How Premium Can a Parking Space Get?

Frank L. Giles

In the parking industry, timing and location make the difference between a 9 x 15-foot slab of concrete and a revenue-generating asset. Depending on the location and time, that slab of concrete can be worth $5 or $25 per day. Premium parking can generate demand that will push the price though the stratosphere. So, how premium can a parking space get? How much will someone pay to park his car in that perfect spot?

I recently heard about a parking space for sale in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood; asking price: $250,000. Yep, that’s a quarter of a million dollars for access to one parking space. In a place like Manhattan, parking is almost always at a premium. It’s the same conundrum that befell the first citizen to purchase a brand-new Model-T Ford: “So where do I put this thing?” Today, with triple the number of cars on the road than 50 years ago, the parking industry is still finding new and better answers to that question.

Premium parking is one way to make sure that those perfect parking spots get some amount of turnover and that the available spaces in a place like Manhattan are shared. Although $250,000 may be a bit on the high side, premium parking is dictated by time and location, and everyone has a shot at the perfect spot–if you can afford it.

Glow in the Dark

Isaiah Mouw

If you happen to be driving through the Netherlands along the N329 highway anytime soon, you might suddenly feel like you’re driving through a Wachowski Brothers movie set. Studio Roosegaarde has developed glow-in-the-dark road markings that were recently installed along a 500m stretch of highway.

Typical road markings are made of reflective paint, but still often require energy-consuming streetlights to guide the way. The glow-in-the-dark road markings installed in the Netherlands charge using the sun during the day and then glow at night, eliminating the need for an abundance of streetlights and saving energy and maintenance dollars. Further plans for this concept involve creative solutions such as snowflake images that would glow on the pavement when the temperature drops below a certain point to remind drivers to be cautious of ice. This reminds me a lot of the Solar Roadways concept of using LED lights in solar-powered road panels to deliver safety messages to drivers as they drive along the highway.

All that said, I’m not sure if these phosphorescence markings would be of much to use to the parking industry. It would be neat to have parking lot spaces and signage glow in the dark, but not at the cost of eliminating lighting and decreasing the overall sense of safety in your facility.

What do you think?

Variable Pricing Spreads, but is it Right for Everyone?

Dave Feehan

Credit Professor Donald Shoup with spotting a nascent trend and injecting it into the world of parking. Variable pricing has become a concept and practice pioneered in San Francisco and being considered or implemented in a number of other cities. But according to a recent National Public Radio (NPR) report, variable pricing has also become the rage in other industries as well.

Take air travel for example. Prices vary, day to day and hour to hour. A ticket on the same flight might cost 40 to 50 percent more or less depending on the day of the week and hour of the day it is purchased. Prices also vary according to what services you require. Spirit Airlines is probably the biggest proponent (or offender, if you prefer): A bag that you carry on costs less than one you check, but its cost also varies with how, when, and where you check in.

Another industry that is seizing on variable pricing is sports. Buy a ticket in advance online and pay one price, but pay at the gate and, depending where you sit, you might pay five to 10 times as much. Teams are considering changing prices based on the attractiveness of the opponent, day of the week, and the success of the local team.

I think variable pricing is a great tool–in the right cities, in the right locations within those cities, and managed thoughtfully with both a short- and long-term perspective. That said, I still have reservations as to whether every city should adopt the practice. Where parking is scarce and where there are many affluent people who will pay just about anything for a safe, convenient parking space, variable pricing makes great sense. It also makes sense in terms of residential parking discounts, as Shoup recently proposed, and as a way of rewarding other behaviors such as driving small cars and hybrids.

But in cities and towns that are still struggling to revive their downtowns, where retail stores and restaurants are fragile, and where the culture is resistant, I would think long and hard before introducing a system that confuses local customers and may spell doom for struggling shops and diners.

Global Warming: Does It Matter?

Jeff_Pinyot

If you want good dinner conversation, place at least one liberal and one conservative together at a dinner table and insert a bottle of Pinot Grigio, a nice appetizer, and perhaps the suggestion of global warming for conversation.

The parking industry is often referred to in discussions of the effects of environmental change, so it seems that we have the right to have an opinion on the subject.  When our company is asked what environmental effect our lights have on carbon emissions, we often equate it to X numbers of cars being taken off the road. It actually seems a little stupid to tell Parking Company A that if they use our lights, it will be like taking 50 cars (paying customers) off the road.  I know it really doesn’t effect the number of cars in actuality, but it does seem like a silly analysis given the facts.  Perhaps we should talk about the effect as X number of new trees planted.

