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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!

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?

ParkTank3-2

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: http://themetapicture.com/unique-traffic-light/. 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.’”