Like many other industries, 2020 was a year that forced the parking world to adapt. Yes, the pandemic pushed us, but so did changing consumer behaviours. This year has been an indicator of a fundamental shift in the industry, and if we have all done our jobs well, in five years it will be a whole different ecosystem.
But one step at a time.
In 2021, councils need to continue to revisit their entire strategy around parking, in fact, they need to stop thinking about it as a parking service entirely. It can no longer just be about efficient parking; it has to be about health and safety – both short term and long term.
Local authorities have traditionally been slow to change and adopt new technology, but they have to start reacting. They need to better understand the behaviours of motorists and give them what they want. We have been talking about digital solutions for years, but 2021 has to be the year local authorities embrace them. Creating a touch free environment must be a priority – in the next two years we will see at least 50% less parking machines on the street and preparing for that transition has to start now.
The long-term result of adopting digital solutions for parking is the data it provides. This data helps determine and predict the behaviour of drivers both today and in the future, but it needs to be put to good use. Local authorities need to start understanding matters such as regional congestion and the types of cars sitting in that traffic, in order to make better decisions about dynamic pricing, electric car adoption and congestion reduction. In 2021, with tight budgets and rising pressure, these are not changes that call for educated guesses or gut instinct, they call for decisions rooted in data.
2020 saw big plans go out the window and instead drove focus towards pivoting, survival and helping others where possible. But 2021 will see organisations reprioritise again, with a bigger focus on their long-term business plans. Although these plans may look a bit different, they will still be about driving the business forward – we cannot stand still in 2021.
In parking, many of the players in the ecosystem will never look the same again. There will be mass amounts of consolidation in 2021 and into 2022 as we shift focus from just parking to overall mobility. This will be driven largely by the changing transportation behaviours and the growing consumer need for speed and efficiency.
With the continuing adoption of different work patterns, commuter trains will find themselves less busy at peak times as we no longer feel the pressure to get the 7:20am to London every day. People will continue to favour driving to work over public transport and many will only commute on certain days. Mobility has been changed irreversibly by the happenings in 2020, and so the parking industry must diversify.
Consolidating mobility functions – parking, charging, fuelling, tolling, permits, train and bus fare, bike rental, etc – all in one place will form a somewhat North Star. And it will take years. Becoming the sole provider of a customer journey in mobility is a large task. But 2021 will be the start.
Creating a parking hub where consumers pick their preferred parking app to pay up and down the country is a first step. It creates choice and freedom driven by consumer demand. It raises the stakes and pushes each provider to innovate.”