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Is the Parking Industry a Healthy Place to Work?

Dave Feehan

I recently sent a few friends in the parking consulting profession an online article from Harvard Business Review. Here is an excerpt:

As a recent review of past scientific studies noted, frequent business travel, especially long-haul travel, accelerates aging and increases the likelihood of suffering a stroke, heart attack, and deep-vein thrombosis. It also exposes travelers to pathological levels of germs and radiation. If you fly over 85,000 miles per year, you are absorbing radiation levels above the regulatory limit of most countries.iStock_000007198270_Large

At about the same time I was sending this article, I received my monthly issue of the Wellness Letter, published by the University of California, Berkeley. The lead article was entitled The Girth of a Nation, and it outlined how we have become a nation of porkers. More than 80 million Americans are now obese.

What highlighted this topic even more was a tour and cruise from which my wife and I just returned—to Spain, France, and Italy. I couldn’t help but notice how many of my fellow Americans were moderately to severely overweight, while the Europeans we saw throughout our tour mostly looked trim and fit.

I’m going to guess that some of our colleagues who run downtown, university, airport, and suburban parking systems have internal programs that encourage healthy behaviors on the part of their employees and their families. I would bet there are a few that promote good health among their customers. But I would wager there is a whole lot more we could be doing:

  • How many parking systems have wellness, diet, and exercise programs integrated into the healthcare programs they provide employees?
  • How many have incentives built into their programs that reward smoking cessation and weight loss or control?
  • How many systems actively partner with local health organizations and provide educational messages in facilities?
  • How many systems promote bike riding for customers and employees?
  • How many work with local farmers markets to encourage purchase and consumption of locally grown, healthy food alternatives?
  • How many hold periodic brainstorming sessions among employees focused on health?

When I compare my fellow Americans with people from other countries, I’m convinced we could and should do more. It’s a wise investment.

Black Friday: Parking Myths and Realities


Are you ready for Black Friday parking traffic? Not so fast—a new research report says what we believe about traffic the day after Thanksgiving may not be based in fact.iStock_000030661198_Large

INRIX, a big-data technology company, released its Thanksgiving Travel Forecast yesterday, and it predicts a 63 percent Black Friday traffic increase at the country’s busiest malls. Travelers going to major airports today, the report says, should allow at least 50 extra minutes for traffic over and above a regular day. But that’s not all—the report says the belief that Black Friday shoppers hit the malls early turns out to be a myth.

In fact, America’s busiest shopping centers will see peak traffic (including in parking garages and lots) between noon and 3 p.m. Shoppers venturing to Palisades Center, West Nyack, N.Y., which the report identifies as one of the 11 busiest shopping centers in the U.S., should expect a 250 percent increase in travel time to and from the mall (a 46 percent increase over Black Friday 2014), and those patronizing The Galleria in Houston can expect a travel time increase of 110 percent.

Airports also experience interesting trends. The report says travelers to West Coast airports, including Los Angeles and Las Vegas, can expect the biggest traffic and parking spikes early—7 to 10 a.m.—while those on the East Coast will see the most traffic and biggest delays between 4 and 6 p.m.

Curious which U.S. cities see the most traffic the day before Thanksgiving? The report breaks that out, too:

  1. San Francisco
  2. Los Angeles
  3. Seattle
  4. San Diego
  5. Boston
  6. Portland, Ore.
  7. New York
  8. Hartford, Conn.
  9. Miami
  10. Chicago

Expecting a lot of parking traffic this holiday season? IPI has a news release that might help spread the word to your community about how to make it as easy as possible. Get the release here and distribute it in your area as-is or customize it. Read the complete INRIX release here. Remember, plan your route, pay attention to signs and traffic reports, breathe, and happy holidays!

The Lost Ticket: But How Does it End?

campbell crop Capture

I think of myself as an optimist. Keeping that in mind, let’s say I recently “created the opportunity” to fully experience the effect of losing my airport parking ticket/gate coupon. Perhaps a few of you have experienced that same sense of dread when you’ve frantically searched for that confounded date/time-stamped ticket to no avail. In my case, I returned to the airport after midnight with no attendant on duty, and no way to pay the $72 parking fee I rightfully owed. No, my only immediate option was to pay out the lost ticket fee … of $350.00. Pretty steep punishment for being disorganized. Having said that, I know the rules and why they exist, so I paid the full fee, whimpered a little (or a lot), and figured I’d call the parking management company the next day to explain my plight.

