Special Event Parking Basics

Cashier location, pedestrian walkways and appropriate revenue control help to ensure your event will run smoothly.

An event that brings thousands of people to your venue in a short amount of time can be a huge challenge. The question of parking and vehicle ingress and egress is often an afterthought for the event planner but requires strategic planning and effective execution for the public safety and parking team. Paid parking events introduce additional challenges that can create an environment prone to theft and robbery if they aren’t properly managed.

Parking is the first and last impression of a venue, and a two hour wait to enter or exit a parking facility can spoil what would otherwise have been a great event. Proper planning can help alleviate traffic problems on the surrounding streets and within the parking facility. A parking facility has a limited number of entrances and exits, and the parking manager must be creative in identifying the best ways to get cars off the street and into the parking facility.

Are there exits that can be used as entrances (and vice-versa)? Once the cars are in the lot, what is the best way to get them parked? What section of the lot should be filled up first?

Change Cashier Locations to Improve Throughput

Most pay parking facilities are designed with a gate at the entrance and little room to queue vehicles. This may work fine during normal operations, but during special events, it makes getting vehicles into the facility a slow process. When developing an ingress plan, the parking manager should determine how to maximize ingress and get cars off the street quickly.

For paid parking events, this may mean moving the cashiers to different locations within the facility. In addition to alleviating traffic in the surrounding area, this tactic also has psychological implications as the drivers feel that they have arrived instead of sitting in traffic on the street. Coordination with local law enforcement or parking control may also help ease street traffic and alleviate some congestion.

Special Walkways Help Protect Pedestrians

Keeping pedestrians safe is an important and challenging task. Although not always feasible, the creation of a makeshift pedestrian walkway is encouraged. This can be created through the use of traffic cones, caution tape and signage.

Parking attendants need to be trained to be aware of pedestrians and direct them out of harm’s way when necessary. In addition to creating a safe environment for pedestrians, controlling how pedestrians travel through the parking facility will help speed up ingress and egress.

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2-Part Tickets Enable Control, Audit of Revenue

Although fees for special event parking are a great source of revenue if handled properly, fees create a need for additional management oversight. Many parking facilities operate on a “pay at exit” model during normal operating conditions. For large scale special events, especially those with a set end time such as concerts or sporting events, collecting payment at entry is the way to go.

Parking attendants handle a large volume of money during special events, and controls need to be put in place to protect both the employees and the cash. The manager or a designated supervisor plays a key role in cash management by issuing a change fund to each employee and a series of numbered tickets, thus taking a trust-but-verify approach.

Two-part tickets are recommended so the cashier can place the stub under the windshield of the vehicle and the main part of the ticket on the dashboard. By making the stub and ticket visible, it is possible to perform an audit of the parking facility to ensure that vehicle drivers are being issued a ticket when they pay for parking.

If the parking manager has a role in deciding the special event parking rate, he or she should choose a rate that makes it easy for the cashier to give change to the customer. Instead of charging $18, the parking manager should round up to $20 or down to $15 so the cashier can make change without needing $1 bills.

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