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Major challenges in managing parking lots

Major challenges in managing parking lots
Malls and other commercial centers are increasing in cities, attracting more and more people who prefer to drive in with their cars. This has increased the need for efficient parking lot management system in malls.
This is an updated version from the original article published in 2019. The asmag.com editorial team also contributed to this report.
 
Traffic jams and lack of parking spaces are two of the plagues of living in a big city. Parking policies also have significant environmental and economic implications. An interesting OECD paper, Environmental And Welfare Implications of Parking Policies, points to the losses caused by the construction of parking spaces, emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants occurring while cars are cruising for parking, the time costs incurred while cruising for parking, and time losses from traffic congestion caused by cruising. Many cities around the world are implementing or trying out ways to reduce parking spots, as a way of improving quality of life for residents. This only increases the importance of careful parking planning at all levels, from the municipal level to the business or building level.
 
“Anybody who is looking to improve their parking operations, improve efficiencies, reduce costs or solve a particular parking problem that is affecting the customer experience should employ a suitably qualified parking consultant,” explains Ian Goodwin, Owner of The Parking Consultancy. “We work with a range of sectors including municipalities, hospitals and universities. Our work could be at the feasibility/planning stage of a new parking facility or to solve a specific problem once a parking management solution is in place, specifically in large and complex estates with a multitude of different users and associated needs. We provide a range of car parking service from assisting with the procurement of new technology to reviewing car parking operations to maximize revenue, manage demand or to solve specific parking related problems.”
 

Parking lot management challenges

 
Different parking facilities, be it shopping mall parking lots, employee parking in an office building, campus parking in a university or street parking in a city, face similar challenges:
 

Manual ticketing is time-consuming

 
Manual ticketing systems take up time and require more manpower, resulting in higher costs and slower processing. While this may be seen as an obvious issue to many, the fact is that there are many places across the globe that are yet to make a shift to an automated parking system.
 
Paper-based ticketing systems also make the job of information management difficult. In case of any untoward incidents, the management should be able to provide information about any vehicle parked in their space immediately. Automated electronic systems make this possible.
 

False damage claims

 
One of the risks parking operators face is from customers who try to claim that their car was damaged while in the parking lot when in reality the car was already damaged before entering the lot.
 
To deal with such an issue, there is a need for high-quality parking lot surveillance solutions that can provide clear images of the condition of a vehicle at the point of entry. Adequate lighting is also required to support the surveillance systems that are being installed. PTZ cameras are also often used for wide area surveillance to verify security events. These are cameras like the IDIS 6MP and 8MP PTZ Cameras and Hikvision’s Tandem Vu PTZ, a camera that combines PTZ and bullet camera capabilities in one unit.
 

Integration

 
Installing new parking solutions at existing malls and shopping centers is a challenge. But perhaps what’s even more difficult is the integration of these solutions into third-party systems. For instance, surveillance and fire may be managed by a different vendor. Unless all the companies involved are willing to support integration, operations could be tough. Open standards for traffic data exchange like Datex II become relevant in this context and major companies do support such standards. Integration is not necessarily with building systems, also with employee apps like the integration between Genetec and Ride Amigos to simplify the return of employees to offices.
 

Future outlook for parking management systems

 
Goodwin further pointed out to the changes COVID-19 has brought to the industry and the future of parking.
 
“The Covid 19 pandemic affected many people’s lives and businesses, this was also true of the parking industry in the UK. Many operators saw their revenue plummet by 70-90 percent due to the various lockdowns and people told to work from home. Over the last 6 months the parking industry and its revenue have seen a substantial recovery but only to around 2/3 of the revenue they were receiving pre-covid. It has also changed the commercial model of operation with many operators now choosing to charge a management fee rather than relying on enforcement revenue.”
 

Cloud parking management

 
 “New innovative software solution that utilize cloud native design will become leading players in the market. Cloud native means not just hosting operator’s software in the cloud but designing the software specifically for implementation within the cloud which makes it infinitely scalable, extremely secure, agile in development and integration with third party systems and extremely quick in terms of data transfer,” he added.
 
