Harry Potter and the Parking Stone

Jeff Petry

In the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter starts off unaware of his wizardly abilities and kept in a storage closet under the stairs by his aunt and uncle. Gradually, the magical world is revealed to him, including heading off to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Each school year, he is faced with extraordinary challenges as the evil Lord Voldemort attempts to take over the world. Harry is the reluctant hero and leader. He is able to overcome the challenges with his close network of friends and mentors, educational training, and the infused power of love from his deceased parents (killed by Lord Voldemort).

Parking programs across the country can relate to the Harry Potter story. Many parking programs are relegated to organizational “closets” and not provided the opportunity to grow and operate in a nurturing environment to become positive influences in the community. Parking programs are not always recognized for their crucial links between organization and community stakeholders. Many times, parking revenue is just a line item of a larger program’s budget.

Harry Potter did not recognize his true value and power to influence world events on his own. It took a leader, Professor Dumbledore, to recognize the value of the young wizard and embed empathy and values in his personal and wizardly development. It took partnerships with friends and unexpected allies to overcome Voldemort’s evil plans to reshape the world. And all this was happening while the Muggles (non-wizard, everyday humans) were totally oblivious to these struggles, despite noticing weird occurrences around them.

The same can be said for parking programs across the country. It takes an organizational leader to truly understand the potential of parking in shaping a community and then mentor the program and its staff to work their parking magic for good. It takes strong partnerships within your organization and with the community to overcome the challenges thrown at the parking program.  It takes attending our parking school of wizardry (International Parking Institute and regional parking associations) to learn the magic. And this mostly happens under the radar of the majority of the community, except for the conversations around parking rates.

A parking wizard can help shape the community by figuring out how to overcome current challenges as well as those that will shape the community in the future. Are you ready to enter the magical world of parking?

Data-Driven Performance Improvement Part 2: The Porch

L. Dennis Burns

In my last blog post, I discussed some interesting projects relative to data driven analysis focused on improving performance in the arena of place management. The first example was from the Institute of Place Management in the U.K. Today, I wanted to share another great example of data-driven research as applied to a placemaking initiative known as The Porch at 30th Street Station, in Philadelphia.blog1

The Porch  essentially took a large underused plaza area in front of the city’s 30th Street Station and used a range of affordable placemaking strategies to activate this area. The graphic to the right illustrates the potential population that could be affected in the area.

Replacing what had been 34 parking spaces, this initiative leveraged 54 planters, 45 tables, 184 chairs, 28 umbrellas, 12 loungers, and 23 trees (and a tremendous amount of programming) to transform the area from an unwelcoming site to a place where thousands of pedestrians now congregate and interact every day. The transformation is really quite remarkable!

blog3 blog2Beyond the placemaking work of adding seating, shade, food, plantings, music, and a variety of other activities which have transformed this location, the thing I was most impressed with was the process used for measuring and monitoring the effect of the various elements to drive ongoing performance improvements in the area. Porch ambassadors and planning staff used observations and checklist tools, surveys, behavior mapping, pedestrian tracking, and counts to determine who was using The Porch: How long are they staying? Which furniture do they prefer? How is capacity versus demand at different times? Which amenities are most used?

To learn more about this approach, check out the University City website for more detailed information related to shaping public spaces.

Parking Matters®? Prove it!

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I’m not a parking professional, but after talking to the media about the industry since 2009, I certainly think it’s fair to call myself a parking cheerleader and advocate. You could say Parking Matters® is my baby—even my three adult daughters will say it’s true.

WhyParkingMatters

If you record milestones in the lives of your children, you’ll understand that I feel similarly in sharing a new white paper IPI has published titled, “Why Parking Matters: The case for why parking –and the expertise of parking professional— is integral to the future of our cities.

From the earliest days of IPI’s Parking Matters® program, it’s been easy to talk to reporters and describe an industry whose dramatic, exciting, positive change is worthy of attention. The convergence of technology, sustainability, and a focus on customer service has given us credible and important stories to share with decision-makers at municipalities, universities, airports, hospitals, retailers, downtowns, sports arenas, and beyond.

This new white paper, coupled with a companion piece summarizing innovative parking programs in the U.S., and the “Smart Parking: A Tale of Two Cities” infographic produced by the Smart Parking Alliance™ this summer, is a powerful tool that takes us a step further in telling our story.