As I placed the call to the airport parking office, there were two thoughts going through my mind:

  1. This must happen a lot. There’s likely an appeal process for forgetful morons like me.
  2. No matter the outcome, this customer service contact is going to become a story to use during future customer service training sessions. Whether it’s a going to be a good story or a bad story has yet to be determined.

I called the number and immediately went to voicemail. The friendly, outgoing message from the parking supervisor informed me that she would call back within the hour. (Oh yes, I would be timing it.) Sure enough, within 10 minutes, I had a return call. I began my explanation with an apology for my error as well as a clear assumption that there would be a process by which I could receive a partial refund. Without hesitation, the parking supervisor told me not to worry, this kind of thing happens frequently. When I told her that I had not yet located my ticket, she further assured me that there was a simple process to verify my actual parking use at the airport and once that could be confirmed, she assured me that a refund would be processed. During the entire call, her voice tone was friendly and understanding. Everything about this interaction alleviated my concerns and confirmed that there was a caring, knowledgeable parking professional on the job.

After our business conversation concluded, I let her know that I was also in the parking industry and commended her for how well she handled this customer service interaction. “Wendy” went on to tell me that she’s been in the parking service industry for more than 23 years and she loves what she does for a living. She feels good about being able to help people with their parking issues and concerns. I told her that feeling came through loud and clear.

Needless to say, I’m adding this to the list of good stories to be told during future trainings.

Control Alt Delete: Rebooting Management

Frank L. Giles

Back in 2013, I wrote an article for The Parking Professional entitled, “Whistles and Pom-Poms.” The article focused on the dual nature of a good manager (cheerleader and coach) and how to balance those characteristics to better support and grow staff. Since the article ran, I’ve not only had a chance to strengthen my own managerial techniques but have been able to observe managers up close and witness the ebb and flow of day-to-day employee challenges and solutions.iStock_000016124931_Large

There is one hangup I’ve noticed many managers still struggle with when trying to take a team from mediocre to great. It can often be difficult to introduce a higher standard or new way of thinking when your team is used to a more relaxed environment. It’s kind of like announcing that there is a new sheriff in town, but your staff sees you as the same old sheriff.

This can be addressed the same way we address a computer when it freezes up or stops taking commands. No, I don’t mean take it out back and shoot it. I’m talking about a reboot. When we reboot a computer we are told to press those three magical buttons: Control – Alt – Delete. We don’t know how they work and we don’t care. We just know everything starts fresh once we see the Windows logo and hear that harmonic note.

It may be a mystery with computers, but here is how it works in management; to reboot your management style you must first establish or re-establish control. This may call for pulling rank, but in a nice way. Deliberately communicate to your staff the nature and boundaries of the manager-employee relationship.

Present the alternative to the old way of doing things. This is where you introduce new procedure or reintroduce those things that have gone neglected. Finally, delete useless or counterproductive elements from your operation. This can include distractions, redundancies, wasted time, and even staff members who will not grow with the operation. Just like your computer, these three buttons should be pressed at the same time Once you hear that harmonic note your team is on its way to greatness.



So many things in daily life require renewing. We renew our passports, driver’s licenses, leases, subscriptions, health benefits at open enrollment, wedding vows, and of course our New Year’s resolutions! Why do we do this? Well, according to the dictionary, renew (a verb) means to make effective for an additional period, to revive or reestablish, to restore to a former state. Our personal and work lives each experience times of renewal.

Sometimes renewing what matters to us can take effort and time we might not have to give at that exact moment. However, many folks seek out renewing what’s important to them because the daily activities or grind, if you will, risks becoming stale and boring without the effort.

For many reading this blog, the credentialed letters after your last name require renewing. For those who hold more than one credential, it might get confusing or difficult to keep track of requirements. What if there was a way to keep all renewal information in one place? For the more than 500 course-takers using the IPI online learning platform, it’s easy to log into the external training transcript (you’ll get a link and password when you take an IPI online or in-person training course) and keep all professional development information in one place. This service is intended to assist each person with managing renewals; you can track all your training in one place on the IPI online learning server.

Take advantage of this service and make at least one of the renewals in your life a little easier to track. As you renew those credentials and make those letters after your last name effective for an additional period of time, you’ll keep revitalizing your career and yourself.

Where Has The Year Gone?

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

Overheard one recent Sunday morning while sipping coffee and reading the paper at the Jones family dining table:iStock_000022015805_Large

Robyn (my wife): “Hey, did you realize that Christmas is only two months away?”

