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5:E NORDISKA PARKERINGSKONFERENSEN

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

jonesblog3In Swedish, 5:E NORDISKA PARKERINGSKONFERENSEN translates to the 5th Nordic Parking Conference. This gathering of just fewer than 500 attendees and 50 exhibitors from 17 different countries took place last week in beautiful Stockholm, Sweden, presented by the Swedish Parking Association, SvePark. Though the many languages spoken there are unique to our own, the topics and interest in continuing to make progress in our industry is universal. The theme of this conference is innovation and I delivered a presentation on the future of parking.

In looking to the future and what it will hold for our industry, I start with a look back. It’s important that we recognize while we’ve made progress, our parking public may not yet have forgotten about our old ways of doing things. It’s not been that long ago that the technology we offered was no more sophisticated than a metal box with slots cut in it for inserting cash, and we often built parking garages that were inhospitable to the patron and degraded external surroundings with poor design. Our singular focus seemed to be about parking cars, less so on serving the people and businesses relaying on access to our parking facilities, and seldom, if ever, did we acknowledge our part in protecting the environment and engaging the communities we serve. Thankfully things have changed.

Our future is indeed bright because: 1) we now view our role as a service industry; 2) we embrace and advance technology to improve customer service, operational efficiency, and revenue control; 3) we are active in contributing to economic, environmental, and social sustainability; and 4) we’ve broadened our focus to include all modes of travel, not just single-occupancy vehicles.

Jonesblog1It’s a good thing we’re open to new ways of thinking. In my talk I included four converging factors that our industry must be mindful of if we’re to continue making positive strides in the years to come. These include: 1) the continued urbanization of the world; 2) changing attitudes toward owning and driving private vehicles; 3) the decreasing cost of smartphone computing; and 4) the emergence of big data and increasingly sophisticated transportation algorithms that will help us facilitate more efficient use of transportation infrastructure, including parking resources.

jonesblog2After my talk, I realized that I’d forgotten one major key to our continued success: strengthening our global parking community. By sharing our experiences, both good and bad, we are able to learn, innovate, and celebrate our successes. This promotes the collaboration necessary for a vibrant, expanding, and critical industry in which to grow and succeed.

Tack (Swedish for thanks).

Rudeness: The New Normal

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If you’ve been reading or watching the news over the last few days, you’ve undoubtedly heard about a female ESPN reporter’s comments and bad behavior directed at a towing company’s employee. In a nutshell, the car was reportedly towed for being left overnight in a restaurant parking lot. In an edited video of the interaction, we see the agitated reporter apparently berate and demean a female tow company employee, even after being advised that she is being videotaped.

Here’s my assessment of the incident: Nothing new or surprising to see here.

In all segments of the parking industry, this sort of belligerent acting out happens hundreds—if not thousands—of times each day. The difference here is that the “bad actor” happens to be a minor celebrity so it’s become buzzworthy. There is significant debate taking place regarding the fact that the video has obviously been edited and we have no idea what was really said by the tow company employee. If we set all of the “who-said-what-first” debate aside, it comes down to the greater issues of widespread intolerance, entitlement, and disrespect. Unabashed rudeness is the new norm.

During the last decade, I have had the privilege of providing training for frontline parking and transportation staff across North America.  Without exception, stories similar to the ESPN reporter’s behavior—and far worse—are shared by participants in each and every course. I’m always amazed by these stories detailing the utter lack of personal responsibility and human decency, but frankly, I’m also no longer surprised by it. A perfect example of this everyday lack of civility can be viewed by reading any of the online comments (on both sides of the issue) posted in relation to the ESPN reporter’s behavior. Many are equally as disrespectful as the reporter’s videoed comments, laced with assumptions, accusations, and intolerance.

As parking professionals, it’s critical for all of us to see past the bad behaviors we encounter. Being able to rise above condescending attitudes is a learned behavior, as this does not come naturally for most of us. We should strive to never let the bad behavior and statements of others keep us from doing and saying the right things. This can be a tall order when a customer wants to take issue with who they perceive you are or what your skill set or motivations might be.

The details surrounding the ESPN reporter’s towing incident have been broadcast globally. The situation offers each of us a timely opportunity to sit down with staff to discuss methods and techniques to successfully and professionally handle these inevitable difficult customer interactions.

