Are You Prepared For The Phablet Age?

Bill Smith

I’m an early adopter. I love toys, especially electronic ones. For the past few years, my favorites have been made by Apple—my Macbook Pro, iPad, and iPhone. So it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’ve already picked up an iPhone 6. I think I showed great restraint by waiting until the second day of release to get one, though!

I’m having a blast playing with my new toy. The bigger screen is easier on this old man’s eyes, and it’s much easier for me to type on. But the thing that stands out mostly for me is how the advent of the phablet (a cross between a smartphone and a tablet) is going to change marketing. Smartphones are nothing more than portable computers, and today’s larger phones with massive screens make them that much more useful for Web browsing and emailing.

If your organization hasn’t adapted to the new world order of phablets, you need to. According to one study, one in three Internet users already does the bulk of his or her surfing via mobile technologies. Organizations that haven’t optimized their online content for mobile users are behind the times and in danger of being left in the dust by their competition.

This is particularly true for parking companies. After all, whose customers are more mobile? Drivers want quick and convenient access to information about parking programs, available parking spaces, and validation—not to mention mobile payment options. But the power of mobile networking goes beyond drivers. City managers, parking owners, and facility operators use their iPads and smart phones to access information about consulting firms, technology companies, and other suppliers.

Desktop computers are so 20th century. If you want to compete in today’s marketplace, your online content needs to be smartphone friendly. Welcome to The Phablet Age!

Greening, but Still Critical

Rachel_Yoka 2013

The millennials will change everything right?  This next generation will change the way we live, transforming buying habits, working patterns, and transportation choices.

In a recent interview with a Huffington Post reporter, IPI staff discussed this massive generational change that is coming (in the context of sustainability, of course).  The reporter brought up an excellent point: The hippies of the ‘70s were going to have much the same effect—they were going to help create more environmentally-friendly habits, policies, and trends.  And they most certainly had an impact.  But this reporter pointed out to me that those folks are now the baby boomers, many of whom still live in the suburbs and greater than 90 percent of whom still commute and drive to nearly everywhere they want to go.

I imply zero criticism of either the millennials or the baby boomers, but this conversation affected how I think about generational change. As generations age, they also change. Their priorities shift as the world shifts.

Of all people, I believe that massive, structural change is needed to alter our current course, to preserve valuable resources that aren’t infinite, to reduce our dependency on  foreign oil, you name it.  This CityLab article, forwarded to me by Paul Wessel at the Green Parking Council, drives that point home—most of us still drive to work.

If you have any concerns that parking assets are on the way out, think again.  Our industry—including both parking and transportation—is absolutely critical, and will continue to be.

Parking Matters® at the Local Level

Brett Wood

I just got back from the Southwest Parking & Transportation Association (SWPTA) conference in fabulous Las Vegas. The conference was a blast and very rewarding given all the work that went into it. I’ve served on the SWPTA board for the last three years, with the last two as vice-president and president. More importantly, I’ve served with a number of great individuals who share a passion for making that organization thrive, serving parking professionals throughout the southwestern United States.

Just like us, there are more than 25 state and regional parking organizations throughout the United States, each serving a base of parking professionals who are looking to find their way in this exciting and growing industry. The beauty of the state and regional organizations is the ability to connect parking professionals of all experience levels. Just this past week, I observed past IPI Chair Casey Jones, CAPP, working side-by-side with local frontline staff from the City of Las Vegas to solve parking problems during an interactive parking charrette. In that instance, you have a guy who is considered to be one of the brightest in the industry helping a future industry star see the way.

These organizations provide experience, education, and opportunity, and we should strive to bring our knowledge and passion for parking to them—with the same fervor that we would bring to an IPI Conference & Expo with its 3,000+ attendees. For those who have found a home and a place to shine in our industry, there is no better place to give back than the local and regional level. IPI has realized this and is making great strides to expand its alliance with these diverse groups. Just this year, they’ve helped our organization stage frontline training and CAPP courses, helping bring the energy of their traditional offerings to folks who might not always have access to them.

The best way you can give back is to seek out a board position with your local organization. It’s not a lot of work—no wait, I’m wrong; it’s a tremendous amount of work—but the rewards are even greater than the time spent working. The people you meet and the difference you make is reason enough to go for it. And the icing on the cake? You might get to be in a Carlos Santana music video…just ask Casey!

