About Casey Jones, CAPP

Casey Jones, CAPP is vice president of institutional services at SP Plus. He is IPI’s immediate past chair and serves on the IPI Advisory Council, IPI Scholars/Fellows Task Force, and the Professional Development Task Force.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: University Parking Practices Worth Reconsidering (Part II)

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George Bernard Shaw said, “Progress is impossible without change.” With the goal of improving parking on college campuses, this blog series concentrates on old parking policies and practices universities should re-think. I wrote last about the hunting license approach to parking permit allocation and demand-based pricing. Using price to differentiate parking products based on demand gives consumers a critical tool to determine if the convenience one parking space offers over another is worth the difference in price. What’s more, tiered parking systems enhance customer satisfaction by improving the likelihood that a patron will find a space in his or her assigned lot. Universities should also be thoughtful about how parking programs and services are delivered, so this post is on organizational structure and service delivery.

I visited a campus recently and learned that the parking programs and services there are spread across several different departments. Police write parking citations, permits are sold from the business office, the planning department plans for future parking facilities, and athletics handles parking for athletic events. It’s good to invite multiple perspectives on how parking should be run, but a decentralized, fragmented system promotes inefficiency, poor customer service, and tactical (rather than strategic) thinking.

The alternative to a fragmented system is a centralized one in which the parking and transportation department is the principle unit responsible for campus access programs and services. Ideally, this includes fleet services, alternative transportation, special event parking, and transit and shuttle services in addition to parking operations and planning. I do not suggest that parking departments work in a silo. Instead, parking staff work with their counterparts in other departments who serve as subject matter experts (e.g. the public safety department and emergency management) or as a client (e.g. the athletics department for on-campus athletic events). Centralized parking management provides the best opportunity to keep the big picture in focus by facilitating the coordination and delivery of related programs and services. It also ensures that each opportunity for a customer interaction is managed with the same overarching goals and objectives and that quality customer service follows from start to finish.

If colleges and universities wish to deliver the best, most efficient parking and transportation service, they must be willing to structure their delivery mechanisms for success. Consolidating all facets of access management offers the optimal solution.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (Part I)

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Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, wrote that not only do we fear change, “[people] genuinely believe that when you’ve been doing something a particular way for some time, it must be a good way to do things. And the longer you’ve been doing it that way, the better it is.” It’s no wonder some universities have a tough time considering better ways of running their parking departments.  Even though the old way of doing things may feel comfortable, there are probably ways to improve customer service, reduce costs, and in some cases, increase revenue.

In my next few blog posts, I’ll offer up parking practices at universities that may be worth reconsidering. Today: hunting license permit systems.

Many schools sell permits for parking but the permit only offers a chance to park on campus—it doesn’t guarantee you’ll actually be able to park. The number of permits sold in this scheme is not capped, so you often create a situation where there are more parkers than parking spaces. This in turn results in excessive driving as parkers search for available spaces, additional congestion and pollution, and unhappy patrons. This approach works when parking demand is low but as schools grow and construct new buildings on parking lots, the parking supply-and-demand relationship changes, requiring a new way to allocate scarce parking permits and spaces.

Many schools have successfully implemented demand-based permit allocation systems where the price of a permit is based on the demand for the facility for which the permit is valid.  This system is grounded in supply/demand economics and uses pricing signals to help consumers make informed decisions about whether and where to park. The use of alternatives to driving (and a reduction in congestion and pollution) often follows a move to market-informed pricing.

In a tiered parking scheme, parking lots and garages are typically treated as discrete facilities. A finite number of parking permits are sold for the facility with an established oversell ratio based on documented occupancy data for the facility, and parkers do not hunt for parking spaces between lots but are assigned to specific facilities.

Drop me a line if you have an example of a parking practice worth reconsidering. Together we can make change less fearful.

The Three Hardest Words to Say

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What do you suppose are the three hardest words to say? You might guess, “I love you,” if you’re in a relationship but unsure if it’s the one, or it may be, “I just can’t,” if you’re perpetually volunteering. Some might even offer, “I am sorry,” which is one I’m often not the first to say. These are good choices, but what about, “I don’t know”?

I recently subscribed to the Freakonomics podcast by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, authors of the popular book by the same name. Levitt and Dubner suggest that admitting you don’t know something is about the hardest thing we, as adults, can admit. We are trained from childhood to offer a fabrication, lie, or untruth when we don’t know the answer to a particular question. Why is this so?

