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Making New Friends At Any Age

Bonnie Watts


It’s hard to make new friends, and making friends later in life is even harder. Gone are the days of lifelong friendships with your after-school sports teammate or college roommate—the kind where the only thing you have in common (at first) is shared proximity. Add work and family responsibilities to the mix and it seems like there just isn’t room left over. Why bother? conference-logo-home

Research shows strong social connections can help us live longer, happier lives. They can also help us enjoy the workday and get ahead in our careers. Plus it’s plain fun!

How about a place where you could connect with 3,500 potential friends? Even better, what if they share your interest in parking and transportation, know what acronyms TDM and EMV mean (transportation demand management and Europay, MasterCard, Visa), and understand first-hand that Parking Matters®?

The 2016 IPI Conference & Expo, May 17-20, Nashville, Tenn., is the perfect playground to meet thousands of parking professionals from 45 countries around the world. Meet and reconnect with professionals representing every level of experience and segment of the parking industry. Enjoy conversation and camaraderie with colleagues who share your challenges and experiences.

_EST3058Join IPI for a dozen unconventional networking activities that connect you with peers who have a common interest while exploring Nashville’s rich heritage and expansive landscape. Pick from networking and social events for the golfer, runner, foodie, musician, adventurer, and history buff alike.

Don’t forget about the networking that comes from taking advantage of the best parking education and training in the industry. Learn from industry leaders, engage in high-energy IGNITE sessions, participate in roundtables, jump into track education, plus much more!

Building relationships is key to success in any career. Register for the 2016 IPI Conference & Expo today and get ready to say hello to your new friends.

Meet the Cookie Thief


Some people collect dolls, postcards, baseball caps, corks, stamps, coins, snow globes, vinyl albums (yes, they’re back!), or numerous other collectibles. I collect poems.

One poem I just discovered is particularly enchanting and includes a life lesson. It originally appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, the popular series edited by Jack Canfield. Meet “The Cookie Thief” here:

The Cookie Thief
by Valerie Stevens

A woman was waiting at an airport one nightshutterstock_372092143
With several long hours before her flight
She hunted for a book in the airport shop
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop
She was engrossed in her book but happened to see
That the man beside her as bold as could be
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene
She munched cookies and watched the clock
As this gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by
Thinking “If I wasn’t so nice I’d blacken his eye”
With each cookie she took he took one too
And when only one was left she wondered what he’d do
With a smile on his face and a nervous laugh
He took the last cookie and broke it in half
He offered her half as he ate the other
She snatched it from him and thought “Oh brother
This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude
Why he didn’t even show any gratitude”
She had never known when she had been so galled
And sighed with relief when her flight was called
She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate
Refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate
She boarded the plane and sank in her seat
Then sought her book which was almost complete
As she reached in her baggage she gasped with surprise
There was her bag of cookies in front of her eyes
“If mine are here” she moaned with despair
“Then the others were his and he tried to share”
“Too late to apologize she realized with grief”
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

Sometimes the way we perceive things is just plain wrong. Think about how clueless most people are about what parking professionals do and what the parking industry is all about.  I like that this poem is a humbling reminder to step back sometimes and look past our immediate assumptions to see other possibilities.

Thinking Big

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

We often drive a lot during the holiday season to visit friends and family up north. If I’m not concentrating on fending off the 18-wheeler that seems to enjoy my lane more than his, these drives give me time to think. I spend at least some of the seven-hour trip reflecting on the passing year and gearing up for the next by setting my New Year’s resolutions. This year I went for working out more and of course, cutting out as many sugary treats as possible. iStock_000062256442_Large

As resolutions go, Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors came up with a big one for the coming year. Posted recently on a LinkedIn series about big ideas that will shape 2016, Barra offered that the coming year will be transformative in the way people get to and from their destinations. She identified three key areas for change and committed to leading the auto industry through the transformation. As parking professionals, it’s worth paying attention to what the world’s auto makers are focusing on this year and years to come. Barra’s key areas and the future focus for GM are: 1) shared mobility, 2) autonomous vehicles, and 3) alternative propulsion.

For marketing expert Michael Spencer, the most interesting topic for 2016 is the millennial generation. According to Spencer, understanding this age cohort is critical to successfully providing consumer goods and services. Because Millennials are the largest age cohort, they are first digital natives, they are omni-social and connected, they have less money to spend, they are encumbered by debt, and their values and preferences are different than other generations. In response, Spencer suggests having a good brand and optimizing it on social media; creating campaigns that relate to social good; having a “soul for sustainability;” and most interestingly, he suggests marketing your vulnerability since Millennials value quality and transparency.

