In the February edition of the newsletter, my colleague Jason Kinikin wrote a piece about our process of facilitating a return to office after extended remote working during the pandemic. On this journey, we discovered that flexible working requires a new level of flexibility from facilities, including the staff parking garage.
Purchasing a monthly parking permit wasn’t going to be attractive to staff when they were only coming into the office a couple days each week. Additionally, this system would leave spots empty on days the permit holders worked from home while staff attending the office without a permit would be forced to park in a public lot down the road. Offering staff parking for a fee allows our organization to recover facilities operating costs.
Moving to a daily parking permit system would demand time from our facilities and finance teams to process requests, schedule bookings, manage payments, and handle any issues.
We thought there must be a better way and quickly discovered there was - parking management software! We engaged with a few vendors, but after careful consideration chose Parkable.
Why we chose Parkable…
Parkable’s software is widely regarded as the best solution in the industry. It’s used by leading employers like Meta, KPMG, and Siemens around the world, plus, the company had local and sector specific experience having already rolled out at the office of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, just 10 minutes drive away.
The Parkable platform has 2 components, an app and an admin dashboard. Using the Parkable app, staff with an allocated stall can share it with their colleagues on days they’re not in the office. Staff without a dedicated parking spot at work can use the app to book, access, and pay to use a shared pool and any allocated spots that have been released. Facilities Managers use the admin dashboard to view activity in real-time, make visitor bookings, and monitor infringement reports.
Preparing for launch…
Upon kick off with Parkable, we were assigned a dedicated Customer Success Manager (“CSM”) for our onboarding. Parkable knows that its product is powerful but recognises that it’s worthless if nobody understands or uses it! In our organization, as with most, change is usually met with resistance and we were really expecting this given parking is a sore point.
First, our CSM engaged with myself and my teammates to set up the platform to match our facilities and goals. The Parkable platform can be configured to match any style of parking and is completely flexible so things can change as required. We landed on a mixed set up with some stalls allocated to senior members of staff, some stalls in a pool for our workforce to book as required, and some dedicated guest stalls for visiting clients or partners. We set the casual staff parking rate at $12 a day, a competitive price for our area.
Second, our CSM trained us on how to navigate around the admin dashboard to find information we wanted and perform tasks. The admin panel has been designed in a user friendly and intuitive way so it only took about an hour to become familiar with the real-time activity panel, the comprehensive reporting suite, and the member management section.
Finally, our CSM worked with me to design a customized change management programme for the rollout. With staff primarily working from home at this time, the plan was digital first and involved email communications to our different user groups, a webinar to demonstrate how to use key features of the app, pre-written answers to frequently asked questions, and step-by-step instructional guides with how to videos.
We were pleased with the level of engagement in this change program, we had a high number of webinar attendees and received lots of questions. Generally, there was a positive reception to the introduction of Parkable as it was going to make parking at the office more flexible and equitable.
Our launch, challenges and solutions…
We launched Parkable on Monday the January of 24th, at the peak of the omicron wave. While the number of staff coming into the office was low, we quickly saw uptake from this group. Within the first month, 45 of our staff had created profiles in the app, and 21 had booked daily parking. Additionally, 2 of our 4 allocated parkers released their bay to their colleagues on days they didn’t require it.
In these early days our CSM was continuously touching base with us to gather feedback and share insights. 6 weeks following the launch, we were able to tell the average occupancy of our 48 stalls was low. At its peak, it reached 40%.
We own our building and lease superfluous space to subtenants, however, maintain sole usage rights for the parking garage. In March 2022, our subtenants, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Endocrine Society, were beginning to open their offices to their staff. As Parkable reports were showing our staff alone weren’t utilizing the full parking garage, we decided to make 6 stalls available for our subtenants staff members to use. We priced these stalls at $13 per day, slightly higher than our preferential staff rate. Our CSM supported us with configuring this change in the platform and providing communications templates.
When we made our garage available to subtenants we had to grant all building swipe cards garage access too. This led to people abusing this access and parking without a Parkable booking in our spots. The Parkable app crowdsources infringements, allowing users to report vehicles for stealing their assigned stall. This automatically redirects the affected driver to an alternative spot and sends the infringing vehicle a warning message, if the plate is registered to a Parkable profile. Where plates were unidentified, our facilities team would leave a notice on the vehicle, however, this was not a sustainable solution.
Parkable has an access control integration whereby a gate can have a small device attached to it, connecting it to the Parkable system. With this, drivers with a valid parking booking or an allocated stall can press a button in the Parkable app which opens the garage door. We acquired one of these devices from Parkable, had it installed by a trusted electrician, and deactivated garage permissions on swipe cards so it became practically impossible for unauthorized drivers to gain access to the parking garage. The entry button is also available to visitors so staff members no longer need to meet their guests at the garage entrance to swipe them in - a much smoother experience.
Reflecting on almost a year of using Parkable, I am really happy with the results achieved and the level of support from their team. Our staff love using the app, and have reported in surveys a 100% satisfaction rating. Our finance department is also pleased with the $1000 profit we make each month from parking.
Solving workplace parking problems is vital to an effective facility management program, but it's also a complicated proposition. Managing parking lots at scale will quickly become more complex than you may have bargained for.
The workplace is changing. Even in the last 3 years, tenant needs have changed, demanding greater flexibility, improved amenities and more of a focus on workplace experience.
If you have workplace parking spots and want to...
...feel free to get in touch!