Despite the continuing shortage of motorcycle parking lots, there are signs of improvement in the “garage situation” when it comes to finding a place to park. The rise of real estate information websites has made it easier to search for properties with motorcycle parking spaces. In addition, the growth of rental storage space businesses has led to a rapid increase in the number of container-type motorcycle garages, and this is attracting attention as an effective way to use land. Finally, companies that operate monthly rental parking lots for motorcycles have, in the last few years, continued to expand the number of properties they manage.
Broadly speaking, the shortage of motorcycle parking spacespresents two problems: first, there are few temporary parking spaces for motorcycles in urban areas; second, many apartment buildings lack parking lots for motorcycles. The latter case in particular is pushing many existing owners to sell their motorcycles, while many prospective owners are opting not to purchase, since they cannot find anywhere to store their motorcycles*1. There are therefore concerns that the shortage of motorcycle parking spaces is having a negative impact on the motorcycle market.
In the last few years, however, there has been a rapid increase in the number of both monthly rental parking lots and rental garages for motorcycles, and this is being taken as a sign of improvement. This is, of course, welcome news for prospective motorcycle owners. But, what is happening?
*1According to a survey carried out by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association in 2017, more than 10 percent of previous owners had sold their motorcycles due to “an inability to secure a parking lot.” This has become a matter of urgency for the motorcycle industry.
The Rapid Rise of Real Estate Information Websites
A significant change that has taken place over the past few years: the fact is that it is now easy to search for apartments with motorcycle parking lots. In the last 10 years, there has been a remarkable growth in real estate information websites, and there are now numerous influential websites that handle vast amounts of properties. On the back of the growth of this industry, real estate information has become more comprehensive, and it is now possible for prospective tenants to freely search for properties that suit their preferences.
LIFULL HOME’S, a leading real estate information website, provides information on some 6.5 million apartments, houses, and plots of land for rent and sale nationwide*2. Users can filter their searches using a variety of criteria, including locality, maximum and minimum rent, floor plan, and building age.
Shoko Nojiri is a member of the PR Department at Lifull Co., Ltd., the company that operates the LIFULL HOME’S website: “The site allows users to search for properties via more than 70 ‘Preferred Criteria.’ In the case of an apartment building, for example, they can specify that an apartment is on the second floor or higher, that its toilet and bath are in separate rooms; in addition, users can search for buildings that allow pets to be kept, that allow musical instruments to be played, that are near convenience stores, and a wide range of other criteria. By using these criteria, users can find properties that better match the type of apartment they are looking for.”
As one of the “Preferred Criteria,” users can search for properties that include motorcycle parking lots. This is an indispensable function for motorcycle users searching for new places to live.
According to Nojiri: “LIFULL HOME’S lists approximately 910,000 rental apartment buildings nationwide*2. Of these, approximately 220,000—or roughly 20 percent of all apartment buildings—include motorcycle parking lots (as of December 21, 2018).”
LIFULL HOME’S lists approximately 97,000 rental apartment buildings in Tokyo’s 23 wards; inan experiment, a search for those with motorcycle parking lots returned 18,000 hits*2, which equates to approximately 18.5 percent of all apartments in the area. Leaving aside whether 18.5 percent is a high proportion, when these properties are displayed on a map, the number of properties indicated that it would be easy to find a propertythat suited one’scriteria. At the very least, a few years ago it was unthinkable that so many properties would have motorcycle parking lots.
*2When a property is listed by different real estate companies, it is sometimes duplicated on the LIFULL HOME’S website. When each of these duplicates are counted, the total number of properties stands at around 6.5 million. The total number of apartment buildings with rooms listed for rent nationwide is 909,793, as of December 21, 2018. In Tokyo’s 23 wards, there are a total of 97,000 apartment buildings with rooms listed for rent, of which 18,000 apartments buildings with rooms listed for rent have motorcycle parking lots, also as of December 21, 2018.
As summarized in the table on the following page, other real estate information websites also enable users to search for properties with motorcycle parking lots. The increased functionality of these information websites may well be driving the expansion of motorcycle parking lots.
- Major Real Estate Information Websites
*Results of FAMI search for rental apartments with motorcycle parking lots in Tokyo’s 23 Wards on December 17, 2018
*Methods for counting property numbers differ from website to website, and so comparisons cannot be made between them. The number of search results changes from day to day
Increasing Numbers of Rental Garages for Motorcycles!
