Heads Up! Safety and Kudos in Montgomery County, Md.

Helen Sullivan
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett at parking lot safety press conference yesterday.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett at parking lot safety press conference yesterday.

Heads Up in Parking Lots is a campaign launched this week by Montgomery County, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C.  I had the privilege of attending their press conference, held in the parking lot of a market in beautiful downtown Rockville. Why launch a safety campaign focused on parking lots?

According to County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett, who spoke passionately at the event:

  • Nearly one-third of pedestrian collisions in Montgomery County occur in parking lots and garages.
  • There’s been a 50 percent increase in parking lot and garage collisions over the past five years, with 300 people injured.
  • One-third of those injuries have been severe

Leggett says collisions spike during the November and December holidays, particularly around 7 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m.

The Heads Up campaign is largely a collaboration between government, property owners, and retailers. As Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said, law officials have limited authority in retail parking lots, so enforcement is not part of their toolbox. Manger says 80 percent of parking lot collisions are the driver’s fault.

Many of the Heads Up campaign’s safety messages are reflected in numerous posters, signs, bus backs, and tip sheets that are available at montgomerycountymd.gov/walk. Similar messages are reflected in IPI’s annual holiday parking safety news release.

I was happy to meet one of our own at the press conference–Rick Siebert, CAPP, public section chief, Montgomery County Department of Transportation–and honored that during the press conference a shout-out was given to the International Parking Institute.

My relationship with Montgomery County started when I was developing copy and researching statistics for our “How to Park: A Must Read Manual for Teen Drivers” (produced in collaboration with AAA Mid-Atlantic Safety and Education, also at yesterday’s event). There are very few available statistics about pedestrian collisions in parking lots except for those from Montgomery County, which has tracked them for many years. Kudos to this proactive, safety-minded county and my delightful contact there, Public Information Officer Esther Bowring.

Esther and I are planning to knock on some doors at various insurance company groups to see if we can inspire more research and data gathering in this important area. If you have statistics to share, please do, and consider finding ways to communicate safety in your own communities. Thousands of people injured in parking lots and garages each year does not seem like a good thing for anybody. Let’s work together to see a dramatic reduction in those occurrences in Montgomery County–and beyond.

British Parking Challenges Continue

Patrick headshot 2012 cropped

There’s been no let up in the British government’s and member of Parliaments’ fixation with the parking sector.Car_BritFlag__163052918

Following various statements from Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles and his new High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis about the impact of parking on the shopping centers of our towns and cities, the House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee published its report in October.

I found the report a little lackluster to be honest, not really tackling the issues on which it received evidence and concluding somewhat meekly that government should do something about the perception that councils are using their parking enforcement powers to generate revenue.

There were some useful recommendations around the need for government to tackle foreign registered vehicles, to arbitrate on the conflict between the needs of the freight industry and the wider road using the public, and it stopped short of recommending that mobile closed-circuit television (CCTV) used for parking enforcement should be banned–something the communities and local government department has advocated.

But the way forward on these issues is at best muddled. Government will respond (probably early next year) to the Select Committee’s report. In the meanwhile the British Parking Association (BPA) has called for and is organizing a summit to try to drive some leadership into the debate so we can all better understand what it is that needs to be done to restore public confidence in local authority parking management and to set out the local authority case for properly and legitimately managing traffic and parking in their communities. Transport Minister Robert Goodwill (who replaced Norman Baker) has already agreed to attend.

The time is fast approaching when these particular chickens will come home to roost and local authority traffic and parking departments need to be part of the solution. So I wish you all a very happy holiday and ask you to prepare for resolution in the new year to get this sorted once and for all.

Not Teacher But Awakener

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

I was recently talking with a few colleagues and the discussion turned to the topic of mentors. The question of who our mentors were and why was thrown out on the table and brought about an interesting conversation. You won’t be surprised that qualities such as “driven,” “tough but fair,” and “had your back” were used to describe the people who served as our coaches, advisers, and guides. Ours were also experts in their professions, successful, and fiercely loyal to those invited under their wings.

As each person shared their stories, I couldn’t help but think how lucky one is to have a mentor and how important it is to one’s growth, maturation, and success. No one in our group picked anyone without integrity and character, or anyone who didn’t see being a mentor as an important role. Under the guidance of our mentors, we each awoke to our own potential and learned firsthand what qualities go into being successful in any pursuit.

I’ve been fortunate to have several mentors. One who comes to mind was a guy I  met in the military and served with in the Iraq war. He taught me how to look after people, was one of the most technically proficient people I have ever met, and there wasn’t a challenge he couldn’t overcome.

What about you? Have you thought about your mentor lately? What characteristics stand out about your mentor? Are you a mentor? And finally, have you thanked your mentor lately?

Talk is Cheap

Jeff_Pinyot

I know many parents who shelter their kids from real conversation, but they’re a great way for children to learn about life. My son Jonathan (JP) loves to learn about my business.

“Do you have investors? Do you have debt? Are we rich? Why are you always so grumpy?” Answers: Yes, yes, no, and because the answer to the third question is no.

