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Are You Ready?


It’s a drill we’re not unfamiliar with in the greater Washington, D.C. area: stock up on batteries, sweep outside drains clear, add a few bottles of water to the grocery cart, just in case. Yesterday, I did all of those things plus buy ingredients for meals that can be prepared on my gas stove, let our portable generator run for a few minutes, and take the pirate flag down from the kids’ treehouse. Tomorrow, the deck furniture and outside trash bins will go into the garage and I’ll send somebody out on a ladder to scoop any errant tree litter out of the gutters.

Photo credit: National Weather Service

Photo credit: National Weather Service

Hurricane’s a comin,’ at least the news says (repeatedly and at increasing volumes) and we’re already being drenched by an unrelated nor’easter. We in the nation’s capital swear the power goes out when someone sneezes too hard, so incoming apocalyptic storms send us into a bit of a frenzy. We remember the week of misery after Isabel and we watched the aftermaths of Sandy and Katrina on television.

The power company that serves much of the District and suburban Maryland has developed a sadly well-deserved reputation for being unprepared for storms like the one bearing down on us now. That’s too bad, because every one of these storms is a great opportunity for them to reverse the trend and show us they know what they’re doing: Call in reinforcements ahead of time, staff up, and ensure their phones and online systems are ready for greater-than-average volume.

Here’s my question for you: Are you ready for Joaquin or another big event? Have you downloaded IPI’s free Emergency Preparedness Manual and developed your own emergency plan? If not, there’s no time like the present. Few things infuriate communities more than unprepared services (ask Pepco), and this is a relatively easy fix.

If you don’t hear from me for a few days next week, it’s because Joaquin got us and the power’s out. We’ll be playing board games and reading books by lantern and probably annoyed, but OK. We’re prepared.

Can a Downtown Organization Manage Parking?

Dave Feehan

I recently had a couple of inquiries from colleagues asking me if I knew of any downtown organizations or business improvement districts (BIDs) that managed downtown parking. I was immediately reminded of a brief report I wrote in 2010 on the subject for a client, and was able to send her a copy of the report.

As I reviewed the 2010 report, a number of questions came to mind:

  • How many cities are now contracting with downtown organizations or BIDs to manage municipal or public parking?
  • Are other private or public entities contracting with downtown organizations or BID to manage parking that they own or control?
  • What advantages and disadvantages are there to this arrangement?
  • What results, both positive and negative, have these contracts or arrangements produced?

At the time I produced the report, I identified eight cities where downtown organizations were managing some or all of the municipal parking system: Ann Arbor, Mich.; Boise, Idaho; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Memphis, Tenn.; Nashville, Tenn.; Schenectady, N.Y.; and Tempe, Ariz. I haven’t checked with these cities lately, nor do I know how many other cities might currently have similar arrangements. What I do know is that all of these cities and the downtown organizations I contacted reported positive results. But there are also cautions that should be considered.

Briefly, the eight organizations reported:

  • They made significant changes in parking operations, rules, and regulations to make the systems more user-friendly, with varying degrees of success.
  • They were, in most cases, able to earn a management fee to support the downtown organization and pay for internal management personnel.
  • They developed and offered a host of innovative amenities that customers found appealing.
  • They mostly reported higher revenues as customers found the parking system friendlier and often cleaner, safer, and more attractive.
  • They were able to use parking as a more effective economic development tool.

Disadvantages included not having the deep-pocketed financial reserves that cities have, and finding it difficult to continue innovating once the initial changes were made.

It would seem that with the proliferation of robust downtown organizations and BIDs, more cities might consider this as an option. However, not every downtown organization is eager to take on what might be a headache if the system is poorly managed, and others may not feel this is their core business. City governments might also be reluctant to turn over a considerable asset to a group that they feel lacks parking management knowledge and experience. Nonetheless, it’s an option worth considering.

(Full disclosure: I was president of Downtown Kalamazoo Inc. when that organization pioneered this arrangement in 1990.)

Parking: An Industry Poised for Disruption?

L. Dennis Burns

It’s a little funny looking back, but at one point in my career when I decided to stay in the parking industry, I remember thinking about whether there were any significant threats to parking as an industry. At the time, my primary alternative was the healthcare field, which in my opinion was in great disarray. I concluded that short of someone actually inventing the George Jetson Briefcase Car, parking as an industry was pretty safe. What a difference a couple of decades can make!

