Bridges, Gridlock, and Parking


I lived in Maryland and worked in Virginia in 1998, which meant I crossed the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Potomac River twice a Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 10.53.17 AMday. Thanks to a progressive manager who embraced flextime even then, I was normally in the office by 7 a.m. and on my way home by 3:30 p.m. Sounds great, right? It was, until the afternoon a jumper perched on the bridge and shut it down for more than five hours, effectively–and quite unexpectedly–plunging the entire Washington, D.C. metro area into gridlock. My 25-minute commute stretched to an utterly miserable three and a half hours.

Thanks to that, I have a lot of empathy for the people in Fort Lee, N.J., who move about at what must feel like the whim of the George Washington Bridge into New York City. Even when those at the state house may or may not be mucking around with traffic there, it affects everyone who lives in town.

Guess who went proactive to get their people moving again? If you said the parking professionals in Fort Lee, you’re absolutely correct, and their system of shuttles and policies has eased traffic in and around town and boosted community spirit, making life that much easier for those they serve. Their story offers a great example of how parking departments offer much more than spaces, and it’s in the January issue of The Parking Professional.

Also in this month’s issue you’ll find a great story on how airport professionals are dealing with entirely new challenges (think food trucks vs. security and Uber vs. traditional cabs); all the new technology airports can use to their advantage; a piece on a fabulous piece of garage art in Australia that’s got everyone there talking; and how garage repairs and marketing to the community can make a big difference. And, of course, you’ll see the winners of this year’s photo contest–say cheese!

The D.C. region survived our friend on the bridge, by the way, as did he–the police eventually shot him in the leg with a beanbag, he jumped into the water and emerged unhurt, and is probably still in hiding from the wrath of thousands of commuters. My guess is that a certain deputy chief of staff in New Jersey will enjoy the same fate.

I hope you enjoy the issue–comment here or drop me a note and let me know what you think.


Branding: The Real Deal or Fancy Packaging?

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

My kids received Kindle tablets for Christmas. Santa thought the devices might lead to more reading but so far, the kids have been trying
SPLogosout game after game (thankfully, only free ones so far). One game they like has you guess the name of a company from a partial image of its logo. That got me thinking about what makes a brand strong and recognizable even if a consumer never buys the product or service behind the logo.

I got my first lesson in effective parking branding in Portland, Ore., in the early ‘90s, when the Smart Park brand was created for the city’s public parking system. The brand was clean, bold, and simple, and accompanied by spokesperson Les Park, who was at your service. Most importantly, the brand conveyed friendliness, safety, and economy–exactly the attributes to overcome negative perceptions about downtown parking as being impersonal, unsafe, and expensive.

More recently, my company, Standard Parking, began the process of rebranding itself following its merger with Central Parking. Please forgive the unintended company plug, but it’s rare to be in a position to describe what goes into developing a company brand. I’m sharing some details in the hope that readers find the information useful.

Standard Parking Corporation changed its corporate name to SP Plus Corporation (though for the time being the company will continue to conduct its parking operations under its legacy brands). The visual centerpiece of the rebranding effort is a new SP+ logo that is fresh, colorful, and bold. Its elements preserve a connection with the legacy brands (SP in recognition of Standard Parking and a “+” symbol in Central Parking’s legacy gold color). The “+” highlights that the company is about more than just parking, having evolved into a team of operations specialists who link innovation with market-based expertise in parking, transportation, facility maintenance, event logistics, and security services. The company’s new commitment statement, “Innovation In Operation,” signifies a promise to apply innovative thinking in everything the company does.

There’s much more to an effective brand than a fancy logo. In order for a brand to stick, it must convey and deliver on its value proposition. Otherwise, it’s just slick packaging and empty promises.


New Year, New Address for IPI

Shawn Conrad

updated_movingIt’s 2014. And, it’s our first day in IPI’s new headquarters in Alexandria, Va.

I have a new perspective on the world, literally and figuratively.

Alexandria is minutes from Washington, D.C., accessible to three major airports and a Metro stop, and our new complex has its own bike share station. It’s easier to visit us, and I hope you will!

