Retail centers like shopping malls, strip malls, and even large department or big-box stores thrive on a constant influx of consumers. For this reason, retail center parking solutions must be adequate, safe, and well-planned to keep these consumers coming back. Auto Park specializes in maximizing retail center parking areas, making them larger, safer, and more convenient.
Crowded parking lots/too few spaces
The biggest concern when it comes to retail center parking solutions is a lack of space. Consumers who might otherwise come inside to shop often change their mind when they find that they must park several hundred feet from the door.
Lack of safety and protection
Most of the traditional “open” parking lots in today’s retail centers offer little to no safety or protection for consumers. They are not well-lit, and they do not provide any kind of shelter from inclement weather or even vandals.
Consumers visit retail centers to purchase things, and then they must load their purchases into their automobiles. If the parking situation makes it difficult for consumers to load their cars, they are not likely to continue doing business there.
The Trip to the Shopping Center
Thirty minutes driving time is currently the accepted limit of the market area of a major regional shopping center, which might serve up to 500,000 people. The area enclosed within the thirty-minute driving time has to be calculated according to the condition and congestion of the streets and is not always in direct ratio to linear distance. Five miles of expressway may be traversed more quickly than five blocks of crowded business section.
Shopping center developers recommend traffic counts of the major streets serving the center, not so much as an indication of the business potentiality, but as a check on the congestion already existing and an aid in predicting the traffic situation after the center is opened. As a matter of self-preservation, developers and architects recommend further studies, including the future road-construction programs in the area, and future housing developments and population movements in the area, so that other effects on business and traffic may be determined.
Off the Road and Into the Center
Crowded highway intersections have long been considered good commercial locations, but the problem of access to the shopping development is receiving much fuller consideration in modern shopping center planning. The key to the access problem is not the volume of traffic passing the center, but the density. As traffic surveys have often shown, the total number of cars passing a given point on a road (the volume) eventually drops as the density gets close to the saturation point. The reason for this relationship is simple. The closer the cars are packed together, the slower they must go. In such dense traffic, as might be said to characterize the rush hour traffic of some Los Angeles freeways or the Chicago Outer Drive, tie-ups and delays are also more frequent, and more costly in terms of highway efficiency. The roads having highest volumes are those on which the cars are spaced further apart and travel at higher speeds with relative safety.
Both the high-density and high-volume roads offer problems of access to the shopping center. On the high-density, fairly slow-moving road, it will be difficult for drivers to maneuver into position to turn off. On high speed roads, ample warning must be given the driver that he is approaching an exit, and the exits into the center must be designed with safety features that take the higher speeds into account.
Few shopping centers will be served by high-speed, limited-access roads. Shopping centers being constructed in developing areas will be served by an existing road network which may not be adequate to handle the traffic that will arise when the shopping center is completed and the area is built-up.
The points of access from the roads to the shopping center should be adequate to accommodate traffic at the busiest hours of the center. Victor Gruen, architect and designer of shopping centers (in “Traffic Impact of the Regional Shopping Center,” see biblio) estimates that an exit or entrance with continuous flow can handle up to 750 cars per hour. The peak load of a shopping center can be estimated on the basis of the annual gross income of the center. The problem is three-fold: first, to determine the largest single-day gross business; second, (on the basis of the average purchase per car) to determine how many cars will be in and out of the center on that day; and third, to estimate the number of cars that will enter and leave the center during the busiest hours of that day.
Parking the Car
Parking is the prime convenience advantage of the shopping center over the central business district. In spite of the repetitive statement of this fact, the shopper may not always find the parking space he wants. The shopper wants a space he can find easily, with a minimum of difficulty in moving around the parking area, and one that is located near the store or store group in which he is going to shop. The fault is sometimes with the developers who have underestimated the need for parking space or found the land too valuable to be devoted to parking. Sometimes there are too few parking spaces simply because there are too many people with cars looking for them.
Parking in the shopping center is seen by the shopper as a series of steps:
- Maneuvering the car around the lot until he finds a space;
- Getting the car into the space;
- Walking from the space to the stores.