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Play Ball, and Let’s Keep it Safe

Shawn Conrad

I love sports, all sports. I enjoy playing, watching, and following my favorite teams. In the Washington, D.C., area, we have many teams to follow that are just a short drive away— professional football, baseball, hockey, and basketball teams. We also can follow games at the University of Maryland, UM Baltimore County, George Washington University, American University, George Mason University, Towson University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Virginia, and Georgetown University, among others.  And a short drive away, we can catch Baltimore Orioles and Ravens games. While many people think of Washington D.C. for its political environment, I think of all the opportunities to catch a game and I try to see as many as I can.

D.C. is not alone, certainly, in having many sporting teams.  In North America, there are more than 3,000 stadiums where many people go to cheer on their teams.  As we all know, parking is the first and last impression someone has of a trip to a downtown area, theater, or their daily commute, along with those going to school or sporting events. Many of you manage events that provide for ample and efficient movement of people coming and going to these games.  I was recently was given a glimpse of what it takes to keep these stadiums and the people attending these games safe.

IPI and its Safety and Security Committee are about to embark on a partnership with The National  Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) at the University of Southern Mississippi to provide training and awareness for our members on best practices to address risks/threats, counter-terrorism, security management, and emergency management.

During the summer months, IPI and NCS4 personnel will develop ways to share techniques and tools to provide easy and enjoyable sporting events while maintaining a safe perimeter.  I’ll have much more to share when we are together at the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo, June 29 – July 2, in Las Vegas.

In the meantime, enjoy the NCAA March Madness basketball games and before you know it, we’ll be shouting “play ball” as my Washington Nationals take to the mound April 6. I can’t wait.

Your Great Idea: Ready to Swim with the Sharks?


I visited South Korea when I was a kid and have many fond memories of the people, places and food there. But I have one vivid memory of my travels that has to do with transportation.

ParkTank3-2Our family of six was all crammed in a taxi van driving through downtown Seoul on our first day there. It was bumper to bumper traffic as we moved very, very slowly up a downtown city street. But soon we found ourselves in good spirits as we found a very old man pushing a cart of vegetables down the sidewalk. My brothers and I decided that we were in a race with this old man moving at a snail’s pace down the road. The old man would take the lead and then our taxi would move 10 yards up, passing him and taking the lead. Then the old man would pass us with his cart, only for us to recover the lead moments later. This went on for some time until the old man finally left us in the dust, as my family cheered aloud.

This video I found on the Freakonomics podcast about a neat little parking invention in Seoul to help with traffic congestion reminded me of my story.

A fun traffic-related idea I came across recently was a traffic light that provided some entertainment to help stop people in Lisbon from jaywalking. Check it out here: It’s funny how sometimes it’s the little things that make good ideas.

Do you have a parking-related idea you are interested in sharing with the parking world? IPI is hosting its first ever Park Tank, fashioned after the popular American TV show “Shark Tank.” This is your chance to float an idea for a parking-related product or service to a panel of parking experts, including representatives from large municipalities and venture capitalists. IPI is looking for start-up companies, exhibitors, and entrepreneurs to participate. There is no idea too large or too small. Slots are limited and applications are due March 31 (that’s next week!), so you’d better hurry.

U.K Parking Issues Loom Large in Elections

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

Before I begin, let me state that it is an election year in the U.K., and we are now in the last 100 days period. This means that politicians from all sides of the political spectrum are no doubt feeling the pressure to announce crowd-pleasing initiatives.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has become known as the unofficial parking sheriff. In the last two weeks alone, he has successfully promoted two contradictory, in my opinion, policies that are close to his heart:

  • To move responsibility for off-street parking from the Department for Transport to the Department for Communities and Local Government. (i.e. local government in charge and not national government).
  • To give drivers an extra 10 minutes to avoid parking fines ( i.e. national government overruling individual local municipalities’ guidelines on fines).

But at what cost to the parking industry? Is the cry being heard from many parking operators and municipalities across the land? Issues that arise are:

  • Many local municipalities already apply grace periods on permitted parking bays. Allowing municipalities to use their discretion on grace periods can actually help local shops because in areas of high demand, traders want faster turnover.
  • Rather than ease congestion, there will now be more cars on the road, circling town looking for spaces when they could be parked with their owners off doing what they set out to do in the first place.
  • Pickles explained why he backed the new policy by saying, “The government’s new measures, carried though as part of the Deregulation Bill, will lead to a better way of enforcing parking. The bill’s proposals are set to reduce the burden on business with less regulation.” However, they appear to be doing quite the opposite. e.g. municipalities wishing to make use of CCTV to enforce no-parking zones will not legally be permitted to do this. Municipalities should be allowed to look at each area individually when reviewing restrictions.
  • The rules will also apply to on-street metered areas (including short-stay parking). Take, for instance, the City of London where parking is £4 per hour. The 10-minute grace period means it will now be £4 per 70 minutes, or 5.7p per minute (currently 6.6p per minute.

