It’s time to (hopefully) close the curtains on what has been perhaps the most notable two years in the parking industry. As 2021 draws to a close, our industry prepares for its next stage of evolution—ever hastened by the dramatic shifts brought on by the pandemic. In many cases, the threats that emerged from the sudden industry decline are flowering into opportunities. The successful operators will recognize the new direction we’re headed towards and adapt.
What We Learned About Parking in 2021
Through trial by fire, our core learning is that what we once thought of as parking has to be about so much more than parking to survive. That’s not to say that this is a bad lesson. We’ve talked extensively about how operators and assets are gatekeepers of the future of mobility and actually enable the next generation of travel. This role doesn’t end anytime soon. In fact, it only gains more prevalence as the way we travel changes.
Taken almost exclusively from the 2021 Road to Recovery Index created by FLASH and the National Parking Association (NPA), the following parking statistics sum up some of the most relevant industry information from 2021.
The Top Parking Industry Statistics
It’s important to know where the industry stands moving into 2022. While there’s still quite a gap with pre-pandemic levels, keep in mind that we might not see things the way they used to be. The “new normal” means that the industry will likely reseat itself on a new baseline. What will likely result is a shift in traditional thinking around revenue models, which will establish new targets and goals moving forward.
Operators who spend time preparing for new revenue models will find themselves better suited for the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Major parking operators are optimistic about the positive effect that the economy will have going into 2022. However, the two issues that still cause a bit of pause are the uncertainty around in-person work and a labor shortage. These are considerable obstacles and affect legacy operators who’ve been utilizing the same strategies and equipment for decades.
Modern parking models and technology are the best way to circumvent these issues. The prevalence of in-person work will ultimately become less of an issue as parking assets morph into mobility hubs that offer different types of services. And cloud-born technology can offset the need for more labor with automation that can perform similar functions.
More than half of workers surveyed in the index state that it’s extremely important to be able to have the option to work from or outside of the office. This information solidifies the trajectory of travel patterns that we see for the future—that flex work is here, and operators need to flex with it. Another 31% of workers say flexible work is of medium importance, which essentially means that office work is no longer a given.
Operators and parking managers have embraced technology and new revenue models to compensate for the lack of predictability regarding office commutes. Some, like Adam Jones of the Downtown Tempe Authority, have gotten creative—rearranging services to be customized to a specific traveler’s needs. In Tempe, parking operators can connect with the relatively new IKE kiosks to allow people to find and purchase parking before getting to the asset.
Also getting back to relatively higher levels are air travel and events. The lesson here is that while commuting to work is a bigger question mark, other types of travel and industries can help make up some of the difference. For dining and similar experiences, valet plays a larger role. That’s exactly why we rolled out our FLASH Free Valet service—to help restaurants take advantage of such trends.
Knowing which forms of travel and industries are making strong comebacks can give operators a huge advantage. You can double down on modern payment technologies and integrations with micro-mobility to facilitate trips and transactions in these settings. If you know events are coming back, for instance, you can provide scooters to help people park their cars further away and take scooters to the venue to avoid congestion.
Growth is the theme going forward. There are a few factors that lead to the expansion of the workforce and space, including urbanization and more relaxed attitudes toward travel. It’s estimated that 66% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. In short: We’re going to need a bigger asset.
The hope is that the current labor shortage in the industry will end, and an influx of employees will sign on in the next year. Trends are pointing in that direction as major industries return. As parking becomes even more interconnected with other travel, there will be a need for additional expertise.
Separating COVID-19 From Innovation in Mobility
While the pandemic forced the industry to rethink and adapt to changing consumer preferences more promptly, the evolution of mobility was well on its way before then. New technology has already been helping to build smart cities—places where innovative solutions are used to combat increased congestion. For example, the use of smart traffic lights that are integrated with traffic patterns to help mitigate congestion during the busiest times of the day. The pandemic did force evolution toward specific solutions such as digital payments and contactless, which is essential for easier travel. However, cities have known smart mobility has been the answer for quite some time.
As you continue to recover and evolve your business priorities, consider what other operators are doing to integrate with their communities. 2022’s industry trends largely include developing interconnected means of travel between your assets, public transit, and other forms of mobility that can service a person’s journey at a phase between points A and B.
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