Two Years of COVID-19: How Has the Parking Sector Adapted?

February 02, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has been adversely disruptive to parking, but against all the odds, the sector has prevailed. This article highlights three ways parking has ensured its survival during the pandemic.

Parking was among the sectors most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As physical movement ceased and lockdowns became the order of the day, parking lots were abandoned, leaving operators uncertain of the future. With weeks turning into months, many had no choice but to shut down their facilities indefinitely. 

On the bright side, pandemic-induced struggles fueled dramatic advancements. Reduced traffic shifted attention from maximizing visitation to refining the parking experience for the few customers available. Moreover, near-empty parking spaces revealed previously unnoticed opportunities, such as vehicle flow optimization and demand analytics.

As the new normal ensues, now is an excellent time to reflect on the last two years and how the parking sector has responded. Three prominent themes stand out:

  1. Private transportation has risen significantly thanks to social distancing, making public options like buses and trains unpopular. This trend has inspired innovation, with public operators investing in making their facilities more convenient.
  2. Self-service parking options have increased exponentially, notably contactless payments and mobile-based reservations.
  3. Parking operators have become more experimental with demand-based pricing models.

Read on for more insights on COVID-19's influence on parking and how the trends above have enabled the sector to adapt and gradually recover.

Thanks to COVID-19's grueling impact, parking operators worldwide have changed their focus from maximizing short-term revenue to long-run stability. Below are three notable ways the parking sector has responded to pandemic-induced shakeups.

1. Increased private transportation has inspired innovation

Trips decreased drastically during the early months of the pandemic due to lockdown orders, closed retail outlets and shopping malls, and a blanketing fear of infection.

However, even when people started getting out of their homes, many continued to stay away from public transport, instead choosing presumably safer options like personal vehicles, bicycles, and even walking. According to Statista, private car use rose by 8%, while public transport usage dropped by a staggering 30% in 25 global cities in 2021.

Parking operators took note of this shift and started innovating accordingly to take full advantage. So far, some parking facilities have introduced bicycle spaces and cycling lanes and created exclusive lanes for foot traffic.

Other facilities have reorganized their lots to better cater for pick-and-drop services like Uber and Lyft, while the most future-focused operators have installed car-charging stations to gain the upper hand in the emerging electric vehicle segment.

Collectively, these advancements have made parking facilities more attractive to customers and, in turn, helped cushion the pandemic's impact.

2. Self-service parking options have solidified customer loyalty

With COVID-19 forcing motorists to keep commutes and errands to a minimum, parking service providers found themselves competing for a significantly smaller pool of customers. Almost immediately, operators who had invested in improving the parking experience got a substantial advantage over those who remained complacent.

One of the most prominent ways adaptable parking operators have differentiated themselves during the pandemic is self-service. From smart direction signs that reduce the time drivers take to find parking to automated payment machines that ease the billing process, self-service options have significantly improved customer experience at parking facilities.

Besides parking lot automation, many operators have leveraged mobile apps and networks to offer reservations and instant contactless payments. The convenience of driving into a parking facility knowing a parking space is available and not having to wait in line to pay has made mobile parking services like Pavemint invaluable instruments for retaining customers.

Although self-service offerings are overtly pro-customer, they benefit operators by increasing utilization rates and acquiring loyal customers. Digital platforms are also valuable sources of customer data.

Pavemint, for example, provides parking providers with insights like the most favored parking times, most preferred spots, and most used payment methods. With this information, parking operators can make informed decisions about improvements and future investments.

3. Parking operators have adopted new pricing models

Adopting new technologies is not the only move parking service providers have made to adapt to the pandemic. They have also experimented with pricing models that better account for demand fluctuations.

Dynamic pricing adjusts parking fees based on demand, allowing operators to increase revenue during peak hours and reduce rates when traffic is low. Although this strategy was prevalent before COVID-19 struck, most retrofitted facilities have adopted a more sophisticated version that considers multiple variables, including location and time of day.

Another model that has gained traction during the pandemic is pay-by-minute billing, especially at short-stay parking facilities where hourly prices can be too high for low-budget customers. Operators with time limits are increasingly charging by the minute to encourage customers to stay longer.

Although the COVID-19 disruption cannot be understated, the parking sector deserves high praise for effectively wading through the storm. Now that recovery is well underway, many experts agree that parking will emerge even more convenient, resilient, and sustainable.

As the moves made over the last two years continue to take shape, 2022 is set to be an exciting year for parking. Mobility analysts expect trends like mobile-based parking reservations, contactless payments, parking lot automation, electric and autonomous vehicles, and demand-responsive pricing to set the global parking scene.

So, if you are a parking services provider, you owe it to your business to keep pace with changing customer expectations and market dynamics. Contact a Pavemint expert today, and let's get your operation future-ready with tailored, industry-leading cloud-based parking services and connectivity tools.