We have all heard the term “disruptive technologies.” A disruptive technology is one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry, or a groundbreaking product that creates a completely new industry. The term was coined by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen in his 1997 bestselling book, The Innovator’s Dilemma.

Well, here we are in 2015 and the while the briefcase car may still be a cartoon fantasy, we in the parking industry are facing the convergence of two potentially game-changing innovations: autonomous vehicles and with the Uber business model.

Promise and Perils of Autonomous Vehicle Technology

Autonomous vehicle (AV) technology is real and advancing rapidly. AV technology offers the possibility of fundamentally changing transportation. Equipping cars and light vehicles with this technology will likely reduce crashes, energy consumption, and pollution—and reduce the costs of congestion.

Careful policymaking will be necessary to maximize the social benefits this technology will enable while minimizing the disadvantages. Policymakers are only beginning to think about the challenges and opportunities this technology poses. Parking industry leaders would be wise to also begin weighing the potential impacts on our industry.

A good place to start is by reading the report entitled: “Autonomous Vehicle Technology – A Guide for Policymakers” published by the RAND Corporation.

Uber’s Plan for Self-Driving Cars

In this month’s edition of the Mobility Lab E-Newsletter (Mobility Lab Express #69 – September 1, 2015) is “Uber’s Plan for Self-Driving Cars Bigger than Its Taxi Disruption.

The article discusses how Uber has fundamentally changed the taxi industry. However, its biggest disruption may be yet to come:

  • “The ride-hailing company has invested in autonomous-vehicle research, and its CEO Travis Kalanick has indicated that consumers can expect a driverless Uber fleet by 2030. Uber expects its service to be so inexpensive and ubiquitous as to make car ownership obsolete. Such ambitious plans could make its disruption of the taxi industry look quaint in comparison.”
  • “A study by Columbia University calculates that with a fleet of just 9,000 autonomous cars, Uber could replace every taxicab in New York City—with a passenger wait time of 36 seconds and a cost of $.50 per mile.”
  • “Going further to an economy-wide perspective, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates, as noted by writer and entrepreneur Zack Kanter that “autonomous vehicles would reduce the number of vehicles on the road by 99 percent, and the fleet of cars in the U.S. would fall from 245 million to 2.4 million.”

Still, should Uber’s plans materialize, the impact may not all be positive. Self-driving cars will greatly affect the job market, car manufacturers, dealerships, transit, and the urban lifestyle itself (not to mention the parking industry!).

Now is a good time for community leaders, urban development, and transportation thought-leaders—along with Uber and other shared-mobility providers—to think creatively together about the positive and negative aspects of this amazing transformation that may be coming in the next few decades. The ramifications are truly mind-boggling.

Professional Development: You’ve Got Options

campbell crop Capture

Frequently, we think of professional development for ourselves and for our staff as an option or worse, a luxury. It’s something we do if and when there’s sufficient staffing, enough money in the training and travel budget, and of course, there can’t be a lot of work stacked up at the office. Oh sure, there’s the required training from Human Resources or the like, but too often, the purpose and benefits of professional development aren’t clearly understood by an organization. Sometimes it’s viewed as a reward for a job well done, or, alternately, a punishment for poor performance. Can it really be both? There are a number of methods available—many without cost—to develop ourselves as well as those individuals who work for us.

  1. Take a class. Attend a seminar, workshop, or a one-day training. Look for an online class that’s relevant to your job or your career goals. Take a big step and go back to school.
  2. Look for Mentors. Who has a career you’re interested in? Who has the position you aspire to? Talk to them about their career path. How did they get there? Most people are willing and even eager to help others achieve their professional goals. Find someone willing to help you.
  3. Network with peers. Take the time to meet and talk with others in your field. Getting to know your peers and better understand their knowledge and experience can be invaluable to your growth. Networking allows you the chance to learn from peers and mentors. Who do you know who may help you to not reinvent the wheel at every turn? Talk to a peer about the pros and cons of a particular business solution you’ve been considering. I guarantee you’ll discover that you’re not alone in dealing with specific technology upgrades or identifying different methods to accomplish the tasks you’re responsible for.
  4. Attend a conference. You may be visiting a lovely city, convention center, or hotel, but remember to make the program sessions the priority. Review the session descriptions being offered in advance. Attend the educational sessions. Spend time with vendors and consultants to learn about new products and services. Learn new skills and make new contacts. Even if you’ve attended for many years, there’s always something new to learn. Make a point of meeting at least one new colleague each time.
  5. Identify other learning resources and opportunities: Read a book, an article, a blog. Watch a TED talk. Join an industry listserv. Teach yourself a new skill.  The internet is full of tutorials on just about anything you want to learn about. Research a topic and present it to your team at work, no matter what level you serve within the organization. Share that “pearl of wisdom” you discovered in a book you read or a training you attended. Have a cup of coffee with someone you believe has something great to teach you about the work that you do, how to excel in your career, or even just how to be a better human.

