How many times have you seen a driver circling around in a parking lot only to find out that the lot is full? How many times have you waited in a parking lot for someone to leave? How many times have you been asked: "Hey, where do you park around here?"
After the turn of the century with the fast pace adaptation of automobiles, the locations and the way churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, and other non-profit organizations operate also changed. While local parish gave way to regional centers and then soon mega-churches followed suit. Cars have played a crucial part in connecting places of worship with people.
PARKING MINIMUM POLICY EXPLAINED
When dealing with any parking operations and management, the initial step is to determine how many spots does your parking lot need? Parking is usually measured using the parking rate and parking ratio. Depending on the municipality, parking minimum, the minimum number of parking spaces required by the city, could be measured in rate or ratio. The rate is based on the area. For instance, a minimum rate of 22 per 100 square meters, means there must be a minimum of 22 parking spots per 100 square meters of building area. While parking ratio is the ratio between the number of seats in the facility and the number of parking spots required. For instance, a 500 seats facility at a 5:1 parking ratio means that there must be at least 100 parking spots for the building.
The City of Toronto has a parking minimum rate for new places of worship between 9 to 33 parking spaces per 100 square meters. The exact rate depends on several factors such as location, seating layout and more.
For existing buildings, a good rule of thumb is to aim for 1 parking spot for every 1.5-2 seats. For instance, a building with 100 seats would need between 50 - 67 parking spots.
Another way to check for sufficient parking is by the occupancy of the parking lot at the start of service. If the parking occupancy is above 70%, then it is likely that the facility does not have enough parking for the congregation. Before building a new parking lot or look into rebuilding the existing parking lot to fit more or fewer cars, the building management should determine the number of spaces that will fit the unique needs of the patrons, staff, and visitors.
4 WAYS TO DEAL WITH A FULL PARKING LOT
1. Public street parking: Looking into your municipality's bylaw may reveal that some streets have free parking on certain days of the week such as Sundays. In Toronto, many streets are free to park on Sundays until 1 pm. It's worth the time investment to understand whether patrons and visitors can park on the street around your building.
2. Leaders park off-site: It is also good practice to encourage or even require leadership to park further away from the building instead of in the reserved spots to increase parking capacity for visitors and show that the organization cares about service above all else.
3. Partnerships with nearby businesses: Sunday parking demand is usually the opposite for most businesses when compares to that of the church. By looking around your building to find a property owner or facility manager that is willing to rent parking spots to you when their spots are sitting empty could be another good approach to resolve the shortages for parking during peak hours of the week.
4. Shuttle rides: As a last resort, if the parking demand is so high that even remote parking lot would be needed, then offering shuttle buses from and to the remote parking lot could be a solution before deciding to build more parking spaces or to renovate the existing lot to accommodate more vehicles. Moreover, shuttle buses can also provide families and individuals living in another area easier access to your facility.
3 KEY ASPECTS OF PARKING LOT OPERATIONS
Other than ensuring the parking lot has sufficient availability, there are 3 more aspects of parking lot operations that non-profit and religious organizations can improve, as it is often the first impression for all visitors.
VISITOR REGISTRATION AND LOT ENFORCEMENT
A good parking software allows quick and easy self-serve visitor parking registration, which can be integrated with parking enforcement. This way building management team won't have to worry about parking violations such as non-visitors using your parking lot without consent or spend time manually registering visitor parking passes. The newer parking operator who leverages technology is able to swiftly and efficiently issue parking tickets to violators and if needed tow the vehicle at the driver's expense. As a bonus, the building owner can access a wide range of information through their mobile device or laptop for parking information such as
who is parking at the facility, how long have they parked, how many tickets do they have, and more detailed information about the specific driver or car.
FUNDING OPPORTUNITY WITH UNUSED SPACES
With the huge variation in demand for parking throughout the week, more and more non-profits and places of worship are starting to embrace the concept of sharing economy. Many facilities are located near trains or subway stations. Many commuters are looking for parking between Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm.
An above ground parking lot with 70 spots in North York within 5-10 minute walking distance of a TTC station could profit up to $84,000 per year after all fees
Renting out unused parking does not impact congregation or visitor parking with proper enforcement and the ability for the church to have full control of the schedule and availability of parking. It is also a great gesture to the nearby community and a potential channel to attract new patrons and victors who park at your church before heading off to work. We have seen churches X2 their annual revenue by simply renting out their unused spaces.
MINIMAL BUT EFFECTIVE OPERATIONS
For the existing parking lot, make sure to keep up with the maintenance such as patching potholes and resurfacing on an annual or bi-annual basis. It the maintenance is not kept up, there could be major renovations as a consequence that would require massive funding. Overall, parking is an important aspect of any church and non-profit organizations, as it acts as the first impression for first time comers. It also provides financial benefits to the church if properly operated. Moreover, with a technology-driven parking operator such as GoParkr and ParkAI, the church owner does not have to worry about parking violations, visitor parking, and full parking lot for congregations, instead to be able to focus on running the church and being an amazing place of worship.
PARKING IMPROVEMENTS CHEAT SHEET
Short on time? Here a list of quick 9 bullet points cheats sheet on how to improve parking at your facility, 1 min 30 seconds reading time:
1. Volunteers to act as temporary greeters in the parking lot. The first impression doesn't happen when they enter the building, it happens at the parking lot.
2. 80% rule applies to parking. When the lot is about 80% full, from the outside it will look "full" to patrons and drive potential patrons away from parking at the lot
3. Increase the number of handicap spaces if necessary. Understand your patrons' profiles, and if there a need for more handicap spots you can exceed the city requirement to better accommodate your patrons.
4. Calculate the proper number of visitor parking. A rule of thumb is to have 1 parking spot per 1.6-2 attendees.
5. Designated spots for high priority individuals. People such as expected mothers and people over the age of 80 should be able to park closer to the building.
6. Update or remove ugly and poorly designed signage. Ensure the first impression is impressive, not depressive.
7. Clear marking on the parking lot. This reduces any confusions to where to park
8. Remove or reduce reserved parking for staff. Encourage the leaders to park off-site. This enhances the vision of service and creates more spaces for visitors
9. Ensure visitors can park close to the church. This increases the retention of the church by further removing the obstacles of getting to the church.
Parking is an important aspect of any church, as it acts as the first impression. It can also provide financial benefits to the church if properly operated. Moreover, with a technology-driven parking operator such as GoParkr and ParkAI, the church owner does not have to worry about parking violations, visitor parking, and full parking lot for congregations, instead to be able to focus on running the church and being an amazing place of worship. For a free 20 min assessment to see how your church parking compares to other peers and what your peers are doing to improve their parking operation and management. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Frank Jing, Strategy & Operations at GoParkr