In the wake of
the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, people’s behaviour and patterns have changed in response to the virus as part of a society-wide fight to slow the spread and flatten the curve.
Many of the practices adopted during the peak of the fight against the virus are now society’s expectations, even as more people get vaccinated against the virus and places begin reopening. In other words, COVID-19 has changed the world and the way we do things forever. Businesses, cities, and households are making changes in this new world that we live in.
This White Paper uses real data and insights from across the mobility and transportation industry in the last 18 months to give providers of parking context about the size and scale of the challenges on the horizon, and highlight the ways the parking experience needs to adapt.
It’s always easy to point out the problems, but not everyone can talk about solutions. That’s why this White Paper not only seeks to point out the challenges providers of parking will face, but will also offer solutions. Many new terms, practices, and ways of doing things have become the norm in an attempt to fight the virus.
There’s a lot of data out there at the moment, from a range of sources. Our aim with this White Paper was to pull it all together to show providers of parking at all sizes and scales that the industry needs to change and adapt with COVID-19 friendly ways of interacting with their customers.
Surveys & Data
There has been an unprecedented decrease in the use of public transport as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic across the whole United States of America.
And the data collected from regular users suggests that this will never recover to pre-pandemic levels.
Recent surveys conducted by public transit authorities and data collected by Google from their users shows a trend that should concern providers of parking.
However, if you look at the reasons why people are avoiding public transit, there are some clues for people in the parking industry about changes that can be made to parking as a product that makes a journey more seamless in the post-COVID-19 world.
The California Transit Association
In Northern California, The California Transit Association conducted a survey of a random sample of the most frequent Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) users in the San Francisco Bay Area.
53% of the respondents said that they will either reduce or stop riding altogether, even once fully vaccinated, 53%
with a further 69% saying the reason was based on public health concerns.69%
46% of users who used services provided by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, who deliver light rail, bus, and paratransit services for commuters, more than once a week said that they were highly unlikely to ever return to public transit following the pandemic.46%
Metrolink, Los Angeles
The same is true in Southern California.
A survey of all regular users of Metrolink, Los Angeles' commuter rail service revealed that:
Metrolink Users Surveyed
45% would either reduce their frequency travelling to under 1 day a week or stop altogether.
Data from Google COVID-19
Community Mobility Reports
Data from Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports shows that, even as California eases COVID-19 restrictions in 2021 and people return to public places like restaurants, cafes, shopping centers, grocery stores, national parks, beaches at pre-pandemic levels, usage of transit stations is down around 40% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Insights in the Google Mobility reports are created with aggregated, anonymized sets of data from users who have turned on the Location History setting on their Google Device or account. Each Community Mobility Report is broken down by location and displays the change in visits to places like grocery stores and parks by millions of users.
A 2020 survey
Global Public Transport Report 2020
A 2020 survey titled “Global Public Transport Report 2020” looked at the travel habits of the entire populations of 104 cities in 28 countries.
Respondents in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area showed clear trends:
46% would like to pay for public transportation rides by a contactless mobile app46%
36% would like to know in advance which vehicles were crowded,36%
28% would like to be notified by mobile app which vehicles had been disinfected recently28%
It’s clear that there is a new reality when it comes to people’s mobility.
Private vs Public Transport
California is one of the world’s biggest markets for private vehicles,
with urban development based around the wide-spread usage of cars; but it’s always been supported by a reasonably high usage of public transport.
Why are cars more popular in California compared with other parts of the United States? Particularly, for example, the East Coast of the USA.
In short, it’s cultural.
Cars, or private transport more broadly, are associated with freedom. Freedom of movement, not being restricted by the rigid schedules of public transport, and the freedom to go from point A to point B without needing to adhere to the locations where public transport stops.
Los Angeles, being a relatively modern city, went through much of its development as a large urban area following the mass adoption of private motor vehicle, meaning people could be connected based on the connectivity of roads, unlike the older East Coast cities connected by rail lines.
Roads & Freeways
Ultimately for California, but Los Angeles especially, this dependence on the car has led to large, sprawling cities, connected by roads and freeways, with public transport lower in priority, because people are connected on a more ad-hoc basis
TV, music, and film, of which a large proportion is based in Hollywood, have also romanticised and created a culture around private vehicle ownership on a scale not seen in many other places in the world. Cliché scenes of drivers cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway.
Yes it’s true that California and Los Angeles in particular has always been a car-dominated state, but it’s always been supplemented by a reluctant percentage of the population who have caught public transit.
In pre-pandemic 2019, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim and San Francisco-Oakland led the way in hours spent in congestion per year in the United States of America.
Even with public transit use at normal California levels pre-pandemic,
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim drivers spent 119 hours, or nearly 5 total days, delayed in congestion
While those in San Francisco-Oakland spent 103 hours, or over 4 days, in congestion.
So what does this all mean?
Change and a
The way we move has changed forever. Just as the way we interact with public spaces and the people around us has. In the space of 18 months, we’ve all become arm-chair epidemiologists, we are now hyper aware with phrases like bubble, contactless, contact tracing, and sanitize part of our everyday life.
California is reopening.
Stay at home orders are lifting and the data shows us that there is a desire to get out and about after a long period of time being stuck at home and people are returning to public places. It won’t be long before more and more people are vaccinated and visits to public places return to pre-pandemic levels.
Post-pandemic and data from surveys of Californians who used public transport before are saying that they’re unlikely to return to it because of fear for public health and a lack of contactless options to pay and a lack of social distance.
California is famous for congestion.
In 2019, data shows us that California led the USA for time spent stuck in traffic, even with public transport servicing a high level of the population.
All of this means: the demand for parking is going to increase as people return to their normal lives, but ditch public transport in favour of more usage of cars.
How does your parking need to change to keep up?
All of this data shows that there is going to be a significant increase in people driving, meaning more people parking their vehicle at their destination.
COVID-19 restrictions lifting meaning people can now get back out and about; fewer people using public transport to get there meaning more people travelling to places by car, no longer supplemented by public transit.
If you’re not prepared, this could mean more crippling congestion in your parking lot, leading to a negative first experience when your users arrive.
This may also lead to a reduction in users, as people seek other options or choose to change their behaviour if parking is not accessible enough.
How can you accommodate an increase in parking users, build more parking to keep up with demand?
This comes at a huge financial expense, with construction industry data showing an average cost of $20,000 per space for surface lots and $50,000 per space for a garage or structure, as well as the environmental impact and cost of converting existing space to parking.
You may have enough parking capacity now, it may just not be being utilized to its maximum potential. Without any reliable and accurate data collection tools, it is difficult to truly measure utilization.