Attendant to Detail

Shawn Conrad

Chivalry and customer service are alive and well in the parking industry. Everyone remembers when we are treated extra-special by someone at a hotel or restaurant or by our auto mechanic.

I’ll never forget the time one of our annual meeting attendees was too sick to fly home and tried to recover in a hotel room. The maid, too, noticed that this person was not feeling well, went out and bought a small teddy bear, an assortment of herbal teas, and a get-well card, and placed it near the customer’s pillow. What a wonderful gesture—it’s probably is an indication that this maid’s manager or hotel owner empowered employees to do things that might make guests’ hotel stays memorable.

The other day, I pulled my car into a very full office garage. Before long, an attendant walked over and at first, motioned that there might be a space available down one of the far lanes. As the last syllable came out of his mouth, he said, “follow me.” Off the attendant went running down a very long aisle, stood in front of an open space, and moved me in. As you can imagine, I felt very special and thanked this gentleman for his help.

The attendant’s excellent service made me feel the same way I do when I go to a big-box hardware store looking for a specific item. When asking a store clerk to help me find it, most will say, “it’s in aisle __,” before leaving me to find the item for myself. Other times, a clerk will walk with me to the aisle and point out the part I need. It’s one thing to say there is an available parking space or that the store sells an item but it’s up to you to find it, and another to go out of their way to find it for you. That’s service!

Maybe in the future all parking customers will be directed to an available space by a parking guidance system. But until then, it’s nice to know someone goes the extra mile to provide exceptional customer service. How about your organization? Are your employees providing services that set you apart from others?

Do you have an example of one of your co-workers going above and beyond just doing their job? Please share!

Harry Potter and the Parking Stone

Jeff Petry

In the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter starts off unaware of his wizardly abilities and kept in a storage closet under the stairs by his aunt and uncle. Gradually, the magical world is revealed to him, including heading off to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Each school year, he is faced with extraordinary challenges as the evil Lord Voldemort attempts to take over the world. Harry is the reluctant hero and leader. He is able to overcome the challenges with his close network of friends and mentors, educational training, and the infused power of love from his deceased parents (killed by Lord Voldemort).

Parking programs across the country can relate to the Harry Potter story. Many parking programs are relegated to organizational “closets” and not provided the opportunity to grow and operate in a nurturing environment to become positive influences in the community. Parking programs are not always recognized for their crucial links between organization and community stakeholders. Many times, parking revenue is just a line item of a larger program’s budget.

Harry Potter did not recognize his true value and power to influence world events on his own. It took a leader, Professor Dumbledore, to recognize the value of the young wizard and embed empathy and values in his personal and wizardly development. It took partnerships with friends and unexpected allies to overcome Voldemort’s evil plans to reshape the world. And all this was happening while the Muggles (non-wizard, everyday humans) were totally oblivious to these struggles, despite noticing weird occurrences around them.

The same can be said for parking programs across the country. It takes an organizational leader to truly understand the potential of parking in shaping a community and then mentor the program and its staff to work their parking magic for good. It takes strong partnerships within your organization and with the community to overcome the challenges thrown at the parking program.  It takes attending our parking school of wizardry (International Parking Institute and regional parking associations) to learn the magic. And this mostly happens under the radar of the majority of the community, except for the conversations around parking rates.

A parking wizard can help shape the community by figuring out how to overcome current challenges as well as those that will shape the community in the future. Are you ready to enter the magical world of parking?

Data-Driven Performance Improvement Part 2: The Porch

L. Dennis Burns

In my last blog post, I discussed some interesting projects relative to data driven analysis focused on improving performance in the arena of place management. The first example was from the Institute of Place Management in the U.K. Today, I wanted to share another great example of data-driven research as applied to a placemaking initiative known as The Porch at 30th Street Station, in Philadelphia.blog1

The Porch  essentially took a large underused plaza area in front of the city’s 30th Street Station and used a range of affordable placemaking strategies to activate this area. The graphic to the right illustrates the potential population that could be affected in the area.