Me: “Huh? Sorry, for a second I thought you said something about Christmas.”

Robyn: “Yes, it’s only two months away.”

Me: “I wonder how my fantasy team is doing today?”

Robyn: (narrows eyes, appears unamused).

Me: “But don’t we still have Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving to celebrate? And don’t forget National Donut Day …” (muttering in barely audible, defeated husband voice) ”Where has the year gone?”

Later that day at the grocery store:

Me: “Look at the wrapping paper, icicle lights, and fake trees. I guess you’re right, Christmas is just around the corner.”

Robyn: “Silly man. Of course I’m right.” (winks)

You and I might be in denial but the holidays are right around the corner. The good news is that if we start now, we can get the shopping done, lights hung, and meals and travels planned. If we procrastinate, we may still get through the holidays but it might be stressful and unpleasant.

As parking professionals, we have many things to do, whether we provide parking for an airport, downtown, special event venue, commercial district, or university. We must complete scheduling rosters and ensure that our facilities are clean and presentable, and we may need to order de-icer, snow shovels, or umbrellas for our patrons. Another thing we need to do is complete and execute our holiday communications plan. This entails being proactive, pointed, and persistent.

Being proactive requires that we establish relationships with our media partners so we know what they need and how we can deliver it. It also means that we have a well-thought-out plan and the tools and resources to get the job done. Being pointed requires that we have focused our key messages and know exactly what is important to communicate to our public. Being persistent means that we recognize that the parking public receives our message in many different ways and that we explore and utilize each fully.

Soon, I’ll be on a ladder with driving snow at my back as I work to get the Christmas lights on the house and I’ll no doubt have cards to send and presents to buy. But I’m certain I’ll think longingly to the time not long ago that I could have started in on the holiday tasks and avoided cramming everything into the last few weeks, hoping that I don’t miss something important. We can work now to get our holiday communications plan in place for a successful season free of the stress of bad planning and poor execution.

I Want You to Want Me


What’s in your wallet? Or on your Key Ring app? I admit it, I love my loyalty cards. Airlines, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, specialty retailers … I have them all. I love to feel like I’m appreciated for patronizing a business regularly. Whether it’s an occasional free burrito bowl at Qdoba or a complimentary item at Sephora during my birthday month, it just makes the shopping/dining/travel experience all the more enjoyable.iStock_000049550260_XXXLarge

Well, what if we could say the same for parking? Wouldn’t it be cool to have a gift card or loyalty card for the parking garages and spaces that you frequent? Or what if your everyday parking garage rewarded you with a free car wash once a month for being a loyal customer?

The ability to gift teen and college drivers with a loaded parking card for those pay-and-display or pay-on-foot machines would be ingenious. While this might decrease enforcement revenue, it also may increase lawful parking sales and encourage responsible parking habits.

The app companies are creative. ParkMe offers points and The Parking Spot airport parking service does have its Spot Club. For a company like that, maybe every 100th use of their app could earn one a $5 credit?

Logistically I realize this may involve partnerships between parking facility owners, operators, card manufacturers, etc., but I think if nearly every other type of business we encounter can achieve this sense of loyalty appreciation, surely there are opportunities for the parking industry as well. Who’s with me?

Choice or Convenience?

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

A friend of mine from the U.K. parking fraternity was recently asked to create a presentation on the topic of “Parking: A Matter of Choice or Convenience?Among the areas he would be looking at was why, given a choice, would anyone actively choose to park in your car park? He called me as he knew that I regularly looked through our survey responses/customer feedback and perhaps I might be able supply some useful anecdotes and sound bites.

So I embarked on my fact-finding mission and began to dig deep into our parking data … luckily for me, he only needed U.K. stats! What I found surprised me.

When it comes to parking, the most commonly asked question is about how much it will cost, with an overwhelming 80 percent of all motorists using our site requesting this information when booking a parking space.

The next most frequently asked question when booking a parking spot is, perhaps unsurprisingly, about the exact address and zipcode, with 70 percent of motorists wanting this information to enter into navigating devices.

My research also revealed the top 10 most requested cities when it comes to motorists looking for somewhere to park, and perhaps rather surprisingly, it’s not the capital (London) in first place! The North of the U.K. leads the top of the chart with Leeds as the most popular request, followed closely by York, with Birmingham, Manchester and Brighton rounding out the top five. In fact, London ranked sixth for most requested cities!

