Have you noticed when you are in the parking game that you can never get away from checking over the parking stuff when you travel somewhere new? You can never seem to get away from checking out the directional signage, on-street options, the car park offerings and so on. A curse or a blessing, you decide?
Have you ever had the groans from family or friends as you start to discuss a parking point of interest! Not that it stops us from donning the (invisible) parking anorak.
For example, recently I had travelled, with my pre-pandemic purchased tickets, for a re-arranged gig of guitar-wizard Jeff Beck in Row 3 of the beautiful Art Deco Sheffield City Hall. On the night we were also hit with the surprise arrival and performance of Johnny Depp, direct from the US libel trial and headline Hollywood news. Well, hi, ho silver lining!
En route my friend said the best place to park for City Hall is the Q-Park car park. I vaguely retorted, ‘Isn’t that the one with the security system to control access to keep out those who are not using the site for its intended purpose?’
This is something that we have considered for our own parking operation, evaluating the plusses and minuses. Anyway, it did what it says on the tin, it was fully pedestrian accessed controlled.
The car park was nicely situated for our plans, it had a mesh design exterior that looked a bit too busy for my taste. We drove straight into a (good sized) space, without the usual circulatory ramble up the floors. The inside was spotlessly clean, the bay floor had the feel of a newly laid surface I think I would have spent longer looking around, but my companion was more interested, understandably, in the night ahead. That is parking for you, not a destination itself but the gateway to a journey’s end, unless of course, like me, your parking gene has you always wanting to look at the nuts and bolts of the parking offering.
Après-gig, we pay at the machine outside to car park which validates your pedestrian re-entry. Signage informed us that CCTV was in operation, but no staff were seen, which was not an issue as it all felt very safe. We then walked round the site to the pedestrian entrance and met a couple who didn’t realise they had to pay and get a validated ticket to re-enter. More signage might have helped educate users at this point.
Cost for evening parking £10, more than I would usually pay at night, but the site and service were very good. Well done, to one and all at Q-Park. I would like to think that this informal benchmarking can be used by all of us to compare and contrast what we do and help to drive up standards across the board.
Thinking on, perhaps we can eventually run to some form of grading facilities for car parks which are a national benchmark, which the general public can understand. Similar perhaps to the one used by the hotel industry star ratings. These can still be confusing as they are referencing facilities but not actually a quality rating. Then again, the ratings are different to say Trip Advisor, Thomas Cook or Expedia. But it is generally understood by everyone that a five-star hotel is top end.
The Park Mark accreditation has been an ongoing successful tool to display to the user that sites are safe and inspected. It has, and continues to be, a real feather in the cap to the work of the British Parking Association and the police. I think that we also need something that goes further towards some more quantitative and qualitative grading on facilities provided.
For car parks it would need to be clear, easily understood system. Stars (or whatever symbol used) could be based on any number of factors, bay sizes, CCTV, staffing, payment methods, and so on. It could also involve a subjective rating on user feel, experience etc. It would help as a marketing aid for operators, proclaiming, for instance, we have a 5-star car park here ready for your visit. It would also help to drive up standards. Whilst also allowing the user to make a more informed decision on whether a car park rate is value for money.
Happy trips and travels to you all; and keep your parking eye open to look and learn. Let’s raise standards across the UK. My next stop is parking up down in creamy Cornwall.
The Secret Parking Manager works for a local authority in England
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