Real life is the very best teacher. No college economics class can replace Life 101. My kids are used to every opportunity being a business opportunity. Driving through Birmingham, Ala., on spring break one year, my daughter said, “Dad, look at the awful yellow lights on that parking garage over there. You should meet with that owner and let him know that you could save him some money.” I met with the owner the next morning.

Will our family ever get rich from dad’s decision to quit a solid job of 24 years to start a lighting business? While our investors, my partners, and I believe the risk and investment will pay off, “rich” has a far deeper meaning. I am already rich in the support of my loving family and the sacrifices that they have made so I could reinvest my life into this business. We are rich in experiences.

I’ve always said, when the time is right, there will be a book. The book will be a “How To”, or a “How Not To” book. I am working on the chapters right now.

Be green, but don’t just hug a tree. Climb it!

 

Fixing Broken Windows

Isaiah Mouw

I’ve listened to several speakers validate a common criminological theory–”fixing broken windows.” This was introduced by James Wilson and George Kelling in 1982, and proposed that monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition (i.e., no broken windows or other signs of chaos) will prevent further vandalism and even more serious crime. In other words, an effective and simple way to prevent vandalism and other crime in your garage is “fixing the broken windows”–keeping the garage well maintained and clean, changing out defective light bulbs immediately, etc.

While to some this may smack of environmental determinism, Kelling has plenty of research that supports his revolutionary–yet simple–notion: if people are cued to understand that breaking the rules is tolerated in a certain environment, they’re more likely to break the rules in that environment. Kelling, in fact, was given the opportunity to provide a real-life demonstration of his theory when he was hired as a consultant for the New York City Transit Authority in 1985. His theory, implemented by David Gunn, aggressively targeted small crimes such as fare dodging and graffiti tagging while improving the overall atmosphere of the subways. The result, according to a 2001 crime study, is that crime fell suddenly and significantly and continued to drop over the next decade.

If you allow graffiti to remain in your facility for a long time, you can expect more graffiti to come your way. If you are slow to changing out lights, you can expect break-ins to continue. In a 2013 IPI Conference & Expo presentation, The Art of Parking, speaker Jeff Petry explained that placing art on different levels in one particular garage eliminated graffiti and biologicals altogether. In a garage where graffiti was common, simply adding art stopped graffiti and urination in those areas completely.

This is not advocating that security is not needed. But remember that keeping your garage clean, maintained, well-lit, and fixing the other broken windows of your parking facility is doing more for your facility than simply looking nice.

 

 

 

 

Did You Get Snapping Yet?

Kim Fernandez

The good news is that thanks to fantastic advances in cell phone technology, most of us carry a pretty impressive camera around with

“Meter All Alone,” by Felix Riverea, City of Tampa Parking Division, won in the funniest category in 2012.

“Meter All Alone,” by Felix Riverea, City of Tampa Parking Division, won in the funniest category in 2012.

us all day long. The better news is that this means it’s really easy to snap the perfect photo for The Parking Professional’s Second Annual Photo Contest and win yourself a free registration to the 2014 IPI Conference & Expo in Dallas or one of several gift certificates to shopipi.com (free parking swag!).

The bad news? You only have one more week to enter, so you need to get snapping!

Entering the contest is easy. Visit parking.org/photocontest to upload your photos in one or more categories:

  • Best overall/Best in Show
  • Beautiful
  • Funny
  • People in Parking
  • Structure/Lot
  • Nature
  • Most Offbeat or Unusual

Fill out the online form, and you’re done! Our team of judges can’t wait to see your best shots. Amateur photographers only, please.

Whip out that smartphone or grab your real camera and show us your best shots around the office, the lot or garage, the street, or your town–anything parking-related goes! Need a little inspiration? Check out last year’s winners here. But don’t wait–the contest ends Oct. 31.

I can’t wait to see your photos!

Real-Time Pricing in the Real World

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

The last few years have seen a real explosion in terms of the number of people using mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. As we know, the mobile industry is a fascinating, fast-paced environment where technologies, devices, and companies change every day.

Love them, or hate them, mobile devices are here to stay. So, as is the case with your mother-in-law, you just have to get on with it and embrace them.

It is crucial for parking operators to keep pricing information as up to date as possible because like it or not, many drivers make decisions based on price, and there is nothing worse than arriving at your chosen destination and realizing that the space will now cost you more.

Many of you will scream, “No, constant price changes are not convenient for the driver! They create confusion!” Some of you will be in agreement that dynamic pricing allows for better yield management, which in turn optimizes revenue.

Those in the “green” corner have realized that up-to-date pricing achieves the goal of opening up spaces, reducing unnecessary driving around. This has been seen in San Francisco, where intentionally raised on-street prices (on high-demand blocks) are steering drivers to park on another street or in a neighboring parking lot, opening up prime street spots.

Still not convinced? I’ll leave you with a story that illustrates the value of distributing real-time information about parking pricing:

The operator of a parking lot at a railway station recently agreed to a price change whereby drivers leaving their cars at the station parking lot and continuing their journey by train were entitled to a discount of nearly 50 percent on the posted daily parking rate. All they had to do was purchase the ticket at the counter instead of at the payment machine or online. But this information wasn’t conveyed to customers in real time (as it would be via mobile), and 99 percent of the drivers there didn’t know about it.

