Travel Predictions for Parking Owners and Operators (Summer 2021 Edition)
Summer has barely begun, and the summer travel rush is already in full swing. Much was made of the huge numbers of Americans who traveled by air and on the highways over the Memorial Day holiday, and that trend hasn’t let up, and likely won’t. In fact, 77% of Americans say they are planning to take a summer trip this year.
Who can blame them? And, why would you?
After a year stuck at home without vacations, trips to the office, and even trips to sporting events or the theater, Americans are itching to hit the road and live again.
Anyone who has been paying attention over the past year saw this coming, right? Apparently not.
As an example, American Airlines announced that it canceled a thousand flights because they don’t have sufficient staff to handle the massive influx of travelers. Other airlines are in a rush to rehire pilots who were let go during the pandemic or hire new pilots to handle the sudden increase in demand.
This is a huge inconvenience for travelers whose flights are cancelled, and it will hurt the bottom lines of airlines that took a massive hit from the shutdowns resulting from COVID-19. It’s hard to believe that such established companies could have left themselves unprepared for the influx of travelers, but that might just be the case.
Parking owners and organizations with parking facilities can’t afford to make the same mistake. We are about to see a huge increase in parking demand that will result directly from the massive increase in air travel—business and leisure. The trend will start at the airport, where more flyers than usual will drive themselves, still wary of using TNCs or carpools after a year of pandemic. That means that airport parking facilities and off-site lots serving flyers are going to face unprecedented demand.
The trend will continue when the plane lands. There’s already a nationwide shortage of rental cars and that’s just going to get worse as the summer progresses. And when those rental cars hit the roads, local parking supplies are going to be pushed to the limit. For instance, hotel parking garages are going to see unprecedented influxes of demand, as will local attractions and entertainment venues. Downtown parking facilities, both municipal and private, will face the same pressures.
It’s not just the increase in travelers. Public planning experts are also predicting a “carpocolypse” caused by people taking their own vehicles rather than crowded public transportation. All those cars are going to be competing for limited parking spaces.
So, what can parking owners and operators do to prepare for this unprecedented demand?
First, make sure that all parking and revenue control equipment (PARCS) is in good shape and working as it should. Extra demand means extra wear and tear on equipment, and you can’t afford to have your PARCS equipment break down when lines of cars are at your door looking for a space. Now is the time to bring in your PARCS partner to do maintenance and any repairs that are necessary.
If your lot or garage isn’t gated, it’s a good time to remedy that, too. It’s not just your tenants, or your guests, or your customers who are going to use your facilities if they aren’t protected with gates. It will also be unauthorized parkers who can’t find someplace else to park—and they’ll be taking parking spaces from the people who should be using them.
That means hotels not having sufficient parking for guests; shopping centers not having enough parking for customers; and restaurants and entertainment venues not having adequate parking for patrons. And at the end of the day, it means lost business and a hit to the bottom line.
Parking guidance can also help manage this new demand. By guiding drivers directly to available spaces, guidance technology improves the parking experience, eliminates congestion within parking facilities and on roadways adjacent to the entrances of garages and lots, and makes facilities safer by reducing the risk of collision (either between vehicles or between vehicles and drivers who have parked and are walking to elevators). Modern guidance technology costs a fraction of traditional single space systems, are just as accurate, and can pay for themselves in just a few months.
Don’t make the same mistake some in the airline industry have. We aren’t just going to see a return to pre-pandemic travel trends; we are already seeing unprecedented increases in travel, and this is going to lead to record parking demand. That’s really the “new normal” in parking, so prepare for that new demand today.
You won’t be sorry—and your bottom line will benefit greatly.