Every one of us has something to teach and something to learn. As you consider your options, remember that professional development requires two things: internal motivation and taking that first step. It requires action on our part.

Cleveland Clinic CARES About Parking Symposium: Oct. 28-29

2015 symposium logo

We invite you to join us for the 3rd Annual Cleveland Clinic CARES About Parking Symposium,held in cooperation with the International Parking Institute (IPI) and Parking Solutions, Inc. This year’s event will take place October 28 and 29 at the InterContinental Hotel and Convention Center located on the Cleveland Clinic Main Campus in Cleveland, Ohio.2015 symposium logo

What began in 2013 as the award winning Cleveland Clinic Parking Services Team sharing its innovative CARES model (Customer Experience, Available Parking, Responsible Finance, Engaged Employees, Sustainable Business), has transformed into a highly interactive event where healthcare professionals from all over the world come together and network, initiate dynamic discussions, share best practices, and more.

This year’s theme is Driving ForwardUsing Technology, Data, and Best Practices to Improve Your Transportation and Parking Operations. Hospitals and parking organizations from all over the country will be attending and sharing their best practices and lessons learned related to this year’s theme.

Here are a few of this year’s highlights:

  • Keynote speaker: Gordon M. Snow, Cleveland Clinic Chief of Protective Services.
  • Guest speakers include representatives from:
    • IPI’s Technology Committee.
    • The Cleveland Clinic.
    • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
    • Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
    • Lehigh Valley Health Network.
    • Oregon Health & Science University.
    • More to be announced soon.
    • Topics will include Cyber Security Threats, Valet Successes, Valet Parking Technology, Transportation Management Planning, Commute Trip Reduction Laws, Alternative Modes of Transportation, Patient Experience, Shuttle Bus Conversion from Diesel Fuel to Natural Gas, Managing Employee Expectations, Ambassador Services, Shuttle Bus Technology, License Plate Recognition, and Inventory Management, and more!
      • The parking services team at the Cleveland Clinic Parking Services operates 44,000 spaces, 11 garages, 116 surface lots, 50,000 internal customers and 24 valet locations. They were awarded the 2013 Silver Award from the Partnership for Excellence (Malcom Baldridge State Level Program). This award is the nations highest honor for performance excellence through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership. The mission of Cleveland Clinic Parking Services is to provide safe and convenient parking while constantly seeking innovations that enhance quality and service, operating fiscally responsible, and contributing to a healthy environment.

We are very excited about this year’s event and hope you can join us. Please visit to learn more and register for the event.

Contact me directly at or 614.453.1507 with any questions.


Guest Blogger Jeremy Robinson is marketing manager with Parking Solutions, Inc.

Young Professionals In Parking (YPIP) Are Coooooool!

Isaiah Mouw

The first official IPI Young Professionals in Parking (YPIP) event took place at the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. It was scorching outside on the Vegas strip, but inside the Minus 5 Ice Bar, young professionals wore winter apparel as they gathered by the dozens to network and keep warm. YPIP was the vision of two young IPI members who saw a need to further the advancement of the young professionals in our industry. With a mission “to provide a greater platform for professional development, networking, and education for young professionals throughout the parking industry,” IPI embraced the vision to formally start the Young Professionals in Parking program. You can now follow YPIP on Facebook to keep up with the upcoming events and opportunities as this program

We hope to create opportunities for young parking professionals to develop the skills that will expand their knowledge of parking-related issues, promote advancement in the industry, and build relationships that will benefit them throughout their careers. In turn, we hope these leaders will foster creativity and innovation in parking design, operations, management, and technology in every sector, helping to bring the most important parking trends and ideas mainstream.

