Penny Wise and Pound Foolish: Funding America’s Transportation Needs

Shawn Conrad

Major media outlets across the United States are streaming headlines of the implications of the midterm election results. Analysts debate what the loss of congressional seats from the president’s political party will have on future legislation. While many may think I am referring to our most recent election results, these events were after the midterm elections of George W. Bush’s first term in office, when his party lost numerous congressional seats. What comes around goes around, or as New York Yankees great Yogi Berra stated, “Deja vu all over again.”

While Capitol Hill sorts through all of the upcoming changes and a wave of new government aides replace the old guard, it’s anyone’s guess what effects these changes will have on transportation reauthorization or fending off the insolvency of our nation’s transportation fund.

The issues being discussed and receiving the most attention are immigration, health care, potential tax reform care and, yes, the Affordable Care Act, which is going to get another review. While these are important topics and deserve attention, it’s important to remember that transportation funding runs out May 31, 2015.  Our colleagues at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) are showcasing options to raise the necessary transportation funding. These options include an increase on taxes for gas and diesel fuel consumption or charging drivers for miles driven. Of course, these ideas have their critics. But is not funding roads, bridges, highways, transit, light rail, and intermodal centers really an option?

As legislative leaders return from their victory parties or from licking their wounds, let’s collectively seek their attention on our nation’s worn infrastructure and investing in mobility.  An investment will have a positive effect today and help drive economic growth tomorrow.

The Ebola Report

Bruce Barclay

After watching CBS correspondent Lara Logan’s report on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago, I began thinking of the effect Ebola has on the people of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. As of last week, there were more than 13,200 cases confirmed and more than 5,000 deaths in the three countries where the virus is widespread. Logan and her crew are finishing a 21-day quarantine in their hotel as a precautionary measure; fortunately, they have shown no signs of infection with the virus.

As much as the television story moved me to think of the situation in West Africa, I began to think closer to home and the impact the virus can have here in the U.S. Since an airport would be the primary point of entry for travelers who may be carrying the Ebola virus, the U.S. government selected five airports for entry screening: JFK, Newark, Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles, and Atlanta. These five airports receive more than 94 percent of the travelers departing from the Ebola-affected countries.  But, what if the individual is not showing any symptoms when they arrive at one of these airports? It is conceivable the infected person may slip through the screening process and arrive in one of our cities. What happens to the car or taxi he hires?

I’m sure there are lots of us thinking about what would happen if an Ebola-infected traveler arrived at our airports and was detained because of symptoms of the virus. Do we need to be ready for parking-area quarantine? What are the protocols for airline personnel, first responders, and EMS staff? What do our parking attendants need to know? Fortunately, the Center for Disease Control has provided guidance for personnel who may have to deal with potential Ebola infections. The CDC provides a great deal of information on its website ranging from prevention, signs and symptoms, and diagnosis, to preparedness for health care workers.

Advances in transportation technology are making the world’s population more mobile. As a result, the threat of Ebola and other diseases hitting our shores is a reality.

Getting Together

Rachel_Yoka 2013

There is something about meeting in person that simply cannot be replicated in any other way: To find common ground with another person or organization and to identify amazing opportunities face-to-face. Last month at GreenBuild, the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) annual conference and exposition, I was fortunate enough to represent IPI, along with the Green Parking Council (an affiliate of IPI). We met with one of the most dynamic teams I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with: the senior leadership of the USGBC. Their ability to communicate, their passion and fire for their work, and the pace of our conversation all added to the excitement of finding our common ground.

Of course their passion for their work shines. They know that the built environment (buildings and yes, parking garages) can add tremendous value to the triple bottom line—people, planet, and profit. They know that better buildings (and yes, garages) can build a better world for our kids and grandkids. And their drive to accelerate that process, to create a better physical environment and financial return, is simply contagious.

That cannot happen over a conference call. I have the same feeling every year at the IPI Conference & Expo. The level of excitement and collaboration can only happen when more than 3,000 of the greatest people in the world (parking professionals) get together in one place. I don’t know exactly what amazing outcomes and experiences will come out of the Vegas show in 2015. But I for one cannot wait to find out.

Parking Industry: A Well-Rounded Resume

Frank L. Giles

We’ve all been in the position of having to look for a new job or needing to take that next step in our career. So what do we do? Dust off the old resume. We want it to make us as attractive as possible

The best resumes are well-rounded, not one-dimensional. They relay a candidate’s versatile skills and varying experiences, and make him or her more attractive overall.

So what might the parking industry’s resume look like? It would probably read: on-street parking, airport parking, event parking and valet. It would also cover transportation and urban planning, but what might we be missing? I believe that the parking industry has positives that have not been accentuated enough. For instance, if you operate a parking deck, you probably have maintenance staff. I’ve seen maintenance personnel tackle everything from pressure washing to painting. I’ve even known maintenance staff who take care of landscaping, including cutting grass, hedges and setting plants, and I’m not just talking about around the parking deck, but along walkways and building fronts. These tasks are executed at a professional level on a daily basis by parking people.

