tampa, Fla.