Survey Says…

Parkers want electronic payment and are in fact willing to pay more for this option!

How many times have you been in a meeting with a client or within your own company and folks start making claims and taking stances on topics that leave you slightly nodding (not in agreement but in acknowledgement that you are hearing them) thinking you would love to see the backup? You don’t call them out on it because you don’t want things to get awkward or counterproductive. We’ve all been there!

Our company loves numbers and we are a bunch of nerds so before putting stakes in the ground we like to see what people are actually saying and try to test our hypotheses. About three years ago we set out to see if the parking community was ready to abandon cash so we took to the streets of Minneapolis, MN and surveyed people on the following focus points:

  • Would credit/debit only be a problem?
  • What is the preferred method of payment?
  • Are attendants valued by parkers?
  • Is monthly parking a necessity?

To ensure results remained independent we handed out surveys that were folded neatly in a pre-stamped envelope ready for delivery.

Below is a summary of one part of the survey. Participants were asked to rank on a scale of 1-5 the importance of each parking facility feature with 5 being ‘Most Important’ and 1 being ‘Least Important’.

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Additional data points worth highlighting from the survey:

  • 100% of parkers have a credit or debit card
  • 82% of parkers prefer to pay with credit or debit
  • 81% of parkers would park in a lot that only accepts debit/credit
  • Parking attendant on duty ranked least important
  • Accepting cash was next least important

The results do not come as surprising. What is shocking is the responses we hear from parking providers when discussing adding electronic payment options to their facilities – especially in situations where they currently have cash only operations (meters, cash drop boxes, envelopes…yes there are still lots where you write your LPN and place the cash in an envelope!!).

20 years from now we can’t envision a parking world with all this cash floating around, nor an environment dealing with those tickets that you can never keep track of.  There has been a big push toward electronic payment in the parking industry moving away from cash; however, the majority of providers we have spoken to are reluctant to make the move towards adding electronic payment even with keeping cash as an option.

We have heard a wide range of concerns and comments. Here are a few quotes:

  •  “Why do I want to add another line item to my expenses?”
  • “This will make things more complicated”
  • “We’re happy with the way things are. We don’t need to change anything”
  • “I don’t want to raise my rates for supporting credit cards”
  • “My lot is full without having the option of credit cards”

Yes, we know that there is added costs that you must face with the merchant processors as we wrote in a prior post. In the end, some folks will see that adding electronic payment will enhance customer satisfaction, increase transparency, and most of all boost revenue! We spoke to one municipality in Florida that said its revenue went from $900k per year to $3.2mm by adding electronic payment as an option and keeping everything else the same in terms of rates. Among other points, they mentioned that parkers started to think of parking in terms of how much time they need not how much change they had in their pocket.

We would love to hear from you. Why are parking providers reluctant to make what we believe is a necessary change to adding electronic payment to their facilities? Help us comprehend this dynamic, despite all the empirical evidence and consumer feedback, why we don’t see adoption happening much faster.

Also, if you have other data points you want to share with the broader parking family, send them along!