Who’s There? What the Frack?

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I live in Pennsylvania, where 64 percent of the state lies above shale. As a resident of West Chester, Pa., the home of QVC and, unfortunately, the MTV hit movie and show Jackass, I never expected to intimately learn about natural gas fracking by a knock on the door.

Daniel Foster/Flickr

Daniel Foster/Flickr

You see, my community is being rocked by fracking. So I tried to figure out how I can tie together fracking and parking, as the first topic is consuming me—my six-year-old son’s school is in a blast zone of a planned unmanned pumping station. I started to think: What would happen if a parking facility or garage was in a blast zone for an unmanned pumping station or worse? What would a parking lot owner or garage operator do if they were asked to sign an easement on their property for a fracking pipeline? Is the parking industry prepared for the shale boom and all the consequences of it?

Once an easement is signed, some mortgage companies won’t hold your mortgage anymore and you have to pay cash for your property or find a mortgage company that will allow pipeline easements. What happens if you want to sell that property? Who would buy real estate with an easement attached to it? Landscaping, trees, fences—none can be within 50 feet of either side of the pipeline (at least, that is the case for the homes in my township).

IPI’s online courses teach about safety and security—how tall bushes and hedges need to be for the safety of the patron, etc. The Introduction to Parking course also has a section on landscape design. Landscaping adds to the emotionality of feeling safe and secure as well as the overall aesthetics of a garage or lot. Let’s not forget what we as a core group of professionals do for the greening initiatives within the parking industry. So how would a parking professional handle being told they had to remove all landscaping within those 50 feet? How would patrons feel about that? What would the consequences be?

This fracking situation that I find myself, my family, and my beloved township involved in is slightly similar to having an ugly parking garage with no relationship to its neighbors. However, in my case it is an unmanned, loud, fire-and-gas spewing 40-foot stack in a residential neighborhood, near a school, that will have no relationship with its neighbors.

Are you ready for “that” knock on your facilities door? How would you answer it? Like I said before, “What the frack?”

Warrior or Ambassador?

Dave Feehan

With the nation’s attention recently focused on Ferguson, N.Y., and other police shootings, it might be a good time to revisit how parking systems provide security in their facilities and offices.

Some parking systems hire and deploy their own employees as security officers. Some contract with private security firms. Others may hire off-duty police officers. Some parking facilities are patrolled by Business Improvement District (BID) personnel.

Law enforcement has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Today, by some estimates, there are as many private security officers as publicly employed sworn police officers. Foley, Minn., recently disbanded its police force and hired a private security team to patrol its streets.

Discussions of security are generally not the hottest topic at parking conferences. Yet security is sometimes a life-and-death issue, and parking systems that handle security poorly may be putting customers and employees at risk, to say nothing of liability concerns.

Several years ago, when I was the president of the downtown organization in a midwestern city, we provided additional security through our BID. We patrolled downtown sidewalks and the skywalk system as well as augmenting parking garage security. The first important question we had to address was, should we employ our own security workers or contract with an outside firm? We elected to hire our own, because we wanted more control over who was hired and what kind of training was provided.  Fundamentally, we had to decide: Do we want to employ warriors or ambassadors?

There is an old saying in human resources that I often find extremely helpful: Hire attitude and teach skills. In our case, we wanted security patrol personnel who were ambassadors first and warriors only when absolutely necessary. If I were putting together a SWAT or SEAL team, I might think differently about whom to hire.

So what advice might I give a local parking operator or manager? If your facilities are not frequent crime locations, having security officers who are friendly, outgoing, and knowledgeable about their surroundings, who carry maps and event schedules, but who know what to do in an emergency might be the right choice. Your officer is more often going to be helping someone with a dead battery or chasing away a skateboarder than apprehending a murderer or bank robber.

Of course, there are many other considerations when evaluating parking security—cost, internal capacity, availability of good contractors—but if parking is the first and last experience for many downtown users and if your security personnel are the first people they encounter, what message do you want to send? Does your garage feel like a war zone or a hotel lobby?

Spring Ahead with Fantastic Local Education and Networking!