It’s hard not to think of the future in any way without considering the impact of technology on our industry, our society, and perhaps even our very essence as humans. Ian Bremmer, president at Eurasia Group writes, “Almost everybody who talks about the rise of technology today focuses on automation and how it’s eliminating jobs quicker than they can be replaced; very few people focus on how technology is changing us, our identity, how we organize our lives. and coexist with one another. Nature vs. nurture has now become a triangle of nature vs. nurture vs. technology, and we know very little about how this third corner will shape us, in 2016 and beyond.”

Only time will tell if our resolutions or future predictions come true but it will be an exciting year by any measure. Think big.

Improving Urban Mobility

L. Dennis Burns

Information and communication technologies combined with smartphone applications and location data from global positioning systems are making feasible transportation services that have long been imagined but never realized on a large scale. These innovations include carsharing, bikesharing, microtransit services, and most notably, transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft. businessman with smartphone in the city

These services are being embraced by millions of travelers who are using their smartphones to arrange for trips by car, shuttle, and public transit, as well as for short-term rental of cars and bicycles. The new services epitomize today’s sharing economy and allow an increasing number of people to enjoy the mobility benefits of an automobile without owning one, and may encourage others to leave their personal vehicles at home for the day, reduce the number of vehicles in their household, or even forgo having one at all.

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) recently released Special Report 319: Between Public and Private Mobility: Examining the Rise of Technology-Enabled Transportation Services. This report was developed by a special task force of transportation experts from industry and academia and identified a range of research needs.

In a separate but related publication, Xerox’s Innovator’s Brief for the Transportation Industry recently presented “A Three-Point Plan to Improve Urban Mobility.”  This brief highlights the fact that cities are going to get a lot more crowded. Today, 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. The United Nations estimate that an additional 2.5 billion people could be based in cities by 2050. As our world becomes more urbanized, the issues of traffic congestion, parking, and access management are amplified. Xerox’s brief focuses on three key points that can empower cities to be more sustainable and improve the quality of life for residents and tourists:

  • Improve the efficiency of existing mobility infrastructure. Adding more infrastructure is simply not an option in many urban environments. Using technology, we can move people, vehicles, and goods more efficiently through the existing infrastructure.
  • Increase the capacity of the existing mobility infrastructure.  The goal here is to move more people, vehicles, and goods through the existing infrastructure.
  • Change the behaviors of urban travelers. This is about influencing the choices travelers make toward options that reduce congestion.  Agencies that implement dynamic pricing can reduce traffic congestion in all electronic toll collection and/or on-street parking situations, using pricing as a mechanism to influence driver choices. Smart parking programs help increase space availability and reduce pollution by helping drivers get to a parking spot at their desired price point sooner.  Incorporating telecommuting into the office culture helps to keep people and vehicles off the roads during the day.  Providing accessible multimodal options such as ridesharing, carsharing, public transportation, etc., via mobility apps creates opportunities to make different choices that can result in less personal vehicle usage, and therefore less congestion.

Both of these publications reinforce the integration of parking and mobility management strategies into a more comprehensive and connected platform of transportation choices. I encourage you to explore these resources and add more parking voices to the conversation.

Free Parking is Bad and Demand-Responsive Parking is Good, Right? Not Necessarily (Part 2)

Dave Feehan

Yesterday, we talked about why the belief that demand-responsive parking is always best might just be a myth. So if that’s not the answer to our parking woes, what is?Machine parking

Each of the components of a successful downtown has different parking needs. The answer, then, to an effective parking system supporting and complementing all of these components is not just demand-responsive parking, but a comprehensive, well-managed, customer-sensitive, and user-friendly approach.

Boise, Idaho, is a great example. If my memory is correct, Boise introduced a couple of hours of free parking to entice shoppers and diners. The parking system actually lost revenue but sales tax revenue exploded, more than making up for lost parking fees. Not only that, but shoppers were extending the time they spent in downtown. And as any shopping center manager will tell you, the more time I can capture a shopper, the more money that shopper will spend.

The Oakland article mentioned in yesterday’s blog post suggests that shoppers should abandon their cars and take public transit. But that is not how Americans shop. Remember, women make about 85 percent of retail purchases and most do not want to be schlepping a couple of shopping bags on a bus or subway car.

In the 1970s, Jim Rouse, the creator of festival marketplaces, brought that concept to Kevin White, then mayor of Boston. He proposed turning Quincy Markets into a festival market. The idea became a reality, and it worked, so other cities—Baltimore with Harborplace and New York with South Street Seaport—followed suit, with some degree of success. But festival markets were no magic bullet, and when they were tried in places like Flint and Toledo, they failed miserably.

