Making the Parking Experience Forgettable


By Ben Henderson, PE, SE

I’m sure we’ve all had very pleasant parking experiences…and some that weren’t so much. Although not the destination itself, parking is often the first and last experience you’ll have when arriving at and leaving a destination. The best experiences are often quickly forgotten—the bad experiences, well, they never are. And every once in a while, you’ll have an experience that raises the bar, sets the new standard for the parking experience we’d all strive to provide for our clients and patrons.

On a recent business trip, I had a memorable experience—not a good one. It highlighted again for me the importance of:

Technology: Tech that works for your specific user group, considering the user group’s demographics, familiarity with the parking product, and even the anticipated state of mind of the user (think healthcare)

Maintenance: Anything that is in a state of disrepair will speak volumes to patron’s about what level of service, care, and what experience they might expect once they walk through your front door—not great


    • Make it easy, obvious, and consistent—and even better, make it appealing and even a little fun.
    • Use variable message signs to get people to their stall quickly—people simply want to get out of their car—don’t make it more painful than it has to be.
    • Parking guidance systems can be great—and can help parking garages with nested parking areas be extremely simple to navigate.

Finishes: It is always amazing what a little paint, some traffic coating, and some artistic flair on pedestrian wayfinding signage can do to liven up a typically drab experience—your patrons will find it unknowingly welcoming

Maneuverability: Driving through a well-designed facility can be a nearly mindless exercise—when not well-designed it’s confusing and difficult to navigate; a good parking consultant will help you alleviate these issues—finding the best solution is often an art more than it is a science

From technology to lighting, and parking geometrics to the aesthetic experience, what have you found are the separators in making your parking experience forgettable? Or vice versa? Would love to hear your stories.

Ben Henderson, PE, SE,  is Vice President for Kimley-Horn and a member of the IPMI Planning, Design, & Construction Committee. He can be reached at