Many of the garages that SP Plus, a Chicago-based company, manage nationally use hands-free at the gate and mobile payments “to create a seamless experience,” said Jeff Eckerling, manager said the company’s growth director. Overall, the company monitors “more than two million” parking spaces in thousands of locations, including more than 70 airports, he said.
Despite touchless technology, stay-at-home restrictions were introduced more than a year ago as the coronavirus devastated the garage business. An empty parking lot is like an empty subway car, a baseball stadium without fans.
“Our entire industry has been hit very hard, from hotels to airports to event venues,” Mr. Eckerling said.
It’s no surprise, he said, that New York City was one of the first to reinstate parking. “If you go back four months, we were almost at pre-Covid levels,” he added. “A lot of workers already take public transit, but just a small number getting back to the office and driving creates a real win for our business.”
The history of garages in the United States is not particularly romantic. Most reports date public garages as early as the early 1930s, a time when car ownership began to expand. Car “drivers” solved this problem, and cars were often placed on pedestals and moved to empty spaces.
In the 50s, a boom of buildings filled neighborhoods with garages, making it easier for people to shop and do business. The mid-20th century also brought in the introduction of multi-story garages with ramps and “do-it-yourself” parking.
Some parts of the Flash vision went into effect recently in Hoboken, NJ, where the company partnered with LAZ Parking in one of its garages. High-tech cameras at the two entrances are programmed to read license plates to identify cars for which drivers can prepay online, or have a monthly residency contract, or just want an hourly ticket . (No need to get one from the machine; just wave your hand on the screen and the ticket will be issued.)