Spaces in parking garages ordinarily filled with office workers, hotel visitors, sports fans and air travelers have been largely empty for two months because of the coronavirus pandemic. That has forced parking companies to lay off employees.
With most Americans parked at home, parking lots and garages are empty.
Spaces ordinarily filled with office workers, hotel visitors, sports fans and air travelers have been largely unoccupied for two months.
As their spaces and services go unused, parking companies have been forced to lay off staff members as they wait for customers to return. Parking companies that serve central Ohio estimate that their business is down more than 80% or even 90% because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s devastating, to be honest,” said Tom Eckl, who manages the Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh operations of Allpro Parking.
Companies such as Allpro, which also accommodate events such as weddings, fundraisers and festivals, have seen that business all but dry up.
After its revenue plunged about 80%, Allpro furloughed its 30-member Columbus staff, Eckl said.
Day parking revenue at LAZ Parking has declined 97% since the outbreak, said Todd Rosen, the company’s regional vice president.
Last week, LAZ notified the state that it had laid off 154 workers in its Columbus operations and 62 in Cleveland because “the current national and state emergencies relating to the COVID-19 virus.”
The company has helped cover the cost of employee benefits during furloughs, and its partners established a $1 million Employee Relief Fund, which has enabled furloughed team members to apply for financial grants as needed, Rosen said.
Park Place also has furloughed 22 of its Columbus employees, most of them part-timers used for events, said Shawn Compton, general manager of the company’s Columbus office.
“Our staff is customer-centric, and if there’s no customers, there’s no work for employees,” Compton said.
He estimated that the use of the 3,500 spaces the company manages in Columbus has fallen by 90% since coronavirus-related shutdowns began.
All of Park Place’s lots remain open, although one of the public lots the company manages, at the North Market, is now free. Some parking executives say the city’s decision to offer public parking, including street parking, free during the pandemic is discouraging people from using their lots. But Compton it might not make a huge difference.
“Zero percent of zero people is still zero,” Compton said. “It’s not like we’re seeing the public spaces fill up.”
Another indicator of the virus’s impact on the industry can be found in the quarterly earnings of SP Plus Corp., the Chicago company that provides parking services across the country, including in Columbus. This month, the company started serving John Glenn Columbus International Airport.
After a strong January and February, the company’s revenue plummeted so much in March that it ended up losing $46 million for the first quarter, compared with a profit of $10 million a year earlier.
“We have seen the greatest impact on our venue, air travel and hospitality clients,” said Tom Hagerman, senior vice president for the Southeast district for SP Plus.
“Sporting and music events have been completely canceled and we’ve seen parking and baggage activity at some of the airports we serve drop as much as 95%.”
While Rosen said LAZ has seen “a small uptick in traffic” since the state started reopening businesses enough that it has called 12 employees back to work most parking executives expect the industry to remain damaged for months to come.
“We expect the COVID-19 pandemic will present a substantial challenge for most businesses, including ours, for the remainder of the year and potentially longer,” SP Plus CEO Marc Baumann said in the company’s earnings statement.
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