You Really Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

Bill Smith

I’m 51 years old. I don’t know how old that is in dog years, but I do know that I’m not too old to learn. This was reinforced for me during the past six months as I worked with a brilliant team of branding professionals to put together a new website.

Now, right up front, I need to be honest: my old website stunk. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. It was boring. And because I hadn’t updated it since 2008, it was really outdated too. Ever heard about the cobbler’s kids needing new shoes?

The first thing I learned was that as much as branding is about what you know and what you do (and what you’ve done in the past, of course), it’s just as important to build your brand around who you are. What’s important to you (or your organization)? What do you stand for? Why do you do what you do?

Are you trying to revolutionize the ways parkers work with technology? Are you trying to rewrite the rules for how parking facilities are designed? Are you trying to make communities more sustainable through parking planning? These are your stories. Tell them. In a crowded marketplace filled with excellent engineers or planners or technology providers or parking operators, often, it’s who you are that makes you stand out.

The design process taught me something else: it’s not just about getting new customers; it’s about getting the right customers. Letting your personality and values shine throughout your marketing will help you attract customers and partners with whom you want to work.

Redesigning my website was an illuminating experience. It showed me that I may be an old dog, but I can still learn a few tricks.

The Power of Mentoring

MichelleJonesHS

The late, great Whitney Houston sang to us, I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.

Michelle with Ashley Cady, a lovely senior at the University of South Carolina.

Michelle with Ashley Cady, a lovely senior at the University of South Carolina.

This week, I had the privilege of attending the 59th annual conference of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). It was my 16th consecutive year of attending PCMA’s Convening Leaders and it’s where I go for my professional development, the way you participate in IPI’s Conference & Expo for yours.

I was a mentor to a college student who was attending for the first time and I served in a round table session for all of the college students, called PCMA U. It was so refreshing to speak with more than 25 wide-eyed young people all wanting to be event planners (and a couple wedding planners) upon graduation, and to hear their questions about the meetings and hospitality industries. They came prepared with calling cards and LinkedIn requests. Their initiative and financial sacrifice to attend were impressive. I offered to be there for them, not just during the conference, but going forward. I would happily send them job announcements and give résumé advice or help them connect with other professionals in my network.

In your varying roles as parking professionals, I would urge you to pay attention to and nurture the young people around you. One day, they will be the ones doing the jobs we do. Whether you can help them understand what you do every day, or recommend them for an internship or even a job, you’re helping the next generation of the parking industry. There are lessons that only our experiences can impart—lessons that are not taught in textbooks or classrooms.

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

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

In the second “Saturday Night Live” mock Bush/Gore presidential debates of 2000, Governor Bush, played by Will Ferrell, was asked to sum up in one word the best argument for his candidacy. Ferrell replied, “strategery,” to satirize Bush’s penchant for mispronouncing words. President Bush (the real one) later used the term himself in what many believed to be a nod to the sketch; he meant thinking and acting strategically in consultation with one’s closest advisors, and he cemented the term in the lexicon of political activity and beyond.

As humorous as the SNL skit may have been, failing to act strategically can be far from a laughing matter, especially considering the way a university parking program is run. In the past several posts in this series, I’ve offered up improvements that include permit allocation systems, organizational alignment, and program management. Here, I’ll cover acting and thinking strategically—or strategery as 43 would call it.

Far too many universities function almost exclusively in a reactionary mode, bending and yielding to the most vociferous and hostile constituent or the one with the most clout. This often results in an exceptions-based approach to managing parking resources that breeds confusion, inequity, and turnover of the staff charged with managing such a system.

Alternatively, parking programs that invest in the development of a strategic plan and have long-standing and broad buy-in to the plan are more successful. Further, these plans must be operationalized by tying daily activities to strategic plans through job descriptions, work plans, and superior and active management and leadership. If each person in an organization knows why his or her job matters and for what purpose they work, positive and proactive outcomes will follow.

The very best parking strategic plans don’t look too far into the future. Ten years is about as far as one can reasonably look into the future with any amount of certainty. The farther out you look, the more abstract the future seems, which makes connecting the plan to what you do today very difficult. Superior parking strategic plans include a capital and organizational plan, financial plan, communications and marketing plan, and accommodation of multiple modes of travel (not just cars). Most importantly, strategic parking plans must be set in the context of shared values so that broad buy-in is achieved and maintained.