I worry that demand-responsive parking is becoming the next magic bullet—an idea that works superbly in some places, modestly in others, and not at all in still others. If we really understand what shoppers, diners, downtown employees, tourists, downtown residents and other downtown visitors want and need—if we start with the user and not with the parking space—we might find far greater benefits in the long run.

Another trend in the parking industry is for parking system managers to engage in a strategic planning process. My bifurcated brain tells me that any city or district thinking about demand-responsive parking should start by listening to users, engaging them in a really effective strategic planning process, and only then deciding how best to serve and support them. Demand responsive parking is AN answer—not THE answer.

Free Parking is Bad and Demand-Responsive Parking is Good, Right? Not Necessarily (Part 1)

Dave Feehan

The headline in the Oakland, Calif., East Bay Express read, “Why Oakland’s Free Holiday Parking is Hurting Business.” And once again, my split personality emerged from its usual hiding place. All of the experts quoted in the article said free parking will hurt merchants. But how do they know?Machine parking

You see, I’ve spent pretty much all of my professional life in the field of downtown and community development, but I’ve also been deeply involved in parking for much of that time, both as a manager of a downtown parking system and as a consultant. So I look at situations like Oakland’s and part of me sees what parking professionals see. But another part of me sees what merchants, restaurant owners, shoppers, tourists, and downtown residents see. And I’m not sure that free parking is always bad and demand-responsive parking is always the best answer.

I know: “Free” parking is never free. We’ve buried that discussion, hopefully, years ago. And yes, demand-responsive parking seems to be working in places like San Francisco and Seattle, where demand for on-street parking is extremely high.

But I’ve been working with the City of Lebanon, Penn., for about a year on the creation of a business improvement district, or BID. Lebanon has a visually appealing, historic downtown but its retail component is weak and there are too many vacancies and storefront churches on its main street. Is free Saturday parking the answer to downtown Lebanon’s woes? No. Might it help for a few years until the BID can recruit a much stronger set of shops and restaurants? You bet, if it is managed well. Free parking can be managed so that employees and employers don’t park all day in front of the store.

What we do know is that downtowns that are lively and vibrant need great restaurants and clubs, enticing shops and successful office tenants, and lots of residents. Having a university branch, a good library, a live theater, and a burgeoning farmers market help to round out a place that local residents can be proud of, and city officials can appreciate as a major tax revenue generator.

What are the answers? Come back tomorrow and find out!

Does Your Organization have Gas in the Tank?

Mark D Napier

Let’s think about mission, values, and vision for a minute. Consider that your organization is a car on a road. Mission simply tells the car which direction to point; it becomes a far off destination that the car is inclined to travel toward. Values define the boundaries of the roadway. They inform the organization of the appropriate path it must travel toward the mission. Vision is the gas in the gas tank. Without this, the organization goes nowhere.night driving

Most organizations lack any sense of vision. Why? Because conveying organizational vision is hard work and requires leadership. It requires the leader to passionately discuss what makes the organization great, where it is going, and why. The leader must inspire and communicate. This is hard to do with a fancy poster and a cozy seat behind your desk. The resulting lack of vision means the organization idles on the roadway. Personnel become disinterested and underperform.

Everything of significant consequence in human history is the result of conveyed vision. “In 10 years we will put a man on the moon.” “I have a dream…” “Four score and seven years ago…” “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Throw the mission statement in the garbage can. No one reads it anyway. Inspire your organization with vision. Put gas in the tank. Strong vision guides values and inspires mission.

Words Mean Things

Rachel_Yoka 2013

My kids love to explore online and share funny memes—who doesn’t, right? (As an aside, memes are apparently pronounced MEEMS with a long E, like the word “seems.” You can thank me later for that tidbit.)

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

My daughter, Sofia, comes running down the stairs, telling me, “Mom! You have to see this!” She’s got her ever-present iPad with a photo of a parking sign, so of course I am interested. The sign reads “2-hour parking, from 7 to 8 p.m.”. Per my usual response, I tell her, “Words mean things. You have to choose carefully to get them right.” We have a good laugh and start looking up other less-than-effective parking and other signs.

How often do we choose the right words, taking the time to make sure we get them right? And then do we add in a quick grammar check to make sure our written or spoken words get our point across? Signs don’t carry emotion, but our words certainly do. Not only do our words have meaning, but they last—on paper, online, or in memory.

