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.)

How Premium Can a Parking Space Get?

Frank L. Giles

In the parking industry, timing and location make the difference between a 9 x 15-foot slab of concrete and a revenue-generating asset. Depending on the location and time, that slab of concrete can be worth $5 or $25 per day. Premium parking can generate demand that will push the price though the stratosphere. So, how premium can a parking space get? How much will someone pay to park his car in that perfect spot?

I recently heard about a parking space for sale in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood; asking price: $250,000. Yep, that’s a quarter of a million dollars for access to one parking space. In a place like Manhattan, parking is almost always at a premium. It’s the same conundrum that befell the first citizen to purchase a brand-new Model-T Ford: “So where do I put this thing?” Today, with triple the number of cars on the road than 50 years ago, the parking industry is still finding new and better answers to that question.

Premium parking is one way to make sure that those perfect parking spots get some amount of turnover and that the available spaces in a place like Manhattan are shared. Although $250,000 may be a bit on the high side, premium parking is dictated by time and location, and everyone has a shot at the perfect spot–if you can afford it.

Glow in the Dark

Isaiah Mouw

If you happen to be driving through the Netherlands along the N329 highway anytime soon, you might suddenly feel like you’re driving through a Wachowski Brothers movie set. Studio Roosegaarde has developed glow-in-the-dark road markings that were recently installed along a 500m stretch of highway.

Typical road markings are made of reflective paint, but still often require energy-consuming streetlights to guide the way. The glow-in-the-dark road markings installed in the Netherlands charge using the sun during the day and then glow at night, eliminating the need for an abundance of streetlights and saving energy and maintenance dollars. Further plans for this concept involve creative solutions such as snowflake images that would glow on the pavement when the temperature drops below a certain point to remind drivers to be cautious of ice. This reminds me a lot of the Solar Roadways concept of using LED lights in solar-powered road panels to deliver safety messages to drivers as they drive along the highway.

All that said, I’m not sure if these phosphorescence markings would be of much to use to the parking industry. It would be neat to have parking lot spaces and signage glow in the dark, but not at the cost of eliminating lighting and decreasing the overall sense of safety in your facility.

What do you think?

Variable Pricing Spreads, but is it Right for Everyone?

Dave Feehan

Credit Professor Donald Shoup with spotting a nascent trend and injecting it into the world of parking. Variable pricing has become a concept and practice pioneered in San Francisco and being considered or implemented in a number of other cities. But according to a recent National Public Radio (NPR) report, variable pricing has also become the rage in other industries as well.

Take air travel for example. Prices vary, day to day and hour to hour. A ticket on the same flight might cost 40 to 50 percent more or less depending on the day of the week and hour of the day it is purchased. Prices also vary according to what services you require. Spirit Airlines is probably the biggest proponent (or offender, if you prefer): A bag that you carry on costs less than one you check, but its cost also varies with how, when, and where you check in.

Another industry that is seizing on variable pricing is sports. Buy a ticket in advance online and pay one price, but pay at the gate and, depending where you sit, you might pay five to 10 times as much. Teams are considering changing prices based on the attractiveness of the opponent, day of the week, and the success of the local team.

I think variable pricing is a great tool–in the right cities, in the right locations within those cities, and managed thoughtfully with both a short- and long-term perspective. That said, I still have reservations as to whether every city should adopt the practice. Where parking is scarce and where there are many affluent people who will pay just about anything for a safe, convenient parking space, variable pricing makes great sense. It also makes sense in terms of residential parking discounts, as Shoup recently proposed, and as a way of rewarding other behaviors such as driving small cars and hybrids.

But in cities and towns that are still struggling to revive their downtowns, where retail stores and restaurants are fragile, and where the culture is resistant, I would think long and hard before introducing a system that confuses local customers and may spell doom for struggling shops and diners.

Global Warming: Does It Matter?

Jeff_Pinyot

If you want good dinner conversation, place at least one liberal and one conservative together at a dinner table and insert a bottle of Pinot Grigio, a nice appetizer, and perhaps the suggestion of global warming for conversation.

The parking industry is often referred to in discussions of the effects of environmental change, so it seems that we have the right to have an opinion on the subject.  When our company is asked what environmental effect our lights have on carbon emissions, we often equate it to X numbers of cars being taken off the road. It actually seems a little stupid to tell Parking Company A that if they use our lights, it will be like taking 50 cars (paying customers) off the road.  I know it really doesn’t effect the number of cars in actuality, but it does seem like a silly analysis given the facts.  Perhaps we should talk about the effect as X number of new trees planted.

We’re not the only ones to have opinions on the environment, of course. Why is it that every celebrity believes himself to be an authority? Could you imagine George Clooney saying, “In ‘Gravity,’ I played an astronaut, which means that I would have probably gone to Purdue University, which means that I should probably be pretty smart, so I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that global warming is for real…I think.”

Silly, right? Here’s what he really said: “If you have 99 percent of doctors who tell you ‘you are sick’ and 1 percent that says ‘you’re fine,’ you probably want to hang out with, check it up, with the 99. You know what I mean? The idea that we ignore that we are in some way involved in climate change is ridiculous. What’s the worst thing that happens? We clean up the earth a little bit? What’s the worst thing that happens? We clean up the earth a little bit?”

I agree with him: cleaning up the earth is a good thing no matter what you believe about climate change. The bottom line is, we should leave the world in at least the same shape as we got it, no worse, and preferably better.

