The Napa Earthquake: Lessons for Parking

Bruce Barclay

On Sunday August 24, the town of Napa, Calif., was hit with an earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale. The quake hit at approximately 3:20 a.m., rocking the scenic community and leaving residents dazed and fearful of aftershocks, more than 100 of which have been reported so far.

A positive was there was no loss of life. However, more than 120 people were treated at local hospitals, three in critical condition. Damage to the town was extensive. Especially hard-hit was the downtown historic area, where many older building were red tagged by city officials and deemed too dangerous for people to enter. Water and gas lines were ruptured causing fires throughout the community, and low water pressure caused by main line leaks made fighting the fires a challenge. Power outages in the region affected almost 70,000 residents, but power was restored to most communities within 24 hours of the earthquake.

The drain that an earthquake has on local resources is enormous. Napa Fire Department Operations Chief John Callanan told reporters the city had exhausted its resources trying to extinguish fires, transport injured residents, search homes for anyone who might be trapped, and answer calls about gas leaks and downed power lines. California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the area, which will provide additional resources in the aftermath of the quake.

The quick response in Napa by first responders was no accident. Planning, preparation, and training for such events were critical to a successful response. Responders may have received some of their training through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Training Program. NIMS Training is intended for all personnel directly involved in emergency management and response. This includes emergency medical personnel, hospitals, public health, fire service, law enforcement, public works/utilities, skilled support, and volunteer personnel. The training is intended to aid people who don’t usually work together seamlessly respond to and recover from a disaster, either natural or man-made.

Each segment of the parking industry should have a disaster/emergency plan in place. Some may be on a rather small scale, but others may be very detailed and cover a wide range of potential disasters. I encourage all parking professionals to get involved and enroll in NIMS training. Gaining the knowledge and training required to participate in a disaster rescue/recovery, no matter how small your involvement may appear, is satisfying and rewarding. You never know, it may even help save a life.

For more information on NIMS training visit: fema.gov/national-incident-management-system/training.

Get Out Ahead Of Local Parking Coverage

Bill Smith

When local papers are running editorials about parking, it’s generally not a good thing. Typically, it means that there’s a problem—or a perceived problem—with local parking. Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that has been learned by dozens of cities.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire right? Actually, no. Sometimes smoke is just smoke. When you wave it away, there’s nothing there.

Unfortunately, when it comes to municipal parking plans and regulations, misunderstandings abound. Residents, business owners, and other stakeholders have opinions about how parking should be managed, but they might not understand what goes into parking planning and why planning decisions are made. Do parking tickets seem too expensive? There’s probably a planning rationale behind the rates. Do the hours of meter operations seem inconvenient or time limits seem too short? There are reasons for these regulations too. The problem is, stakeholders often aren’t aware of why decisions are made.

Cities and towns typically don’t systematically market their parking operations. Sure, they may do outreach when there’s an issue, but by then it’s too late. They’ve lost control of the context of the discussion when people are complaining and newspapers are editorializing.

Every city and town should have a strategic communications program designed to keep the public informed about parking rules and regulations and what the municipal parking plan is designed to accomplish. Such a plan should include:

  • Media outreach: This includes distributing press releases, backgrounders, and other media materials designed to inform the press about key parking policies and the roles they play in public policies. Outreach should also include regular briefings with editors, reporters, and editorial writers to explain parking initiatives and answer questions from the media. IPI’s Parking Matters® program provides this handy resource on speaking about parking in positive terms.
  • Social media: Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, and other social media platforms provide direct access to the public and other stakeholders. Take advantage of these tools to keep the public informed of parking initiatives and what they are accomplishing.
  • Websites: By creating discrete websites designed to inform the public of parking regulations and initiatives, cities and towns can assure that accurate and timely information is available to the public.
  • Public meetings: Parking administrators should regularly engage business and community leaders to keep them informed of parking plans.

It’s not enough merely to communicate, however. Communications programs must be proactive rather than reactive. In addition to providing valuable information, communications programs should anticipate concerns and grievances and head them off before they become issues. They should also be used to communicate good news—and parking has lots of that to share.

Take a proactive approach to informing the public about your parking program. You’ll sleep easier when you don’t have to worry about seeing your name in tomorrow’s editorial.

A Bitter Pill to Swallow

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

For many years, the UK has seen a rise in so called cowboy parking squads. The parking squads issue official-looking £100 tickets, often to drivers just a few minutes late returning to their cars. Elderly and disabled people have been specifically targeted at hospitals and downtown stores.