YPIP’s first Hot Spot event—these will take place around the U.S. this year and next—is scheduled for Oct. 22 in Denver, Colo. Young professionals will enjoy a tour of the groundbreaking Denver Union Station development and a great networking happy hour at the Terminal Bar. You’re invited—visit to register. Future events are planned in Miami, Nashville, and San Francisco, and we’re just getting started.

If you are under the age of 40, buckle your seat belt and get ready for a fun ride.

Changing with the Seasons


There are many cliché sayings about the end of summer. Personally, I am quite sad to say good-bye to this, in my opinion, way-too-short season. Nonetheless, this is the season for change. Autumn is welcomed in by the changing of the landscape colors and the changing of the weather. There are some who seek more of a change than just environmental— this might mean the changing of the workplace. Whatever the reason for change and new beginnings, organizations need to find ways to best prepare for workforce changes.ipi _online classes_intro to parking_259x203

Every new employee costs the organization. By offering training to new employees upon entry, their morale is boosted. They feel like they can do this job, they feel welcomed, and they feel like they made the right decision. These feelings aid the retention of the employee, which translates into money saved by the organization due to less turnover and less absenteeism. In 2013, The International Journal of Science and Research cited that the U.S. national turnover rate was 15 percent, which as cited is outside the comfort zone of many organizations.

Trained employees add value to an organization and require less supervision overall. Well-trained employees show both quantity and quality performance. The share of workers ages 55 and older hit 22.2 percent in July 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the highest since record keeping began in 1948. Knowing this, organizations must train employees to share their knowledge with new hires and train to retain. Trained employees are happier and most likely to stay with the organization.

Employee training is essential for an organization’s success. By implementing a training program, you can save your company thousands of dollars a year. Not only will the savings pay off for your company, but you can also increase productivity from your employees. Training is important and benefits all hierarchical levels of employees for improving performance.

IPI can assist with training new employees. IPI’s Introduction to Parking course will give your new employees a well-rounded experience to understand and learn about the parking profession. This course offers a complete introduction to parking enforcement, on- and off-street parking, revenue control, safety and security, communications, and customer service. This will assist with building a foundation towards on-the-job success and retention.

Good luck to all organizations in training, engaging, and educating new employees.


Still a Long Way to Go?

Dave Feehan

I read last week in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that in the wake of the firing of the athletic director at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota, for sexual harassment, the university president had extended contracts and given substantial raises to a number of coaches. Talk about income inequality! In the field of college athletics, male coaches sometimes make double, triple, or even quadruple what female coaches make in the same or comparable sports. Of course, the revenue sports—football, basketball, and hockey—are the places to make big bucks if you’re coaching, and women’s sports don’t generate the revenues that big-time men’s sports produce. Further, any athletic director will tell you that if you want to be competitive in big time college athletics, you have to be prepared to pay seven-figure salaries to male coaches in football and basketball.

What does this have to do with parking?

I also happened to be perusing the August issue of The Parking Professional this morning and was delighted to see a good friend, Kim Jackson, CAPP, IPI’s board chair, featured on the cover. This afternoon, I’m finishing up some final chapters for a book on women and downtowns I’ve been working on for a couple of years. (Full disclosure—a few prominent IPI members are contributing authors.)

In our research, my chief co-author, Dr. Carol Becker, and I found that women are generally thought to make or influence around 80 percent of retail decisions, residential decisions, and healthcare decisions. Women control more than half of the private wealth in the U.S. and represent nearly 60 percent of college graduates today. Yet women are woefully underrepresented in the professions that design the downtown experience.

Parking, like architecture, urban planning, urban design, landscape architecture, real estate development, commercial real estate brokerage, civil engineering, construction, and a host of other related professions, has been and is still male-dominated. More women have moved into these professions, yet they have not achieved parity in the upper levels of management, and it is here where the tone is set.

We surveyed about 200 women who were business and civic leaders and asked what they liked and disliked about downtowns. The number-one dislike was parking, and more specifically, parking garages. If women designed parking garages, how would they be different? And when women do manage parking, what are they doing to dispel the notion, as one survey respondent said, that parking garages are “dull, dirty, dark, and dangerous.”

It’s very encouraging that IPI has taken leadership in creating opportunities for women not just to work in parking, but to lead. Kim Jackson, Immediate Past Chair Liliana Rambo, CAPP, and the many other women who serve on IPI’s board and committees are but one of several examples of successful women who have proven that parking is not just a profession for male leaders. As the old saying goes, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” But my sense is that until more women are in the driver’s seat in terms of top management, we’re not there yet.

