How to Use “Scheduled Access” Parking
We’ve all heard the “80% full is full” rule. And while that primarily applies to pews on the inside, there’s a similar application to parking spots on the outside.
Think about your parking lot from the perspective of a guest: by the time they arrive, the spots closest to the building are taken and they end up driving up and down parking lanes, looking for an open space. It’s inefficient at best, and unwelcoming at worst.
We’ve experimented with scheduled access parking, meaning that certain areas of the parking lot are open at certain times of the morning. Now, a couple of caveats: this only hit max efficiency if you have multiple service times or different times when large groups of people are arriving on campus (for example, Sunday School vs. worship service). And it’s only going to be effective if you have a parking team to manage entry points.
But the benefits are obvious: wide-open parking lots allow a parking team to get a line of cars in rather quickly. Certain lots for certain arrival times mean that one lot is typically going to empty at the same time another lot is filling (so less cross-traffic). And big chunks of open real estate means no more cruising the lot looking for the random empty space, slowing down everything.
Here’s how to think through it:
1. Determine how many spaces you need.
At the time of one experiment several years ago, we were dealing with three distinct service times. Service 1 was light on attendance, service 3 was 75% full, and service 2 was packed to the gills. That number breakdown meant that we were able to use one parking area for services 1 and 3, and a separate area for 2.
People to car ratios also matter. Tim Stevens and Tony Morgan say that you’ll get 1.4 people per car. Church Facility Solutions says it’ll range from 1.8 to 2.7 occupants per vehicle. We usually split the difference and plan on 2 people per car. That means if you expect 200 adults in your 9:00 service and 40 kids in your family ministry area, you’re going to need space for 120 cars.
2. Decide how to divide.
Wide-open spaces are nice, but they’re a doozy to mark off. It would be great to have those mechanical arms that drop down in front of parking lot entrances, but our Mechanical Arm Fairy hasn’t shown up in a while.
We take advantage of the concrete dividers / planters that city codes typically require (and try to strategically design those as a lot is being constructed), and finish off the rest of the access points with parking cones.
Closing off certain entrances and funneling people to one entry point is also helpful. Signage pointing people to 9 a.m. parking, second service parking, etc., will help show the method behind the madness.
3. Be ready to adjust.
The great parking lot designer Mike Tyson infamously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Sunday is coming, and you’re gonna get punched in the mouth. So know how to adjust for the following week, and know how to adjust in the moment. If your 9:00 spaces fill up, by all means open some 10:30 spaces. Don’t idolize your plan while frustrating your guests.
Have you ever used “scheduled access” parking (or something like it)? Comment below!