Why Curb Management Data Matters
Parking garages and lots used to be the wild, wild west. It was a place parking operators and owners didn’t have any visibility into. It was a series of rows and levels that were occupied, but nobody had access to any data for.
Lots and garages, especially those that are monetized, were the first to see guidance and occupancy management systems. But, if you take a step back and think about the broader parking ecosystem, that makes the most sense. Any lot or garage connected to a hospital, hotel, airport, convention center, mall or shopping center, or similar environment was the first frontier for ParkTech (parking technology).
In the era of instant gratification–made famous by way of smartphones giving users anything and everything in a matter of a few taps–these systems help parkers more quickly find an available space and get to dinner, a show, shopping, or their travels easier and with less friction.
There were a few principal driving forces behind this: offering an improved experience in hopes of parking being a differentiator for parking asset owners, monetization efforts, data collection, but most importantly was the simple fact that the longer a car circles aisles of spaces translates into retailers earning less money or a hospital offering a less than average experience, for example. After all, things like patient and shopper experience really do begin well before they open your front doors.
Again, if we take a step back and think this through, it all makes sense.
From here, ParkTech improved, and innovation accelerated the value of guidance and occupancy management systems. Different ways of solving the same Rubik’s Cube were brought to market. Different applications were deployed.
For example, let’s take the inventory of a parking garage. While it happens somewhat frequently, it can be easily argued most travelers–business or leisure–are likely to park for multiple days. As long as their car is parked inventory for that particular space isn’t going to turn over. It can’t, it’s a physical limitation imposed on the parking ecosystem. We can measure this cycle time—a business or leisure traveler parking their car in a garage—in days or weeks.
Another example would be a hotel garage. For those hotel guests with “in and out” privileges, the same vehicle may come and go a couple of times each day. Therefore, dwell time for hotels in more of a tourist city can measure this in hours or days. Hotels in luxury resorts may not see vehicles move with as much frequency; particularly all-inclusive resorts.
So, it’s very likely operators of these garages–airports and hotels–likely have a good understanding of what happens with their inventory. Then, layer in the monetization parking data yields and airports and hotels can now more appropriately adjust rates relative to their market or competition.
On the other end of the spectrum are your garages connected to retail environments–malls, shopping centers, and mixed-use developments with a different parker “persona” requiring a different approach to monetization.
Before long, parking lots and garages were well taken care of.
But, what about the curbs? What about the “other” places people park? Even if it’s for only a few minutes, why are they left out? So, like pioneers, let’s travel to the unchartered land of curb management and why bringing data to this forgotten land of parking matters.
One of the largest and most straight-forward business cases for curb management is at departure and arrival zones at airports. If you’re at a departure zone, profits are your motive. Meaning, the quicker a traveler can get from the curb to cross the threshold of the airport doors, the quicker the clock starts towards pre-flight purchases. These can include anything from checked baggage, seat upgrades, meals, drinks, magazines, books, candy, snacks, and even things like a shoeshine or portable electronics.
The necessity for data at arrival zones is critical. The faster a traveler exits their vehicle, the quicker they can get into the airport and ultimately their terminal. Airports are purposefully designed to leverage your wait time into cash.
If we think about airport layouts, post-security, you’re always walking through concession stores, newsstands, vending machines selling high-end electronics, bars, restaurants, ultimately to your gate. Even while you patiently wait for takeoff, there’s stores all around within a few feet. By design, you’re constantly surrounded by an opportunity to spend money. On top of that, whatever your next purchase is, it’s likely overpriced given the captive nature of airports.
To give this context, Business Insider published an article in August of 2019 on just how much passengers spend inside an airport. While the figures vary greatly, the average traveler spends anywhere from $11 to $141 per visit. For context, an $11 purchase could be a bottle of water and a couple snacks. The reality is, the median is likely somewhere closer to $40-$50 and even more for a family of four. Lunch at an airport restaurant for two is an easy $40; and airports know this and they know it well.
If you’re at the arrival zone, you’re no longer motivated by profit. After all, the traveler has left virtually every profit opportunity behind and they’re well on their way to their destination; be it a hotel, home, or office. Just because an airport is no longer able to make money per travel doesn’t mean the airport stops “caring” about the experience they offer. Airports are concerned about the entire experience travelers have. Here, at the arrival zones, airports are more concerned about putting a positive, world-class experience to the back end of what’s likely a few hours-long flight in a different city then they might live in.
Especially for business travelers, time is money. So, knowing traffic flows and patterns at the departure and arrival zones is key. It’s a known fact that business travelers LOVE certain airports and despise others solely because of how easy it is to get in and out. Those airports with curb management data will put themselves in a position where they’re more likely to win and offer an elevated experience to those flowing in and out of their doors.
Even on a regular travel day, these parking zones are revolving doors to very, very short-term parkers (if they even put the car in “Park”). Unlike other parking environments, these “stops” are measured in seconds or minutes.
The other reason curb management applies well at airports is due to the regular arrival and departure of planes. Depending on the size of the airport, it’s very likely dozens of planes are taking or bringing passengers to their destination. So, the volume of travelers entering and exiting the airport is on a steady flow for all hours of the day. All the more reason to understand what’s happening at the curb.
Those utilizing a parking lot or garage at an airport are the travelers themselves. However, those utilizing arrival and departure curbs can be bundled into a few categories: rideshare vehicles (Ubers and Lyfts), shuttles to off-site parking garages or nearby hotels, and friends and family.
To recap thus far, we have one aspect of airport property where parking management is likely a fine-tuned machine and one area that resembles the unknown.
So, you might be asking yourself, “why bother with data for an asset which has, essentially, an endless supply.” Unlike a parking space where a vehicle will be left for hours or days, parking at a curb is essentially a revolving door of infinite supply. So, again, why bother?
At the end of the day, it comes down to the pursuit of profit, the ability to offer a better experience to parkers and travelers, alike, and having data readily available, so parking and facility management teams can make better informed decisions about their environment.
It’s a known fact that anything that begins to be publicly measured begins to adjust. Because we don’t know what we don’t know, having access to data will only help: planning, architecture, facilities management, financial planning, and operations. Curb management is the next frontier for parking management and guidance.