In March of 2020, our nation started to see the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic as stay-at-home orders were issued and the virus spread. Empty parking garages and streets, closed until further notice signs, and masked faces became our reality. Two years later, the U.S. workforce is still seeing the effects of the pandemic as more companies have adopted work-from-home flexibility and schools offer online coursework. So what trends will remain and impact the way we operate parking and enforcement, far after the virus is contained?
Automation - During the pandemic, many institutions chose to automate their parking operations in an effort to create contactless and touchless parking systems. While automation limits face-to-face interactions, it also creates efficiencies in overall management, reporting, and trend analysis. It also offers a quicker and easier experience for customers and reduces the need for as much staff, eliminating user error. iParq saw a large shift of cities, municipalities, and higher education using this downtime to automate their parking enforcement, permit process and event parking operation – and ultimately streamlining their operations.
Permit Flexibility - At the height of the pandemic, according to data released by Smarking, parking volumes were reduced by 60% when compared to the prior year. After a long 18 months away, students, staff and commuters started to return to work and school campuses but with modified schedules and flexible parking options. Whereas in a pre-pandemic world, a parking permit was a parking permit for 365 days a year or for a full semester, forcing parkers to pay for days they don’t need. Many schools now offer students and staff the option to pay for parking based on their need, rather than just a one-size-fits-all. This concept will likely continue as usability and general feedback has been mostly positive. Many iParq clients reported the need to change their parking operations slightly to accommodate changing needs and behaviors.
The Mobility Curb - Curbside pickup exploded in popularity during the pandemic in an effort to keep stores open and customers happy, without them ever stepping foot in the business. Similarly rideshare, although halted for a bit during the pandemic, will once again gain in popularity. Cities need to rethink their pickup and drop off zones to allow for mobility on the curb. One could argue that as telecommuting rises in popularity among workplaces, the curb and other parking zones can be better utilized and monetized to better suit a 15 Minute City concept. We anticipate that multi-system integrations will be imperative to deploying a successful mobility curb, which is why iParq’s software is able to integrate with any 3rd party vendor.
Although these three best practices were already in place somewhat throughout the US, due to innovations and evolutions in the industry, we can thank the pandemic and the changing needs of our parkers to help normalize these trends, creating efficiencies and best practices that truly make sense.