Not knowing something is often seen as a weakness. Information is power and when we admit we don’t know something, perhaps we are admitting we are inferior to someone who is better informed. We may feel our job is at risk, fear losing a sale or a client, or worse yet, form a poor self-image and lack confidence if we don’t know enough.

Like many of the ideas in their book, Levitt and Dubner offer a different way of thinking. Instead of making something up to protect our job, sale or image, how about we freely admit when we don’t know something and commit to finding out?

In the parking industry in particular, integrity and honesty are by far the most important characteristics we must possess. Our clients, customers, and business partners rely on us being truthful whether we’re a public institution, publicly traded, or privately held altogether. Without trust, we simply cannot build lasting relationships, honor our commitments, or care for resources that belong to someone else.

We must to be careful to only use, “I don’t know,” to a question whose answer we really shouldn’t be expected to know, and take responsibility to master our job or duties so we possess the knowledge and skill we need in our area of responsibility. Admitting ignorance and simultaneously having a desire to find out the answer shows integrity and a passion to learn and be resourceful. How about we turn the three hardest words into the seven easiest: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” Oh, and make sure you do find out.

Demand-Based Parking for Universities: From the Municipal Playbook

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Many universities struggle to meet parking demand as they grow in size and enrollment. A technique that is commonly used in municipal parking is to base parking on demand and set prices in a manner that provides price and convenience choice. Sometimes referred to as demand-based or tiered parking pricing, this market-informed strategy can help universities and community colleges achieve financial and sustainability goals while maximizing the amount of people accessing campuses each day. There are nuances and variations on the theme based on the special needs of specific campuses, but in essence, the approach allocates parking prices based on demonstrated demand. Facilities with the highest demonstrated demand have the highest value and therefore the highest cost, and those with relatively low demand command a lower price.

A significant benefit of tiered parking is that it offers parkers price and convenience choice–something we all appreciate as consumers. Demand-based parking can encourage commuters to use alternatives to driving by assigning a meaningful cost to different parking options. Additionally, the approach can help redistribute parking demand. A less convenient parking lot may become more desirable if its cost is lower than one with higher demand.

Moving from less sophisticated systems to a demand-based approach can be met with resistance from the campus community if it isn’t implemented in a thoughtful way. Ask yourself:

  1. Does the institution have the political will to make a significant change in your parking program? If university leadership won’t see the process to fruition, it may not be time for you to pursue something this weighty.
  2. Do you know parking occupancy by facility and by day of week/hour of day? To begin dividing up lots into different pricing groups, you must understand current and anticipated occupancy levels inside and out.
  3. What’s happening and likely to happen just outside of campus with demand-based parking? If neighborhoods adjacent to your campus have no parking management strategies in place, it is likely that any major changes on campus will simply displace parking into the neighborhoods on your borders, potentially causing town/gown problems.
  4. Do you offer good alternatives to driving? When you change how permits are allocated, you’ll cause some parkers to rethink how they reach campus. There may be great resistance if you don’t have viable alternatives, such as transit, carpool, and biking.

There are many details to work out when implementing demand-based parking, but more universities will need to consider this approach as they grow and exceed the capabilities of old permit allocation systems. Those that make the move will improve customer satisfaction, and they will enjoy more financially secure parking programs that are more efficiently used while helping their campuses meet sustainability goals.

The Portland Aerial Tram: A Great View Near and Far

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Even to Portland, Ore., natives, the view from the top of the Portland Aerial Tram’s upper terminal on a sunny day is stunning. To the right is majestic Mt. Hood standing at 11,250 feet. To the left you can see the cratered Mt. St. Helens (recall the 1980 eruption), and to the far left is Portland’s thriving downtown. In the foreground are the Willamette Rivers’ many bridges crisscrossing the river separating Portland’s east and west sides. The view at the bottom terminal is perhaps even more remarkable, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Photos courtesy of Portland Aerial Tram, gobytram.com

Photos courtesy of Portland Aerial Tram, gobytram.com

The $57 million tram was built because Marquam Hill, where most of the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) campus sits, is landlocked and accessible only by two 2-lane roads. OHSU is Portland’s largest employer and medical destination. To accommodate nearly 20,000 visitors to campus each day and allow OHSU to grow, creative thinking and a huge transportation investment were needed.

The tram’s two cabins–named Jean and Walt–each carry 79 passengers 3,300 linear feet at 22 miles per hour from OHSU down 500 feet to Portland’s South Waterfront; 980 people per hour in each direction make the trip. As spectacular as the view is at the top, an equally impressive sight comes into focus as the tram car crests the mid-span support and tilts back like a gentle roller coaster ride on the way to the bottom. What comes into focus may be the most multi-modal spot in the U.S. if not the world.

