By Kristen Locke, CAPP


Parking apps and smart parking technology have modernized the parking experience to be more user-friendly and cost-effective. In addition to streamlining existing parking operations, digital solutions like ParkMobile include features that open up some exciting new parking options as well.

ParkMobile gives providers maximum flexibility to tailor parking to fit their needs with the ability to offer customers both On-Demand and Reservation parking. Since many of these features are relatively new to the scene, there’s often some confusion over the details of how these features work and when it’s best to use one, the other, or both.

To help you provide the best possible experience for your customers, we’ve made an easy guide to walk you through the how, when, and why of On-Demand and Reservation parking.

The Basics: On-Demand vs. Reservation Parking

On-Demand and Reservation parking are both useful tools that are offered through ParkMobile. Understanding the specific benefits and ideal uses of both services is a great way to strategically maximize your parking inventory and even potentially increase your revenue. But before going into how each service is used, let’s spend a little time going into the basics of what these two terms actually mean:

On-Demand: Quick, Easy Payment For Parking On-The-Go

On-Demand parking with ParkMobile gives parkers a convenient, up-to-date way to pay for parking when and how they need it. Put simply, On-Demand parking is the most like how you’d expect many paid on-street or non-gated parking areas to work today. Just like a parking meter or kiosk, On-Demand parking is indicated using street signs or stickers that direct users to pay electronically for a specific amount of time, allowing them to top up as needed without running back to the meter. ParkMobile’s On-Demand mobile payment options can stand alone or supplement existing parking hardware. Payment is handled through the ParkMobile app, on the web as a guest, or through an IVR system, so consumers can choose the payment method that works best for them.

Reservations: Stress-Free Way To Secure a Space In Advance

 Unique to digital parking solutions like ParkMobile, Reservations for parking are set up to let users prepay for a specific parking option in advance.  Parking inventory, all or just a subset, is allocated for pre-sale for parkers to reserve their parking in advance. ParkMobile provides multiple methods for operations to confirm and validate parking reservations upon arrival depending on the configuration of the parking location. The first way is by sending users a pass that can be scanned on arrival. The second is to have users input their license plate number, which ties the reservation directly to a particular vehicle.

Best Practices – When To Use On-Demand or Reservation

Now that we’ve laid out the basics of what each service is and how they work, the pressing question is how can you make the most of them? Both On-Demand and Reservation parking are great ways to modernize the parking experience and put your parking locations on the map. They also both help streamline parking operations by digitizing the overall process, which further reduces the need for manual tasks and maintenance.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about On-Demand and Reservation parking is that they aren’t mutually exclusive. Instead, the best way to maximize their impact is to tailor their use for specific use cases.

On-Demand: A Convenient Alternative for Metered and Zone Parking

On-Demand parking is best for paid parking zones where you have less control over the when, where, and why of parking. Think of paid parking for a street downtown, a parking garage, a lot at a shopping mall, or any typical area where paid parking is available for anyone to use.

The main advantage of On-Demand parking is its speed and convenience, giving customers an easy way to pay electronically when they’re on the go. Modern features like guest checkout,  notifications if time is running out, and the ability to top up remotely make parking easier, leading to better compliance and often more revenue.

Where On-Demand Thrives

  • On-Street Parking
  • Ungated Surface Lots and Garages
  • Visitor Parking
  • Daily Parking for Universities

 Benefits of On-Demand

  • Increases Compliance: The convenience and user-friendly interface of parking apps consistently lead to increased compliance.
  • Drives Revenue: When people have an easier way to pay, they are more likely to pay and top up parking instead of chancing a ticket, which leads to increased revenue.
  • Easier Enforcement: Tracking enforcement in the backend along with fewer paper tickets or hang tags simplifies operations.
  • Better Short-term Parking: Features like progressive price increases can help you automate short-term parking and close common enforcement loopholes.
  • More Customer Choice: On-Demand gives customers more ways to pay and creates opportunities to easily offer short-term parking options in underutilized long-term areas.
  • Safer, No-Contact Payment: Provides an option for people who prefer not to physically interact with meters or other payment hardware.

Reservations: A New Way to Sell Parking Spaces Online In Advance

The Reservation feature is ideal for places where you have total control over the where, when, and how of parking. Though pre-reserved parking has many potential uses, it’s most commonly used for areas that are more easily controlled like a parking garage.

Reservations ensure parking is available and prepaid, replacing any onsite payment where it’s used. For customers, reservations help reduce the stress that comes from searching for spaces and paying on arrival. It’s a unique offering for people who have an important business meeting downtown, special dinner reservations, or a set of concert tickets and want the peace of mind from securing a place to park days or even months in advance. Another benefit of earmarking spaces for reservation is that it puts your parking inventory on the map, making customers aware of underutilized areas via the web.

Where Reservation Parking Thrives

  • Event and Venue Parking
  • Gated Parking Lots and Garages
  • Attended Parking Locations
  • Premium Spaces for In-Demand Areas
  • Business-Reserved Parking

Benefits of Reservation Parking

  • Utilizes Off-Street Parking Inventory: People are generally happy to trade the “perfect” spot for the peace of mind of guaranteeing a space – allowing you to leverage underused off-street parking inventory.
  • Traffic Management Benefits: By encouraging people to pre-book parking, you can help cut down on the traffic congestion that often comes when people circle for an ideal spot at peak times or before an event.
  • Better Parking Visibility: Earmarking specific spaces provides better parking visibility both for users who want to plan ahead and for providers hoping to gain insight into future demand.
  • Opens New Monetization Strategies: Reserved spaces can be used to supplement existing on-demand parking with the ability to offer guaranteed or premium spaces at alternate rates.

There’s More Than One Right Answer

Every city, university, or operator will have their own parking challenges and opportunities. ParkMobile’s On-Demand and Reservation parking features are simply a way to give you more flexibility when you tackle them. At the end of the day, what may work for one place may not for you, but you always have a choice.


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