I shall leave the last word to a Road Traffic Law blog:

“The announcement once again trots out the nonsense phrase ‘war on motorists’, if it is a war then clearly the motorists have been winning for quite some time. Parking is never free the only question is who pays, with rhetoric that talks of the ‘war on motorists’ those who end up paying unfairly are those who do not have cars (the general tax payer). In other words talk of a ‘war on motorists’ could easily be described as a ‘subsidy for motorists’ or ‘a war on non motorists.’”

Cha-Ching—Chasing after Parking

Wanda Brown

Growing up in St. Mary Parish in Louisiana, I got a chance to see a number of great examples of hospitality toward your neighbor. There was always someone you could call to get a ride (free of charge of course) to go to a doctor’s appointment or to the grocery store or even to church. Little did we know that this hospitality would grow to the tune of a billion-dollar industry.

Already producing billions in revenue, commute options such as Uber ($4.9 billion) are already leading the way in replacing taxi services. After seeing how many new companies are following suit (Lyft, Blablacar, Hallo), it started me to thinking: The larger these options become, what types of shifts might we see in the parking industry? What will happen to the building of new structures and what effect will a reduction have on supporting industries? Could the next generation purchasing fewer cars and deciding not to obtain driver’s licenses be the next big step in a paradigm shift? Will there be less hardware purchases and more software? How will hardware differ from what it is today?

These are questions that came to mind after reviewing software applications such as ParkWhiz ($12m), SpotHero ($7.4 million), Pango ($6.5m), or Parking Panda ($4.7m), which are certainly making access to parking less stressful and establishing themselves as a viable support system to companies that include Uber and Lyft.

With the aging Boomers and the encroaching Millennials, it is almost certain that there will be great demand for such services far into the future—not to mention fewer on the road decreasing CO2 emissions. I heard this morning on the news that insurance companies have already begun providing coverage for these new innovative options, seeing clearly the handwriting on the wall.

What should we be doing then to capitalize on this new trend? Where do these innovative options take us as an industry? What new skills, knowledge, and abilities will be required for this change? Will it further change the way we teach and train our future parking professionals?

I don’t know about you, but I am hoping that as the aging process in my life continues, I can go back to a time in my life where my neighbor is still willing to pick me up (for a small fee, of course).

Happy Parking


What if we could make the world a little brighter… a little happier… one person at a time?  I subscribe to a magazine called Live Happy:

Live Happy magazine is serious about happiness.

Weaving the science of positive psychology through inspiring features, relatable stories, and sage advice, we help people discover their personal journey of happiness in life, at work and at home.
I was on their website last week because I heard about the International Day of Happiness, which falls on March 20 this year. They have issued a challenge—the #HappyActs Challenge—to see how many “happy acts” we can complete by the International Day of Happiness.  A happy act might be offering to mow your neighbor’s lawn, running some errands for an elderly person, complimenting a coworker, or paying for the order of the person behind you in the coffee shop line.

In the parking industry, we all have opportunities to brighten someone’s day. Exceptional customer service can go a long way to ease a driver’s perceived pain of paying for parking or receiving a parking ticket, etc. Smile when you speak to your customer. Send a handwritten thank-you note to the person who took your meeting. Hand out a gift card for a cup of coffee when issuing that parking permit.

Live Happy will donate a dollar to Big Brothers Big Sisters for every person who accepts the #HappyActs challenge by clicking through and signing up. (As if you needed more incentive to do something awesome!)  You’re encouraged to share your #HappyActs on social media! Spread the smiles!!

Do you accept?


If They Only Had a Pro


True story: My husband stopped me with a “Hey,” last night as I was walking out the door to meet a few friends at the movies. “Don’t park in that garage by the theater,” he said. “It’s creepy.”

The movie theater is part of a shopping mall that underwent a major facelift last year. It’s gorgeous—the formerly garish food court was draped in plush fabrics and matte grey finishes and soft lighting, hallways were outfitted with cushy couches and free Wi-Fi, and all the signage was updated in a branded (but not matchy-matchy) style that works beautifully.

Outside is a three-story parking garage that tries very hard to mimic the quiet softness of the new food court. But the gentle lighting and grey walls that are serene in the eating area have a different effect when I’m trying to park: I can’t see. Cars are parked over faint lines and in access aisles, and people stop in the middle of travel lanes to squint at what may or may not be a space. It’s a bit like driving through fog.

Granted, I’m not as young as what I’m sure was the target audience for the mall renovation, but if I can’t discern a parking space from a loading zone without getting out of my vehicle for a very close look, something’s not working.