The lower terminal is served not only by tram but by streetcar, bus, and shuttle. There are also extensive bicycle facilities for renting and parking bicycles (free valet) and yes, there is also a bit of car parking. What’s more, the tram has promoted considerable development in the area where many people now live, and walking is a key travel mode supported by the facility. Light rail will soon be added with the completion of a new bridge nearby that will carry light rail trains, buses, cyclists, and pedestrians and, in the future, streetcars (sorry, no private cars).

Most universities and hospitals may not have the same constraints as OSHU, but that university’s results offer a best-in-class approach to promoting all travel modes that is paying off for the hospital and community alike. What’s more, the tram is a tourist destination and people pay the fare to see one of Oregon’s most magnificent views both from afar and up close.

The Brain Surgeon on Your Team

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My consulting focus these days is on operational best practices for university parking and transportation departments. This differs from strategic planning in that the emphasis is placed on evaluating daily operations and making recommendations that improve operational efficiencies and program effectiveness. When I’m working with clients, we focus on the use of technology, enforcement climate, revenues and expenses, parking allocation systems, permit distribution, and organizational structure. I’ve discovered a common trend in organizational structure that often distinguishes aspiring programs from those that consistently perform at a high level.

There are countless ways to structure a parking and transportation department. Some programs are aligned along an inside-outside model in which office activities are managed by one leader and while someone else manages field work. Some programs separate parking and transportation or alternatives to driving, while others align all program groups under one director. None of these are necessarily bad, but the best programs include key skill sets; those that don’t have them are challenged to make real progress. Two areas I advise my clients to add if they don’t already have them are information technology (IT) and transportation demand management (TDM). Changes in the use of technology and our growing need to offer alternatives to driving make the addition of these specialties a necessity.

Comparing professionals experienced in the use of parking technology or moving people from single-occupancy vehicles to alternative forms of transportation with industry generalists is like pitting brain or orthopedic surgeons against general-practice physicians. We need leaders with broad experience to be sure, but the demands placed on our IT systems and the skills required to effectively promote van pool, rideshare, and transit use require program specialists.

One needs to look no further than to programs such as those at the University of Washington, Texas A&M, or Colorado State University to see what’s possible with the right team of skills and experience. It hasn’t been by luck alone that these programs have flourished. Instead, leaders there have built their programs around highly skilled specialists in areas of strategic importance.

Great Customer Service. Really.

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Like all of you, I appreciate good customer service. It often drives my purchase decisions–and loyalty–far beyond any price consideration. This is especially true with the service businesses I engage, and that’s why I was pleased the first time I took my car to a nearby dealership. After finishing up the repair, they washed my car and returned it nice and clean. They have continued to do this every time I take my car there, whether it’s for a big job or something small like an oil change. I understand that the cost of this service is included in my bill but I don’t mind. It’s a small thing that, in addition to offering what I think is a fair price for quality service, keeps me coming back. That’s why my last trip was especially disappointing.

We had a repair done a few months ago and it turns out that the mechanics misdiagnosed the problem and replaced the wrong part. We brought it back a short time later, explained that the problem was still there, and deduced that the wrong thing had been replaced. After a little back and forth they agreed to replace the part free of charge. I considered that option the only reasonable solution, and was slightly put off by their initial suggestion that we pay for the second repair without any credit for the first. Sure, they offered to knock 15 percent off, but I wasn’t having anything of it. Later in the day they called to say the job was done and I was free to pick up my car … my dirty car. Apparently the “free” carwash is only provided when I open my wallet for something else first.

A company’s commitment to customer service must be complete and genuine. It can’t just happen when money is exchanged and it certainly can’t take place only when things go well. In fact, the time to double down on exceptional customer service is when things haven’t gone all that well. A company distinguishes itself from its competitors and shows its core values in the face of mistakes. You’re either completely about customer service or you aren’t, and customers will quickly figure out which is true and either give you their loyalty or take their dollars elsewhere.

 

 

 

Branding: The Real Deal or Fancy Packaging?

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My kids received Kindle tablets for Christmas. Santa thought the devices might lead to more reading but so far, the kids have been trying
SPLogosout game after game (thankfully, only free ones so far). One game they like has you guess the name of a company from a partial image of its logo. That got me thinking about what makes a brand strong and recognizable even if a consumer never buys the product or service behind the logo.

