The world has been introduced to quite a few “mobile first” companies revolutionizing their respective industries throughout the past 10 years. The most obvious example is Uber, which has turned the taxi industry inside out. Other industries have seen similar mobile revolutions, the parking industry, however, has not changed.
Parking managers around the world know that parking is an extremely infrastructure-dependent industry, causing inefficiencies they wish they could avoid. In order to find a breakthrough solution, the major problems need to be clearly understood. Therefore, we have decided to highlight the “usual suspects” that are causing problems in this infrastructure-heavy parking industry.
Parking signs are hard to understand
Communicating parking information to users is of utmost importance in creating an effective parking environment. The purpose of communicating parking information is to regulate traffic flow, making the city more livable and businesses more vibrant.
Parking information typically comes in the form of some sort of restriction. In order for any restriction to have an impact, it needs to be effectively communicated to users (in this case, motorists). After all, if a user does not understand the parking rules, how can they be obeyed? This is a difficult problem to solve in most cities. As portrayed in the graphic, cities invest millions of dollars into traffic signs and parking guidance that are actually very difficult to understand.
Parking signs are really bad at communicating relevant information to motorists. Parking restrictions can often times be very complicated. A parking sign has to include all relevant information on a fixed amount of physical space. In most parts of the world, parking signs are cluttered and only contain negative information, telling the user what NOT to do, and where NOT to park. Users have to reverse-engineer the information on the sign to fit their situation. “Is today Monday? What time is it?” and so forth.
A breakthrough service has to offer superior parking guidance and successfully communicate it to users.
Parking meters make paying difficult and frustrating
When a driver finally understands the parking restrictions for an area, it is time to pay for parking. Many cities are implementing paid parking as a way to regulate traffic: parking is more expensive at certain times and in city hotspots. Simple supply-demand economics.
Not only are parking meters ugly, bulky, expensive and faulty machines, they are also hard to use. Parking meters are very bad at informing car drivers about rate changes and about prices in general. A person has to park the car and walk up to the parking meter in order to understand the pricing. A user is unlikely going to move the car if parking feels too expensive. They are more likely avoid paying and “risk” a violation ticket.
How to inform the driver about the price of parking? The price of parking is one of the most significant factors in changing motorist behavior. If a city or a parking company wants to redirect traffic from one parking spot to another, they can do so by changing fees. Parking is, after all, a commodity where price is a key variable.
How to make the payment process as simple and cost effective as possible? From a user’s perspective, the payment process consists of two costs:
- The actual cost of parking, as displayed on the meter
- The labor cost needed to perform the payment. i.e. walking to the parking meter, inserting coins, displaying your parking ticket, etc.
The easier a parking company can make the payment process, the more monetary investment the user is willing to make. If the labor-cost goes down, a user is willing to compensate the savings by paying more often, even for quick stays.
A breakthrough service has to offer price transparency and easy payments. The service needs to give the user control over the parking experience and it has to be easy.
Solving these problems is the key to parking’s future
In order to truly revolutionize the parking industry and to replace the current infrastructure (parking signage and parking meters), a new system has to be ten times better at both parking guidance and payments. The service has to offer readily available parking information and has to be extremely easy to use, otherwise it will never attain mainstream traction.
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Main photo by “Martin Sanchez“ from Unsplash/CC