Focused on the municipality market, Why Parking Matters® includes discussions of the economics of parking, sustainability, and how parking contributes to making more livable, walkable communities.

The white paper supports IPI’s mission to advance the parking profession. The call to action?  Rethink your parking strategies, starting with the expertise of a parking professional.

I hope you’ll download Why Parking Matters® and share it widely with colleagues and clients. You’ll also receive a hard copy with next month’s The Parking Professional magazine.

The white paper is a living document. If you have a particular statistic that makes the case for Why Parking Matters®, please share it with me at sullivan@parking.org. If your city is not one of the 13 included in the Innovative Parking Programs in the U.S., send me a summary of its innovations and we’ll add it in.

Data-Driven Performance Improvement in Placemaking

L. Dennis Burns

I recently returned from the International Downtown Association (IDA) Annual Conference in Canada’s beautiful capital city of Ottawa. I have had a long and positive association with the IDA and have learned much from my downtown management colleagues through the years. This year was no exception.

Data-driven analysis is nothing new in the consulting or parking worlds, but two presentations at this year’s IDA conference took the application of rigorous data collection and analysis for two very different projects to a new level. I thought I would share these examples with you.lburns1

The first example was from Simon W. Quin, executive director of the Institute of Place Management (IPM) in the U.K. In collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University, the IPM was exploring the performance-forecasting factors related to placemaking. Two hundred one factors were identified and analyzed relative to how much influence each factor has on the vitality and viability of a place and how much control a location has over the factor.

Using a scatter graph to map the factors, some factors either did not have much effect or couldn’t be changed without significant effort or costs. However, 25 key factors were identified as being highly impactful and those for which place managers had a significant degree of control through which they could affect change.

lburns2These factors, which fell into the “Get on with it!” category in the top graphic, include many elements that are important to parking professionals. In particular, the factors of, walkability, accessibility and livability were prominent. Additional factors that could be embraced by parking and transportation professionals included amenities and elements related to the “experience of the place,” such as appearance, attractiveness, safety, and security.

This research effort is just midway into a year-long analysis and I look forward to following it as it evolves. You can learn more by visiting placemanagement.org.

In my next blog post, I will outline another great example of data-driven research as applied to the place making initiative known as “The Porch at 30th Street Station” in Philadelphia. The level of detail involved in the development and refinement of this place making project provides many potential lessons for parking professionals as we begin to embrace place making to improve our customer’s experiences within our facilities and campuses.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (Part I)

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Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, wrote that not only do we fear change, “[people] genuinely believe that when you’ve been doing something a particular way for some time, it must be a good way to do things. And the longer you’ve been doing it that way, the better it is.” It’s no wonder some universities have a tough time considering better ways of running their parking departments.  Even though the old way of doing things may feel comfortable, there are probably ways to improve customer service, reduce costs, and in some cases, increase revenue.

In my next few blog posts, I’ll offer up parking practices at universities that may be worth reconsidering. Today: hunting license permit systems.

Many schools sell permits for parking but the permit only offers a chance to park on campus—it doesn’t guarantee you’ll actually be able to park. The number of permits sold in this scheme is not capped, so you often create a situation where there are more parkers than parking spaces. This in turn results in excessive driving as parkers search for available spaces, additional congestion and pollution, and unhappy patrons. This approach works when parking demand is low but as schools grow and construct new buildings on parking lots, the parking supply-and-demand relationship changes, requiring a new way to allocate scarce parking permits and spaces.

Many schools have successfully implemented demand-based permit allocation systems where the price of a permit is based on the demand for the facility for which the permit is valid.  This system is grounded in supply/demand economics and uses pricing signals to help consumers make informed decisions about whether and where to park. The use of alternatives to driving (and a reduction in congestion and pollution) often follows a move to market-informed pricing.

In a tiered parking scheme, parking lots and garages are typically treated as discrete facilities. A finite number of parking permits are sold for the facility with an established oversell ratio based on documented occupancy data for the facility, and parkers do not hunt for parking spaces between lots but are assigned to specific facilities.

Drop me a line if you have an example of a parking practice worth reconsidering. Together we can make change less fearful.

Where Were You?

