Parking Influencer Interview Series: Mark Quealy
1 Feb 2018
The trend of smart cities is growing. Municipalities both large and small are looking into how to make their city run more efficiently and be user-friendly.
Parking in smart cities was a main topic of conversation at the 2017 International Parking Institute (IPI) Conference and Expo in New Orleans. While at IPI, the gtechna team spoke with industry leaders about what the future of parking might look like within the smart city trend. Mark Quealy had some interesting thoughts to share on the future of parking.
Mark has been the Parking Supervisor for Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania for the last 35 years. A typical day for him consists of overseeing the operations of two parking structures, seven service slots, and about 400 street meters. No wonder he has an interest in the future of parking!
How are you following the smart cities trend?
One pilot program we developed is for variable pricing in our digital meters in conjunction with data we retrieve through sensors in the street. We heard from merchants that a two-hour time limit was not meeting their needs, so we wanted to effectively meet their needs but also curtail people from parking on the street all day. With this variable parking system, we’re able to analyze through sensors and the back-office system of our digital meters. This gives us an idea of what we can charge and for what time periods. We instituted a third hour that is twice the price of the previous two.
How do you see parking growing within the smart cities trend?
I’ve heard some things about autonomous vehicles displacing the need for parking. Well, I have taken my kids to the amusement park, and the first thing they want to do is ride the bumper cars. They don’t want to sit in the passenger seat; they want to drive. So I think there is going to be a demand for driving and a place to park vehicles. There is a reason Lamborghini can charge half a million for a car. They don’t charge that for the privilege of sitting in the passenger seat; they charge half a million so that you can feel the power of the engine in your hands. So I don’t think the need for parking is going to change drastically in the near future.
In the parking industry, if there is more willingness between platforms and companies to share their data, then I think we can have great advancements in parking and enhancing the whole smart city experience. It’s not that people are taking other people’s pieces of the pie; it’s just that we are making a larger pie to work with, and I think it’s for the benefit of everybody.
In the evolution of parking, are there any current trends you have taken note of?
Cell phones. I have two children, one 20 and the other 13. When my wife and I are in the same room as them, we are all looking at our phones. I heard Google maps wants to incorporate the parking experience into the Maps function, and I think when you get somebody that big on the block to start exploring, that really pushes development. As an operator, if I can put my information in there, I think it will make the end user’s experience a lot more pleasurable. If it’s dispersed over 20 different apps, then the user won’t know where to look. When you get somebody like Google in the picture looking at parking, it’s going to benefit us all. It may be a threat to some, but in the end it’s definitely going to be beneficial to the parking industry and, as a small municipality, that is going to be a benefit for me.
Do you have any predictions for the future of parking in the next five to ten years?
You’re asking the wrong person because I once said that the stock market would never go over ten thousand. I have been proven wrong. Good thing I don’t bet and don’t invest in the stock market.
One of the topics of discussion at IPI was the reutilization of parking garages. I don’t see that happening in my lifetime. They’ll still be needed; we’ll just be changing the methods that we use. Drivers are going to the theatre, they’re going to want to park their car; after going to a sporting event, they’re going to want to get in their car and go home afterwards. People are less tolerant with waiting than any other time in history because we are now programmed for quicker responses. Maybe it’s my generation, but the idea that I can get into my car and go is what I grew up with, what I’m familiar with, and I don’t see that changing in the current generation. My son might have a different opinion because his generation has Uber and Lyft. So it may transition, but I don’t think that it’s going to happen quickly. I see a lot of things staying consistent… but improved.