After issuing what appear to be official penalty notices, the squads use threats to terrify motorists into paying up. In many cases, however, the tickets are issued unfairly and without legal authority. More worryingly perhaps is the fact that some hospital trusts are even taking a cut of up to 10 per cent of the parking firms’ profits.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles decided enough is enough and said rogue firms will not be tolerated. As a result, he launched a government investigation into how how these companies hit hundreds of thousands of drivers with £100 fines for minor infringements outside shops and fast-food chains.

Last week a popular daily newspaper, The Daily Mail, launched a campaign to encourage drivers to stand up to these parking cowboys

daily mail campaignThe newspaper informed readers as follows:

Want to send a message of defiance to the parking pirates? The Daily Mail is here to help. Simply print out the notice above and put it in a prominent place on your car windscreen or side window.

It tells the parking pirates that you’re on to their outrageous scam and won’t be tricked or bullied into paying bogus fines. And we can also send you a fantastic glossy sticker version—absolutely FREE.

Although their tactics may be adding fuel to the fire, I for one am glad that those giving the parking industry a bad name are finally being challenged. Cowboys, watch out—the sheriff is in town!

Using Social Media to Assess Your Parking Identity

Bruce Barclay

A question I ask myself from time to time is how the traveling public views the airport’s parking and shuttle service? Is it merely a means to an end or is it viewed as a valuable component to the overall airport experience? As Salt Lake Airport’s parking manager, I believe we are a valuable asset, but with only a few options to gauge customer feedback we are left with a customer service conundrum.

Guest satisfaction surveys and comments to our webmaster via email are the traditional methods for feedback, but customers don’t always care to respond in this fashion and their voice is not heard. They may share their experience with relatives and friends, but not directly with us. We wanted to be able to hear firsthand from our customers to better measure our level of service, and address the areas where we may fall short.

Last May, Salt Lake City International Airport added a public relations and marketing manager to the staff. One area of responsibility she was tasked with was developing our social media programs, which hadn’t been done due to staff constraints. She began to tweet important information regarding the availability of space in our garage, which fills up weekly, along with information regarding our upcoming terminal redevelopment project. Within a few weeks, our social media platform grew and gained momentum.

In just a few short months, our Facebook followers have grown to more than 13,000, and we have more than 2,500 followers on Twitter. Although we know those are not huge numbers, the increase over such a short time has been dramatic. Even more impressive is the fact we are now getting timely feedback from the public, especially as it relates to parking and shuttle services. The messages received have given us greater clarity on the level of service we provide on a daily basis, and allow us to share passenger experiences with employees and their supervisors. Just as importantly, we can easily respond to all social media communication—positive and negative—in an expeditious fashion. By establishing a foundation of communication with the Salt Lake community, we are quickly finding out what our identity is, and how we are perceived by the traveling public.

So…what’s your identity? Comment below.

The Right Frame of Mind

L. Dennis Burns

I am sure I am not alone in this: Some days I am sure I have the best job ever! On other days, some old country song about “take this job and shove it” plays over and over in my brain.

On the positive days, I appreciate the fact that my job as a parking and transportation consultant provides me with a constantly-learning environment and the ability to work with valued friends and colleagues all over the country and to continually be at the forefront of a rapidly changing and increasingly important field of endeavor. I work for a well-run company with excellent colleagues and all the resources one could hope to have.

On the bad days—usually after spending too much time on the road, dealing with travel issues, and balancing multiple project deadlines—well, we all have parts of our jobs that we wish we could change.

The bottom line of this rambling is to reinforce the importance of keeping a positive outlook and mindset. While I realize this is easier said than done, managing to create a sense of balance and perspective is critical, as is developing a sense of appreciation and contribution to the field you are working in.

It’s funny, but back in my college days I made a radical decision I have questioned ever since. Given where I have landed career wise, it may have been better to have stayed with my original major—urban planning. Instead, after taking a 400-level religious studies class called “The Great Secret” as an elective, I ended up with a degree in religious studies, which focused largely on philosophy, depth psychology, and the Socratic “Know thyself” (you can always specialize with your master’s degree). In retrospect, the degree I obtained has given me the ability to keep a larger sense of perspective and realization of the importance of balance in my life.

As Thomas Merton, a prolific writer, poet, thinker, and Trappist monk  put it, “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm, and harmony.” Vacation is almost here!

Raising Standards in the UK

Patrick headshot 2012 cropped

There is so much happening in the parking world at the moment that it’s hard to catch one’s breath.

The British government is pressing ahead with its plans for local authority parking, the Daily Mail has kicked off a summer offensive against the private parking sector, the Royal Mint is poised to launch a consultation on the new £1 coin, and Park Mark reaches the ripe old age of 10—to name but a few.

