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Our Industry: Make Your Garage Safer, Better, & More Convenient 

Clyde Wilson

May 2024

We live in a world that is evolving a little more quickly than it did in the past.  In today's information-driven society, shortcomings are quickly highlighted on social media, rated, and virally sent out to your potential customers. Parking operators and managers must address shortcomings in a reasonable amount of time and do it professionally and proactively! I have been in this business for 43 years and safety was always something we paid attention to, but it was never a great concern in most facilities.  At the same time, you never want to let your guard down and allow the conditions that let something happen. Do I think we did a better job in the past addressing security issues than we do today? No. However, the threat assessment, both real and perceived, was much lower than it is today. Today, to provide safe and attractive facilities, good garage managers must proactively address lighting, cleanliness, and convenience. Safety in a parking facility, surface lot, or garage has two components: the first is to actually provide a safe area and the second is to keep up appearances so that customers realize they are parking in a safe area. Increase your facility’s secure ambiance by installing appropriate lighting, quickly cleaning up messes, and making your services easily accessible to your potential customers. If your facility has no record of any security issues but does not have the feeling of safety then it is easily deemed an unwanted location and passed over by future customers. 

Let’s start with the perceived threat.  The perceived threat, the feeling of being less safe is 100% within our control because the conditions that cause perceived threats are a part of our day-to-day management.  Security systems, adequate lighting, cleanliness, and functioning equipment create a safe and orderly parking area. Operators should prioritize the maintenance of these components because they create an inviting appearance both inside the facility and on the bordering sidewalks. Parkers who feel confident and comfortable in your facility will return again and again. The remainder of this short article discusses these components and some tips to implement high standards in your garage. 

Foot Candles (FC) measure light intensity. One FC is enough light to saturate a one-foot square with one lumen of light. The parking industry has a defined minimum standard for all the various locations in a facility: entry/exit lanes, drive isles, parking areas, pedestrian areas, and payment areas. Efficient lighting, products capable of producing higher levels of FCs with a strong reduction in power usage, are available through lighting professionals and some parking facility consultants. Carefully review darker spaces and improve lighting wherever needed. As operators and managers work to create a safe space, their efficacy has a dual role: it separates areas that are safe and well-managed from those that still feel threatening, so do not leave any areas with a gloomy vibe. Create the appearance of a safe and well-managed facility to make customers feel secure by providing a high level of lighting, cleanliness, and security presence. 

The team at TPN recommends regular assessments of your security staff, camera, and technology because security, both real and perceived, must be addressed in every garage. We have heard from both security personnel and many customers that there is a sharp increase in one perceived necessity: customers often feel that they need to have someone on the phone or be under a security personnel’s watchful eye as they travel to their car in a parking facility.  I have had more women customers in the last year than in my entire 43 years tell me that when they leave the office late, let's say 9 PM, to go to their car they feel they need someone either on the phone with them or watching over them.  In the past this was not a service security advertised (if asked, personnel usually would do what they could) but based on recent experience, to improve parking’s feeling of security this may be a service that is advertised and has security people trained to perform. 

Another part of our normal parking management jobs that greatly enhances the feeling of safety is cleanliness.  Our observations today seem to show that we are doing a better job for the most part than we did in the past, but this is a task that needs constant attention.  A facility that is not always maintained gives off the feeling that it is not being managed at all, which feels unsafe to customers. TPN evaluates many parking facilities every year, so we have enough hazardous stories to fill a book! Just last week, we were looking at a fairly new Medical Office Building (MOB) garage.  At 11 AM, we parked on the 6th floor and walked down. In that short promenade, we noticed the trash can at the elevator plaza for each floor was full, the trash can in the 3rd-floor garage lobby was full, and the monitor screen on the Pay-on-foot (POF) station had finger streaks because of an enormous amount of accumulated dust. It was abysmal! Hear this now: parking management is an all-encompassing job.  We manage traffic flow, availability, violations, financial management, Human Resources, Customer Service, Security, maintenance, and cleanliness.  The giant task of garage management demands a plan in place, a process to follow, and endless perseverance to make sure it all gets done. 

Finally, convenience. Parking convenience has two distinct categories: first is location and a structurally friendly building (which is not something we have a lot of control over), and second is the accessibility of information to be able to use the building. Look at your facility from your customer’s point of view and listen to your customer’s feedback. Do your customers have all the necessary information to be able to confidently get to and park in your garage?  We think of it in terms of the younger generation, my granddaughter, 22 years old, going downtown Houston to a concert or to a baseball game with me.  The first thing she does is grab her phone to look up parking, find her favorite location, and hope to make the reservation online. My wife and her 74-year-old sister do the same thing.  The granddaughter grew up this way and the wife and sister-in-law have wisely evolved to participate in this information-driven society and devices. Managers must make their facilities available and convenient for all potential customers. What can you do to make it easy – fun even – for all your customers to find, reserve, and pay for a parking spot in your well-lit garage? The online parking facility information that would greatly improve the convenience of your parking facility was not on TPN’s audit checklist 15 years ago, 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago; but today, it has its own section.   

Today, more than ever, you need to evaluate your management to ensure that it involves safety, and the perception thereof, and ensures your facility has maximized its convenience to potential customers. TPN hopes you will make your garage attractive with adequate lighting, provide security measures throughout your garage, and creatively spread the word that your garage is the best in Our Industry! 

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