According to the results of a new survey by The International Parking Institute (IPI), technology and the desire for more livable, walkable, sustainable communities continue to transform the ever-evolving parking industry. In addition to tracking trends, IPI’s 2015 Emerging Trends in Parking survey explores perceptions of parking, zoning issues, accessible (ADA) placard abuse, and parking as a career.
Parking Has Moved Far Beyond Simply Parking Cars
For the first time since the survey was initiated in 2012, the desire for more livable, walkable communities emerged as the single-most significant societal change affecting the parking industry (cited by 47 percent of respondents), ahead of the “changing commute/driving preferences of millennials” (41 percent), “increase in traffic congestion” (38 percent), and “focus on the environment and sustainability” (36 percent). Among the societal changes showing a noticeable drop from previous surveys was “fluctuations in gas prices,” perhaps reflecting recent lowering and stabilization of gas prices.
The changing demands triggered by these societal changes have broadened the responsibilities of the parking professional. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed consider themselves to be experts or very knowledgeable about transportation demand management (TDM), which involves policies and strategies to reduce congestion by encouraging alternatives to single-occupancy-vehicle use.
Most respondents’ programs also include a variety of elements beyond parking, such as improving conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians (47 percent) and bike/transit integration (43 percent), special event management (43 percent), shuttle services (40 percent), carsharing (40 percent), park and ride (33 percent), and ridesharing (33 percent). About one quarter of all those surveyed are also involved with shared parking, commuter trip reduction programs, traffic calming, bikeshare programs, and a wide range of programs that promote alternative transportation modes.
Technology Continues to Drive Parking
Among the top 10 emerging trends in parking, half relate directly to a range of different technologies that have revolutionized the parking sector in the past few years. Topping the list are “innovative technologies that improve access control and payment automation” (53 percent), the “demand for electronic cashless payment” (44 percent), “prevalence of mobile applications” (47 percent) and “real-time communication of pricing and availability to mobile/smartphones” (41 percent), and “wireless sensing devices for traffic management” (22 percent). Good news for parking professionals: A top trend remains greater “collaboration between parking, transportation, and decision-makers,” which industry experts believe is a pathway to solving many problems.
A Focus on Environmental Sustainability
Parking professionals were also asked to identify top trends specifically related to sustainability. There was a tie for the first slot with 46 percent citing “guidance systems that enable drivers to find parking faster” (devices indicating parking spots available by level, or green and red indicator lights over parking spaces that guide drivers to open spaces), and “energy efficient lighting in parking garages,” but following closer behind in third place than in past years was “encouraging alternative modes of travel through availability of bike storage, car share/bike share, access to transit, and other transportation demand management practices.”
Utilization of Private Commercial/Operators
Nearly four in 10 responding parking professionals are with organizations that currently contract with commercial operators for varying services. Contracted services include frontline attendants (38 percent), collections (36 percent), maintenance (36 percent), customer service (33 percent), transit/shuttle (31 percent), special events (30 percent), enforcement (29 percent), and security (29 percent). Of those surveyed, 18 percent outsource their entire operations to a commercial operators for turnkey services.
Solutions for Accessible (ADA) Parking Placard Abuse
A few survey questions were designed to elicit opinions on ongoing issues facing the parking industry and its consumers, including the rampant abuse of accessible (ADA) parking placards by those without impaired mobility. Asked to rate potential measures to alleviate the problem, 62 percent of respondents recommend doing away with free placards, and nearly half (49 percent) feel the industry should work with departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) and state agencies to make placards more difficult to obtain and use fraudulently. Enforcement measures, both consistent (51 percent) and targeted (29 percent), ranked second. Only 20 percent or fewer of those surveyed believe that various education efforts would be effective in eliminating placard abuse.
Education May Help Reform Minimum Parking Requirements
The survey also asked professionals to weigh in on the minimum parking requirements imposed by many zoning codes that can result in excess parking construction. These parking requirements create many problems for cities: they promote driving rather than mass transit; they help raise rents and displace ground-level retailers in multi-unit housing; and they hinder sustainability and beautification efforts. Half of the respondents (50 percent) agree that the city-mandated excess parking is an issue, and half feel that efforts to eliminate them or change the parking ratios have increased during the past five years. When asked to rank a list of seven barriers to reform, the top answer (32 percent) was “lack of understanding about the value of parking minimums” and, related to that, an additional 14 percent ranked “no perception that reform is needed,” as a barrier. Political opposition was the number-two response (17 percent) with neighborhood opposition ranked fourth (14 percent).
Optimism for a Career in Parking
One of the positive findings illuminated by the survey was the optimistic view of the parking profession shared by most respondents. Two-thirds of those surveyed would encourage the next generation to pursue a career in parking, and only six percent would discourage it.
What advice would parking professionals give future parking professionals about an appropriate college major to begin their career path? Nearly 60 percent suggested business or transportation planning, which tied for the top spot, followed by urban/city/regional planning (51 percent), public policy (31 percent), and technology (22 percent).
A More Positive View of Parking Is Emerging
Nearly half (48 percent) of those surveyed said that during the past five years, there has been improvement in others’ perception of the industry, perhaps a nod to IPI’s five-year-old, industry-wide Parking Matters® program, which is focused on expanding awareness of the vital role of parking and parking professionals.
Survey Purpose and Methodology
The International Parking Institute (IPI), the world’s largest association representing the parking industry, conducted a survey among parking professionals to determine emerging trends and solicit input on a range of topics.
The survey was conducted in early 2015 among members of the IPI and its parking communities. A link to the survey was distributed via email to IPI members, subscribers to the IPInsider e-newsletter and Parking Matters® Blog, and to members of IPI’s LinkedIn Group. The vast majority of respondents were parking leaders, managers, consultants, department heads, and owners and operators in the United States who are involved in the parking, design, management, and operations for municipalities, colleges and universities, airports, hospitals, retail, sports and entertainment venues, and corporations. Results were tabulated and analyzed by the Washington, D.C.-based Market Research Bureau.
This report may be downloaded at parking.org.