There is a link, though, between all these events, and it’s not just that they all have something to do with parking. They throw down a challenge to the parking profession in general and the British Parking Association (BPA) in particular to demonstrate our resilience in putting the other side of the argument and our commitment to drive standards in parking ever higher.

So we have successfully persuaded government not to ban CCTV outright but rather to allow its continued use in specific circumstances; we have shown through establishing Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) and renewing the Code of Practice on Parking on Private Land that Daily Mail readers who are recipients of parking tickets have an independent means of redress against those tickets; we are directly involved with the Mint prior to its formal consultation so we can shape and influence policy on behalf of our members; and through Park Mark, we can demonstrate we really are serious about raising standards and not just talking about raising standards.

We are going to talk more about raising standards though during the autumn as we try to engage with members on how to develop a Professionalism in Parking Award for all sectors to continue to drive those standards still higher. We need to demonstrate to government, media, and stakeholders that we can do it so we have the tools and the commitment to tackle future onslaughts in the future. That’s why lots of things happening is a good thing if at the end of them you come out on top.

I believe the parking profession can come out on top if it truly believes in raising standards in every part of its make up.

Our Changing Industry

Doug Holmes

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s song starts, “It was 20 years ago today,” but in my case, it was 45 years ago. I, along with several other young people, was selected by Rotary International to represent our respective countries through the Rotary Youth Exchange program, living for a year overseas and being immersed in an entirely different culture.

Fortunately, the country I went to—Sweden—was populated by friendly, outgoing, and caring people; I didn’t understand a lick of their language when I arrived on August 4, 1969. But in 45 years, there has not been a day I haven’t reflected on someone or a place or an event during that year.

How does that relate to the wonderful world of parking? After a 10-year career as a cop, I jumped into parking in 1986. It had to be easier than dealing with drunks, physical altercations, and the mind-numbing process of shift rotations and court days. Nine to five, Monday through Friday, with weekends and holidays off—how hard could it be?

For one thing, parking was a cash-rich environment; back then, there were few computer systems (I had a typewriter on my desk). Tracking that cash was a huge consumer of time. Anyone not inside of the industry had no concept of the dynamics of parking. It was generally an afterthought.

Modernization was slow to start. The highest-tech gadget available was the electronic single-space parking meter. Things such as multi-space parking meters, pay by space, pay on foot, etc., moved forward in Europe, but not here. Thankfully, in the last decade, there has been a revolution in parking technology.

I remember wanting to purchase a PARCS for our operation to link all three of our garages together. I wanted all remote devices hosted on a single network so that I could view real-time activity from my office across campus. Vendors looked at me as if I had a third eye before delivering a lecture on how that was not really what I needed.

Today, the applications of technology seem endless. It has created a new and evolving language we’re all learning. The social effects are astounding. Computer-driven lighting systems and new luminaires are reducing the consumption of electricity and positively affecting the environment.

New materials and construction techniques are extending the lifespans of parking decks. Everywhere we look, the technological revolution that was so long in coming is growing exponentially. GPS applications are locating open spaces for drivers, who pay for parking with their phones. Efficiencies in locating parking, of course, leads to a decrease in gasoline consumption and a reduction in pollution. All of this is good.

A complete change of culture is in swing. In other words, parking is shifting, and rather quickly. Like being plunged into the foreign land of Sweden many years ago, change can be painful or it can be exhilarating, vexatious or liberating.

Welcome to the brave new world of parking.

The Three Hardest Words to Say

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

What do you suppose are the three hardest words to say? You might guess, “I love you,” if you’re in a relationship but unsure if it’s the one, or it may be, “I just can’t,” if you’re perpetually volunteering. Some might even offer, “I am sorry,” which is one I’m often not the first to say. These are good choices, but what about, “I don’t know”?

I recently subscribed to the Freakonomics podcast by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, authors of the popular book by the same name. Levitt and Dubner suggest that admitting you don’t know something is about the hardest thing we, as adults, can admit. We are trained from childhood to offer a fabrication, lie, or untruth when we don’t know the answer to a particular question. Why is this so?

Not knowing something is often seen as a weakness. Information is power and when we admit we don’t know something, perhaps we are admitting we are inferior to someone who is better informed. We may feel our job is at risk, fear losing a sale or a client, or worse yet, form a poor self-image and lack confidence if we don’t know enough.

Like many of the ideas in their book, Levitt and Dubner offer a different way of thinking. Instead of making something up to protect our job, sale or image, how about we freely admit when we don’t know something and commit to finding out?

