The history of parking is arguably framed by hassles.
Whether it was finding a spot to squeeze into beside a meter on Main Street USA, inside an expensive city garage or outside a packed stadium for a concert or sporting event, parking used to mean scrambling for quarters or cash and paying at a meter or terminal somewhere on the street or in a garage.
That old method, while still familiar to many drivers, presented plenty of headaches for drivers and parking providers alike.
For customers, collecting the coins or cash was often a hassle, and paying at a central location could mean inconvenient walks to the payment terminal, in the opposite direction of their vehicles. It also meant waiting for other customers to finish their transactions, which could turn a quick shopping trip into a longer affair or cause eventgoers eager to get back on the road after a concert or game to get stuck in endless traffic. And for parking vendors, those inconveniences could mean unhappy customers and money spent paying employees to attend to customers needing to pay or customers looking to take off without paying their bill.
But mobile payments are starting to change all that. Companies like parking platform provider ParkHub are using the technology that powers mobile payment terminals, digital wallets and smartphone apps to make paying for parking an easier experience. In fact, according to George Baker, the company’s founder and CEO, the entire future of the parking industry could depend on the integration of modern, mobile payment methods.
PYMNTS recently caught up with Baker to discuss bringing mobile payments to parking and how technology is helping to build a better parking lot.
Convenience and crowd control
Two of the biggest problems parking operators and garages are constantly looking to solve, according to Baker, are convenience and crowd control.
In order to maximize the number of cars that can park in a certain garage, lot or street and the amount of revenue those cars can pull in, Baker said that most merchants are looking to offer easy ways to let customers pay while helping vendors keep track of what cars are entering and leaving the lot and to keep those who try to avoid paying from getting away scot- (and payment-) free.
As a result, ParkHub has partnered with several providers to offer ParkMobile smartphone apps that enable parkers to pay their fees via a mobile wallet. These systems allow lot and garage operators to see how full their lot is, which spots are taken and the length of time that cars have been parked. Consumers pay for parking with a few taps of their smartphone, rather than having to find a payment terminal to complete the transaction.
“Within the past five years, there has been this idea of, let’s move people to paying with an application,” Baker said. “The reason being that now we can bypass the way traditional, obsolete transactions have been done while offering the customer the ability to pay faster and more conveniently, by way of an electronic form of payment.”
And mobile apps aren’t the only tech that hold promise for the parking industry. Baker noted that equipping employees with technology like a mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) reader, such as Verifone’s e315 terminal with ParkHub’s cashier platform included, can turn any lot attendant into a mobile payment terminal, which can assist large venues like stadiums in better handling large crowds that frequently rush to the exits (and parking terminals) at the same time.
The company has partnered with several organizations, including the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium and San Francisco’s new Levi’s Stadium. It was also behind parking at this year’s Super Bowl matchup at Houston’s NRG Stadium.
Parking’s imminent mobile future
Baker told PYMNTS that he believes these new mobile payment innovations are only the start of what this new technology can offer the parking industry. He predicted that before long, paying for parking via cash will likely go the way of leaded gasoline, as more companies and consumers alike embrace mobile wallets and other forms of payment. He noted that advancements in technology surrounding payments and automobiles holds massive potential for the parking industry.
For example, he said, technology of all kinds is being integrated into automobiles at an increasingly fast rate. Car entertainment systems, which until recently used to be comprised simply of an AM/FM radio and a CD player, can now download music, give live directions and even search the web. He said that he expected payment technology to soon be loaded into these increasingly autonomous vehicles, allowing paying for parking to be simpler than ever.
“The connected car holds a lot of promise for parking payments,” Baker said. “We at ParkHub are of the mind that pretty soon, all vehicles are going to offer things like autonomous parking mode in all parking areas, and with that is going to come the ability to make a payment via a car’s connected information or entertainment systems.”
With the potential that mobile payments holds for the parking industry, it may not be long before hassle-filled parking payments are a thing of the past. And, as a result, could the seventh-inning dash for the stadium parking lot become a relic of a bygone era? Technology, after all, isn’t called a game changer without reason. Hold onto your mobile ticket stubs …
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