By: Scot DeLancey, SVP, Strategy and Product
Originally published in Parking Today, August 2020.
As technology has rapidly advanced over the past several decades, tasks and processes in all areas of life have become easier and faster. Instead of writing a letter and mailing it to a far-off friend or family member, you can pick up the phone and video chat with them instantly. Instead of flipping through encyclopedias looking for a specific piece of information, anything you could ever want to know is a simple web search away. Instead of driving to a store and browsing each aisle looking for a particular product, you can order it from your phone and have it shipped to your door with one click.
Today, people have come to expect speed and simplicity everywhere they go: work, the grocery, a coffee shop, and, yes, parking facilities. Gone are the days of digging for coins to feed a parking meter or paying cash to a garage attendant – customers want a frictionless and seamless parking experience that saves them time and frustration. And why wouldn’t they? Benjamin Franklin was not wrong when he said, “time is money.” Thankfully, there are numerous ways that parking operations can create a more frictionless parking experience for their customers.
Contactless & Mobile Payments
Contactless and mobile payment options are becoming more and more prevalent, from credit cards equipped with NFC (near-field communication) technology to mobile payment options such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. Additionally, mobile payment apps for parking have also become commonplace in cities from coast to coast. Contactless and mobile payments benefit both the parking patron and the operator, as they enable quicker and more convenient transactions and eliminate the need to keep and handle cash.
As adoption of contactless payments has increased, people are beginning to expect these options when they pay for parking. As a parking provider, there are several ways you can implement contactless payments in your operation. Pay stations and parking kiosks that accept NFC payments allow for mobile-friendly transactions, while still providing a way to pay for those who prefer to pay at the machine using cash or card. Some vendors also provide extend-by-phone capabilities, enabling patrons to easily extend their time without having to walk back to and touch a pay station or kiosk. Mobile payment apps provide similar functionality, plus the ability to pay without interacting with a physical device.
For operations with permitted parking, virtual permits are a simple way to create a more frictionless experience for both the parker and the operator. By using a unique identifier – most commonly a license plate number – instead of a physical permit as the credential, your permit holders no longer have to worry about getting their permit via mail in time and keeping track of it once they have received it. Plus, when combined with an online purchase option, you eliminate the need for your permit holders to come into the office, reducing those long lines during permit season and freeing up your staff to focus on more important tasks.
There are several access options that can turn a traditional gated PARCS facility into a touchless one. Proximity cards for permit holders simply require that the parker hold their credential up to a reader on the access control unit. AVI systems use similar technology, but with the readers mounted above the entrance and the credential placed on the inside of the permit holder’s windshield. Bluetooth access allows parkers to use their smartphone to access the facility, whether via a permit, reservation, or other means. Lastly, license plate recognition (LPR) cameras allow parkers – both permit holders and visitors – to enter the facility without having to show any type of credential.
All of these options make for a more frictionless experience for parkers, as they do not have to take a ticket or swipe a credential. AVI and LPR add another layer of convenience, as the parker does not have to stop to physically present a credential, reducing delays at the facility entrance. Meanwhile, the operator is able to maintain the security of being a gated facility.
A gateless garage is a bundled solution that provides access to typically gated facilities without the use of gates. Gateless solutions will typically include:
- Fixed LPR cameras at the entrances and exits
- A method of taking payments, such as pay stations, kiosks, a mobile payment app, or text-to-pay functionality
- Automated electronic ticketing (e-ticketing)
- An online portal for taking payments for citations
Gateless garages utilize the fixed LPR cameras to capture vehicle identification as parkers enter and exit the facility, tracking real-time occupancy on the back end and identifying potential enforcement actions. If a parker violates the parameters of their permit or does not pay for their time in the facility, an e-ticket will be generated and sent, using the license plate to identify the individual.
There are numerous benefits to gateless garages. They provide a completely frictionless experience for the parker, as they do not need to stop at all upon entry and exit. This significantly decreases wait times, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions from idling vehicles. When access control is not needed, gateless solutions eliminate issues that may arise when exiting, such as lost tickets, reducing poor customer experiences while decreasing lost revenue for the operator. For operators, gateless garages include a much lower initial hardware investment, as well as lower maintenance costs. Plus, they provide similar levels of revenue control and facility security as gates.
As technology advances and makes complicated processes faster and simpler, your parking operation should adapt to meet the needs of your customers. By utilizing any or all of the solutions described above, you can create a more frictionless parking experience for your patrons.