Parking Pay Stations and Payment Apps: Commuters Demand Choice
New technology and omnichannel payments enable parking facilities to make payments frictionless.
Parking facilities face a somewhat unique challenge. While other businesses can narrow their customer base by demographics and align experiences with typical user preferences, parking facilities can’t. Just about everyone parks. A baby boomer CEO may enter the facility during rush hour, followed by Gen Z and millennial professionals. A young mother may park later before taking her toddlers to a preschool activity, or a driver with a handicap placard may choose the facility for its convenient location. Later in the day, sports fans and theatergoers may be relieved to find a spot there to park. The one thing all customers have in common is that they want to be able to pay for parking most conveniently, whether at a parking pay station or via a parking payment app.
Giving Drivers a Choice
While some drivers will look for an attended parking toll booth, many prefer the convenience of using a parking pay station. Parking facilities can choose from various unattended payment options, including walk-up pay stations that accept cash or payment cards and pay-in-lane solutions. Other solutions enable the driver to use their credit card to enter a lot or garage and then charge the card when they re-enter the card as they exit. Additionally, systems are available that use RFID or license plate recognition for permit parking.
Digital-native and tech-savvy drivers may prefer other options, however. Parking payment app adoption is growing due to their ability to enable users to pay for and extend their time via smartphone or web app, as well as the additional benefits they can provide. For example, a pilot program at UC San Diego encourages drivers to download an app that not only enables them to pay and extend parking time, but also saves recently used zones, displays suggested nearby zones, park at other locations in San Diego and share their accounts with campus visitors.
Parking payment apps are also an option for street parking, giving drivers the comfort of knowing they don’t have to remember to have coins in their pockets to park and that if their appointments or shopping trips run long, they don’t need to rush back to the car to feed the meter.
In addition to enhancing customer experiences, expanding payment options for parking also have advantages for the facility. Adding unattended parking pay stations or deploying apps can move traffic through the facility more quickly and even help with traffic flow outside the facility – without requiring more labor to do so.
Omnichannel Isn’t Just for Retail
Retail’s evolution to omnichannel business models has conditioned consumers to expect to engage with a business however they prefer – whether it’s paying online, through a smartphone, in-person using their choice of payment methods or with cash. When entering parking facilities, those same consumers expect similar options.
Although parking is undeniably a service that is only offered in physical facilities, drivers prefer omnichannel engagement with the facility for payment. Both public and private parking lots and garages updating their systems to accommodate new consumer demands need an omnichannel payments platform to allow their customers to pay in convenient ways. Moreover, one unified platform that provides card-present, unattended, in-app, online, contactless and touch-free options, such as QR code payments, will make managing operations and accounting faster and easier.
An omnichannel payments platform can also give parking facilities an easy way to collect operational and usage data, helping them to staff facilities and schedule maintenance more intelligently.
Trends to Watch
Parking payment, which at one time was only metered or managed with an attendant, has expanded to include unattended parking pay stations and now parking payment apps that leverage driver’s smartphones rather than facility-owned devices. Although there is no predicting the future, it’s safe to say that consumer demand will trend toward the most convenient options. A flexible, omnichannel payments solution will help meet that demand, regardless of how consumer behaviors evolve.