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Compete Against Yourself Lately?

Rachel_Yoka 2013

I am no sports buff but as my kids get to an age where they want to explore multiple sports (read: anything and everything available to them), I have become a quick study. Swimming season just kicked off and it adds a level of regimen to the family. Minimum of three practices a week, “dry land” training at least once a month, and marathon meets on the weekends. Track comes later in the spring, but the premise is the same.iStock_000049116870_Large

Like any busy family, we struggle to meet the expectations of the team and balance those demands with work, homework, family, and a healthy dose of fun stuff, too. It takes a good deal of planning as well as discipline. What I have learned to love about the swim season and that regimen is that each athlete is not just competing as a team. They are training constantly, timing themselves, making strategic alterations in stroke and turn, all of it to improve their individual performance. Moderate adjustments and disciplined practice yield great individual improvements. And those improvements build upward momentum, creating a stronger team as a whole.

When was the last time you competed against yourself? Planned out your schedule, gained additional training and resources, and set your sights on a new personal goal? What we do not plan simply does not happen. Personal and professional improvement come out of hard work, investment in yourself, and yes, sometimes a little luck too. That extra push from a mentor, supervisor, or colleague.

Name your target, and carve your path to get there – CAPP, APO (Accredited Parking Organization), CGG (Certified Green Garage), maybe your MBA or another advanced degree. Maybe it’s the decision to read The Parking Professional cover-to-cover each month or submit a new article under your own byline. Take an online or in-person training course. Compete against your personal best, and let us help you get there. (By the way, your success can help your team improve too.)

Possibilities abound. If you want to chat about it, you can find me at the pool, marveling at the inspiring young athletes in the water.

Will You Be My Parking Pen Pal?

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

I’m reading Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, a story that parallels the building of the World’s Columbian Exposition (better known as the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893) and a serial-killing physician who lived, worked, and murdered nearby. The Exposition’s architects came from many parts of the country, most notably Chicago and New York. They all seemed to travel extensively while needing to converse constantly about many of the Fair’s details. By the late 19th century, of course, the telegraph made communications that used to take days, weeks, or even months to complete nearly instant. Even so, most people conversed extensively through letters. This no doubt helped them maintain important relationships, shape their opinions through dialogue, gain exposure to experiences they might never actually personally have, and conduct business. Without question, we have these same needs and motivations for conversing today. Oct.15Blog

We’re told that our world is shrinking and by many measures, it certainly is. Globalization is the term we use to describe the process of international integration that arises from the interchange of world views, products, ideas, and other aspects of culture. And, with the Internet, social media, and Google Translate, we now have the means to exchange ideas and perspectives instantly. But do we?

I had the great fortune of being invited to attend and present at the Norwegian Parking Association’s annual conference in Tønsberg, Norway, on behalf of IPI. My presentation was about technology and innovation trends; I believe the organizers were most interested in comparing progress in Norway to that taking place in the U.S. and elsewhere outside. I gave a similar presentation in Sweden last April and have enjoyed the chance to speak with other parking professionals in Ireland, Italy, Brazil, and Australia during the past five years. I’ve learned about parking issues, successes, and challenges, and made friends from around the world, and I’m convinced more than ever of the power of global relationships. We must keep an external perspective to continue making progress in the parking profession. Though not everyone has the opportunity to travel as I have, we all still need to stay as connected as possible and keep an outward focus to grow and innovate. But how can we do this?

What if there was a parking pen-pal program that paired parking professionals from around the globe? Participants with similar positions could discuss in detail their challenges, solutions, and ideas, and the exchange of information could foster important dialogue and build friendships spanning miles, cultures, and backgrounds. IPI has the global span and the relationships already established with peer organizations and the Global Parking Associations Leadership (GPALs) Summit to further such a program. With it, we could go beyond sharing cute cat videos and messages of less than140 characters, and move to something more personally gratifying and potentially impactful.

What do you think?

Valet: Just Do It!

Frank L. Giles

I recently had a chance to work a full shift as a valet. I don’t mean manage the operation or supervise a valet team—I mean park and pull cars for customers Sport shoes isolated on whitebefore making that mad dash back to the station. Gettin’ back to maroots! Needless to say, the experience was both exhilarating and exhausting. I thought I was out of shape before, but now I know.

What I gained from the experience other than some sore muscles was a healthy respect for the athletic component of valet. I even think they should have their own shoe. Imagine for a second, an inconspicuous all-black running shoe complete with arch support and traction. It could simply be called “The Valet.” I would buy a pair. I fact, it might be a good way to insure complete uniformity of the operation.

So how about it Nike or Reebok, why not take advantage of this untapped market of parking athletes? Just be sure to send me my cut.

Singing a Different Tune

Shawn Conrad

I learn a tremendous amount when I sit in on sessions at parking conferences. So many great initiatives shed a light on the value parking brings to municipalities, universities, airports, and medical centers. Sessions about on-street parking as a mobility management tool in Barcelona or digitalization of parking enforcement in Amsterdam are just a few I’ve had the pleasure of attending recently. Closer to home, I heard presentations on parking improvements in Boulder, Colo,; Pittsburgh; and Missoula, Mont.

One speaker I recently heard discussed:

  • The Parking Ticket.
  • Parking Lot.
  • Le Parking Des Anges.
  • Strip Mall Parking Lots.
  • Parking Hug.
  • Party in the Parking Lot.
  • And my favorite, Central Parking Blues

If you haven’t guessed, these are just a few of the 59 titles Spotify identifies as “parking” songs. Evidently, this speaker and others are trying to find all the recorded songs about parking. While 59 seems like a lot, I was challenged to see if there were more.

My guess is that a number of IPI blog readers have created lists of parking songs of their own. Does anyone have more than 59 titles on their playlist?

I wasn’t aware that parking songs are that plentiful. It just goes to show you that you can learn things outside of a classroom setting.

Become an Authority Figure


When I was in college way back in the 20th century, bumper stickers and tee shirts suggesting that we Question Authority were in vogue. Authority figures were anathema, not to be trusted or followed. (Come to think of it, things may not have changed so much—my kids still behave this way!)

iStock_000020000698_LargeIn the business world, however, authority is still in vogue. We rely on authorities to share insights and provide best practices to help us manage our organizations more effectively, efficiently, and profitably. This is one of the underlying foundations of public relations (my specialty). If you can establish yourself as an authority on subjects that matter to your customers and potential customers, you have taken an important step toward gaining their business.

This is why publicity has always been such a powerful marketing and business development tool. Articles in local and national business and industry press provide a great opportunity to demonstrate your expertise on issues customers and prospects need help with. And there are plenty of opportunities to author bylined articles in local or national newspapers and magazines, or serve as experts to be interviewed for articles.

Blogging offers similar opportunities to assume authority of issues your customers and potential partners care about. In fact, blogs offer a uniquely attractive opportunity because you aren’t constrained by editorial calendars or magazine’s publication guidelines. You can write about anything you want in any format you please. You can construct your messages with a focus on what your audiences want to read rather than on what an editor wants. Blogging can be a wonderfully effective complement to a publicity program too. That’s why you should be blogging.

It pays to be an authority figure if you are marketing a product or service. Blogging and seeking out publicity opportunities are great places to start.

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.