In the Luumlight

ICYMI: 2021 IPMI Mobility and Innovation Summit

This week, our CTO and co-founder, Tyler Simpson, led a panel on the hybrid workplace at the 2021 IPMI Mobility & Innovation Summit. The theme of the summit this year was The Changing Landscape—and this session entitled The Hybrid Workplace: What it Means for Parking Technology, Commute Flexibility, and Mode Shift couldn’t have been more apropos considering the seismic shifts happening right now in the workplace landscape. The session featured mobility and TDM leaders, including Kevin Bopp from Bedrock, Melanie Truhn from Nelson/Nygaard (embedded at Expedia Group), and Ed Lewis from Arrive

To kick off the session, Tyler talked about policy and technology, the two mechanisms that can increase commute flexibility at any organization. With these two elements aligned, a high-functioning employee parking and commute program can take shape and grow. Envelope-pushing policies and intrepid innovation are vital for employee flexibility. They can ensure that parking, mobility options, and benefits, are readily available to everyone when they need it. 

The goal for the session was to hear from employers and technology leaders on the best ways for organizations to prepare for the challenging road ahead. Despite the challenges, a common theme from the panel was the incredible opportunity to create better commuter experiences and healthier urban cores through employer-led policy initiatives and technological innovation. 

What are the requisite support services, incentives, and fundamentals for getting people back into offices safely? How can the flexibility promised within the hybrid workplace model be achieved through commute policies and technology that truly benefit the hybrid workforce? And, with parking, how do we manage changes to our supply and demand? 

Within the rigid, in-office five-days-a-week workplace model, the monthly parking permit was the industry standard. And it still will be for some. However, with the shift to hybrid work—where people are coming into the office less frequently (2-3 days per week on average)—monthly parking permits simply don’t make financial sense for employees. 

Nelson\Nygaard Senior Associate, Melanie Truhn, was quick to point out that many forward-thinking employers (including Expedia Group) have been delivering on the promise of employee workplace flexibility even before the pandemic. In many ways, the hybrid workplace concept of daily flexibility is the philosophical underpinning to a solid TDM program. For commute leaders and those working in the TDM space, taking multi-modal and multi-faceted approaches to workforce flexibility has always been the goal. 

Being thoughtful, supportive, and responsive to changing employee needs will go a long way in winning employees’ trust and ensuring a successful return to offices. An axiom—one size does not fit all—remains truer than ever when it comes to finding more creative solutions for the return to the workplace. Here is a great piece on the benefits of daily parking and choice for your commuters. 

“Not everyone has to move to daily parking overnight. Move some percentage to daily, while reserving some for traditional monthly. This allows you to see how that program is being used and change that balance over time.”

-Tyler Simpson, Luum

Data was another common theme at the session. For Bedrock, now is the time for planning and architecting programs for a successful re-entry into offices. Wherever and whenever possible, Kevin Bopp noted that the ability to leverage data and tools to understand parking dynamics and daily behaviors of your organization’s commute would be critical for strategic implementation of return to office parking and commute policies.

Expedia Group leverages data and tools (primarily from Luum) in order to understand employee commute trends on a granular level. With an understanding of how your employees are commuting, an organization can predict the needs of employees as they phase back into physical offices once it is safe to do so. 

“We need data from sources, like Luum, to actually see what people are doing. How often are they going into office? How are they commuting? … And to shift programs to be more relevant and cost-effective so that employees feel safe and comfortable as they return to the office.”

Melanie Truhn, Nelson/Nygaard

From day one, Arrive has been an industry leader in developing parking and mobility technologies that digitize parking operations efficiently, economically, and with the highest levels of flexibility. Ed Lewis, SVP of Business Development at Arrive, confirmed something we’ve all realized over the past year: everyone is having to get creative. 

Because creativity and innovation are two sides of the same coin, Arrive has doubled down on their investment in developers who can solve the most pressing parking challenges in a manner that gives constituents the tools needed to deliver unprecedented flexibility in their parking and mobility programs.

The session speakers did not shy away from addressing the elephant in the garage: what about parking revenue? Over the past year, many organizations who moved to work from home have seen their parking revenue shrink to almost nothing. What’s more, there is a concern that getting rid of monthly permits will remove the guaranteed revenue at the start of the month—a deficit that won’t be made up through daily charges.

Expedia, for example, has seen a consistent daily parking rate despite a shift away from monthly permits. And this is where data and technology come in: to give you real time data to determine price points and ensure accuracy in parking revenue estimates.

“Every decision we make [at Bedrock and its Family of Companies] is made to support business, people…the money and revenue follows when making thoughtful and responsive solutions…One size does not fit all and there are creative ways to not cannibalize your revenue streams if this is priority number one.”

Kevin Bopp, Bedrock

Ed agreed with Kevin and Melanie that old approaches to maximizing parking revenue simply will not work. For example, everybody has to reinvent the way they charge for parking—via touchless technology, parking reservations, and mobile-first innovation—in order to raise the employee experience bar—and get people comfortable with driving and parking at offices once again.

In closing, the long-held institution of the commute is being reimagined…for the better. Outmoded ways of utilizing commuter benefits by signing up for a monthly parking permit (OR transit pass) are too restrictive for the future of commuting. Especially for those organizations who are embracing the hybrid workplace model for greater workforce flexibility and autonomy. 

Choice and convenience are the new norm as commute benefits become more holistic and personalized over time. Accessibility and self-serve models for employees will be driven by dynamically designed mobile apps capable of delivering on the promises of hybrid workplace flexibility for employees.

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