We’re not the only ones to have opinions on the environment, of course. Why is it that every celebrity believes himself to be an authority? Could you imagine George Clooney saying, “In ‘Gravity,’ I played an astronaut, which means that I would have probably gone to Purdue University, which means that I should probably be pretty smart, so I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that global warming is for real…I think.”

Silly, right? Here’s what he really said: “If you have 99 percent of doctors who tell you ‘you are sick’ and 1 percent that says ‘you’re fine,’ you probably want to hang out with, check it up, with the 99. You know what I mean? The idea that we ignore that we are in some way involved in climate change is ridiculous. What’s the worst thing that happens? We clean up the earth a little bit? What’s the worst thing that happens? We clean up the earth a little bit?”

I agree with him: cleaning up the earth is a good thing no matter what you believe about climate change. The bottom line is, we should leave the world in at least the same shape as we got it, no worse, and preferably better.

Parking Manager Lemonade Stand

Jeff Petry

Last week, as part of an effort to solicit feedback on a proposed parking rate increase, I set up my parking manager lemonade lemonadestand at various locations in our downtown. The intent of the lemonade stand is to give parking customers an opportunity to provide feedback, face to face. It is a friendly, and perhaps unexpected, approach to engage everyday parking customers, right where they are.

The lemonade stand was set up for about six hours at three locations over the course of three days. Here is what I learned/observed:

Downtown Park Location (lunch time):

-      A consistent flow of vehicle and pedestrian customers at our weekday Farmers’ Market that included downtown employees, families, people in suites or workout clothes, all ages, bicyclists–a perfect mixture of downtown customers!

-      A street violin player playing pleasing background music that could be heard better in the lulls of the vehicle traffic.

-      A farmer’s market booth staff person was curious about the “competition” of a lemonade stand and was pleasantly surprised to the find the City of Eugene’s parking manager in his bowling shirt uniform talking to downtown customers!

-      No questions or concerns on the parking rate increase, just smiles.

Downtown Parking Garage (4:00 – 6:00 p.m.)

-      More smiles from customers heading home from work.

-      Biggest question – Why did you remove all the trash cans from this garage?

  • Note: We removed trash cans from this parking garage to minimize our custodial needs and due to trash studies showing it was used by people dumping their home garbage in our cans. As a follow up, we will place a few more trash cans on the ground floor retail entry areas.

-      One downtown employee delivered an envelope containing a letter signed by about a dozen people asking us to not increase rates.

-      General comments of no issues with the first monthly permit rate increase in seven years.

Another Downtown Parking Garage (7:00 – 9:00 a.m.)

-      General questions such as: Where is the bus station? Is there secure bike parking? Why are you here?

-      General comments of no issues with the first monthly permit rate increase in seven years.

-      Several people took photos in the lemonade stand to show their coworkers.

The lemonade stand augmented a communications strategy that incorporated mail and social media, and allowed the parking program to add a personal touch to parking management and talk to our everyday customers. It helps defray the emotion that is present in emailed feedback. It provides a visual token that customers will remember for months to come. And, most importantly, it humanizes our parking program.

So, would you like a glass of lemonade?

New British Proposals Affect Parking

Patrick headshot 2012 cropped

As you enjoy  your summer holiday, you are (wisely) probably not thinking too much about the challenge of the British government’s proposals on local authority parking, which they published in late June. But I’m afraid those days of sun and sea will soon pass and our focus will be back on the job!

Following significant lobbying by the British Parking Association (BPA) and other organizations, including the Local Government Associations and London Councils as well as individual local authorities, we succeeded in persuading the government that banning closed-circuit television (CCTV) in its entirety was throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  At least the Transport Minister saw sense and has ensured, in the publication of his response to the consultation, that he intends to permit CCTV to continue to be used, but only in specific circumstances of his choosing.

The BPA will lobby on our members’ behalf to ensure that CCTV can continue to be used in the circumstances for which it was intended, namely to relieve congestion on our streets and improve road safety.  We will be working over the summer with members of the House of Lords as the Deregulation Bill, which the government amended in June, makes its way through the Lords on its way to Royal Assent, probably at the end of the year.

