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The parking industry is in a state of exponential growth and change, generating around $30 billion annually in the US alone. New technologies, companies, and methods are rolling out at a steady pace, leaving parking operators faced with complex decisions about upgrading their business to keep pace with the industry and with competitors. Many of these decisions have no historical point of reference due to the newness of innovation and the fact that its influx is happening at once, and operators are looking for answers.

Generating much of this change is a combination of factors, including the rapid rise in ride share platforms, technology advancements such as autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles (EVs), wayfinding and an array of reservation and payment solutions. Operators struggle to not only stay informed on these developments, but also to sort out what is best for their operation. What’s more is that these changes are not only impacting parking operations now but are predicted to impact the future of parking even further. Here are the parking upgrades currently trending now:

EV Charging Stations

For both private and public parking operations owners, EV charging stations are currently the most popular upgrade. The demand for EV charging stations has risen because there is a spike in EV purchases, seen in varying degrees by market. EV ownership overall is driven by car buyers’ increased concerns about limited natural resources and rising gas prices. These concerns are changing car buying behavior, and parking operators must keep pace by providing charging stations needed to service EV parkers.

Parking Technology

An equally important upgrade that parking operators must consider is parking technology. The parking landscape is filled with a plethora of different technology players and offerings such as an array of automated payment options, online reservations and loyalty, phone apps making it easier to reserve, pay and locate a spot, parking controls including wayfinding, license plate recognition for payment, entry and exit, and more.

Future Proofing

One of the most complexing decisions for operators is how to “future proof” their operations. There are many opinions and predictions by professional and nonprofessional alike, about how parking will be impacted by increased ride share, micro mobility (bikes, scooters, boards, etc), autonomous vehicles, smart cities, artificial intelligence (AI), and more. Today’s owners must sort through and decide how they will prepare for the future. If indeed parking garages, for example, will become relics of the past, owners must prepare now for repurposing their valuable investments.

For example, forward-thinking parking developers must consider the possibility of a repurpose in the future of new garages being built today. One of the considerations include design modifications such as flat floors, exterior vs interior ramping, larger load capacities, greater floor to ceiling heights, and double vs single helix ramping systems. These type of changes from the outset would cut the cost to convert a garage to say an office or small apartment living space, by a considerable amount. For example, the 2018 cost to convert an almost century-old 3-story garage into 60+ apartment units in Pittsburgh was $17 million.

Choosing the most important upgrades for a parking operation is complex and there are many factors to consider such as size, purpose, and market dynamics. Though the future of parking is uncertain, one of the most basic enhancements for an operator of any scale or industry is to upgrade parking management software. The benefits of such an upgrade covers all the basic functions such as online reservations, loyalty, monthly contract parking, rate and inventory management, staffing, and more.

With the uncertainty of parking’s future, smart parking operators will stay educated and armed to make informed decisions about the latest and greatest developments.