Parking Gates: A Barrier to Entry, A Barrier to Efficiency
The world is full of inefficient business models slow to utilize new technology. Unfortunately for us all, one industry that has remained persistently antiquated is one that we deal with on a daily basis: parking.
How many times have you avoided a downtown shopping center because parking would be a nightmare? How many concerts have you skipped because you don’t want to spend hours navigating a parking garage? How many meetings have you been late to because your office’s parking complex runs with the efficiency of the DMV?
But the tide is turning, my friends, and the future of parking is looking quite bright. Forward looking companies have begun to realize that at the center of urban parking woes lies one piece of outdated machinery - the parking gate. But as parking companies begin to use new software and app-based technology, this ubiquitous barrier to parking convenience is making its exit from our urban infrastructure.
Ben Montgomery, President of Premium Parking, has been working to bring his industry into the tech age. “We realized it doesn’t have to be this hard. It can be a lot simpler.” According to him, the difficulty of parking in a garage is largely caused by the fact that drivers are forced to pay for parking upon entry or exit, often one car at a time, creating a bottleneck traffic jam effect.
“As we dug into this we thought, ‘how dumb is the parking industry that we’ve decided to put the only thing that takes time when parking, the transaction, in the only place where there’s a line of cars, the entry and exit points,’” said Montgomery.
Instead of this old system that causes inevitable traffic jams, Premium Parking prefers a model with open exits and entrances in which a customer pays on their phone as they’re walking out of the facility using app or text-based payments. Their software also allows for flexibility by providing mobile reminders. If your meeting is running long, Premium Parking will send you a notification that your parking time will soon expire and with a simple click of a button, you can extend your time and stop worrying.
“The future is completely app based. It creates no friction,” says Montgomery. “You pull in, you park. I always say, ‘you park like you’re parking at Walmart.’ And then we take care of payments on the backend so you don’t create a bottleneck at the entry and exit.” And for those who don’t want to use their phones, Premium Parking provides onsite pay machines that seamlessly integrate with the rest of their system.
For Premium Parking and other pioneering companies, the availability of new cloud-based software and mobile technology has made parking gates not only obsolete, but obstructive. It’s difficult to make these old machines compatible with mobile payment and digital reservation and subscription technology. And it’s hard to keep the gates up to date as software is constantly updated and refined. Premium controls the user experience from end to end, providing consistent and simple messaging. Gates only interfere with this continuity. Their solution is to simply send these machines to the junkyard.
Retiring parking gates will also make parking cheaper, according to industry leaders. Parking gates are extremely expensive and a single installation can cost up to $1 million. This doesn’t even include the constant upkeep and maintenance that is inevitable for any piece of hardware. Garages must also hire attendants and managers to oversee the machines, yet another cost passed onto the consumer.
But parking gates were never installed for efficiency in the first place. They’re there, primarily, to make sure people pay. So what will keep parkers honest in the absence of a physical barrier to entry?
“We were skeptical initially about if we would still collect all our revenue with gateless facilities,” said Montgomery. “But we found that if you set up a parking facility the right way, you get 99.5% compliance. It doesn’t seem fair to penalize 99.5% of people by forcing them through this complex system of gate arms. ”
The vast majority of Premium Parking’s facilities are now gateless, and they use third party security firms to check the license plates in their lots to make sure they correspond to paying customers in their digital system. Having roving Enforcement Agents, Montgomery says, also has the secondary benefit of making their parking structures safer and friendlier.
We shouldn’t have to consider the inconvenience of parking every time we get in our car. And parking shouldn’t deter us from getting where we need to be. Luckily, this innovative business model is spreading quickly, helping create seamless parking in cities all around the US.
written by Michael Stein