Once we have our words carefully selected and our impeccable grammar verified, it’s often wise to consider our delivery of those words. This has always been a critical element of communication, as so much of our message to others is non-verbal. Joining IPI as a staff member after 12 years of membership has brought this to the forefront for me. Every interaction, every communication, every conversation matters. IPI staff know that every time a member calls or emails, we have an opportunity not only to add value to that person’s day, but also to make it a bit brighter. Parking professionals know that every interaction with staff, the public, and stakeholders will influence those individuals’ perceptions of the parking program and the industry in general.

Maybe that’s the secret—once we have our words, our grammar, and our delivery ready, we can make every day a bit brighter and spread a more hopeful and joyful message. ’Tis the season!

Best Invention Ever!

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

It is the time of year I give special praise to the Big Guy for my blessings. Oh, you thought I was talking about Thanksgiving and Christmas? No, I meant college football season. I’m especially grateful for my DVR and regard this as the greatest invention ever next to electricity—which, of course, makes the DVR work. iStock_000027638972_Medium

Before the DVR, you had to accept that there would be great games you couldn’t help but miss, especially if you attended a game in-person or if you just couldn’t stay tuned to the last Pac-12 or Mountain West game that lasted well past your normal bedtime. DVRs make it possible to record multiple games at once so you can watch at your leisure while not giving up on other things in your life, like watching the home team in-person. I’m especially fond of skipping commercials and replaying that big play over and over again. Simply put, the DVR has improved my quality of life in immeasurable ways. I’m also quite sure it’s added years to my life.

As clouded as my judgment can be, I must remind myself that the little black box is not an end unto itself; rather, it provides a means for me to enjoy my favorite sport. It isn’t really the invention itself that I love, but the convenience it offers. Parking technology is no different and if we think of technology as an end, we’re missing the key reasons to pursue technology in the first place. We may even invest in and implement a technology that doesn’t advance the ball at all, so to speak.

I see three major reasons for implementing technology: to improve the customer’s experience and hence their loyalty to my business, to reduce operational costs thus helping to improve my bottom line, and to generate revenue—again, to improve my bottom line.

In a recent IPI blog post, our friend Cindy Campbell makes the point clearly but from the consumer’s standpoint. During a recent trip to the airport, Cindy lost her parking ticket and faced a staggering fine (read it here). But instead of throwing their hands up and dinging her egregiously, Cindy’s airport parking staff explained that they could figure out with relative ease how long she had been parked and would only charge her for the time she actually stayed. To no surprise, Cindy was elated. This is technology doing its best work and offering a way around an age-old practice that never resulted in improved customer service or loyalty. Sure, the airport was out a bit of potential revenue but that wasn’t really earned in the first place.

Though it’s not an exaggeration that my DVR has literally saved my life, I am sure not to view it as an end but a means to a better TV-watching experience. Let’s be mindful of that in our parking world and pursue innovation and technology for the right reasons.

Flexibility: Lessons from the NFL

Shawn Conrad

The National Football League is now in the 13th week of a very grueling 16-week schedule. These games and athletes are at times poetry in motion, and at other times, it’s a game that is vicious and hard-hitting. It’s amazing that any players make it through the season with all of their limbs and senses intact.

I recently listened to a post-game interview with a player who was asked how he was able to make it through so many seasons without any serious injuries. He mentioned that the team’s trainer had emphasized stretching their muscles and joints every day, sometimes multiple times a day, to stay limber and agile. What the trainer was really preaching was for the athlete to stay flexible.

What a great message for us non-NFL players as well. While we aren’t so much concerned with being hit by a 260-lb. middle linebacker, we are constantly having to deal with a rush of constant change in our professional and personal lives. Think about all of the things that are changing around us: technology, new duties and responsibilities, co-workers coming and going, our parents and siblings getting older, kids learning to drive and then soon off to college, and more.   iStock_000000867534_Large

Many things change over time and most of the time, you can’t do anything about it. Things can change because they weren’t working or were out of date—maybe you found something that just worked better.  Having to deal with change requires a degree of flexibility as you figure out how to approach shifting technology or working in a new environment or figuring out children who no longer seek your input.

Adapting to change isn’t easy and it takes a flexible mindset. You have to stay open to new possibilities and opportunities. Those around you who successfully tackle change in their lives are often seen as more open-minded and adaptable, while those who resist change seem as though they are standing between the end zone and a running back who does the 40-yard dash in under five seconds.

We’ve all heard that change is inevitable. The way you tackle it will affect how happy and productive you are.

We will soon be looking at the beginning of 2016—a new year that will bring with it many changes and things that are different than what they once were. Take a moment, take a few deep breaths, and think how this change will affect you. Then, focus on how you can adapt to this new reality.  And don’t forget to stretch.