We might also consider valet. Yes they park your car and they bring your car back, but is that it? I’ve known valets to carry luggage, give directions, and even recommend services and amenities. A good valet can easily replace a concierge.

These accomplishments are nothing to sneeze at and I’m sure there are a lot more I did not mention here. I think the parking industry would do well to add attributes like these on its proverbial resume. A well-rounded resume can make any candidate more attractive (not that we’re looking).

Future Thoughts

KimFernandezJan2014

Scrolling through Todd Litman’s Facebook page is a little bit like watching the slideshow of a world traveler—he has been everywhere to talk about transportation and the future. Head of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Litman is a respected researcher and expert on transportation systems, growth, technology, and trends, and that includes parking.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 11.02.04 PMParking, he says, is a critical piece to urban development and the success of cities, and the industry has a big role to play as technology and the ways we work, shop, and live change. He also has specific ideas on parking management and the role parking professionals should play in the greater planning and transportation realms, and he shares them all in the November issue of The Parking Professional. My favorite quote from our Q&A with him is, “Parking policy reforms can make major contributions toward creating more economically successful and livable communities, and many parking professionals are helping implement them. You should be proud!”

We’re all looking toward the future and the role the parking industry will play, and our November issue is chock-full of information to help you decide which direction to pursue and how to proceed. From a feature about the fledgling parking industry in Abu Dhabi to a fascinating look at how a parking census changed things for the better in San Francisco (do you know how many spaces exist in your city?), it’s an issue you’ll want to read and pass around in the office.

Know what else you should pass around? A camera—it’s last-call for The Parking Professional’s third annual photo contest and we can’t wait to see your parking photos! We have a streamlined entry process this year that’s super easy and you could win prizes ranging from Parking Matters® bling to a full registration to the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo, June 29 – July 2 in Las Vegas. Check out our categories, rules, and entry forms here, and send me your best shots!

I hope you enjoy our November issue!

A Glimpse of Tomorrow

Brett Wood

The questions are becoming so common, I can see them coming before they’re even asked. Invariably, when I am speaking at a conference or meeting, someone raises their hand and begins to ask about the future of transportation. Questions like, what about autonomous vehicles? Won’t that render parking useless? Or, millenials don’t drive! Won’t that change the way we think about parking?

I love these questions because they represent an opportunity to wax philosophically about how and why our transportation system is evolving. Are we responding to the needs of new drivers? Or are new drivers responding to policies and practices that the transportation industry has put in place during the past decade? It’s almost like what came first: the chicken or the TDM strategy?

I like to believe that the positive directions of transportation planners, urban planners, and parking professionals have started to shift people’s mindsets from the automobile and toward alternative modes of transportation. Things like car share, bike share, and ride share haven’t become popular because of fads in society, but rather because today’s planners have been able to capitalize on rising costs associated with driving, automobile ownership, and fuel prices. And the emerging generation has seen the fallacy in the quest for a suburban auto-dominated life. Maybe a perfect storm is driving these changes.

What I do know is that the future of transportation will likely continue to capitalize on these trends. In particular, the sharing economy will continue to drive changes in the way we provide transportation services. I was recently at a conference in Germany where BMW was promoting its focus on car share throughout the world. And Toyota was discussing a concept that goes well beyond that, linking transit, car share, and a mobility network of ultra-compact electric vehicles. The program, called HaMo, is being pilot-tested now in Japan and France. For more information, check out the YouTube video here.

If a system like this could be realized in urban settings, it would revolutionize the way we move about. It helps to solve first- and last-mile problems that have limited the effectiveness of connecting transit nodes with those areas outside of comfortable walking distances. And it continues to disincentivize single-occupancy vehicle use, which has plagued both parking and transportation networks.

So what does this mean for parking? The honest answer is that no one really knows. Less parking? Probably, but that’s not a bad thing. Smarter parking? Most definitely, but we have been moving in that direction for some time. As we continue to evolve this industry, we are only going to continue to push for more meaningful shifts in mobility and transportation.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: University Parking Practices Worth Reconsidering (Part II)

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

George Bernard Shaw said, “Progress is impossible without change.” With the goal of improving parking on college campuses, this blog series concentrates on old parking policies and practices universities should re-think. I wrote last about the hunting license approach to parking permit allocation and demand-based pricing. Using price to differentiate parking products based on demand gives consumers a critical tool to determine if the convenience one parking space offers over another is worth the difference in price. What’s more, tiered parking systems enhance customer satisfaction by improving the likelihood that a patron will find a space in his or her assigned lot. Universities should also be thoughtful about how parking programs and services are delivered, so this post is on organizational structure and service delivery.

I visited a campus recently and learned that the parking programs and services there are spread across several different departments. Police write parking citations, permits are sold from the business office, the planning department plans for future parking facilities, and athletics handles parking for athletic events. It’s good to invite multiple perspectives on how parking should be run, but a decentralized, fragmented system promotes inefficiency, poor customer service, and tactical (rather than strategic) thinking.

