As the financial fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak continues to take hold, local authorities faced with budget cuts will be exploring opportunities to generate additional funds. One tactic councils are increasingly turning to is making the most of their parking facilities as a means of driving revenue.
The number of vehicles on the road has been steadily increasing over the years and, with public transport falling out of favour among those with concerns about social distancing, demand for parking in central locations is likely to remain strong.
Maximising income from their existing parking facilities is a relatively simple way for local authorities to boost revenue – and need not involve a large upfront cost.
Moving away from pay-and-display
Converting any sizeable pay-and-display car parks in their portfolios over to fully automated pay-on-foot systems can make a big difference to the income local authorities receive from their car parks.
Any pay-and-display car park with around 250 spaces or more will require multiple ticket machines in numerous locations, plus one or two Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) to check for displayed tickets – potentially more in a multi-storey setting. This is not only time consuming but costly.
Some car park visitors with time left on their ticket may pass it to newly arrived visitors which, while helpful to their fellow car park users, means lost revenue for councils. Others may decide not to pay for their stays on the chance they won’t be caught. And for those who do get caught, issuing a fine can prove confrontational for CEOs and often needs to be followed up by a lengthy legal process.
Fitting a pay-on-foot system with barriers can prove a cost effective alternative to pay-and-display systems by ensuring that all visitors pay before they are allowed to exit, while freeing up CEOs to spend their time monitoring kerbside parking.
What’s more, in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, a number of councils are removing on-street parking spaces to allow for better social distancing among pedestrians, the introduction of cycle lanes or for cafes and pubs to host more diners ‘al fresco’ due to limited internal space. So, maximising revenue from their larger car parks by switching to pay-on-foot is also an opportunity to claw back this lost income.
Putting a system in place
There are a host of options to consider when introducing a new parking system, which will be influenced by factors such as the size of the entry and exit point and the type of barrier control required (this may be CCTV or a remote station, for example).
Given the current circumstances, contactless payment options are a key consideration, plus it’s always worth including measures that will help car park users feel reassured that their cars are parked safely and securely.
As local authorities are likely to own a number of sites across a town or city, a centralised control system allows the remote management of each car park, with the ability to restrict and limit access as necessary. This includes the opportunity to measure and manage the flow of users in their carparks, which gives them the chance to consider options such as adjusting charges around peak times, introducing season passes for commuters and offering free parking timeslots when appropriate.
Many local authorities may be put off by the thought of an up-front investment in parking technologies, but with the flexibility of a lease agreement, they can cover costs and begin making profit within a couple of months.
Well maintained car parks can play a key role in supporting town and city centres, while generating much-needed additional funds for local authorities faced with tighter budgets. Making payment options easy and flexible for workers, shoppers and visitors will help to encourage repeat trips into town at a time when this is more important than ever.
Ron Buck is parking revenue sales specialist at Bft Automation