Replacing what had been 34 parking spaces, this initiative leveraged 54 planters, 45 tables, 184 chairs, 28 umbrellas, 12 loungers, and 23 trees (and a tremendous amount of programming) to transform the area from an unwelcoming site to a place where thousands of pedestrians now congregate and interact every day. The transformation is really quite remarkable!

blog3 blog2Beyond the placemaking work of adding seating, shade, food, plantings, music, and a variety of other activities which have transformed this location, the thing I was most impressed with was the process used for measuring and monitoring the effect of the various elements to drive ongoing performance improvements in the area. Porch ambassadors and planning staff used observations and checklist tools, surveys, behavior mapping, pedestrian tracking, and counts to determine who was using The Porch: How long are they staying? Which furniture do they prefer? How is capacity versus demand at different times? Which amenities are most used?

To learn more about this approach, check out the University City website for more detailed information related to shaping public spaces.

Parking Matters®? Prove it!

cropped2014

I’m not a parking professional, but after talking to the media about the industry since 2009, I certainly think it’s fair to call myself a parking cheerleader and advocate. You could say Parking Matters® is my baby—even my three adult daughters will say it’s true.

WhyParkingMatters

If you record milestones in the lives of your children, you’ll understand that I feel similarly in sharing a new white paper IPI has published titled, “Why Parking Matters: The case for why parking –and the expertise of parking professional— is integral to the future of our cities.

From the earliest days of IPI’s Parking Matters® program, it’s been easy to talk to reporters and describe an industry whose dramatic, exciting, positive change is worthy of attention. The convergence of technology, sustainability, and a focus on customer service has given us credible and important stories to share with decision-makers at municipalities, universities, airports, hospitals, retailers, downtowns, sports arenas, and beyond.

This new white paper, coupled with a companion piece summarizing innovative parking programs in the U.S., and the “Smart Parking: A Tale of Two Cities” infographic produced by the Smart Parking Alliance™ this summer, is a powerful tool that takes us a step further in telling our story.

Focused on the municipality market, Why Parking Matters® includes discussions of the economics of parking, sustainability, and how parking contributes to making more livable, walkable communities.

The white paper supports IPI’s mission to advance the parking profession. The call to action?  Rethink your parking strategies, starting with the expertise of a parking professional.

I hope you’ll download Why Parking Matters® and share it widely with colleagues and clients. You’ll also receive a hard copy with next month’s The Parking Professional magazine.

The white paper is a living document. If you have a particular statistic that makes the case for Why Parking Matters®, please share it with me at sullivan@parking.org. If your city is not one of the 13 included in the Innovative Parking Programs in the U.S., send me a summary of its innovations and we’ll add it in.

Data-Driven Performance Improvement in Placemaking

L. Dennis Burns

I recently returned from the International Downtown Association (IDA) Annual Conference in Canada’s beautiful capital city of Ottawa. I have had a long and positive association with the IDA and have learned much from my downtown management colleagues through the years. This year was no exception.

Data-driven analysis is nothing new in the consulting or parking worlds, but two presentations at this year’s IDA conference took the application of rigorous data collection and analysis for two very different projects to a new level. I thought I would share these examples with you.lburns1

The first example was from Simon W. Quin, executive director of the Institute of Place Management (IPM) in the U.K. In collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University, the IPM was exploring the performance-forecasting factors related to placemaking. Two hundred one factors were identified and analyzed relative to how much influence each factor has on the vitality and viability of a place and how much control a location has over the factor.

Using a scatter graph to map the factors, some factors either did not have much effect or couldn’t be changed without significant effort or costs. However, 25 key factors were identified as being highly impactful and those for which place managers had a significant degree of control through which they could affect change.

lburns2These factors, which fell into the “Get on with it!” category in the top graphic, include many elements that are important to parking professionals. In particular, the factors of, walkability, accessibility and livability were prominent. Additional factors that could be embraced by parking and transportation professionals included amenities and elements related to the “experience of the place,” such as appearance, attractiveness, safety, and security.

This research effort is just midway into a year-long analysis and I look forward to following it as it evolves. You can learn more by visiting placemanagement.org.

