When the first commercially available cars hit the road in the United States in the early 1900s, they revolutionized American life. By 1929, there were 23 million cars on American streets and thoroughfares. While automobiles increased convenience, they also introduced some logistical challenges, including traffic management, road rules and (of course) parking.
Parking operations have seen some significant changes since then. Here’s a look at where we came from, where we’re going, and the evolution of labor in parking.
The First Parking Lots
Cities across America first created dedicated off-street parking in the 1920s. Los Angeles was home to the first municipal lot in 1922, followed by Flint, Michigan later that decade, and Chicago and Boston in 1930. The first private facility was built in Oakland, California in 1929.
In the beginning, drivers didn’t park their cars. Instead, they would leave them at the garage entrance and hand their car over to an attendant who moved it to a platform where car lifts and turntables would move it into an available space.
This type of parking garage had some limitations, mainly that drivers couldn’t exit when they wanted. Self-parking arrived after World War II but didn’t completely replace attended parking.
The Death Knell of the “Car Jockey”?
A 1977 New York Times article declared, “Self-park Garages Sound Death Knell of ‘Car-Jockey.'” The article profiles a parking attendant whose job was to drive up and down the ramps of a nine-story Detroit parking garage hundreds of times a day to park cars and/or bring them back to departing customers.
“An example of the death knell was just across the street at the Manufacturers Bank, where a machine protruding from the concrete spits out ticket stubs to drivers as they enter and an attendant sits in a booth at the exit to collect fees as drivers leave,” the article says.
While “car jockeys” may have gone the way of the horse and buggy, throughout the rest of the 20th century, parking garage operators still needed parking attendants to collect fees, operate gates, direct drivers to open spaces and check parked vehicles for valid tickets.
Parking operations have come a long way since the 20th century. In the early years of the 21st century, parking garage operators began automating some parking functions, which increased customer convenience and reduced labor costs.
Despite the move toward digitization, the parking and mobility industry labor force is growing.
- As of 2023, the parking and mobility industry employed 162,035 people
- The parking and mobility industry labor force grew an average of 0.3% per year from 2018 to 2023
Today, parking is no longer a cash-only endeavor. New technology includes license plate registration systems that automatically open gates for registered cars, mobile payment systems and apps that drivers pre-pay, virtual video monitoring that connects stranded motorists to 24/7 technical support, and more. Rather than eliminating the human connection, these innovations allow parking operations to use their talent best.
Customer Convenience + Talent Maximization
Our flexible software platform and our attentive customer service representatives help our clients maximize talent and provide your parking guests with convenience and an exceptional experience. In fact, here’s what one of our clients said about our service:
“When automating, there’s always this fear of losing a level of customer service, but Parker Technology has eliminated this concern.”