After COVID-19: Predicting The New Normal

Virtual Panel Interview: The New Normal

Passport recently hosted a virtual panel discussion, moderated by Stephen Goldsmith, advisor to Passport and professor of Government at the Harvard Kennedy School of Public Policy, that explored the path to city recovery post COVID-19.  Stephen was joined by thought leaders from around the country for a conversation on the transformation of the mobility industry, and how we will interact with streets and sidewalks in the future. Here are some key takeaways:

Cities will look for new ways to increase parking revenue

With the likelihood of mass transportation usership declining in large cities post pandemic, parking remains an affordable and necessary mobility option, so it’s going to be an important factor when looking for ways to help increase revenue when life returns to the new normal. Gabe Klein, Partner at CitiFi, explained that a new practice that he is seeing grow in popularity is “pay-by-the-minute” which he and other city leaders feel can have a big impact on revenue. Because most people are sensitive to not exceeding their parking time limits, parking sessions would become  as short as possible, promoting turnover. This in turn would help local businesses in the recovery process by enabling more access to the curb, and the flow of people through business districts. 

Another way to increase parking revenue post pandemic is to charge for loading zones. Cities, like Pasadena, CA and Austin, TX, have begun updating parking rules to convert once full commercial loading zones into paid commercial loading zones in the morning and paid passenger loading zones (Uber, Lyft, Valet, etc) in the evening. This ultimately has allowed both cities to reduce commercial and passenger zones, which adds more capacity for parking zones. By charging for these loading zones, typically by the minute, a city can increase their overall revenue in a new way that modernizes their parking operations.

Once manual processes will become automated

City leaders, parking directors and parking enforcement officers all want to understand the activity on their streets and sidewalks, and thus have always had boots on the ground operations. In the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the reality is that these same leaders are now looking for ways to enforce and manage their parking operations using digital platforms. This digital transformation would reduce the amount of interactions between enforcement officers, city hardware and residents, and ultimately becomes a safer, healthier and more efficient operation.  

But how would this look? Some cities, like Cambridge, MA, have begun dynamically pricing in difficult to enforce areas. For instance in commuter train lots, instead of enforcing and writing citations, they simply reduce the charge for the first two hours of a parking session and significantly increase the price of parking after the allotted two hours. With dynamic pricing, the same practice could be applied to automate enforcement, charging $1 for the first hour, $2 for the second hour, $8 for the third, $25 for the whole day, etc.

The need for asset free operations will force equitability

In a time where meters, cash and even credit cards are deemed “dirty,” moving to mobile pay parking only operation seems like the logical step. However, many cities are apprehensive to make the transition. Even for Cambridge, MA, where paying for parking with a mobile app counts for 60% of all parking transactions, the thought of removing parking payments options post COVID-19 is hard to fathom. The issue with asset free operations has always been equitability. The common misconception is people don’t have access to smartphones, when in fact 81% of Americans actually do. Most parking leaders agree that solving for the unbanked is the bigger issue, and it will need to be solved in our new normal. 

Austin, TX has begun exploring ways to move to a digital only parking environment by reducing meters and pay stations in certain areas to force utilization of the city’s parking app while providing more education on how it works. Similarly, Austin city leaders have made it clear to the community that micro and shared mobility services are essential modes of transportation.  They are currently using data from micro and shared mobility sources to re-allocate and push these as equitable modes of transportation in underserved areas post COVID-19.

Last but not least, we will begin to see multi-tenancy grow in our new normal. Now more than ever people want choices in how they pay. Cities with one back-end operating system that connects to multiple apps will promote equitable and accessible forms of mobility. 

In these uncertain times, we are navigating new practices and leaning on each other to prepare for the new normal post COVID-19. As your partner, Passport is here to help and welcomes conversation