No matter what word we use, one key to improved management of university parking resources is through strategic action and having a well-crafted strategic plan can ensure that everyone’s needle is pointed in the right direction.

Free Parking Marketing Ideas. Send More by Jan 23.

cropped2014

Today’s the day to connect with your marketing, communications, and PR folks to urge them to share their successful campaigns with colleagues (and the world!) by entering the Parking Matters® Marketing and Communications Awards.

lightbulbEntries are due January 23 and it’s a purposely simple and streamlined online process. IPI’s Parking Matters® Committee established the awards, which debuted to great success in 2014, to showcase many winners. We want to build an online treasure trove of ideas for promoting parking technology, ideas, operations, programs, and public service. We can learn so much from each other by sharing!

Descriptions of last year’s 12 winners, including three Best in Shows, make for mighty good and inspirational reading and include links that enable you to see the actual posters, videos, ads, and collateral that made each individual campaign noteworthy.

Visit the online summaries and you’ll discover:

  • How Montgomery County, Md., used integrated marketing to improve pedestrian safety in parking lots.
  • A comprehensive campaign by the Norwalk Parking Authority to rebrand itself, increase awareness, and boost goodwill in the community
  • A creative spring break parking promotion by Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
  • An effective roll-out promoting a new valet parking program by Houston Airport System Parking.
  • Ideas for using an on-campus photo competition to pique interest and appreciation for parking at the University of Alaska.
  • Zombie aPARKalypse: a low-budget way to create on-campus buzz for parking permits by tapping film and theatre students.
  • Tools and techniques used by ParkIndy and Xerox to engage and aid the citizens of Indianapolis to embrace the modernization of their parking operations.
  • Ways the University of California/Irvine used Rideshare Week and Bike Month, plus cost-effective digital marketing on Twitter and the Web, to increase both sustainability and transit use.
  • How the Pittsburgh Parking Authority developed a creative, grassroots, low-cost approach to promoting the ease of use of pay-by-plate meters.
  • Examples of Texas A&M Transportation Services’ engaging print advertising campaign to highlight car and bike sharing, transit options and sustainability measures and communicate that the university “never rests on its laurels.”
  • The ways Texas Tech University’s outreach program used branding, incentives, partnerships, and advertising to draw student, faculty and staff bicyclists—and even non-bicyclists—to a bike clinic.
  • The ins and outs of how the city of Sacramento worked in a public/private partnership with IPS to develop a comprehensive campaign that used multi-media messaging and marketing materials to introduce new, smart meters.

If you don’t enter, you can’t win. We are eager to see what your organization has been doing to market, promote, and educate about parking. Read more about last year’s winning programs here, and submit your enter for this year’s awards by January 23 here.

 

New Year’s Wishes

Mark Wright

Happy New Year, Santa.

You’ve parked your sleigh, fed your reindeer, and downed the last of those cookies you collected from youngsters’ homes around the globe.

You deserve a breather after all your hard work during the 2014 holidays. So rest up for a couple days. Then we need you back out there for some 2015 special missions while the glow and gratitude you’ve nurtured during this season of light remains bright.

Here are 10 requests for the New Year:

  1.  Deliver thankfulness to those of us who found our homes surrounded by presents.
  2. Restore patience to those of us who lost it while searching for holiday mall parking.
  3. Rekindle thoughtfulness in those of us who forgot the true meaning of the season.
  4. Accelerate innovative thinking in those of us working to improve others’ lives.
  5. Broaden the perspective of those of us whose view is too narrow.
  6. Ignite the lamp of insight in those of us who struggle through ignorance.
  7. Motivate those of us who are commercial property owners to install bollards or barriers between nose-in parking spots and the buildings they face.
  8. Build bridges of understanding and collaboration between those of us in the parking and transportation worlds.
  9. Help us all remember that you see who’s being naughty and who’s being nice…all year-‘round.
  10. Perhaps most importantly, remind us that even you must stoop with a shovel in hand to clean up after your reindeer every morning!

Oboe Memories

Jeff Petry

For many years, our local school district’s transportation staff coordinated bus parking for students to attend special daytime performances at the City of Eugene’s Hult Center for Performing Arts downtown. The events were geared towards students in kindergarten through grade three, and were performed by our local symphony, ballet, and dance resident companies. The partnership between the local school district and Hult Center staff provided a great learning opportunity and downtown visit for several thousand kids, teachers, and volunteers.petry

Attending these events, however, became difficult because of downtown development that transformed parking lots into buildings and increased customer demand for on-street spaces. It was becoming a significant challenge to find space to park 30 to 40 school buses in our downtown core.