The alternative to a fragmented system is a centralized one in which the parking and transportation department is the principle unit responsible for campus access programs and services. Ideally, this includes fleet services, alternative transportation, special event parking, and transit and shuttle services in addition to parking operations and planning. I do not suggest that parking departments work in a silo. Instead, parking staff work with their counterparts in other departments who serve as subject matter experts (e.g. the public safety department and emergency management) or as a client (e.g. the athletics department for on-campus athletic events). Centralized parking management provides the best opportunity to keep the big picture in focus by facilitating the coordination and delivery of related programs and services. It also ensures that each opportunity for a customer interaction is managed with the same overarching goals and objectives and that quality customer service follows from start to finish.

If colleges and universities wish to deliver the best, most efficient parking and transportation service, they must be willing to structure their delivery mechanisms for success. Consolidating all facets of access management offers the optimal solution.

Even Dolly Parton Knows About Parking

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I recently went to the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia to see “9 to 5: the Musical,” featuring the music and lyrics of Dolly Parton who many of you may recall starred in the 1980 movie of the same name.

s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

Photo credit: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

During the first scene, Judy, who is late to work on her first, day reports to Violet, her new supervisor, that she’s sorry she is late for work. She’s very upset and goes through a whole host of issues regarding why she’s late. All of her issues are related to finding parking.

After Judy finishes her rant on not being able to find parking to come to work on time, she asks Violet a series of questions, starting with, “Violet, did you know that the first parking meter was made in Oklahoma City in 1935?” Of course she doesn’t give Violet the opportunity to even answer this question before asking more and more, until Violet rolls her eyes and walks away.

After Judy’s first question, I whispered to my friend in the next seat, “I knew that. That’s in our online Introduction to Parking course.” My friend giggled and looked at me with that of-course-you-knew-that look. She then whispered down the lane to all our friends in the row that I knew that information. As they heard the whisper, each one of them leaned over in my direction and gave me a look and a smile.

The play was spectacular but when it ended, the conversation as we walked to the parking garage focused on that first parking meter in Oklahoma City. The questions from my friends ranged from “Why Oklahoma City?” to “Who thought about charging for parking and why?” “Did he make money?” “What did he charge?” and “How did that help the city?”

As I found myself continuing to educate my friends around parking I thought to myself, “I wonder what it would be like if no one ever did think about inventing a parking meter?” When I joined IPI, I never thought parking would be this interesting. Even Dolly Parton knows about parking!

Biden, Flying Cars, and IPI, Oh, My!

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Biden

Clockwise from top left: Prototype of a flying car; Google’s director of self-driving cars, Chris Urmson with Washington Post editor David Cho; Uber’s David Plouffe; “Easier Parking” panel: Washington Post editor Mary Jordan (at podium) with David Cummins (Xerox) Eric Meyer (Haystack),Rachel Yoka (IPI),and Post urban policy reporter and blogger Emily Badger; and Vice President Joe Biden.

What a day for parking here in D.C.! The Washington Post’s first Answers Series event focused on “Fix My Commute” and included a day-long, live stream, and studio audience of policy makers, wonks, and transportation insiders. Vice President Joe Biden, keynoted the event after introducing himself as Joe “Amtrak” Biden, much to the delight of the Amtrak and rail folks in attendance. See his remarks here. A panel on parking included IPI’s VP Program Development Rachel Yoka, Xerox’s David Cummins (IPI’s Smart Parking Alliance™ co-chair), and Haystack CEO Eric Mayer.

Bravo to David and Rachel for being so articulate about the role of parking, innovative approaches, and sustainability. The Post’s team did a stellar job with an all-star line-up that included mayors from Denver, Honolulu, Miami-Dade, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City, along with former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, now co-chair of Building America’s Future.

Google X’s (the company’s “top secret” innovation arm) Chris Urmson gave a fascinating preview of their self-driving car, including a video of the vehicle being test-driven by friends of developers. There was also a presentation of a prototype of a flying car being “floated” by start-up Terrafugia. (It was parked just outside the theatre where the event was held—on-street and taking up quite a few metered spaces!).

My favorite soundbites:

  • “Thank you for letting me vent” is the most common close to any correspondence sent to columnist Robert Thomson (Dr. Gridlock) from consumers who write to him about D.C. traffic and commuting issues. See a related video shown here.
  • “A car is a freedom machine.” Andrew Card, Former U.S. secretary of transportation and White House chief of staff.
  • “A lot of technology exceeds government’s ability to take advantage of it.” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
  • “Transportation is a family’s second biggest expense, after housing.” Joe Biden

During the events, I sat next to Mark Wright, executive director of the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT), now part of the IPI family. I also had the pleasure of speaking with David Plouffe, the new senior VP of policy and strategy with Uber (very relevant for ACT these days),as well as Liz Jones representing the League of American Bicyclists.

For parking to be so much a part of this national discussion on transportation, I couldn’t help but think, “We’ve come a long way!”

 

 

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!