Being in close proximity to government agencies with whom we have increasingly close ties will be an asset to IPI and its members.

IPI’s new hometown boasts the fourth largest concentration of professional associations in the nation. Many are associations related to building, property management, urban planning, architecture, transportation, law enforcement, municipalities, universities, healthcare—the list goes on! These are groups with which we either have alliances, or want to build alliances, and the proximity will facilitate those connections.

The offices may be new, but the staff is the same, with the same dedication to serving our members. We’re looking forward to all the opportunities our new address will afford. In the meantime, please update your IPI contact information.

International Parking Institute
1330 Braddock Place, Suite 350
Alexandria, Va., 22314

There may be times we’re offline during the next few days (our move has been complicated by the snow here). Rest assured, we are working hard and settling in and we look forward to hearing from you Monday morning. Thanks for your patience—look for a virtual tour of our new home in the February issue of The Parking Professional and plan a visit soon!







Be Thankful for the Blockers

Isaiah Mouw

In the New York Times bestselling book, Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior,  authors Ori and Rom Brafman explore the value of different roles in group dynamics. The book references a study in which family therapist David Kantor set up cameras throughout many rooms in different family homes. In every family he studied, members traded off playing one of four distinct roles:

  • Initiators: Have new ideas. Highly optimistic about new ideas/projects.
  • Blockers: Likely to question or block new ideas/projects.
  • Supporters: Side with either the initiator or the blocker.
  • Observers: Just observe. They don’t take sides but rather comment on the obvious.

These roles are not just found in families, but in almost every kind of group you can imagine. And as a manager, you may want to stack your team with lots of initiators and very few blockers. As the book finds, though, blockers are a very important part of group dynamics: they often save us from getting into trouble.

Maybe you were an initiator at your last operations meeting and had the brilliant idea to host a skateboarding competition in your garage, only to have the blocker shoot it down due to important safety and security issues. Blockers are so important that some companies pay people to fill the role. In a program designed by NASA, airline crews are trained to block a captain’s decision when he or she might skip certain safety procedures or make questionable decisions.

Early in my career, I managed an on-street operation that was approached by a television production company looking to follow our officers as they wrote tickets and dealt with the public. I was excited about this new idea–a reality show based on our parking operation! A producer and filming crew followed us around for several days filming the pilot. They liked what they saw and proceeded with their pitch to our board of directors. Luckily, blockers on the board shot down the idea.

“It’s a reality show. They’ll only focus on conflict, on the negative,” said one smart board director. He was blocking, and he was correct. We ended up not signing the contract, which I am quite thankful for now.

Be thankful for your blockers. They are an integral part of the decision-making process and often have probably saved you from making a big mistake, like the time you had the idea to let Hollywood blow up your garage for a new summer blockbuster movie (not, of course, that we know anyone who’d do that).

Elves, Volunteers and Santa 365

Shawn Conrad

When I say 365, I’m not referring to days in the year. I’m talking about the approximate number of parking professionals who chose to volunteer and share their energy and expertise with the International Parking Institute, affiliates, or allied state and regional parking associations during the past 12 months.

Behind every successful IPI program, there are numerous “elves” oiling the machine, delivering the goods, and doing so with bells on!

This is very top of mind because I just re-read my advance copy of the 2013 IPI Year in Review which will accompany your January issue of The Parking Professional. As the year comes to a close, it’s a satisfying exercise to recap highlights of the past twelve months and see how much we accomplished. As, IPI Chair Liliana Rambo, CAPP, coined it: “A stellar year – thanks to so many.”

We were fortunate to have many talented individuals make such a positive difference by working on a committee, writing an article for The Parking Professional or the Parking Matters® Blogbeing the elvebehind the 2013 IPIConference & Expo, participating in webinars, sharing ideas during ShopTalks,and contributing in countless other ways to advance the parking profession.

