Major changes have occurred since the mandatory COVID-19 restrictions. Social distancing and PPE (personal protective equipment) have become common discussion points. Grocery stores have added cashier shields, marked spacing on the floor, metered customers, and facemasks. Several retail stores are pushing scan-and-go options to allow customers to shop without any direct interaction with store staff. (I’ve been using scan-and-go at Sam’s Club for a few years now—it is awesome!)
As we take these lessons to the parking industry, now is the time to think about how we will be interacting with our customers. Many options that may not have been considered before the outbreak will likely gain acceptance and even be sought after by the consumer. These include adding contactless payments using an NFC reader to allow payment with your cell phone (or even smartwatch) rather than interacting with a credit card reader or using cash. Reservations that allow entry and exit with a license plate or bar code will likely see a surge in popularity as users plan their trip in advance. Hands-free monthly parking access will no doubt be considered the new standard, most likely with license plate recognition, AVI, or Bluetooth.
Consider going asset-light by adding a parking payment app or marketing an existing app. Public service announcements can be helpful to get the word out to a receptive audience that has increased interest in avoiding unnecessary touching and interaction with public devices. If pay-by-plate is not already in place, it may be worth considering to improve efficiency and reduce officers potential exposure from walking an enforcement route.
These are challenging times. My prediction, along with many other parking professionals, is that now is the time to embrace technology that facilitates frictionless parking and reduce unnecessary public exposure.
Jon Martens, CAPP, AICP, is a consultant at Walker Consultants and a member of IPMI’s Technology Committee.