The Parking Matters Blog Avatar

The spring season for parking and transportation events is in full swing. Before you join us at the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, be sure to mark your calendar to attend some of the state and regional events in your neck of the woods or an IPI webinar from the comfort of your desk (invite your co-workers to watch with you!). One thing is for sure: The parking industry is vibrant and offers parking and transportation professionals amazing opportunities for both networking and professional development, and maybe a few rounds of golf, too!

April 14 – 17

New England Parking Council Annual Spring Conference

Newport, R.I.

newenglandparkingcouncil.org

April 15

IPI Webinar: TDM Case Study; Seattle Children’s Hospital

parking.org/webinars

April 21 – 23

Texas Parking & Transportation Association Conference and Trade Show

Corpus Christi, Texas

texasparking.org

April 21, 2015

NYSPA Annual Spring Training

Johnson City, N.Y.

nyspa.net

April 22-24

Parking Association of Georgia Annual Conference and Trade Show

Pine Mountain, Ga.

parkingassociationofgeorgia.com

April 27-29, 2015

Big Ten/Midwestern Universities Transportation and Parking Conference

Minneapolis, Minn.

z.umn.edu/SeeUs

April 28-29, 2015

2015 Parking and Transportation Education Summit (PIPTA/SWPTA)

Boulder, Colo.

southwestparking.org or pipta.org

May 1, 2015

Parking Association of the Virginias Spring Workshop

Richmond, Va.

pavonline.org

15 Things You Probably Do Not Know About Parking Professionals

Bonnie Watts

If you’re looking for a special occasion to recognize unsung heroes, the calendar is full of the likes of National Boss’ Day, Administrative Professional’s Day, Clergy Appreciation Day, National Nurses Day, Friendship Day, and even Ferris Wheel Day (yes, there really is such a thing).

The closest thing a parking professional gets is Park(ing) Day. For those who never think about parking until it’s a necessity, parking is a means to an end. But for parking professionals, it’s the very meaning to their existence and often, they are unsung heroes themselves. I thought it would be fun to share a few interesting things about parking professionals, who are often behind the scenes but play an integral role in making parking as easy, accessible, and, yes, even environmentally-friendly to thousands of people moving throughout their day.

  1. Parking professionals know this is BIG business.  They know 30 billion is just a number, and the impact goes far beyond that.
  2. No, being in the parking industry doesn’t mean they are teaching adolescents how to park—but “Back to School” means a lot more to them than just peace and quiet around the house.
  3. Be prepared. Their friends may not want to drive around looking for parking with them, lest they suffer a lecture from a Shoup-ista on the disadvantages of free parking.
  4. CAPP, IPI, GPC, EMV, LED, LPR, TDM, POF (Pay on foot, not Plenty of Fish)—get ready for the alphabet soup that punctuates their vocabulary.
  5. Everyone is in the parking business (or at least six degrees from separation), right?  They find connections all the time—healthcare, retail, universities, cities, sporting events, concerts. Everything always leads back to parking.
  6. Planning date night? Dinner with friends? Catching a movie? Within moments, the options are narrowed down by best or most ample parking, and parking professionals slightly chuckle to themselves.
  7. Tell them all about your latest parking ticket. Got a booting story? They love fun parking stories and probably have some to rival your own.
  8. Whether traveling to exotic locations or with the family for spring break, the first thing they will notice when surveying the landscape from their hotel room view, is—you guessed it—any type of parking facility.
  9. If you’re attending a sporting event with them, wear comfortable shoes. They are going to park the furthest out but closest to the exit.
  10. Solar roadways make (most of) them geek out. Honeybee habitat on garage rooftops—the greening of the industry has made great strides.
  11. Anyone could do this, right?  Parking is actually a really tough job—dealing with the public, serving on the front line as first observers for safety and security.
  12. Yes, they drive around looking at parking garages for fun.  The architecture can be wonderful (and sometimes less so).
  13. Never underestimate a good sign or a bad one.
  14. They secretly get confused with new pay-to-park apps too but once mastered, wish they had thought of it first.
  15. They care. They genuinely care about the public and their customers. They care about creating drivable, livable communities and they want to be a positive part in your day-to-day movements. They are always striving for faster, more efficient, safer, and greener ways to get you where you need to go.