This season, we hear a great deal about spirit and generosity, but I have found this to be an industry where those attributes are year round in abundance. On behalf of all of us at IPI, our deepest gratitude and very best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a healthy, prosperous new year.

The New Kid at the Auto Show

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

“You are going where?”

“The LA Auto Show.”

“But I thought you worked in parking.”

“ I do.”

So went a recent conversation with a friend who, coincidentally, used to design booths for auto shows.  He couldn’t believe there would be any interest in parking at the big one in Los Angeles. My response to him was to evoke a famous Bob Dylan track: The Times They Are a-Changin’.

One of the major trends for 2013 has been the connected car. Parking seems to not only fit extremely well into this trend, but is establishing itself as one of the essential elements.

We saw a glimpse of this back in September at the Frankfurt Auto Show, where European automakers showcased their leading technology. You guessed it, parking was there!

At the LA Auto Show, it became very clear that the automotive world sees parking as a very logical addition to navigation systems, and that these systems are fast gaining momentum toward being a standard in-car feature.

As Paul Asel, managing partner of Nokia Growth Partners, commented, “New auto technologies adopted in the next few years have the potential to alter our driving experience more than at any time in the past 50 years. The LA Auto Show offered a glimpse of what the next few years may offer. Much more is yet to come.”

Whether you operate a parking lot, provide parking information through a website or app, or manage payments and/or reservations, the auto world is ready to knock on your door.


Parklets: Something to Consider

L. Dennis Burns

The concept of parklets (small park-like spaces on parts of streets that have been repurposed) is taking off around the U.S. I have come to expect to see them in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, but I must confess I was a little surprised to find one when I recently visited Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The following is an excerpt from a very well done “How to” manual from San Francisco on how to develop Parklets as part of neighborhood improvement projects:

San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks Program facilitates the conversion of utilitarian and often underused spaces in the street into publicly accessible open spaces available for all to enjoy. The Parklet Program is one component of the Pavement to Parks Program, which provides a path for merchants, community organizations, business owners, and residents to take individual actions in the development and beautification of the City’s public realm.

Parklets are intended as aesthetic enhancements to the streetscape, providing an economical solution to the need for increased public open space. Parklets provide amenities like seating, planting, bike parking, and art. While parklets are funded and maintained by neighboring businesses, residents, and community organizations, they are publicly accessible and open to all.

This terrific manual can be downloaded here.

According to the manual, the world’s first formal public parklets were initially conceived and installed in San Francisco in 2010. Earlier this year, 39 of the mini-parks had been installed throughout San Francisco, and the program is being emulated in cities around the world.

The creation of parklets in your neighborhood celebrates local grassroots initiatives, community- building, and sustainable transportation initiatives. While not quite a mainstream phenomenon yet, the movement is growing. Don’t be surprised if one pops up near you soon!


Time to Rethink Your Marketing

Bill Smith

It’s the best time of the year. Ok, it’s the second best time of year—the night my beloved Red Sox won the World Series was the best time of the year. Still, the holiday season is pretty nice.

For many consultants and companies that serve the parking industry, this is also one of the busiest and most important times of the year. That’s because it’s strategic planning time. Corporate leaders are thinking about what new markets they will explore in the coming months, what new products and services they’ll introduce, and how they will continue to meet the needs of current customers. This is the time of year during which the foundation is built for next year’s success—and for success even further down the road.

Yet, as important as this planning season is for companies, most take an incomplete approach. One important area in which organizations fall short is not including marketing in the planning process. Rather than considering marketers important members of the strategy team, most organizations treat them as tacticians tasked merely with selling the organization’s strategic plan.

Your marketing professionals—whether in-house staff or on-call consultants—bring a unique skillset and knowledge base to the table. They are familiar with industry and market trends that revolve around marketing, they know how to make initiatives more marketable, and—most importantly—they understand how your strategic initiatives will impact, and be impacted by, your corporate brand. The fresh perspective your marketing team can bring can help move your organization’s planning process in new, productive directions.

Make a resolution now to focus on one of your most powerful planning resources. Make sure that your marketing team plays a prominent role in your organization’s strategic planning.




