Downton Abbey, Downtown Parking

Downton Abbey is the blockbuster PBS television series set 100 years ago in Great Britain that explores the effects of societal, economic, and technological change on the British society through the eyes of the aristocratic Crawley family. The show is rooted in England’s great recession and follows the family drama through the sinking of the Titanic, flu pandemic, World War I, women’s suffrage, and the creation of the Irish free state.

Believe it or not, what fascinates me about Downton Abbey is what I have learned from it about parking:

  • Stewardship. Downton Abbey is a big estate with a lot of moving parts. The Earl wants to preserve the property for his family, employed staff, social hierarchy, and economic ties to the town of Grantham. We in parking are stewards of our public resources, including parking structures, surface lots, public streets, staff, and all the other moving parts. Our parking stewardship is also tied directly to the economics of our local community and our reputation.
  • Technology. In the first season of Downton Abbey, Violet, the Countess of Grantham, says, “First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel.” We are all comfortable or uncomfortable with various pieces of technology. Technology continues to change our parking interactions, from communicating to processing information to conducting transactions. Customers can pay for an on-street parking space while sitting in a meeting. We can video chat with upset customers in the field. And, pretty soon, our customers will be able to use at home 3-D printers to print their parking tags, vouchers, or other credentials.
  • Diplomacy. The biggest takeaway from Downton Abbey is the diplomacy exercised during utmost turmoil in the characters’ personal lives, business transactions, or world events. This is something parking professionals can perfect. We are always under external stress from customers who are unhappy about tickets, having to pay for parking, or our facilities. We are constantly working to deliver a better parking product while meeting challenges within our organizations.

Downton Abbey is a drama about people moving forward through life. It encompasses the extended Crawley family (our communities) that has hired staff (parking people) to provide the stewardship of the family assets through changing times. To be successful in our jobs, we must continue to maintain utmost diplomacy and preserve our legacy.

 

About Jeff Petry

Jeff Petry manages the City of Eugene’s on-street and off-street parking system. He serves on the IPI Advisory Council and the Sustainability Committee.

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