The next area of focus ishow the provision of information relating to motorcycle garages is improving. LIFULL, mentioned earlier, is a company with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and it has established a new business proposal system aimed at supporting its employees’ business ideas; the best proposals are used to start up new businesses.
LIFULL SPACE Co., Ltd. is a company that was established via the above system. It creates databases of information on rental storage spaces,which are typically used for storing seasonal household goods, and operates a portal website complete with search functions called LIFULL Trunk Room. In 2014, LIFULL SPACE also launched a “Motorcycle Container” version of its Trunk Room portal website.
Shuhei Okumura, president of LIFULL SPACE, explains: “The number of properties in the total trunk room market is increasing by between 5 and 10 percent per year—it is very much a growth business. At present, it is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 trunk room facilities nationwide. This is similar to the number of family restaurants or karaoke rooms in Japan. Five years ago, when working at LIFULL, felt that the trunk room business would continue to grow; so, an idea of businesshas come up and that led to the establishment of LIFULL SPACE.”
Okumura subsequently focused on demand for motorcycle garages: “When we first started operating the trunk room website, large numbers of users asked whether they could store their motorcycles in these trunk rooms. We then investigated internet search volumes with ‘motorcycle’ as a keyword, and we came to the conclusion that it would be worthwhile establishing a separate motorcycle version of the trunk room website.”
When it first launched, LIFULL SPACE’s “Motorcycle Container” website only listed about 50 companies. Now, however, this number has doubled to approximately 100 companies, whichoperate some 2,500 properties in 29 prefectures across Japan.
Okumura notes: “This is just my intuition, but I believe that the number of motorcycle containers is also increasing by about 5 to 10 percent per year. In addition—and bear in mind this is based on analysis using external tools—search volumes on our website increased from 250,000 searches in 2017 to 650,000 searches in 2018. This suggests that users are focusing more attention on motorcycle containers as well. Clearly, there is significant demand for motorcycle storage spaces—for this reason, I think that motorcycle garage businesses that use containers will continue to grow for some time yet.”
Hello Storage: Propelling the Motorcycle Container Business Forwards
A company that is active in the motorcycle container business,Arealink Co., Ltd., operates a trunk room business under the Hello Storage brand name, last October announced, “We want to contribute to eliminating the lack of motorcycle parking lots,” thereby signaling its full-scale entry into the motorcycle garage business.
The company intends to take a four-pronged approach to motorcycle storage. While it will chiefly focus on motorcycle containers, it will also establish motorcycle parking lots at its trunk room facilities, utilize unused space in coin-operated parking lotsfor automobiles, and utilize land owned by apartment buildings to create motorcycle parking lots.
Arealink has recently opened Hello Bike Box Adachi Takenotsuka in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward. Here, the company has installed 17 motorcycle containersbehind the trunk room building it operates. Each container has its own folding slope, enabling motorcycles to enter and exit the containers without difficulty. Protected from rain and wind, and with high levels of security, such containers enable owners to store their cherished motorcycles with peace of mind.
Yosuke Odagiri, of Arealink’s Product Planning Department, explains: “In the last two years, we have established 200 motorcycle containers in 50 different locations in the capital and increasing the number as quickly as possible. Unused space at our outdoor trunk rooms invites a number of problems, such as cars being parked there illegally and rubbish being thrown away illegally. As a way to stop these activities, we came up with the idea of utilizing the space for parking motorcycles; when we drew up parking lots with white lines and made them available to rent, they were immediately occupied at all our facilities. I don’t ride a motorcycle, so I was surprised to see there was such demand for motorcycle parking spaces.”
Parking spaces demarcated with simple white lines have the benefit of being extremely cheap; however, customers who ride expensive sports bikes and bikes with large-displacement engines tend to favor motorcycle containers, even though they cost more to rent. According to Odagiri, occupation rates for their motorcycle containers currently stand at almost 90 percent.
As it happens, the Hello Storage building in Takenotsuka is somewhat removed from the main road. This makes it difficult for automobilesto access, but motorcycles have no such problem. Indeed, motorcycle containers make it possible to use land effectively, even where it would be difficult to establish automobile parking lots. According to Odagiri: “Owners of land that is not being fully utilized are particularly happy to install motorcycle containers. The majority of customers are polite, and we rarely receive complaints of excess noise.”
Space Plus: Utilizing Car Parks with Low Occupancy Rates
LANDPIA INC. operates a nationwide trunk room business under the Space Plus brand name. While its primary business is trunk rooms, it is currently engaged in the use of motorcycle containers as a sub-business.