There are many uncertainties at present around how the government’s proposals will turn out, and there are a number of opportunities to improve the position from the perspective of local authorities and the wider parking profession, at the same time ensuring that we place the consumer at the heart of our thinking.

The most extraordinary outcome from the government’s published response is that the responsibilities for implementing these changes are shared between the Department for Transport and the Department for Communities and Local Government.  When a government is at loggerheads with itself, organizations such as the BPA must redouble their efforts to deal with two sets of officials and two sets of Ministers.

I do hope that the government is united in developing these proposals as fractures within the policy- and law-making organizations does not make for good legislation, and, as we know, in other circumstances bad legislation can make life very difficult for those who have to implement and enforce it.

I hop you will put in your diary the date of our Annual Conference in October, where we will have very interesting and, I hope, constructive debates about where we have been on this subject and where we are going in the future.

Are You Communicating Effectively?

Doug Holmes

Communication.  It is a wonderful thing in today’s electronic world … when it works.  It seems that the faster the modes of communication given us by technology, the greater the demand for even faster methods of communication.  Basically, though, it is a pretty simple set-up: a sender, a receiver and a message.

Unfortunately, a lot of interference can crop up between a sender and receiver.  Good communication requires a two-way delivery of information between the parties and understanding the information conveyed in both directions.  Texting or email is especially prey to this problem.  If you can’t see the face of or hear the vocal inflections of the person you are communicating with, a lot of message misinterpretation is possible.

The “reply” key can have a hugely negative effect.  Frequently, people hit reply or “reply all” (even worse) without checking the address field to see to whom the message is being sent.

There is a tendency to assume that once you hit send, the information in a message is immediately in the brain of the recipient.  Immediately. Bad assumption.  Rarely is any thought given to the possibility that the recipient did not check their inbox at all.  Horrors.  Could he have been on vacation?  In an all-day conference or training session?

An email server might send something screaming to your junk folder because it misidentified the message as spam.  I don’t know about you, but I do not go through my junk folder every few hours.

I know a lot of people who would prefer to answer a text message then check their voicemail and return a phone call.   I work the other way–I’ll respond to a voicemail almost immediately.  (I say almost because I am retired and nothing should be assumed to be immediate due to that status.)

What’s the point? If you are sending urgent, time-sensitive information in an electronic format and expect an immediate response, maybe it is better to pick up that old-fashioned device called a telephone and talk to the person on the other end.  Or, at least call to make sure your colleague got your message.

The Auto Bailout and the Parking Industry

Dave Feehan

One of the pleasures of living in Washington, D.C., is being invited to events at the Brookings Institution, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wilson Center, and other thought centers. I recently attended a series of panel presentations entitled, “Recovery Road? An Assessment of the Auto Bailout and the State of U.S. Manufacturing.” Featured speakers were Larry Summers, former National Economic Council director; Steven Rattner, who handled the government’s side of the auto bailout; and Sergio Marchionne, chairman and CEO of Fiat/Chrysler.

Summer was his usual self; Rattner was earnest and thoughtful. If you haven’t seen Marchionne in an interview, I heartily recommend going on the Brookings website or watching a recent interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” He is a remarkably forthright but humorous fellow.

What does this have to do with parking? There was virtual consensus among all eight presenters and four moderators that had the federal government not stepped in to bail out automakers, a tragic disaster would certainly have occurred. As many as 2.6 million jobs would have been lost in the first year after General Motors and Chrysler collapsed. Ford would have been virtually out of business as the supply chain also imploded. Another million-plus jobs would probably have been lost in the second year. With the credit markets frozen, no one was in a position to pick up the pieces.

The best analysis shows that the bailout cost the U.S. government and taxpayers about $12.6 billion dollars, but saved us from at least $100 billion in lost taxes, higher unemployment costs, and other expenses. The effects on the manufacturing, mining, energy, health, and retail sectors would have been significant.

Imagine for a minute if the unemployment rate soared to perhaps 15 percent instead of 10. Imagine all the people who would not being buying cars and driving to work. Imagine the lost revenue parking systems would suffer if millions out of work were not shopping, working, and using parking facilities.

When we think back to those perilous times just a few years ago, we often think of the bank bailout and the auto bailout and grit our teeth. Did the people in charge at the time make all the right decisions? Certainly not. But had they not saved the auto industry, there would have been real pain in the parking industry as well.