Labor Day, Smiles, and Flies


Merriam-Webster provides several definitions for the word “labor,” including “the services performed by workers for wages as distinguished from those rendered by entrepreneurs for profits,” and “an economic group comprising those who do manual labor or work for wages.”

As Labor Day approaches in the U.S., I think of the workers in our society and especially frontline staff. Restaurant servers, hotel housekeepers, flight attendants, valet drivers, bellmen, ticket takers, toll booth workers—these are all folks I encounter in my work and in my personal life. They work hard, often for less-than-great wages, and some rely on tips. These workers usually go unnoticed—they’re part of the scenery—until we have an emotional reaction, whether negative or positive.

We definitely remember when we have a negative experience. Like when the gate agent changes your seat assignment even though you paid for a window seat wingfront. The reason given is that it’s a small aircraft and they have to evenly distribute the weight. There is no apology for the inconvenience or offer to refund the seat assignment charge. That can leave a bad taste in your mouth for flying in general but particularly for that air carrier, right?

Similarly, we also remember when we have an excellent customer service experience. The frazzled and overwhelmed restaurant hostess who seats your party of five in a better table because she remembers you from lunch earlier in the day. The shopkeeper who strikes up a conversation with you because she can tell you’re not from the area and she wants to be sure you feel welcome in her city.

It’s easy to have the attitude, “Well that’s their job; they are in customer service.” Yes, of course it would be wonderful if all frontline workers were cheery at all times. They may not realize just how much their demeanor can affect the perception of the company by the end user.

But it is our responsibility as customers to realize these are hard workers who deserve respect, kindness, and patience. The old saying that you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar is true and goes both ways. A smile and kind word can go a long way to better someone’s day. (For the record, I never understood why anyone wanted to attract flies, but I digress…)

So as Labor Day plans likely include travel, eating out, and gathering with friends and family, be sure to be kind to those who are working on the long weekend.

Why Are Manhole Covers Round?

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

Why are manhole covers round? This question and many others make a list of the 100 most ridiculous job interview questions ever. Here are a few of my other favorites:

  • If you were a box of cereal what would you be and why?
  • Who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman?
  • If there were a movie produced about your life, who would play you, and why?

A quick Google search reveals many such lists offering hundreds of equally ridiculous interview questions from all kinds of companies, not just the quirky ones that seem to thrive on being viewed as weird.

I stumbled onto these lists after a friend let me know that she was preparing for a job interview and asked for help. My first instinct was to find some questions she might be asked and help her prepare the best answers. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that cramming for the interview by anticipating questions was not the best way to prepare.

The most important question to answer is whether we really want the job at all. This may seem like an altogether too obvious first step but to answer this question, one must do some soul searching and understand the job inside and out. There’s a big difference between running away from a job and running to one, and we should know in our hearts that we really want the job. Being desperate to leave a position clouds our objectivity and judgment and may create blind spots regarding a prospective employer. Worse yet, we might say things we don’t mean or embellish on our experience, creating expectations we may not be able to meet.

We should also seek to understand the value system of the people we’ll be working for and with and whether our values and theirs are compatible. This means doing our homework about the team we might be joining and preparing before the interview so we can have ready pertinent questions that will shed light on what environment we’ll be walking into.

It’s also critical to ask ourselves if the job we are seeking is one we are only willing to lease or one we want to own. Leasing suggests that we view our job as temporary while owning our career conveys an entirely different level of commitment. And if our prospective job is one we only see ourselves keeping for a few years while looking for another, better position, we should probably be looking elsewhere.

Once we’ve answered these fundamental questions, it’s time to turn our attention to what we bring to the new job. We need to be prepared to answer how we are uniquely qualified for the position and have facts to back this claim. We should objectively demonstrate how we’ve produced results, whether in overcoming challenges, creating positive outcomes, or leading innovation that has helped reach broad company or organizational goals.

The pursuit of a new career, position, or promotion requires intense circumspection, self-awareness, and preparation. No quirky quiz will ensure that you and your new job are a great fit.

Incidentally and maybe obvious to most is that manhole covers are round instead of square because a round cover won’t fall through the hole. Oh, and I’m picking Batman over Spiderman but please don’t ask why.