Life After The Pandemic: How Will Reopening Impact The Parking Sector?

September 08, 2021

Parking had long been positioned towards the end of the development chain for new technologies. Service providers never saw much need to embrace innovation because, for the most part, demand was growing faster than supply.

Then COVID-19 hit, and suddenly the industry was turned upside-down. Traditionally on-demand parking spots were abandoned overnight, as high-traffic areas like train stations, airports, and event venues saw a total traffic drop. The entire industry went from comfort to survival mode, with companies wondering if and when recovery will be possible. According to statistics, demand for parking facilities fell below 80% within the first three months of the outbreak. 

On the bright side, despite revenue losses, COVID-19 ignited the smoldering fire of innovation within the parking sector. With many motorists confined to their homes, service providers got some time to think about long-standing industry issues and reprioritize promising initiatives. 

Now that cities are gradually reopening, parking is itching to make a glorious come-back. All experts anticipate a phoenix-like recovery as the world rushes toward normality and freedom. 

However, COVID-19 has dramatically changed everyday life. The extended disruption will likely result in long-term transformations in travel attitudes and the use of parking services. As a parking services provider, it is imperative to know how citywide reopening will impact the industry. 

Read on for five notable expectations as the world comes out of the pandemic and what you can do to get ahead. 

1. Commuter numbers will stay low

COVID-19 lockdowns ushered in a wave of remote working, which reduced commuting substantially. It did not take long for employers to realize that staff members could achieve the same if not better productivity at home than in the office. With reopening underway, the working community is keen to commute much less than during pre-pandemic times. Recent studies indicate that only one in seven employees expect to go back to commuting five days a week. 

For parking, low commuter numbers mean facilities, particularly those that service office buildings, may experience a notable dip in demand relative to pre-COVID numbers. Operators need to consider this trend when laying down their post-recovery forecasts for 2021. A deeper focus on operational efficiency can help counter the effect of fewer commuters on revenue. 

2. A slow year for public transportation

Public transportation plummeted when countries declared lockdowns, and companies quickly embraced remote work. A few months down the road, many people had changed their commuting habits entirely, using new options like e-bikes and buying cars. Apple’s mobility data shows that car travel far outpaced public transport during the pandemic. 

Ridership has been resuming gradually in cities worldwide, but it is nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. In the U.S., the use of buses, subway, and commuter rail systems is still down by over 50% from 2019 numbers, and industry experts do not expect things to improve until the end of the year. 

A slow public transportation recovery impacts parking operators differently, depending on their location. While facilities close to transit points will feel the heat, those closer to workplaces and shopping malls will benefit from the replacement of public transport with personal vehicles. 

3. Widespread Digital Payments 

COVID-19 transformed contactless transactions from convenience to necessity. Thanks to quarantine measures, many people had no choice but to order items and services online. Consequently the use of digital payment solutions, particularly mobile payment apps shot through the roof. 

Although reopening will bring people back to physical shopping, digital solutions will remain an integral part of mainstream payment systems for the long term. Parking operators that do not offer digital payments risk losing significant revenue down the road. 

Digital payments present several benefits to parking operations. In addition to on-site contactless transactions, these solutions make it possible for facilities to run booking services. Parking apps like Pavemint integrate both mobile payments and parking reservation features for a comprehensive solution.

4. Better Curb Space Management

Urban curbsides have traditionally been based on the activities of immediately adjoining buildings. For example, supermarket and warehouse curbs automatically become loading zones, while those outside ground-floor restaurants may form outdoor dining areas. However, this practice assumes that vehicles are the primary transportation mode on the street. Before the pandemic, cities allowed curbs to be utilized by nearby businesses because of the presumption that, without these establishments, curbs would just become on-street car parks. 

As lockdowns cleared the streets and forced businesses to close, authorities quickly recognized the untapped flexibility of curbsides. Urban centers began prioritizing sustainable transit infrastructures, such as bicycle parking and electric vehicle charging stations. Increased demand for take-out also pressured metro areas to put up facilities that support timely deliveries. 

Now that cities are reopening, on-street parking is expected to take a new, more sustainable form. With traffic returning, city managers may push even harder to achieve reliable transit and safer streets by better handling the many demands of urban curbs. 

5. Data-powered Decision-making

During the pandemic, enterprises with a solid online footing thrived while their offline counterparts struggled to stay afloat. Mobile apps offered customers the convenience of instant shopping, and in return, businesses got sustained sales and successfully waded the COVID storm. 

Even more rewarding, however, was the massive load of data that online platforms collected. With this data, companies could know precisely what their customers wanted and align their strategies accordingly. Looking past the pandemic, the Internet and data will undoubtedly continue playing a major part in business operations. 

For parking, operators and city managers will be keen to create a data-driven ecosystem that drives efficiency through predictive analysis. For instance, data from a parking reservation app can reveal trends about peak and off-peak parking times, enabling a facility to vary pricing based on demand. Similarly, urban authorities can understand where demand is highest for infrastructures like shaded parking spaces and EV charging points and deploy optimization measures as efficiently as possible.

The parking sector has a lot to look forward to when the pandemic gets under control and eventually fades into history. As economic fallout normalizes around the world, all signs indicate a bright future. 

That said, COVID-19 will leave an enduring impact on the parking industry. Although reopening comes with warranted optimism, the future of parking looks very different from pre-pandemic expectations. As a parking services provider, you must be ready and willing to re-strategize and match post-COVID industry trends. That way, you can position your business for long-term success.