Parking professionals have a different lens in the way they look at the world and particularly, how we all get around. If it wasn’t for them, it would change the way we go about working, living, and functioning in our environments. I think that justifies some recognition. Maybe it’s high time we add “Parking Professionals Day” to the list of special occasions we celebrate.

In Sickness and In Health

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

Hospital parking has long been an area of intense discussion among parking professionals across the U.K. Last month, the Department of Health issued a comprehensive parking guidelines document—a Health Technical Memoranda (HTMs) that gives comprehensive advice and guidance on the design, installation, and operation of specialized building and engineering technology used in the delivery of healthcare.

Its recommendations to healthcare parking facility managers include:

  • Consider installing pay-on-exit systems so drivers pay only for the time they have used.
  • Remember that you are responsible for the actions of private contractors who run parking lots on your behalf.
  • Avoid awarding contracts that are based on incentivizing issuing parking charge notices.

As a member of the British Parking Association (BPA), I find myself asking why it has taken so long for this document to have been created. As early as 2010, the BPA published its Healthcare Parking Charter, which aimed to strike the right balance between being fair to patients, visitors, and staff, ensuring facilities are managed effectively for the good of everyone.

The Charter, aimed at both managers of healthcare facilities and parking lot operators, emphasized the need to recognize the importance of parking policy in terms of the wider transport strategy and the need to manage traffic and parking in line with demand and environmental needs.

It also tackled that age-old conundrum linked to hospital parking: Free or not free?

While many people expect hospital parking to be free, the limits on space, costs involved, and demand for spaces means it needs to be managed properly. Often the most effective way to do this is by charging for parking.

I am pleased to see the issue of effective hospital parking policy finally get the recognition it deserves and am convinced that the work taking place in the U.K. could serve as a good blueprint for healthcare parking facility managers around the word.

Let me leave you with quotes from some recent press coverage that highlight the complexity of the situation:

The good:

Yeovil District Hospital has streamlined parking operations by removing the original barrier system at its main car park and replacing it with an ANPR system, to relieve congestion.

The ANPR system and its associated signage has been installed at two locations in the 145-space P1 car park in the car parks. A second car park (P2) has been created consisting of 43 spaces and three ambulance waiting zones. The system allows visitors a number of payment options including at a machine, phone payment or online. Card payments can also be made on site.

The bad:

Nursing staff have collected thousands of signatures on a petition calling for more parking provision at the soon to be opened £842m South Glasgow Hospitals campus.

Anne Thomson, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Senior Officer for Greater Glasgow, said: If nurses and others cant get to work in time for their shifts because parking and public transport are inadequate, the care the hospital offers will be undermined.

We have repeatedly pressed the health board and council for solutions to this, but with only a few weeks to go, our members still dont know how they are going to get to work. And some will have to set off the night before their 8.30am shift if they are to get to work on time via public transport, which is clearly ludicrous.

The ugly:

A Good Samaritan who drove a cancer patient to Queen Alexandra hospital was targeted by an overzealous parking attendant and slapped with a £100 parking fine. Wecock community volunteer Ann Waters took Gillian Patterson, her 67-year-old friend and neighbour, to the hospital for a consultation about ongoing treatment for bowel and breast cancer.

While they were waiting Ann realised the appointment could overrun, so she nipped back to their mini-van to buy additional parking time. But to her amazement she found she had already been issued with a parking notice despite the fact the ticket had not expired. The mini-van windscreen had a narrow black border around its edge, which had partly obscured a small part of the parking ticket. She asked for a copy of the photographic evidence, but the firm completely ignored her.

Parking Permit Fees: Cost vs. Price

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a parking advisory committee meeting at a major university. This committee, like most parking advisory groups at universities, is made up students, faculty, and staff, and is charged with making recommendations about parking and transportation to the vice president overseeing the parking department. I’ve observed three of their meetings this year and they seem reasonable enough—well-intended and pretty eager to make things better for their campus and themselves

The main topic this past meeting was next year’s permit fee increase. I was helping with the second agenda item so I got to sit back and observe the group’s discussion. My host, who oversees parking, warned me ahead of time that things would get heated as he had prepared two proposals: one that raised the parking permit rates by six percent, and the second by zero. The first, he argued, was needed to create new cash flow for debt service on the next garage they need to build (and the committee wholeheartedly supports), and the second if the garage is not built. I’m sure by now you can guess where the conversation was headed.

