By Brad Goldman, VP of Analytics & Insights
A Rollercoaster of a Year
COVID-19 has had a major impact on the parking industry, as seen in Chart #1 below. It was a wild ride. In March 2020, as the pandemic came to America, the nation shut down and parking volumes declined by 80% in only a few weeks. In April, transactions began to gradually increase as the recovery began. For several months in the middle of 2020, it appeared that parking transactions were trending back to pre-COVID levels. In the late fall, COVID-19 cases started to spike and continued rising through the end of 2020 and into 2021. Data shows that as COVID-19 cases grew, people were going out less often, and parking transactions started to trend back down. As we enter 2021, volumes have yet to reach their pre-COVID levels.
Large Cities vs. Small Cities
ParkMobile’s data from 2020 shows that larger cities fared better than smaller ones. Chart #2 below shows the Top 10 cities (by population) in America did not see steep declines in parking transactions as much as the smaller markets did, and they have recovered faster than smaller cities. The parking volume in those Top 10 cities has stabilized or increased, while volume in smaller areas has declined during the fall and winter months. This speaks to the high demand for parking in large cities with a dense urban core and more essential workers.
The Growth in Beach Parking
One interesting story about 2020 was the growth of parking transactions in beach communities. With limited vacation options, children out of school, summer camps canceled, and many people needing a break, beach parking numbers soared. Chart #3 below shows that parking transactions in beach communities outpaced the rest of the country.
While transactions for cities and universities continue to be well below 2019 levels, beach parking is actually outperforming 2019. Expect Summer 2021 to be another big year for the beach communities as vacation options are still limited due to COVID-19.
Reservations Coming Back
One of the significant impacts of COVID was on parking reservations at major venues. Early in 2020, all the major entertainment venues in the U.S. shut down. There were no concerts or sporting events that allowed fans in the building. Towards the end of 2020, reservations have started to come back, as seen in Chart #4. Some venues are letting a limited number of fans in, and many live events are being scheduled for the summer months. Parking reservations will continue to grow as more people get vaccinated and feel comfortable going back to see live entertainment.
Commuting has Changed (Forever?)
ParkMobile conducted research with thousands of users to gauge how COVID has changed their behavior. The biggest change was people stopped going into the office. Chart #5 shows that in 2019, people spent an average of 34 hours per week in the office. Last year it was only 18 hours, driven by the 63% who went fully or mostly remote.
One big unknown for the parking industry is the future of the workplace. Will people return to the office or continue to work from home? Chart #5 shows that over half of people expect to spend less time in the office in 2021, with fully 43% of them mostly or fully remote.
However, the way people get to work is also changing. Chart #6 shows people overwhelmingly decreased their use of public transportation and ride-sharing, while increasing personal vehicle usage. So, while fewer people are commuting, more people will drive when they go to work.
The Waiting Game
Currently, the U.S. is also vaccinating around 4 million people a week, and millions of Americans have received at least their first vaccination dose. Over the next several weeks, the most vulnerable and exposed populations will be immune to COVID. According to the experts, we expect to be on the other side of the virus by summer 2021. We will have to wait and see when parking volumes return to pre-COVID levels. But there is clearly light at the end of the tunnel.
As more people get vaccinated, they will start going out again, so we expect to see big increases in parking transactions later in 2021. ParkMobile will be ready!