Five years ago, I didn’t know what a parking professional was. Driving through this garage now, I find myself shaking my head and wondering why one wasn’t consulted, what they’re going to do about those inadvertently blocked access lanes, and how long it’ll be before someone gets hit or is the victim of a crime in the darkness.

A friend who recently drove me through the newly spiffed-up structure was equally unnerved by the garage, though she couldn’t quite put her fingers on what was wrong besides, “This is weird.” And a surface lot at the far end of the property that was always my double-top-secret parking savior during busy holiday seasons is suddenly very popular, even on a random Saturday.

I wonder when the mall owners will realize why people aren’t using the big garage and call in a parking professional to make it better. I’ll look forward to trying it again when it’s lighter, brighter, and easier to navigate. Until then, I’ll be one of the drivers parking on the outskirts of the property, happily walking farther to the doors, and thinking to myself that it’s true: Parking Matters®.

What if Apple got into the Parking Business?

Dave Feehan

There’s been a lot of speculation in the media recently about Apple’s interest in the auto industry. Some have even suggested that Apple has enough cash on hand to buy GM, Ford, or Fiat Chrysler. Of course, Apple has already tiptoed into the world of autos with CarPlay, which turns your in-car screen into a bigger iPhone screen. So will Apple ever build a car? Stay tuned.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.17.16 PMWhat if Apple decided to get into the parking business? Where would its expertise and formidable design sensibility take it? I doubt that Apple would be interested in parking garages. With pay-by-cell, why would it have any interest in parking meters? And I would be shocked if it ever ventured into the back-end of the parking industry, into revenue control systems and ticket spitters.

But what if Apple’s design principles could be applied to, let’s say, multispace meters. What would they look like? How would they interact with customers?

Several years ago, when my downtown management organization took over full operation of a municipal parking system in a small Midwestern city, I challenged a parking task force of downtown businesspeople to think differently. “What would our system feel like and look like if it were run by Nordstrom,” I asked. (Nordstrom was then considered the ultimate retailer in customer service.) We devised more than three dozen innovations and won numerous awards while seeing an 80 percent drop in customer complaints and a 50 percent increase in revenues. The key was to see the parking system through the eyes of the users – who were, in many cases, women.

(Full disclosure: I’m writing a book on designing downtowns for women.)

So let’s just for fun think about a multispace meter designed by Apple. First, the display would be bright and readable. Many meter displays today are tough to read in bright sunlight, and can be impossible for short customers who see nothing but glare-reflected from above because for them the display is above eye level. Second, it wouldn’t take what seems like an eternity to process a payment and register a license plate or space number. Third, the design would be a work of art.

Perhaps multispace meters are already somewhat obsolete. Several cities I’m working with are moving directly from older meters to pay by cell. But if parking meters are going to be around for a while, maybe instead of asking Apple to design them, we should be asking women.

Kid in a Candy Store


That’s me. A kid in a candy store this week as I began what I consider total fun—pouring over the results of IPI’s Emerging Trends in Parking Survey and beginning to crunch the numbers, while looking out my window here in D.C. at the sno-caps, even though the calendar says March.

As in past years, IPI members and the parking community really came through—a whopper of a response—and the high numbers make this survey meaningful and projectable, offering a pay day of valuable insights and information. Kudos and a kiss to the entire Parking Matters® Committee (but particularly co-chairs Cindy Campbell and Casey Jones, CAPP, along with Vanesssa Solesbee—the three musketeers on this project) for reshaping the survey this year and adding some new questions about parking minimums and placard abuse.

Can you guess how many of your colleagues would recommend parking as a career to those currently in high school or college? I can’t share exact percentages yet, but suffice it to say, good ‘n plenty!

Special thanks to Todd Litman, executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, who was a lifesaver for allowing us to use his materials for a series of questions on transportation demand management (TDM). The responses to the TDM questions validate just how much more than parking parking folks deal with!

We kept a few questions from past surveys that deal with emerging trends so we can measure changes over time, but it’s the new questions on the survey  that are out of this milky way and will make you look like a smartie.

Beyond analyzing results of the survey as a whole and trying to connect all the dots, we also slice and dice the information by sector. How do parking professionals at airports, for instance, differ from those at cities or universities in how they see societal trends that are influencing parking?

I’m not the ultimate cracker jack marketing researcher, so the IPI survey is also being analyzed, as in the past, by Maria Ivancin of the Washington, D.C.-based Market Research Bureau.

When the results are published and shared in conjunction with the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, we’ll all have a lot to chew on!

While we are be-twix-ed and between the close of the survey and the publication of the results in June, you are welcome to view a past survey here.