Bruce Barclay

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Almost everyone in America beyond their teenage years remembers where they were and what they were doing on that horrific day. Certain historical markers are embedded in our memory forever. Baby boomers remember their whereabouts on the days when JFK, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Individuals born in the ’60s and later have September 11 as an unforgettable memory that will linger long into their future.

September 11, 2001 was a date that affected the population of the United States on many different levels. The New York Stock Exchange was closed after the planes hit the Twin Towers and remained closed until the following Monday. The day it reopened, the Dow fell more than 684 points to close at 8920.70, down 7.13 percent.  Bond markets were also hit especially hard. Cantor Fitzgerald, a major government bond trader, lost many employees in the disaster. Their offices were located on the upper floors at One World Trade Center, the first building hit in the attack.

September 11’s impact on society was immediate. The U.S. aviation industry took enormous hits. On September 10, 2001 there were more than 38,000 flights. On September 12, 2001, there were only 252 commercial flights.* It took more than a week for U.S. flights to return to normal schedules. In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, (ATSA), which created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The ATSA mandated important changes in civil aviation security procedures, some of which we have become very familiar with when we travel. The first was the implementation of passenger security screening at all U.S. commercial airports, and the second was the screening of all checked baggage. Gone were the days when we could arrive at the airport 30 minutes before our flight and make the gate with time to spare.

From my perspective, September 11, 2001 started off as a normal day, with beautiful blue skies and sun over Newark Airport. I was general manager for the contract parking operations at Newark International and was in our valet operation just before 8:45 am. Local news events were being broadcast on TV in valet when there was an interruption in the broadcast— a small twin engine plane had just crashed into the World Trade center. My immediate thought was how could that happen on such a clear day?

My valet manager and I went to the roof of the parking garage adjacent to valet. What we saw was shocking. Thick gray smoke was pouring out of the top of the North Tower into the sky. We were about eight miles as the crow flies from the Trade Center and could see the events unfold in front of us. We quickly went back to valet for further news updates. As we reached the TV, the second plane hit the South Tower. “The second strike could not have been an accident,” is what I repeated to my peers. When the Towers collapsed, lower Manhattan was enveloped in a cloud of dust. The next few hours at Newark Airport were filled with anxiety and lots of misinformation. It did not help that the cellular systems were overloaded, making communication a challenge. I kept looking to the east seeing the continuous plume of smoke rising from the fallen Towers. It is a sight that I will never forget.

On Two Wheels

Brett Wood

I just spent a month in Key West, soaking up some fun and sun. You know what I figured out on day one? Parking was a pain in the you-know-what!

On day two, I dusted off a Schwinn cruiser in the storage shed in the backyard and became a bike advocate. The whole island opened up and the world was my oyster. Parking was a breeze—no payment required and normally I could drive right up to my destination and find a bike rack waiting for my two-wheeled stallion.

Bike parking is often an overlooked component of our industry, but it’s one that’s becoming increasingly popular and important. In a recent study we completed for the City of Tempe, Ariz., bike parking was front and center. Where do you put it? Who does it serve? Who maintains it? The answer is not as cut-and-dry as putting in a bike rack and calling it a day. It is imperative that the business community and the municipality work together to implement bike parking that complements the transportation network, promotes safe riding conditions, and provides mutual benefits to parkers, cyclists, businesses, and the community as a whole. Easy right?

Well, take a look at Fort Collins, Colo. There, industry leaders partnered with local businesses to achieve a common goal of promoting bicycle ridership. New Belgium Brewery, which started as a mom-and-pop brewery and has grown to national fame, sponsors portions of the bike parking program, providing racks for on-street bike parking and partnering with the city for educational campaigns. Their Tour de Fat campaign has expanded exponentially and is now in 10 cities across the U.S., providing bike riding education and promotion. And the city does its part by properly planning for bike parking needs, taking bike counts (similar to vehicular occupancy counts) and assessing bike demands in certain locations, and communicating with business owners about providing appropriate bike parking.

These types of partnerships actively promote bike riding and its importance in the fabric of our communities (Check out the September issue of The Parking Professional to learn what Yale’s bikeshare program did for that area). Before dismissing bike parking as an unnecessary component of your system, take the time to understand your community and the positive effect it might have on the social, economic, health, and congestion components of your society.

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!