The Rebel Goes Sustainable: Harley-Davidson Unveils Electric Bike

KimFernandezJan2014

Sustainability, meet James Dean. Believe it or not, Harley-Davidson just unveiled its first electric bike. And from all appearances, it is sweet.

Photo credit: Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson

I was the girl swooning over the flat-black Harley parked just inside the entrance of the 2014 IPI Conference & Expo earlier this month. There’s a four-wheel-drive familymobile parked in my driveway for now, but my inner daredevil has always loved open air and speed. Roller coasters, Waverunners, two-seater airplanes–bring it. My husband pulling a 200cc Vespa into our garage two years ago was more than I could stand, and a few months, one class, 10 hours on a Honda Rebel in brutal D.C. heat and humidity, and one test later, I happily stood in line at the MVA to add an M-class endorsement to my driver’s license (earning, I might add, serious cool-mom points for a little while).

Honda and BMW make some gorgeous, very refined bikes, but Harley has remained the gold standard of American two-wheeled muscle. An electric motorcycle with their badge was sure to raise eyebrows, and it has–everybody from car gurus to tech wizards is talking about it.

Harley officials say Project LiveWire is a “customer-led moment” in its history. In other words, even their customers want to go a little greener. But make no mistake–this bike is edgy, launching with a 30-dealership tour along Route 66 and promising “a visceral riding experience with tire-shredding acceleration and an unmistakeable new sound” officials compare to a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier. The Los Angeles Times, which tested the bike ahead of its launch this week, called it a “fired up, amped-up monster.” Their test saw it go from zero to 60 in less than four seconds before it topped out at 92 mph. Not too shabby for an EV. The flip side, of course, is range: newspaper testers said it’ll go about 30 miles on a single charge (three and a half hours) in high-performance mode, and about 53 miles in power-saving mode. Harley says that range will improve before the LiveWire goes on sale to consumers in about two years.

Will it attract traditional Harley riders? Only time will tell. But is it a smart move for Harley-Davidson given the wishes of the next driving generation? Absolutely. Looks like we’ll need charging stations for flashy, crazy-fast, rebel bikes before too long. Who saw that coming? (And how do I get on the test-drive list?)

Demand-Based Parking for Universities: From the Municipal Playbook

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

Many universities struggle to meet parking demand as they grow in size and enrollment. A technique that is commonly used in municipal parking is to base parking on demand and set prices in a manner that provides price and convenience choice. Sometimes referred to as demand-based or tiered parking pricing, this market-informed strategy can help universities and community colleges achieve financial and sustainability goals while maximizing the amount of people accessing campuses each day. There are nuances and variations on the theme based on the special needs of specific campuses, but in essence, the approach allocates parking prices based on demonstrated demand. Facilities with the highest demonstrated demand have the highest value and therefore the highest cost, and those with relatively low demand command a lower price.

A significant benefit of tiered parking is that it offers parkers price and convenience choice–something we all appreciate as consumers. Demand-based parking can encourage commuters to use alternatives to driving by assigning a meaningful cost to different parking options. Additionally, the approach can help redistribute parking demand. A less convenient parking lot may become more desirable if its cost is lower than one with higher demand.

Moving from less sophisticated systems to a demand-based approach can be met with resistance from the campus community if it isn’t implemented in a thoughtful way. Ask yourself:

  1. Does the institution have the political will to make a significant change in your parking program? If university leadership won’t see the process to fruition, it may not be time for you to pursue something this weighty.
  2. Do you know parking occupancy by facility and by day of week/hour of day? To begin dividing up lots into different pricing groups, you must understand current and anticipated occupancy levels inside and out.
  3. What’s happening and likely to happen just outside of campus with demand-based parking? If neighborhoods adjacent to your campus have no parking management strategies in place, it is likely that any major changes on campus will simply displace parking into the neighborhoods on your borders, potentially causing town/gown problems.
  4. Do you offer good alternatives to driving? When you change how permits are allocated, you’ll cause some parkers to rethink how they reach campus. There may be great resistance if you don’t have viable alternatives, such as transit, carpool, and biking.

There are many details to work out when implementing demand-based parking, but more universities will need to consider this approach as they grow and exceed the capabilities of old permit allocation systems. Those that make the move will improve customer satisfaction, and they will enjoy more financially secure parking programs that are more efficiently used while helping their campuses meet sustainability goals.