The buses eventually found on-street options to park and unload the kids four to seven blocks away, adjacent to the county jail! Local sheriffs were hired to stop traffic at intersections so the thousands of students could cross a four-lane state highway downtown to reach the performing arts center. After a few years, the logistics and risks of transportation became too much and this school outing was cancelled.

Many years passed, and new staff at the school and city re-engaged the idea. We all wanted kids to take an educational field trip to our downtown to experience a performance by one of our resident companies. The Eugene Symphony wanted to present two 45-minute performances of “Peter and the Wolf” to K-3 kids. Where to park school buses remained the core issue, as drop-off/pick-up plans for several thousand students would not work. After exploring many of the old options, the most obvious solution was to close a street adjacent to the performing art center and park 24 buses carrying close to 2,000 students for the short performance.

The city parking program facilitated the conversation to get to a yes on the street closure. Transportation staff from the local school district provided a bus parking plan, operation policies, and agreed to coordinate directions and parking information for all school districts. The Eugene Symphony provided marketing and volunteers to assist with bus loading and unloading. Hult Center staff provided staff to support the event. The City’s Traffic Engineer provided an approved traffic control plan and signage. Additional checks-ins were made with the local police and fire departments, as well as the transit agency. Finally, a few days before the event, we all got to a “yes” and the event was on.

End result? More than 3,600 kids saw the Eugene Symphony’s performance of “Peter and the Wolf,” representing more than 60 elementary schools from across the county!

Later, a co-worker shared with me that her son’s memory of attending this event many years ago was that of hearing an oboe for the very first time. These are the memories that parking can help create!

 

Is Parking Really Different Elsewhere?

Bruce Barclay

From time to time, I have asked myself, “Is parking that much different in other countries?” The International Parking Institute (IPI) holds an International Parking Conference each year, most recently in Cali Colombia, so there must be common ground in order for the conference to be as successful as it has become. PARCS manufacturers are global companies, each having an international presence. With each question I asked, I realized more questions remained. Despite the differences in language, culture, and government rules and regulations, parking around the world may be similar and different at the same time.

I decided to do a quick inquiry into different parts of the world. I looked at the city of my birth—Dundee, Scotland—and New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. I relied on input from fellow IPI member and CAPP candidate Mark Jameson, who lives in Wellington, New Zealand.

I started with Dundee and found a document on the City of Dundee’s website titled Parking Annual Report 2014, A few interesting items were noted that are almost identical to the issues we face in the U.S., but there are twists:

  • One change made in response to the review was upgrading pay-and-display parking meters, eliminating the need for coins as payment. A parker can park his car, walk to the pay-and-display machine, press a button on the device, send a text message from their phone, and the machine will print a receipt to display. This technology is very user-friendly with no need to set up any accounts in advance. If you have a phone, you have a payment method.
  • Dundee City introduced license plate recognition (LPR) at most of the car parks, allowing automatic entry and exit for resident permit holders and monthly parkers. Wellington uses LPR in garages similar to Dundee, and also for enforcement.
  • Enforcement within the City of Dundee is a challenge due to various restrictions.  An interim phase was added to the enforcement process. In lieu of a citation, the enforcement officer provides a warning notice. Repeat offenders get citations. I am not aware of many cities issuing a courtesy notice to parking violators, but there may be some.
  • Service improvements in Dundee over the course of the year included:
    •  Cashless payment service where parking can be paid for over the phone or via a mobile phone app.
    • The introduction of electric enforcement vehicles has allowed parking enforcement officers to provide more effective enforcement in areas preciously patrolled on foot.
    • One innovation that I thought was quite innovative was the use of body worn cameras (BWC) by enforcement officers. The purpose is to document abuse of enforcement officers by the public.  Since the introduction, the number of incidents of abuse against officers has reduced dramatically.
    • Wellington uses embedded sensors in the parking stalls of the CBD. The sensors allow a parker to use a mobile app to pay for parking and find available parking close to their parking destination.  An added benefit in Wellington is compliance enforcement.

I must admit that after my inquiry, parking is more universal than I had perceived. Terminology may be a little different, but the technology, concepts, and practices remain similar.