In my next blog post, I will outline another great example of data-driven research as applied to the place making initiative known as “The Porch at 30th Street Station” in Philadelphia. The level of detail involved in the development and refinement of this place making project provides many potential lessons for parking professionals as we begin to embrace place making to improve our customer’s experiences within our facilities and campuses.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (Part I)

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, wrote that not only do we fear change, “[people] genuinely believe that when you’ve been doing something a particular way for some time, it must be a good way to do things. And the longer you’ve been doing it that way, the better it is.” It’s no wonder some universities have a tough time considering better ways of running their parking departments.  Even though the old way of doing things may feel comfortable, there are probably ways to improve customer service, reduce costs, and in some cases, increase revenue.

In my next few blog posts, I’ll offer up parking practices at universities that may be worth reconsidering. Today: hunting license permit systems.

Many schools sell permits for parking but the permit only offers a chance to park on campus—it doesn’t guarantee you’ll actually be able to park. The number of permits sold in this scheme is not capped, so you often create a situation where there are more parkers than parking spaces. This in turn results in excessive driving as parkers search for available spaces, additional congestion and pollution, and unhappy patrons. This approach works when parking demand is low but as schools grow and construct new buildings on parking lots, the parking supply-and-demand relationship changes, requiring a new way to allocate scarce parking permits and spaces.

Many schools have successfully implemented demand-based permit allocation systems where the price of a permit is based on the demand for the facility for which the permit is valid.  This system is grounded in supply/demand economics and uses pricing signals to help consumers make informed decisions about whether and where to park. The use of alternatives to driving (and a reduction in congestion and pollution) often follows a move to market-informed pricing.

In a tiered parking scheme, parking lots and garages are typically treated as discrete facilities. A finite number of parking permits are sold for the facility with an established oversell ratio based on documented occupancy data for the facility, and parkers do not hunt for parking spaces between lots but are assigned to specific facilities.

Drop me a line if you have an example of a parking practice worth reconsidering. Together we can make change less fearful.

Where Were You?

Bruce Barclay

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Almost everyone in America beyond their teenage years remembers where they were and what they were doing on that horrific day. Certain historical markers are embedded in our memory forever. Baby boomers remember their whereabouts on the days when JFK, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Individuals born in the ’60s and later have September 11 as an unforgettable memory that will linger long into their future.

September 11, 2001 was a date that affected the population of the United States on many different levels. The New York Stock Exchange was closed after the planes hit the Twin Towers and remained closed until the following Monday. The day it reopened, the Dow fell more than 684 points to close at 8920.70, down 7.13 percent.  Bond markets were also hit especially hard. Cantor Fitzgerald, a major government bond trader, lost many employees in the disaster. Their offices were located on the upper floors at One World Trade Center, the first building hit in the attack.

September 11’s impact on society was immediate. The U.S. aviation industry took enormous hits. On September 10, 2001 there were more than 38,000 flights. On September 12, 2001, there were only 252 commercial flights.* It took more than a week for U.S. flights to return to normal schedules. In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, (ATSA), which created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The ATSA mandated important changes in civil aviation security procedures, some of which we have become very familiar with when we travel. The first was the implementation of passenger security screening at all U.S. commercial airports, and the second was the screening of all checked baggage. Gone were the days when we could arrive at the airport 30 minutes before our flight and make the gate with time to spare.

From my perspective, September 11, 2001 started off as a normal day, with beautiful blue skies and sun over Newark Airport. I was general manager for the contract parking operations at Newark International and was in our valet operation just before 8:45 am. Local news events were being broadcast on TV in valet when there was an interruption in the broadcast— a small twin engine plane had just crashed into the World Trade center. My immediate thought was how could that happen on such a clear day?

My valet manager and I went to the roof of the parking garage adjacent to valet. What we saw was shocking. Thick gray smoke was pouring out of the top of the North Tower into the sky. We were about eight miles as the crow flies from the Trade Center and could see the events unfold in front of us. We quickly went back to valet for further news updates. As we reached the TV, the second plane hit the South Tower. “The second strike could not have been an accident,” is what I repeated to my peers. When the Towers collapsed, lower Manhattan was enveloped in a cloud of dust. The next few hours at Newark Airport were filled with anxiety and lots of misinformation. It did not help that the cellular systems were overloaded, making communication a challenge. I kept looking to the east seeing the continuous plume of smoke rising from the fallen Towers. It is a sight that I will never forget.