Shifting the Discussion: An Assignment for Parking Professionals

I have recently been contacted by several reporters from all over the country asking about a range of parking-related issues ranging from taxes to impact fees to performance-based pricing.

Each call began with questions that had an inherently negative angle. I guess I should be used to that. Recently, however, I have taken a different approach. I have tried to shift the discussion from implicitly negative starting points to something more like, “Yes, you are correct; parking is a critically important area. Are you aware of the many advances made by the parking industry in recent years? Some of these advances involve leveraging new technologies, adopting more progressive urban design approaches and better integrating parking into larger community access and economic development strategies. Others involve creating a range of more sustainable parking and transportation strategies. Have you tried pay-by-cell phone yet? Have you gotten a text message notifying you that your meter is about to expire? Have you gotten an e-coupon on your cell phone from a store around the corner from where you parked and paid with your phone?”

We do (and will continue for decades to come) live in a society where the automobile is the dominant form of personal transportation. In this reality, parking will continue to be a connection point around which many key issues of our times will resonate – economic, social, environmental, equity, and accessibility issues are just a few examples. And as long as that is the case, parking professionals will play key roles in making our communities function.

We have an incredible story of increased connectedness, demonstrated progress, and accelerating advancement to tell. We also share a common challenge: how do we better broadcast this story of industry transformation? If we don’t do it, who will?

IPI published a guide to talking with the media last year–”How to Speak Parking Matters®.” It’s a free download that’s quite helpful when reporters come calling.

If you find yourself, perhaps somewhat defensively, addressing a negative question from a reporter, a customer, a city council member, or anyone else, take that opportunity to shift the discussion to a passionate description of the real and dramatic progress we have made. I think you’ll be surprised at how receptive your audience will be.

 

About L. Dennis Burns, CAPP

L. Dennis Burns, CAPP, is senior practice builder and regional vice president with Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. He is a columnist and frequent contributor to The Parking Professional magazine. He serves on the IPI Advisory Council, the Professional Development Task Force, and the Parking Program/Accreditation Task Force.

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