I got my first lesson in effective parking branding in Portland, Ore., in the early ‘90s, when the Smart Park brand was created for the city’s public parking system. The brand was clean, bold, and simple, and accompanied by spokesperson Les Park, who was at your service. Most importantly, the brand conveyed friendliness, safety, and economy–exactly the attributes to overcome negative perceptions about downtown parking as being impersonal, unsafe, and expensive.

More recently, my company, Standard Parking, began the process of rebranding itself following its merger with Central Parking. Please forgive the unintended company plug, but it’s rare to be in a position to describe what goes into developing a company brand. I’m sharing some details in the hope that readers find the information useful.

Standard Parking Corporation changed its corporate name to SP Plus Corporation (though for the time being the company will continue to conduct its parking operations under its legacy brands). The visual centerpiece of the rebranding effort is a new SP+ logo that is fresh, colorful, and bold. Its elements preserve a connection with the legacy brands (SP in recognition of Standard Parking and a “+” symbol in Central Parking’s legacy gold color). The “+” highlights that the company is about more than just parking, having evolved into a team of operations specialists who link innovation with market-based expertise in parking, transportation, facility maintenance, event logistics, and security services. The company’s new commitment statement, “Innovation In Operation,” signifies a promise to apply innovative thinking in everything the company does.

There’s much more to an effective brand than a fancy logo. In order for a brand to stick, it must convey and deliver on its value proposition. Otherwise, it’s just slick packaging and empty promises.

 

Not Teacher But Awakener

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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?

Open Dialogue on TDM

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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.

Johnny or Rudy: An Easy Coaching Decision

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My son plays on the lightweight football team for his junior high school. He’s light even for that team. He doesn’t have blazing speed, or Football Pic 2the surest hands, or a cannon for an arm, and he doesn’t yet deliver bone-crushing hits.  But he does have one thing that I’d take over all other attributes: he’s got the right attitude.

The other night was their first game of the season and I couldn’t have been more proud of him. Though he was on the sideline more than on the field, he focused his energy on pumping up his teammates. He handed out high-fives, cheered on the Hornets, and when he got in, he hustled to the ball and even managed to pick off the opposing quarterback.

There are many job openings at this very moment in our industry; many can be found on IPI’s website.  All of these postings include a long list of skills required for the particular job. This is to be expected, but I believe firmly in the old adage that says, “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” I’ve made good hiring decisions throughout my career by focusing on attitude and less on skill. Often, I have hired a candidate who has nominal parking experience compared to other applicants.

At the very least, hiring decisions should be made based on equal amounts of skill and attitude. This will ensure that you’ve got the best, most capable people on your team.

If my son keeps playing football, he’ll gain the necessary skills to contribute even more on the field. Until then I’m grateful he’s carrying himself like a true champion.

My Worst Nightmare: The Parking Death Spiral

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This term “death spiral” conjures up images of nothing good in my mind. As a kid, I had a frequent nightmare about jumping off the bridge of a huge ship and spiraling downward without being able to stop my free-fall. Luckily, I’d always wake before hitting the water, where I’d certainly perish.

In a real death spiral, the thing spiraling (organization, state, business, or person) continues a downward progression that only accelerates as conditions worsen. Mounting inertia grows, making revival nearly impossible.

I recently returned from the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) annual University Summit, which brought together 60 transportation demand management (TDM) and parking professionals to talk about university parking and transportation. Some of the schools most successful in advancing the use of alternatives to driving were there, including Stanford, the University of Washington, Arizona State, and the University of Colorado. The topic of the death spiral was prominent at this conference and worthy of further consideration.

Most higher education parking departments are self-supporting auxiliaries. This means that no outside resources are provided, and programs and services are funded through parking fees and fines. Alternative transportation programs have become increasingly important to universities in reducing driving, furthering sustainability goals, and enhancing the pedestrian environment.

There is, from our perspective, a downside. As more people find alternative ways to reach campus, (bike, bus, carpool, walk) revenue streams and expenses are affected. The more successful an institution is in shifting people away from single-occupancy cars, the fewer parkers there are to fund the entire parking and transportation program. This creates a spiraling effect that can result in financial instability.

Some might argue that the obvious response is to abandon alternative transportation altogether. While I’d disagree wholeheartedly with that approach, I do believe that the traditional funding model for higher education parking and transportation may be incompatible with alternative transportation goals. A new model is needed. The strategic partnership between IPI and ACT offers the best chance of coming up with a new model to help us all avoid a TDM and parking nightmare.