P.S. Are you snicker-ing, yet? The first person who sends me an email with the correct number of candy brands mentioned in this blog, will receive one item of his or her choice from the IPI store, at ShopIPI. Write to me at

Winter Snow and Parking

Bruce Barclay

Looking out at the almost whiteout conditions on the runways at Salt Lake City International Airport, I am amazed that the planes have clearance to take off and land. Weather-wise, we have been extremely fortunate this winter compared to the Northeast, Midwest, and even the Southern U.S. Until this morning, Salt Lake City had less than 7 inches of snow this meteorological winter, defined as December through February. We average about 56 inches of snow each winter. The winter of 2014-15 will go down as the warmest and least snowy meteorological winter since records have been kept dating back to the 1870s.

We often underestimate the effect of snow and freezing rain on our facilities. The effort that goes into clearing the runways, roadways, and parking lots to keep the airport safe and open is critical and often goes unnoticed. The mobilization of huge snow brooms to clear snow from the runways is like watching a symphony perform. Each instrument knows its role and performs admirably. Without a clean runway, planes cannot take off or land, essentially shutting the airport down.

The challenges facing parking facilities are similar. If parkers cannot gain access into the lots, they cannot board the shuttles to the terminals and therefore cannot board the planes. Cars park for days at a time at an airport. The additional labor involved clearing a parking lot that is near capacity poses an additional concern. Wind rows that are formed as plows go behind parked vehicles are difficult to deal with during freeze/thaw scenarios. Small cars have a difficult time maneuvering over built-up snow and ice in the lot. If enough snow has accumulated, the additional challenge of snow removal from the lot comes into the equation. Many areas of New England have more than 100 inches of standing snow. Much of that will be there until the spring thaw.

The challenges facing a university or municipality are quite similar. If the roads are not cleared prior to morning rush, workers and shoppers cannot get into the central business district. Surface parking lots need to be cleared of snow and ice to facilitate parking. Adequate chemicals need to be on hand to facilitate the melting of ice and snow. Walkways and sidewalks need to be cleared for pedestrians, especially on college campuses where many students walk between their dorms and classes.

Although the snow will only last a short while today, it is refreshing to get back into winter mode, mobilize our snow desk, and deal with the cleanup of the runways, roadways, and parking facilities. There are other parts of the country that remain inundated with snow and are in much worse shape than Salt Lake City.

Urban Engines, the Connected Traveler and Leveraging Parking and Access Management

L. Dennis Burns

Innovation in the form of mobile apps is nothing new. Statistics regarding the number of apps available for download in leading app stores in July 2014 totaled more than 3.1 million! An increasing number of these apps has specific parking and transportation components, and others have a focus on helping us better understand and navigate our favorite urban environments.

BurnsBlogPicA team of former Google employees has begun to merge these key areas creating apps called “Urban Engines.” This exciting development shows early signs of promise for revolutionizing intra-city movement. The app differs from Google maps in certain significant ways. For one, you can drag and drop location and destination pins, allowing the app to instantaneously draw a smart path from place to place. This feature works without exact addresses, so if you’re traveling across town to merely wander, you don’t need to have a destination in mind.

Urban Engines aggregates city transportation options so you can find the most efficient route, whether that be by car, bus, subway, sidewalk, or some combination of all options. These directions are ranked by time, though they may be sorted to minimize distance or maximize use of a certain transportation mode. It also includes offline maps of 10 North American cities—Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C.—so residents and visitors need not even have an Internet connection to get around. In addition, the Urban Engines app has a cool X-Ray mode which opens your camera and uses augmented reality to overlay your route on what you’re seeing —city streets, inside the subway or anywhere.

Tech Travel Trends and the Connected Traveler

Mobile devices will be a primary tool allowing the traveler to do their transportation research while on the move in the future. The introduction of new transportation and mobility related apps allows the traveler to be more informed and make better informed choices. A few of the most popular travel apps are:

  • Foursquare: with a custom-created set of must-see locations.
  • TripIt: for the itinerary.
  • Passbook: for hotel bookings.
  • Citymapper: to get the traveler to/from the airport (in the U.K.).
  • Find My Friends: to help travel companions find each other if the group of travelers gets split up.
  • Google Glass: Google’s augmented reality glasses allowing the traveler to capture photos and videos, browse the web, or make calls.

For consumers, online travel and its new world of self-service options have brought convenience, access, speed, and control. The concept of personalizing transportation tools will be vital for the travel, hospitality and, yes, the parking industry going forward. It involves understanding our customers’ needs, preferences, and budget, and then offering custom packages that meet those needs. Allowing our customers to stay highly connected through mobile devices and various apps will be a key to success for parking and transportation programs in the future.

At the upcoming IPI Conference & Expo in Las Vegas this summer, Josh Kavanagh, CAPP, and I will be giving a presentation on “Releasing the Parking Brake: Strategies to Leverage Parking and Access Management as a Tool to Create Local Competitive Advantage.” The innovations described above are just one dimension of this exciting concept. We hope you will attend our session and learn about the full range of options available to enhance your community’s competitive position.