Top 10 Parking Requests, 2014-2015

  1. Price.
  2. Zipcode.
  3. Opening hours.
  4. Height restrictions.
  5. Safety info ( e.g. does it have CCTV, is it secure etc).
  6. Toilets.
  7. Handicapped parking info.
  8. Parent and child spaces.
  9. Motorcycle spaces.
  10. Payment info (coins, credit cards, pay by mobile).

On a lighter note, I also stumbled across the following data:

  • One-third of U.K. drivers forget where their cars were parked. And it appears to be a battle of the sexes: 24 percent of men and 32 percent of women admit to not knowing where their cars were left.
  • Motorists living in Wales may have some of the best driving roads around but have the worst luck remembering where they’ve left their cars—nearly 40 percent say they had trouble finding their cars in a car park.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, motorists in London reported the least trouble, with only 18 percent having forgotten where they left their cars.
  • When it comes to age, motorists age 55-64 were most likely to forget where they had parked, their car followed by 18-24 year-olds.

I wonder how the Brits compare to the other parkers around the world.


The Lost Art of Effective Discipline

Mark D Napier

I was talking to a fellow administrator (Bill) the other day and he lamented about a problem employee. He said, “With Ed, it started as a warning, then a reprimand, and then a one-day suspension. He is still a discipline problem and has acted out again. I think we are going to recommend three days off this time.” Well, I thought, Bill is doing everything right according to Progressive Discipline 101. But if he was doing everything right, why was he having bad results? Bad results! Oh, contraire—soon he will have enough to fire Ed. Success! iStock_000026010123_Large

What is the purpose of discipline? It should be to change behavior. If that is the purpose, than how could we see what Bill is doing as anything other than a failure?

Am I being too harsh on Bill? Not at all. We as leaders are far too easy on ourselves. Ed has behavior problems we have failed to deal with. Ed cares nothing about organizational sanctions because he has no investment in the organization or personal relationship with its leadership. We failed Ed more than he failed us. After all, didn’t we hire Ed?

As leaders and managers, we need to spend time developing personal relationships with our people. Further, we need to seek opportunities to get them invested in the organization. Without these two elements, traditional disciplinary interventions are meaningless. If Ed felt he let Bill down, he would experience some angst regarding his behavior. If Ed and Bill had a relationship, Bill could have leveraged it to give an old-fashioned butt chewing that would have had more impact than 100 reprimands. We have become timid leaders who have lost the ability to actually engage in disciplinary dialogue. If Ed felt he was not holding up his end of an organization he was attached to, he would be remorseful about his conduct.

If you have a problem employee, engage him or her. Following progressive discipline to its inevitable abyss, while easy (and the HR department will love you), is not leadership. Leaders affect positive behavioral change to retain problem employees and rehabilitate them.

Designing a New Downtown

Dave Feehan

What would you do if you could design a downtown from scratch—not in a new suburb, but in the heart of a city that is more than 100 years old?

I’m currently working with a medium-sized Midwestern city that decades ago demolished much of its historic downtown in a desire to move rapidly into the changing urban world of the 1960s. This was the era of urban renewal. Federal dollars were flowing to cities to remove blight, and aging business districts were losing out to newly constructed suburban malls.iStock_000063161393_Large

Of course, not every city scraped clean its historic downtown, but some did and they are now faced with an unexpected opportunity; in many ways, they have a clean slate, a blank canvas on which to create something very new and different.

Approaching this opportunity from a parking perspective, what would you do?

Would you build a number of conventional parking garages? Above-ground or underground? Freestanding or part of mixed-use developments? What about on-street parking? Bike lanes? Complete streets? Would parking come first to induce development or would you wait until demand materialized? Would you consider automated garages? Or, given the trend toward walkable, pedestrian, and bike-oriented approaches to urban development, would you exclude cars altogether perhaps with parking only on the periphery? Given what we now know about autonomous vehicles, will people even own cars in 30 years when your building cycle is nearing completion?

These are not just academic questions. As downtowns become more dense, more residential, and more green, this city and others like it will lead the way in discovering how we are likely to live, work, shop, play, learn, and park for decades to come. One building that may show us how tomorrow may look is the Edge in Amsterdam.

Some cities like Green Bay, Wisc., demolished large sections of their downtowns to build suburban-style shopping malls. When the Port Plaza mall in Green Bay, built in 1977, proved unsuccessful by 2012, it was demolished. New development is planned.

Local leaders in the town I mentioned are now getting very excited as they begin to comprehend the opportunities that await them. Their city is manageable in size, and what happens there could well define a better future for many other cities around the world.