Future of parking: ‘more cars and mobility hubs’
Philippe Op de Beeck, the (Belgian) CEO of the American Apcoa Parking Group that manages from its HQ in Stuttgart 1,4 million parking spaces on 9.000 locations internationally, is not afraid to get out of business soon. “There will be more instead of fewer cars with the autonomous car coming”, he tells financial newspaper, De Tijd, in an interview.
He sees cities banning the car from their centres as an opportunity with more need for ‘mobility hubs’ where people can change from one means of transport to the other and emerging new services in parking garages you wouldn’t immediately think off: like mobile kitchens.
When first asked for the job of ‘parking CEO’, he had no idea managing parking could be such an ‘exiting job’, he admits. When asked what possibly could be so exiting about parking, he replies: “Parking facilities are the end point of mobility. Everybody comes to go and do something else for here”.
Managing instead of owning
Apcoa manages parking at railway stations, airports, hospitals, shopping centres and city centres. “We never own the parking buildings and don’t have to invest 50 million in a parking lot, but offer long-term management with guaranteed income, higher return and higher real estate value for the owner.” Fifty percent of all parking in Europe today is still managed by the owners themselves.
For Op de Beeck cities banning cars from the streets are an opportunity. “Cities want to discourage parking above ground and there parking spaces will continue to decrease. That’s good if they are compensated with underground parking and parking facilities at the city edge. We can already manage 2.000 park & ride places outside Brussels and tomorrow the Brussels Regions plans another 8.000.”
Not too expensive (yet)
He doesn’t agree that people are fed up with high parking prices. “Parking places might be expensive, but they are scarce. If they were too expensive, they would be empty”, Op de Beeck says. With more cities making parking on the street more expensive (like Amsterdam charging 7,5 euro per hour e.n.), also underground parking spaces will get more expensive, he believes.
Digitizing makes people more willing to pay, he claims. “In Scandinavia we have parking facilities where it isn’t possible anymore to pay cash. Our cameras recognize the number plate and payment is done automatically with the app. The barrier will open automatically”, he says. “In Germany 70% of people still pay cash.”
‘Look at London’
He is not convinced the autonomous car will reduce the car fleet by half in the future. “In that case Germany would go bankrupt”, he laughs. “Look at London. By introducing the congestion charge the number of private cars has decreased, but taxis and Ubers have increased with 60%.”
“Price setting will play a major role. My children who live in London pay 2,80 pound for sharing a taxi for 20 minutes with two others. Sharing models like Uber are already so cheap, that more people will prefer to step into a car instead of sharing a bus with 50 others. It will increase car traffic in the cities.”
Asked how a parking garage will look in 20 years, Op de Beeck is convinced that there will still be a lot of cars and parking garages becoming mobility hubs offering different new services apart from different transport means.
“We already have ‘Amazon delivery walls’ in some of our parking buildings”, the CEO says. “Volvo is working on a system to deliver goods in the trunk of your car with a code.
“At our shareholder in London meal delivery companies like Deliveroo and Uber are driving in and out constantly every minute at noon. Parking garages could accommodate mobile kitchens in the future for instance. That kind of services is likely to be found in parking buildings in the future”, Op de Beeck suggests.
Apcoa Parking Group, the former Airport Parking Corporation of America, was founded in 1947 in Ohio (US) and is owned now after several take-overs by the US venture capital fund, Centerbridge Partners. In Belgium it runs a number of parking garages in Antwerp and Brussels and it manages on-street parking fees in Antwerp, Leuven, Tienen and Vilvoorde.
The group is active on 9.000 locations in 13 countries and realizes a yearly turnover of 680 million euro with its 5.000 employees. In 2016 Op de Beeck was lured away at Compass Group, a catering giant with 550.000 employees from Singapore to become CEO of Apcoa.