The committee wants the garage but doesn’t want want permit fees to go up to get it. Instead, the discussion focused on the how much salaries and tuition would increase in the coming year and that permit prices shouldn’t go up more than the anticipated increase in salaries. It’s certainly true that the fee for any good or service should not be beyond what the market will allow, but tying price to wages ignores the cost of providing that good or service.

At this point in the meeting, I raised my hand. I asked the group if they knew how much it costs to provide for the development, operation, and maintenance of their parking facilities on a per-space basis and attempted to make the point that this figure should be the starting point of any discussion about permit rates. When I was finished, all I saw were blank faces—so much so that I wondered if what I’d said was in English or some foreign language. I was politely thanked for my expertise and then the committee unanimously voted to raise permit rates no more than next year’s expected salary increase.

I can’t say how much groundwork the parking director did prior to this meeting, but I’m guessing that the committee would have been more equipped to make a sound decision based on the right things if they’d been educated along the way about the true costs of providing for parking on their campus. For now, I’m hoping everyone there gets a big raise.

Big Time

Rachel_Yoka 2013

One of the things I love about my career is that I get to meet amazing people all the time, both in the parking world and beyond. In our industry we connect with so many other areas of life—academics, politics, real estate, transportation, healthcare, you name it. I am always pleased to find commonalities and, of course, challenges that overlap and relate to one another in every sector and market segment.

During the holiday season, I found that a fellow dinner guest also worked in parking, for a large private operator in Philadelphia. When we received tickets to a luxury box for the Sixers, we found our host started his career in parking and got into the hospitality world that way. I recently connected to a friend of a friend on Facebook. As we chatted through the typical “what do you do” conversations, I learned  he runs a high-end valet parking operation in the suburbs that specializes in healthcare and retail clients.  When I got around to what I do at IPI, his first comment was, “You all are big-time.”

Parking is big business. Very conservatively estimated at $30 billion, our industry has far-reaching and considerable effects on each of those intersecting sectors. (As a side note, IPI is beginning some exciting research to explore the actual size and impact of our business—stay tuned for more on that.) As I gave his comment more thought, I realized that, indeed, we are big-time. IPI’s LinkedIn group has more than 5,000 followers, and that is the tip of the iceberg.

The 3,000 parking professionals who will join us in Las Vegas later this year for the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo will no doubt agree: We are big-time. And if we don’t already have a seat at the table to make decisions in every one of the sectors mentioned above, we are well on our way.

Demand Exceeding Supply: Parking Professionals Wanted!

L. Dennis Burns

Normally when I contemplate parking supply vs. demand, it is for a client trying to document the adequacy of their existing parking resources compared to current or projected needs. This is a fundamental type of parking analysis. Lately however, a new dimension of parking supply/demand has had me scratching my head.

More than ever, I have been actively engaged in helping communities either developing or updating strategic plans for their programs. Another trend has been to help communities that have never developed a formal parking program begin that process from scratch. It is great testament to the growth and maturity of our industry that more and more communities are realizing the importance of having a strong parking program to support nearly all other aspects of healthy urban or campus environments. The message that Parking Matters® has definitely made it to primetime!

It is rewarding and exciting to see this level of appreciation and understanding of the complexity and value of parking and the larger realm of access management, but it is also leading to new challenges and opportunities. Along with this growing understanding of the importance of having strong and well-managed parking systems comes the need for strong and experienced parking professionals to run these programs. There is clearly a growing need for more parking professionals to meet the demand that is emerging. I know of at least 10 communities that are actively searching for top level candidates and know of another half-dozen will be doing so in the coming year.

Exacerbating this issue is a growing tide of existing parking professionals who are considering retirement! Several of my closest friends and colleagues are beginning to map out their plans to leave their parking executive positions. And while there are many talented younger professionals in the pipeline, the demand for this level of top-level talent, at least from my perspective, is far exceeding the demand.

This may be an interesting challenge for IPI to consider in coming years. In the meantime, if anyone is looking for new opportunities, please drop me a line!