In the parking industry in particular, integrity and honesty are by far the most important characteristics we must possess. Our clients, customers, and business partners rely on us being truthful whether we’re a public institution, publicly traded, or privately held altogether. Without trust, we simply cannot build lasting relationships, honor our commitments, or care for resources that belong to someone else.

We must to be careful to only use, “I don’t know,” to a question whose answer we really shouldn’t be expected to know, and take responsibility to master our job or duties so we possess the knowledge and skill we need in our area of responsibility. Admitting ignorance and simultaneously having a desire to find out the answer shows integrity and a passion to learn and be resourceful. How about we turn the three hardest words into the seven easiest: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” Oh, and make sure you do find out.

A Recipe to Reframe the Parking Matters® Conversation

Bridgette Brady

“You need to involve more planners in your associations,” said Gordon Price after his keynote address at the PIPTA conference in Seattle. I swear, I saw faces light up when he said it. Why? We were excited because Price, a renowned urban planner, former politician, and now writer and college instructor, had just acknowledge that what we do … matters.

During his keynote, Price offered a new way of communicating that Parking (and transportation) Matters and he did it without knowing that this is what we’ve been saying all along. He reframed the conversation about our role in creating urbanity and place by providing a recipe for transportation choice. He was no longer using plannerspeak, instead relating the topic to something we all love: food. It didn’t hurt that he was a little spicy–pardon the pun–with his choice of phrases, which kept the audience engaged.

My interpretation is this; you need a whole cup of human density in an area, a tablespoon each of mixed-use and proximity to services, with a couple pinches of good design to serve up a transportation choice. Thankfully, one choice is the car, which implies the need for parking. Of course, the other plated transportation choices are mass transit, active transportation, and sharing modes.

Price also offered a non-numeric equation for those who don’t go anywhere near a cookbook and the kitchen, using the same variables whereas TC (transportation choice) follows the equal sign. For those that prefer plannerspeak, he communicated further in the address that “form follows parking.”

Price hails from Vancouver, a city well known for smart land use and comprehensive transportation systems. His career as an urban planner and politician occurred in Vancouver, lending to his credibility as a subject matter expert. As a side note, he’s really funny too.

I truly hope that within the coming year, you are able to experience his keynote address because he gets it. He understands we need to be involved in planning for access to place. It might be odd to blog about a blog but just in case you are interested, Price’s is Price Tags.

Why National Heatstroke Prevention Day Should Matter to Parking Professionals

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Another child died of heatstroke in a parked car while I was writing this blog post. 
Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 7.48.14 AM

Click on this link to download IPI’s Parking Safety Matters public service ad/fact sheet about preventing children from dying in hot parked cars and help get the word out! You can even customize it with your organization’s logo. Post the information on your website, tack it to office bulletin boards, print it and share with staff to increase their awareness, and distribute it on the windshields of cars parked in your garages or lots so drivers will know they cannot leave a child in a car for even a minute.

Jan Null, the nation’s leading expert on this topic who spoke at the 2014 IPI Conference & Expo in Dallas and who is working with us on this public service initiative, just updated his online statistics to 19 child deaths in hot cars this year.

There’s been an extraordinary amount of media coverage about this issue this year, and expect more today; July 31, is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) National Heatstroke Prevention Day. Heatstroke is how most of these innocent infants, toddlers, and young children die, often within minutes because children’s bodies are more susceptible to heat. Participating organizations will post social media messages throughout the day, asking people to share the posts on Facebook and retweet using #heatstroke.

You can also help by signing a petition supported by a number of child safety groups to help gain attention for this issue and to encourage government action.

Would you ever leave your baby in a car? Most everyone says no. But the sad truth is that good parents–normal, just-like-you parents–do. It’s heartbreaking. Often one parent or caregiver thinks the child is with someone else. Sometimes it’s just a case of being distracted. Often a sleeping child is simply left behind, or a child playing in an unattended car gets trapped inside and is not found until it is too late.

Though southern states see more incidences, geography is not a valid predictor, says Null. The temperature in a closed vehicle can rise 19 degrees in just 10 minutes and skyrocket 43 degrees in an hour. Cracking the windows has little effect. Even a 72 degree day in Seattle can be deadly. See a time-collapse video illustrating how fast a car heats up here.

This isn’t just a one-day, or one-summer initiative. IPI’s Safety and Security Committee, co-chaired by Geary Robinson, Ph.D., CAPP, and Bruce Barclay, CAPP, will be developing other ways for you to be part of this important public service campaign. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Want a poster to put in elevators, or display areas? Write to me at sullivan@parking.org and I’ll send you a poster art file you can take to your local print shop. (Send me your hi-res logo and I’ll put it on the poster before I send you the art file.)