COVID-19 pandemic is already reorienting our relationship with the outside world. The repercussions of the pandemic are being realized by the parking industry as a whole. The $130 billion parking industry with 581,000 employees is an important part of the nation’s infrastructure in moving goods, services and people throughout the economy. More than 1 million jobs depend on parking across public, private professionals and industry suppliers. Significant shifts in parking demand during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused many communities across the country to suspend ticketing and towing, allowing parking meters to sit idle—sacrificing valuable revenue at a time in which communities need money most. With up to 80% losses in parking volume, much like airlines and airports—the industry is devastated by a collapse in demand and job losses and furloughs for 50% of the industry’s workforce.
Down but not out, the parking industry stepped up
During this global crisis, parking operators have already begun to reconfigure their lots into COVID-19 pop-up testing centers. Meter Feeder contributed directly to developing My COVID MD a website to support these efforts in underserved communities. Here, the parking industry will be seen as flexible enough to adjust their resources when circumstances demand.
What lies ahead
Once the coronavirus pandemic subsides, everything will change. The silver lining is that many will see it as an opportunity to modernize and leave unnecessary conventions of the past behind. The need for simpler, cleaner, more convenient, and sustainable parking management will likely only increase. The future of parking will welcome contactless and integrated parking management systems, to meet the changing needs of the consumer.
The pandemic will take lives and devastate economies, but it will pass. Despite the disruption we will get back to normal. However, things will have changed. The sight of people wearing masks will remain for a long time, and rightly so. Frequent hand-washing will become common and social distancing will be around. People will think twice before touching parking meters and pay stations, especially in public parking lots which are hotbeds for contaminants.
A post-pandemic world has the potential to have better urban mobility options than the world before, but we need transportation leaders to be more intuitive—to sense and respond to new technology opportunities, social challenges, and citizen needs as they emerge.
So, here is how the parking industry can respond to the unprecedented disruption and navigate through it.
Sanitization and disinfection will become a priority
Due to global lockdowns and social distancing norms, when everything gets back to normal, people will continue to shy away from contact. Parking facilities will need to regularly disinfect their facilities several times a day, even after the pandemic has reduced in intensity. The customer’s demand for hand sanitizers for their use upon entry and exit will have a direct impact on labor and supply costs for all facilities.
Emphasis on Contactless and Frictionless Parking
Consumers will expect a ‘contactless’ experience when they enter a parking lot. Motorists will think twice when exchanging cash, grabbing a ticket, or queuing up at a pay-station. Thus, parking businesses will need to start embracing end-to-end smart parking technology. They will be expected to digitize operations and establish mobile payment technology.