Ticketless, data rich, contactless car parking systems will become the car parking solution of choice for the consumer and operator, allowing revenue to be maximized through account-based loyalty schemes, time based and flexi permits and a means to attract ancillary revenue using non-public facing discounts, vouchers and tariffs. Automatic number plate recognition technology is key to providing such parking management solutions.
 
Car parking lots will evolve and not just become a means to park a vehicle but also to charge an electric car, rent a vehicle or integrate with other forms of sustainable travel such as e-scooter, cycle hire and car clubs, creating a ‘mobility hub’. Retail and food outlets may also become a feature of many car parking lots, providing a means to shop and eat whilst charging an electric vehicle.
 
Road user charging and clean air zones being implemented in many cities in the UK will all affect parking demand and supply plus user behavior. In car navigation to parking lots and automated payment mechanisms will become core feature of future vehicles. Autonomous vehicles will fundamentally change driver behavior and the need to park in many municipalities,” predicts Goodwin.
 

How to select a parking management solution?

 
Regardless if it is a shopping mall parking lot or a downtown office building parking, the guiding principles for choosing a parking management system are similar:
 

Reputation and cost

 
This would seem like an obvious point to some, as going with a reputed brand is necessary for reliability. However, those who are familiar with the industry will tell you that reputation and cost do not always go hand in hand. Quite often, customers compromise on the quality of a product for the sake of cost. In Goodwin’s opinion, zeroing in on a few brands that have a history of providing reliable products is a good way to start.
 
Goodwin also pointed out that especially in the U.K. market, several Asian manufacturers, especially those from China offer reliable solutions that are easy on the pocket as well. Most major security companies today offer some sort of a parking management solution. Hikvision parking management solution, Dahua smart parking parking management or ZKTeco’s parking technology all promise an integrated, streamlined and effective parking lot management solution.
 

Sticking to a single brand

 
There are companies that provide either hardware or software alone for parking management. In Goodwin’s opinion, it’s better to stick to solution providers who sell both hardware and software. These could be considered complete solution providers.
 
“Sometimes the hardware and software may be manufactured by separate companies,” Goodwin said. “But in my opinion, it's much better to stick to in-house built software."
 

Installation and support

 
The company should provide support for the installation and setup of the solution from scratch. Make sure the solution requires minimal maintenance while ensuring that quick after-sales service is assured. Some experts suggest ensuring the company has a local presence as a priority. This would help them understand the local conditions and provide suitable support.
 
Any downtime of the product will lead to losses for the management. Hence while purchasing a solution, the customers should be clear on how quickly the company will provide maintenance support in case of a malfunction.
 
“There should be agreements in place with the solutions provider about the after-sales service,” Goodwin said.
 

Detailed reporting

 
The solution should be able to provide a structured and detailed report on the payments made by customers, the occupancy of cars, and if possible, analytics data to the management. This will help understand factors like the peak time and frequency of users and help in making informed decisions on tariffs and other rules. These solutions can also provide information on the status of machines and if they require any maintenance. Reports can be automated and scheduled to be sent by email at regular intervals.
 

Friendly but secure

 
Users are not going to be happy if the parking solution is not easy to use. Hence being user-friendly should be a priority. However, user-friendliness should not come at the cost of security. Surveillance systems are necessary to ensure the security of cars parked. Apart from providing evidence for forensic purposes, applications like a license plate recognition system can help with billing and to identify cars that warrant special service, like monthly subscribers or those of VIP customers.
 

Third-party integration

 
Being able to integrate the parking management systems with other systems like security and safety solutions will help in ensuring better management. Integrated systems can work quickly in the event of any unwanted incidents. They are also easy to operate and control from a management perspective.
 

Ease of finding parking space

 
People arriving at malls should be able to know the number of vacant parking spots available and their location even before entering the premises. There are several ways in which solution providers deal with this. Sensors placed at parking spaces inform the system on the status of the space. Signage boards placed outside of parking lots can display the information gathered from these sensors.
 

Multiple payment options

 
Customers should be given the option to pay in their preferred mode. This could be a card, cash, or mobile payment systems like Apple Pay. This could speed up entry and minimize the chances of long queues forming. The parking management software should be easy to configure and set up and should be able to calculate the duration of parking and the cost. In the case of cars that have management-issued passes, the system should be able to exclude them from payment.
 


Product Adopted:
Transportation
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