A phrase often heard from a financial advisor is resonating with municipal parking operators throughout the nation as we feel the effects of COVID-19 on our budgets.
COVID-19 has affected so many things in our world, not the least of which has been parking and transportation demand habits. Nearly immediately, cities saw their meter revenue either disappear completely or drop anywhere from 80 to 90 percent. In Columbus, we saw our meter revenue plummet 85 percent—a revenue stream that accounts for over 90 percent of our non-citation revenue.
Municipal parking practitioners have been talking about curb lane management and smart loading zones as a way to manage our asset to the highest and best use. While it remains true that loading and unloading activities continue to increase, especially in the time of COVID-19, it has become very clear that cities need to take the next step to not only allocate space at the curb for pick-up and drop-off but also monetize and capture revenue from these activities. The challenge is that these activities take place in minutes and not hours like a traditional parking session. Finding the right technology, leveraging our great vendor community, and solving for enforcement and maintaining compliance in these zones won’t be easy but are all necessary.
Our revenue streams must diversify so we can weather this storm and future storms on the horizon. I’m excited to see what innovations are born out of this crisis and how we as parking practitioners continue to serve our communities.
Robert Ferrin is assistant director for parking services with the City of Columbus, Ohio.