A member of the company’s PR Department explains: “We have a combined total of approximately 500 indoor and outdoor trunk rooms across Japan; however, some time ago we realized that between 10 and 20 percent of these trunk rooms were being used to store motorcycles. Given there was such demand, we decided to create our own dedicated motorcycle containers; in 2008, we started producing our own, original motorcycle containers, and began renting them out as motorcycle storage garages. This was how our motorcycle container business began.” At present, the company provides containers for approximately 600 motorcycles in 150 different locations, primarily in the Kanto, Chubu, and Kansai regions.
Upon visiting Space Plus Bike Container Mitaka Nozaki, which is located in Tokyo’s Mitaka City, a PR Department member revealed: “Our motorcycle containers have a width of 1.25 meters—this is exactly half the size of our automobile parking lots, which have a width of 2.5 meters. In other words, you can install two motorcycle containers in a single automobile parking lot. Recently, demand for automobile parking lots has been declining, and an increasing number of car parks no longer operate at full capacity, no matter how far we reduce the parking fees. In these car parks, we can increase profits by using the automobile parking lots to house motorcycle containers.
A relatively large amount of land is required to install standard container-type outdoor trunk rooms. However, since motorcycle containers only require one-quarter the space of an outdoor trunk room, they can be installed even on narrow tracts of land. By considering the shape and extent of the land available, motorcycle containers can be installed alongside trunk rooms to ensure that the land available is used in the most efficient manner possible.
Nakayama comments: “We already operate trunk rooms across the whole of Japan, and we believe we can use these facilities as a foothold to increase the number of motorcycle containers we operate. As the average age of the riding population increases, so the number of riders who are financially comfortable is also rising; since containers are extremely secure, we believe that they will continue to prove popular as motorcycle garages.” Convenient products that can be installed on small, unused tracts of land, it seems that motorcycle containers are exceptionally valuable.
Bike Park: Specializing in Monthly Rental Parking Lots for Motorcycles
The final company to be mentioned is Bike Park. Established in 2010 due to the serious shortage in motorcycle parking lots, as its name suggests Bike Park specializes in the management of monthly rental parking lots for motorcycles. It rents land used for parking spaces from land owners, and provides and manages the equipment needed to operate the land as monthly rental parking lots for motorcycles.
The company pays a fixed monthly rental fee to the land owners, but takes all the money paid in parking fees: land owners get to effectively use their land; Bike Park makes a profit; and motorcycle users are provided with lots for parking their motorcycles. Bike Park was established at a time when motorcycle parking lots were extremely rare and, for this reason, its business results have improved significantly every year. As shown in the graph below, the company has rapidly expanded the number of properties it operates from 2010 to 2018.
- Bike Park: Number of Properties and Motorcycle Storage Capacity
Ken Yaeo, of Bike Park’s Sales Department, explains: “We ride all over the capital’s roads on our motorcycles, and look for spaces that we might be able to use as parking lots. A motorcycle can often be parked on land that cannot be used for other purposes. In the grounds of coin-operated parking lots for automobiles, for example, there tends to be space that isn’tbeing fully utilized. In such spaces, we can create lots using white lines and rent them out as a monthly rental parking lots for motorcycles. Another example is when apartment owners establish motorcycle parking lots for their tenants, we can rent out unused parking lots to people who don’t live there. We adopt a variety of approaches to find ‘dead space,’ and use it to create monthly rental parking lots for motorcycles. We intend to continue repurposing land in the future, and our goal is to manage more than 100,000 properties.”
One of the main reasons Bike Park’s business is expanding so quickly is that it only operates monthly rental parking lots. Chain locks, fare adjustment machines and other equipment is required for hourly pay parking lots, making it difficult to guarantee profitability. However, monthly rental parking lots are faced with no such problems, and for this reason they can be opened quickly and with minimal initial costs.
- A Bike Park pamphlet
*Bike Park is converting a variety of urban spaces into motorcycle parking lots. Company employees actually go out on foot to look for triangular, narrow, small, and other unused tracts of land.
Yaeo also points out potential future issues: “The distinction between land that can be repurposed privately and land ought to be repurposed by local governments is growing clearer. In my opinion, government intervention and cooperation is required to increase the number of hourly pay parking lots for motorcycles.” As shown here, real estate information companies, trunk room businesses, and motorcycle parking lot operators are evolving—at times engaging in joint initiatives—and helping to increase the number of motorcycle parking lots available. This is a trend that will be subject to continued monitoring.
Source: Motorcycle Information?(issue January-February, 2019)