Tea and Parking: What’s the Deal?

JC Porter, Parking and Transportation, Bronco Snapshot, cq

Success boils down to how you treat your customers and employees. I had the opportunity to read The Parking Professional’s Goldman Coverinterview with bestselling author, CEO, and green advocate Seth Goldman in the December issue (coming to your mailbox soon), and found it very insightful. Without giving away all the details of the interview, I want to discuss a few themes Goldman talks about and how they apply to parking.

The first thing he addresses is having a mission that employees at all levels can understand and get behind. Often, mission statements are written by leaders who are not out doing the job on a day-to-day basis and may not have the vision of what a frontline job could be. Getting employees’ buy-in on mission requires their involvement from the ground up. We have to give them the responsibility that will allow them to make decisions that go along with the mission, and empower them to make decisions that translate to top-notch customer service.

Goldman’s second piece of advice is to think like a customer, to ensure the services they want and need are being provided. Most times, we like to tell our customers what they want or need instead of listening to them.

Finally, he advises treating everyone equally so no one feels like an outsider in the corporate environment. This, he says, translates to parking pretty easily: cyclists tend to be relegated to the corner or an area that is under-utilized when bike storage is provided at all. Instead, create spaces that are well thought-out and will help encourage cycling. Consider bike storage that is secure, covered, and close to the front door; lockers and showers; and having a vending machine that dispenses tubes, batteries, or other bicycle-related items to allow quick fix before the ride home. The return on investment for these services will be high; bike infrastructure is inexpensive and employees who bike to work are in better health and less stressed when arriving to work than those who commute by car.

I hope you’ll take time to read the interview with Seth Goldman in the December issue of The Parking Professional. Finding your mission can be as easy as looking toward your employees and customers, and not just looking at the bottom line.



Thanksgiving: Parking Family


This is the time of the year many of us take a moment to examine the things we have accomplished during the past 11 months and either celebrate or reinvigorate ourselves with new energy to finish those pending projects in the last four weeks of the calendar year. But it is also a time for traditions; it is a time to come together with loved ones, families, colleagues, and friends, share food and fun, and be thankful.

As I prepare for a Thanksgiving get-together at my house with my two daughters, family, and friends, I am making notes of all the things that I will be thankful for, including those we sometimes we take for granted: the cooking of the turkey, for example!

This year, I am thankful for my health and for the ability to be able to enjoy life with my girls.

I am thankful that Briana was accepted to the university of her choice and that Diana keeps excelling at volleyball.

I am thankful to have crossed completing a Tough Mudder event off my bucket list. But I am more thankful for the friendships and camaraderie formed with other parking peeps during the event.

I give thanks for a job that provides as many challenges as rewards, and for the opportunity to work with a very talented and fun group of people.

I am also very thankful for having the great fortune to belong to an organization such as IPI, where I have been able to grow as an individual and in the professional arena. I feel extremely blessed to call some of the people I have met through this organization not just colleagues, but BFFs.

I am thankful for the people who work for IPI and the many accomplishments they have helped us achieve in the parking and transportation industry worldwide. The list of accomplishments over the last year is exhausting, and many of these accomplishments could not have been realized without volunteers. The real magic of IPI is the number and caliber of volunteers who give back to their profession by offering their talents, time, and expertise on our board, committees, councils, and task forces. Words can’t express the gratitude I feel and owe to all our volunteers–my heartfelt thank you goes to all of you.

We all know that it takes a team to make it happen, and we have a very strong team! More than 400 people answered our biannual call for volunteers, and they are the ones helping us move the needle and IPI forward. We have made great progress in developing the international arena in the parking profession by providing services and programs to parking professionals in North America, Europe, Brazil, Mexico, and other parts of South America, and we will keep expanding on this effort.

I could go on and on listing accomplishments, but I’ll close by expressing my most sincere gratitude to all of you and how privileged I feel to be the chair of such a vibrant and active community–one dedicated to advancing the parking profession.

Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving Day while I prepare to cook my first turkey!