The operator is still receiving complaints three weeks later.

 

Fall is Pedestrian Collision Season

Mark Wright

It might not feel like fall yet depending where you are, but noticeably earlier sunsets should be a signal to parking professionals that pedestrian collision season is just about here.

Pedestrian accidents occur year-round, of course, but the autumn months are particularly hazardous as pedestrians and drivers both adjust to the seasonal loss of late-day light. Parking areas are as vulnerable to this effect as roadways.

Here in my home-base of Montgomery County, Md., county officials reported a 34 percent increase in the number of pedestrian collisions in parking lots and garages in 2012. They also reported that parking lot and garage incidents accounted for 29 percent of all pedestrian collisions in the county that year.

The Montgomery County Police Department looked at the incident data for all pedestrian collisions occurring in parking lots/garages in calendar year 2012 and found that 94 percent occurred in parking lots (as opposed to garages), 74 percent were the driver’s fault, and 31 percent involved a vehicle backing out of a parking stall or travel lane.

Every jurisdiction is unique, certainly, and some have higher or lower numbers of pedestrian incidents in parking areas. Nonetheless, parking professionals just might be the best people to help prevent these sorts of injuries.

IPI is helping solve the problem early in drivers’ education through dissemination of its free publication, How to Park: A Must-read Manual for Teen Drivers, (downloadable at www.parking.org/teenparking), which was developed in conjunction with AAA and the AAA Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education. Here’s a news release just distributed to teen and parenting media last week. If you’d like copies of the manual to distribute within your organization or community, contact Henry Wallmeyer at Wallmeyer@parking.org. You can even arrange to get copies printed with customized information and your logo on the back cover.

Are you teaming with pedestrian safety staff to address risks, educate drivers and pedestrians, add lighting, or take other steps to prevent accidents? Leave a comment below to share your efforts and lessons learned.

 

 

Greatness Hiding in Plain Sight

Isaiah Mouw

On a Friday morning in January 2007, commuters passing through the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D.C., were treated to one of the finest musical performances many would ever experience. Unfortunately, none of the commuters recognized it as being great.

Dressed as a common street performer, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell played in the Metro station as part of a Washington Post experiment. One of the world’s finest classical musicians played some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made–a $3.5 million dollar Stradivarius. What happened? Out of the nearly 2,000 people who passed Bell in a span of 43 minutes, only one man stopped to listen for a few minutes, one woman recognized him, and several children stopped to stare.

Just two days before this experiment, Bell sold out a Boston theater with an average ticket price of $100. But dressed in jeans and a baseball cap playing in an ordinary subway station, there were no rounds of applause, no cameras flashing, and no stopping to enjoy the beautiful music. The study raised several questions, including whether we recognize talent in an unexpected context, and the Washington Post story won a Pulitzer Prize.

At the 2013 IPI Conference and Expo, Roamy Valera, CAPP, was honored with the James M. Hunnicutt, CAPP, Parking Professional of the Year award. Roamy has done more for the parking industry than many of us will do in our lifetime, but what is amazing is that he started as a parking enforcement officer. A supervisor–Daniel Rosemond–saw something in Roamy and gave him a chance with a promotion. The rest, as they say, is history.

The next time you are looking for the next big thing, the next all-star manager, or the next creative marketer for your organization, don’t forgot to look around you. Don’t be like the Metro commuters who didn’t see the beauty or the greatness around them. Try looking within your organization and imagine what one of your employees could do in a different environment. Hiring within isn’t always the answer, but if you automatically dismiss someone within your organization who’s looking for a chance…you may just be passing on the future Parking Professional of the Year (which will accept nominations soon–which of your colleagues might fit the bill?)

 

 

 

 

 

Open Dialogue on TDM

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

Planners, transit professionals, developers, and transportation demand management (TDM) experts have been on our list of people to reach out to and build partnerships with for the last several years. We know our industry’s work influences these perspectives and vice versa, and we’ve had success in attracting some of these folks to our events and inviting them to contribute to our publications.

I just returned from the Heartland Active Transportation Summit (HATS) held in Omaha, Neb. The theme was Parking for Livable Communities, and planner Jeff Speck and I delivered key note addresses to a crowd of about 250. Jeff spoke about what makes cities walkable, including how parking can contribute or not (see his new book and our interview with him in the September issue of The Parking Professional). I spoke about sustainability in parking and ways we can take lessons from other industries to illuminate our path forward.

What sets HATS apart and why the meeting was special is that the conference was not organized by the usual suspects–and by that, I mean us! This conference was organized and attended mostly by people who are not from the parking industry. Planners, transit professionals, and TDM experts put on the conference and seem to get by without our prodding to work together to address transportation, livability, and sustainability issues.

During one Q&A session, a comparison was made between Wichita and Omaha, and I gather that Wichita is outdoing Omaha in some regard. One member of the audience challenged the rest of the group by saying, “If Wichita can do it, so can we.” To that I say, if the planners, transit gurus, and TDM pros in the heartland can invite a meaningful and important dialogue with the parking profession, so too can everyone else.