Malls should have mandatory valet parking. Maybe not all malls, but at least malls that are big enough to need multi-level parking.
Take West Edmonton Mall as an example. If any mall were to have valet parking, WEM, being the largest in North America, would really benefit from it. (Right now, just the hotel has a valet service.) If one goes to the mall in the early evening or on weekends, the parking lot is a madhouse.
Most men that I know usually drop off their passengers at one of the many entrances, and then spend 15 minutes parking their car and walking back to their party. When the shopping trip is over, they then have to leave the group (at least) 15 minutes early, probably walk to the other side of the mall, and then remember which level they parked at and where to pick up their friends.
Imagine what a Saturday morning trip to the mall with valet parking would be like:
- You arrive at the door that is closest to your destination, not caring if that area of the parking lot is busy
- Everyone gets out of the car and you hand the keys over to a valet
- You're given a tag or number of some kind to identify your car. This could be further improved by either connecting a mobile app or registering your mobile number with their system.
- The valets park your car as efficiently as possible, knowing exactly where there are spots available, and not having to look around for a spot big enough for you vehicle
- When you're done shopping, you approach any of the entrances, and the valets bring your car to you. If you're using a mobile app or SMS-based system, you could hail your vehicle before you even get to the door.
Cost is one thing that would need to be experimented with. If a mall suddenly said they were valet parking only, and charged $10 for parking, customers would be outraged. I would say that the mall should subsidize the cost at least somewhat, therefore making tenants pay for happier customers, and also cutting down on janitorial costs during winter months because of reduced dirt and snow being tracked in.
Of course, I would prefer it be completely free, but even I wouldn't mind paying two dollars for the benefit of less stress. Another result of a small cost would be that more people take transit to get to the mall. It would just take a good trial period to figure out what the threshold is that causes would-be shoppers to go to a different mall.
This is one of those situations where I wish there was a really good real-world simulator that one could try it out in.
Update: Friends in Los Angeles, New Jersey, and Miami have said they have malls with optional, paid, valet parking. Some malls in Miami also have paid, reservable parking in their prime locations.