Mall Parking – Circulating Cars Are Not Shoppers, They're People Circulating in Cars!

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100% parking performance is difficult to achieve. To demonstrate this, picture a row of car parks. Each space has a car in it. As a car pulls out, another parks and takes its place, with no queuing, no double parking and no vacancy. This is the right number of customers that the car park resource can funnel into the mall. Too many cars, resulting in double parking and circulating, is a system where the managers do not have the car park resource operating correctly. Circulating cars are not shoppers, they're people sitting in circulating in cars!

In 2008, we were running a trial on parking enforcement in a mall in South Auckland. The mall owner was keen to see how our new 'camera car' was working so we started to use the mall as a trial. One part of the mall had a P90 restriction as it was adjacant to the local Courts, which customers were parking in the mall. The rest of the car park had staff dotted around and clogging up the best car parks during the day. Turning over car parks is one of the best ways of increasing through-put of customers per parking space and these two groups of people were lowering the car park turnover and consequentially causing a lower number of customers through the mall.

The car was fitted with two cameras mounted on the roof. The car would slowly work its way up the aisle and then in 90 minutes, come back to do it again. The abuse was incredible. The enforcement numbers climbed dramatically and so did the revenue to the mall owner. The phone call volumes to the mall management office and the parking turnover climbed as well. This was a major shift away from the parking spaces being self managing to an active management style. The system created free spaces for customers but also generated complaints. In the end, the mall company relented and asked us to slow the enforcement down a bit.

Mall owners have consistently said to me that when I want to raise a price to slow down the flow of cars into a mall car park because there are circulating cars, double parking, rage liabilities and property damage due due to congestion, then it will somehow hurt the mall's business. The approach is to clear out the car parks of all those who are not adding value to the mall, to make room for those who are adding value. That means staff, people who are parking from neighboring sites and contractors, should be moved on or asked to pay, so as to raise their value to equal that of the shopping customer. It must be learnt that people circulating in cars are NOT customers, they are just people circulating in cars in your car park because your parking spaces are not efficiently run and it is acting as a bottle neck to your business. Clearing out those who add less value is a sensible business decision. High performance parking inalls is also a sensible business decision.

Parking performance is simple enough to implement, even a poor mans version. It's the collection of data to see how well your parking space is operating, then analyzing the peaks and troughs, dividing your car parks up into zones, the distribution of high value customers to the best spaces and the restriction through price, time restriction or parking equipment to lower value customers to those spaces.

The best solution is to have exactly the right number of people parked in exactly the right number of car parks, with no circulating, double parking or vacancy … for as long a period during the day as you can get. Customers will be happier, retailers will be happier and people may enjoy going to your mall.