Parking Manager Lemonade Stand

Jeff Petry

Last week, as part of an effort to solicit feedback on a proposed parking rate increase, I set up my parking manager lemonade lemonadestand at various locations in our downtown. The intent of the lemonade stand is to give parking customers an opportunity to provide feedback, face to face. It is a friendly, and perhaps unexpected, approach to engage everyday parking customers, right where they are.

The lemonade stand was set up for about six hours at three locations over the course of three days. Here is what I learned/observed:

Downtown Park Location (lunch time):

-      A consistent flow of vehicle and pedestrian customers at our weekday Farmers’ Market that included downtown employees, families, people in suites or workout clothes, all ages, bicyclists–a perfect mixture of downtown customers!

-      A street violin player playing pleasing background music that could be heard better in the lulls of the vehicle traffic.

-      A farmer’s market booth staff person was curious about the “competition” of a lemonade stand and was pleasantly surprised to the find the City of Eugene’s parking manager in his bowling shirt uniform talking to downtown customers!

-      No questions or concerns on the parking rate increase, just smiles.

Downtown Parking Garage (4:00 – 6:00 p.m.)

-      More smiles from customers heading home from work.

-      Biggest question – Why did you remove all the trash cans from this garage?

  • Note: We removed trash cans from this parking garage to minimize our custodial needs and due to trash studies showing it was used by people dumping their home garbage in our cans. As a follow up, we will place a few more trash cans on the ground floor retail entry areas.

-      One downtown employee delivered an envelope containing a letter signed by about a dozen people asking us to not increase rates.

-      General comments of no issues with the first monthly permit rate increase in seven years.

Another Downtown Parking Garage (7:00 – 9:00 a.m.)

-      General questions such as: Where is the bus station? Is there secure bike parking? Why are you here?

-      General comments of no issues with the first monthly permit rate increase in seven years.

-      Several people took photos in the lemonade stand to show their coworkers.

The lemonade stand augmented a communications strategy that incorporated mail and social media, and allowed the parking program to add a personal touch to parking management and talk to our everyday customers. It helps defray the emotion that is present in emailed feedback. It provides a visual token that customers will remember for months to come. And, most importantly, it humanizes our parking program.

So, would you like a glass of lemonade?

New British Proposals Affect Parking

Patrick headshot 2012 cropped

As you enjoy  your summer holiday, you are (wisely) probably not thinking too much about the challenge of the British government’s proposals on local authority parking, which they published in late June. But I’m afraid those days of sun and sea will soon pass and our focus will be back on the job!

Following significant lobbying by the British Parking Association (BPA) and other organizations, including the Local Government Associations and London Councils as well as individual local authorities, we succeeded in persuading the government that banning closed-circuit television (CCTV) in its entirety was throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  At least the Transport Minister saw sense and has ensured, in the publication of his response to the consultation, that he intends to permit CCTV to continue to be used, but only in specific circumstances of his choosing.

The BPA will lobby on our members’ behalf to ensure that CCTV can continue to be used in the circumstances for which it was intended, namely to relieve congestion on our streets and improve road safety.  We will be working over the summer with members of the House of Lords as the Deregulation Bill, which the government amended in June, makes its way through the Lords on its way to Royal Assent, probably at the end of the year.

There are many uncertainties at present around how the government’s proposals will turn out, and there are a number of opportunities to improve the position from the perspective of local authorities and the wider parking profession, at the same time ensuring that we place the consumer at the heart of our thinking.

The most extraordinary outcome from the government’s published response is that the responsibilities for implementing these changes are shared between the Department for Transport and the Department for Communities and Local Government.  When a government is at loggerheads with itself, organizations such as the BPA must redouble their efforts to deal with two sets of officials and two sets of Ministers.

I do hope that the government is united in developing these proposals as fractures within the policy- and law-making organizations does not make for good legislation, and, as we know, in other circumstances bad legislation can make life very difficult for those who have to implement and enforce it.

I hop you will put in your diary the date of our Annual Conference in October, where we will have very interesting and, I hope, constructive debates about where we have been on this subject and where we are going in the future.

Are You Communicating Effectively?

Doug Holmes

Communication.  It is a wonderful thing in today’s electronic world … when it works.  It seems that the faster the modes of communication given us by technology, the greater the demand for even faster methods of communication.  Basically, though, it is a pretty simple set-up: a sender, a receiver and a message.

Unfortunately, a lot of interference can crop up between a sender and receiver.  Good communication requires a two-way delivery of information between the parties and understanding the information conveyed in both directions.  Texting or email is especially prey to this problem.  If you can’t see the face of or hear the vocal inflections of the person you are communicating with, a lot of message misinterpretation is possible.

The “reply” key can have a hugely negative effect.  Frequently, people hit reply or “reply all” (even worse) without checking the address field to see to whom the message is being sent.

There is a tendency to assume that once you hit send, the information in a message is immediately in the brain of the recipient.  Immediately. Bad assumption.  Rarely is any thought given to the possibility that the recipient did not check their inbox at all.  Horrors.  Could he have been on vacation?  In an all-day conference or training session?

An email server might send something screaming to your junk folder because it misidentified the message as spam.  I don’t know about you, but I do not go through my junk folder every few hours.

I know a lot of people who would prefer to answer a text message then check their voicemail and return a phone call.   I work the other way–I’ll respond to a voicemail almost immediately.  (I say almost because I am retired and nothing should be assumed to be immediate due to that status.)

What’s the point? If you are sending urgent, time-sensitive information in an electronic format and expect an immediate response, maybe it is better to pick up that old-fashioned device called a telephone and talk to the person on the other end.  Or, at least call to make sure your colleague got your message.