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Creating an Arrival Experience Through Great Parking – Trend #5: First Impressions

Image of Creating an Arrival Experience Through Great Parking – Trend #5: First Impressions The Granada Garage features abundant Mission Revival architecture that welcomes visitors downtown.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” But have we thought about it in regards to parking? For the final trend in our series, we’ll look at how parking can make that pivotal first impression a welcoming one with everything from architecture to parking technology.

How many times have you thought about going somewhere only to cringe at the thought of having to park? Before even setting foot out the door, you have already created a negative impression about the experience you are about to have. Now imagine how different you might feel if parking was not only a seamless, stress-free endeavor, but it also enriched the experience and made a great first impression. This is the approach that the city of Santa Barbara took with its downtown Granada Garage.  Aesthetically, the garage is a treasure trove of Mission Revival architectural details, which makes it a destination to visit in and of itself. From wrought iron balconies to terra cotta vases and detailed custom signage, the Granada Garage acts a spectacular welcome for visitors to downtown Santa Barbara.

Image of Creating an Arrival Experience Through Great Parking – Trend #5: First Impressions Color-coded signage at the Palo Alto Lot S/L parking structure features artwork of different birds to provide easy wayfinding.

That welcoming feeling doesn’t have to be restricted to just exterior architecture. Upon entering the City of Palo Alto’s Lot S/L parking structure, users are greeted with an open, airy feeling and natural sun created by a bright white interior and light wells. Color-coded signage featuring artwork of different birds for each level of the structure provides easy wayfinding and helps visitors remember where they parked. Creating a parking experience that facilitates easy in and out is another way to make a great impression. Parking stalls that are clear of visual obstructions with wider drive lanes make for better circulation and improve the user experience. Parking Guidance Systems, such as the one utilized by UC Davis Medical Center, use red and green lights to identify open spaces and help users find an open spot more quickly. By simply making the interior a more intuitive, welcoming and humanized environment, we can create a better arrival experience.

Some cities have created an even more holistic approach when it comes to creating a positive first impression with parking. To improve customer service for visitors to its historic Old Towne District, the City of Orange is rolling out an experimental valet program aimed at easing the challenge of finding an open parking space. Laguna Beach offers a mobile app that provides information on parking and a free trolley service that helps visitors get around the popular tourist destination. The City of San Jose has integrated a city-wide parking guidance system that provides dynamic signage around the downtown area depicting real-time parking availability for over 6,000 stalls in the City’s eight downtown parking structures, making it easier to find available parking. 

In the same way that a clean house can help a guest’s visit get off on the right foot, these enriched parking experiences ensure that a visitor’s first impression at their destination is a positive one. 

Read more in this series:

Part 1: Public Art – Part 2: Public Spaces - Part 3: Pedestrian Connections - Part 4: Green Roofs 

About the Author

Francisco Navarro has been creating parking solutions for over 15 years. He has worked on over 50 parking projects. In addition to delivering projects to satisfied clients, Francisco’s projects, such as the Pomona College Parking Structure, have received recognition from the International Parking Institute and other associations. Francisco is an active participant in the Community College Facilities Coalition and the California Public Parking Association. In addition to managing high profile projects, Francisco leads Watry Design's BIM efforts. 

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