Holiday Parking Ideas

L. Dennis Burns

Every year I think about this, but have yet to follow up. So this is the year (with your help)!  I know there are lots of great ideas out there about how parking programs can integrate holiday promotions into their operations, but I have never seen them collected anywhere. Let’s start this year!

I will throw out a few examples and let’s see if we start building a library of holiday parking practices to share with our colleagues.  Here are a few ideas to get the sleigh sliding:

  • Houston Airport decorates their parking gate arms like candy canes.burns1

 

  • burns2Both the Lexington Parking Authority and the Fort Collins Parking Services department allow customers to pay outstanding citations with cans of food that are donated to local food programs.

 

  • A few years ago, the Downtown Boulder Inc. (DBI) collected citations from customer vehicle windshields and replaced them with the following note:

burns3

PS – DBI paid the citations to the tune of approximately $6,000.

  • Some shopping malls play Christmas music over speakers in their parking lots.

 

  • Some downtown districts offer free parking during the holidays to attract customers.

 

  • Some parking programs, downtown associations, and shopping malls sponsor holiday banners on the streets and in parking lots to promote the holiday season.

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 4.59.30 PM

Now it’s your turn.  What other holiday parking ideas can we come up with? List them in the comments. And happy holidays!

 

U.K. Drivers Enjoy New Parking Resource

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

Research commissioned by the British Parking Authority showed that nearly 24.7 million motorists in the U.K. believe parking rules and regulations are extremely confusing. Half are unaware of their parking rights, and an astonishing one in 10 does not know the difference  between the rules for parking in a municipality lot versus a private parking lot.

The recently launched "Know Your Parking Rights" initiative provides trusted information to motorists who want to understand parking.

The recently launched “Know Your Parking Rights” initiative provides trusted information to motorists who want to understand parking.

How many times have you heard a customer say (or how many times have you said), “I had no idea you couldn’t park here,” or, “Is that citation really legal?”

Drivers often become frustrated because they don’t fully understanding parking do’s and don’ts from both a practical and a legal perspective. How many of us can confidently say we know our responsibilities and rights as a motorist?

Without clear guidance and awareness, frustration and conflict often arise between drivers and parking authorities/lot operators.

The recently launched Know Your Parking Rights initiative wants to be a beacon of light and clarity by providing trusted information to motorists who want to understand parking.

The initiative aims to give clear advice on:

  •  What to do if you receive a parking ticket.
  • What signs to look out for and what they mean.
  • Useful facts about the appeals process.

An easy-to-use website provides drivers with an option to download the Know Your Parking Rights Consumer Guide for information and best practice on parking.

With a bit of common sense and a visit to this new website, motorists in the UK should have all they need to avoid parking fines this holiday season.

Can a Parking Garage Be Beautiful?

Dave Feehan

Conventional wisdom among downtown and business district managers is that most parking garages are best hidden away or disguised, and that too many are downright ugly. But can parking garages be beautiful? Can they actually contribute to urban design and urban fabric? Can they fit into an historic district or a gleaming collection of state-of-the-art office and residential towers?

As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some might look at a very futuristic design and see beauty, while others might a structure that is jarringly out of place in relationship to its surrounding context. Some prefer simplicity while others prefer color and a more fanciful approach. Still, parking garages can be both functional and attractive, and a few recent examples are truly beautiful, even stunning.

Car Park One in Oklahoma City makes many of the “most beautiful lists, as do 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami and the Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Garage. There are also a number of European structures that show up on many lists (many have been showcased in The Parking Professional and in IPI’s annual Awards of Excellence competition—submissions for this year’s competition close soon.)

So what criteria should we use to judge the most beautiful garages? Here are a few I would suggest:

First, the garage must be visually striking. While many fine designs seek to make the structure relatively unobtrusive and nearly invisible, a garage must have a certain amount of attitude to be considered truly beautiful.

Second, it must be more than functional—it must be designed with users in mind, not just as an architectural statement.  Beauty is not just what you see from the street—it’s the feeling you get once you’re inside the garage.

Third, tasteful, thoughtful and effective use of color is important. We’ve seen way too many concrete brutalist designs and we’re living with these monstrosities today. Grey concrete is simply insufficient no matter how functional it might be.

You can check out some of the most lauded beautiful garages here.  Have you seen a particularly attractive garage lately? Let us know in the comments.