Inspired Leadership on EV

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Supporting EVs is a matter of national security for Indianapolis Mayor Ballard

President’s Day is a day of celebration in honor of our nation’s leaders. Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Lincoln, and Kennedy are among those on my list of most admired presidents, but JFK tops the list for his inspired leadership.

President John F. Kennedy, addressing a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961, established the national goal of reaching the moon by the end of that decade. His moonshot inspired our nation to achieve what seemed like a near-impossible dream at the time. Today, we all know Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar module’s ladder and onto the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969. Without the president’s leadership, vision, and action, we may never have achieved that milestone.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his own “moonshot” last week: to make his city a national leader in promoting the use of electric vehicles (EVs) over the next several years. He envisions adding something along the order of 10,000 EV charging spaces to the city’s parking facilities in less than a decade. It’s an ambitious goal, and the mayor’s leadership on the topic is to be admired.

The EV push is getting support from another mayor.

Late last month at the Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge, I had the privilege of meeting Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. Mayor Ballard has implemented aggressive and innovative efforts to move most of his city’s fleet of vehicles to electric power (heavy-duty vehicles will be powered by compressed natural gas), and hopes to replace its 3,100 gas-powered cars and trucks with EVs by 2025. Contrary to what you might expect, Mayor Ballard is not a left-wing tree hugger: he is a Republican and a Marine Corps veteran of the first Gulf War. He explained that moving aggressively on electric vehicles is motivated by his desire to never send troops to foreign lands to fight for oil, and to allow his city to reap important and significant cost savings. For him, EVs are about national security, both military and financial.

To be sure, Bloomberg and Ballard come from very different ideological places. Each, however, is exhibiting leadership on the sustainability front which is having tremendous impact on the parking industry.

 

 

IPI Part of DOE’s Workplace Charging Challenge

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U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu explains the Workplace Charging Challenge
at the Washington Auto Show

IPI has worked tirelessly to earn parking a seat at the table and the fruits of those labors were very evident yesterday, when I had the opportunity to represent the industry at the Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge Roundtable.  This event, which assembled leaders from major automakers, telecommunications, high-tech, and energy companies, is part of a broad and aggressive effort to expand the number of plug-in electric (PEV) cars in use across America and make them an affordable, reliable, and convenient alternative to fossil-fueled vehicles.  In a word, the goal of this program is to finally “mainstream” PEVs in an effort to address environmental and economic sustainability concerns. The ubiquity of charging stations at places of employment is viewed as an important step toward increasing the likelihood that consumers will feel comfortable investing in an EV.

As a Workplace Charging Challenge program Founding Ambassador, IPI has committed to lead an effort that will encourage the installation of charging stations in parking facilities that serve places of work.  We will do this by capitalizing on our vast and engaged membership, by leveraging the work already underway in our sustainability committee, and through established strategic partnerships with other organizations.

Announcing the Challenge yesterday, Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu issued a challenge to employers to increase the number of chargers available to their employees tenfold in the next 10 years, saying that offering charging stations for workers increases their flexibility and is “incredibly useful.”

“The thrill of driving by a gasoline station and smiling is one everyone should experience,” he said.

The fact that IPI was invited to be part of this effort is a reflection of the influence and respect we’re earning as an association, and a signal that those outside of our industry are acknowledging that parking really does matter. And while being invited to take part in such a prestigious and important event is truly a mark of success, we cannot rest on our laurels.

Howard Skipper, a scientist working on a cure for leukemia  in the 1970s, once said this about the importance of taking action on critical problems even when all the answers aren’t known: ” We cannot afford to sit and wait for the promise of tomorrow so long as stepwise progress can be made with tools at hand today.” Skipper’s words ring true today on the topic of sustainability. To keep our seat at the table we must act with dispatch and do our part in this and other key efforts.

Read IPI’ s news release here and the Department of Energy’s  news release here.

 

Resolutions

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A tradition I thoroughly enjoy is putting together my list of resolutions for the coming year. It’s pretty standard for me to include such aspirations as, “work out more,” and “eat less junk food,” but this year I thought I’d turn to many of my colleagues on the IPI Board of Directors for inspiration in hopes of not giving up a week into 2013. I looked back at each of the Entrance columns written in The Parking Professional magazine in 2012 to pull together my list. This year I resolve to…:

  1. Be innovative. In February, Chuck Reedstrom, CAPP, wrote about the ever-changing nature of technology in our industry and the need to stay up on the latest innovations.
  2. Keep learning. In April, Cindy Campbell discussed how important it is to continue to develop professionally and for leaders to help their teams do the same.
  3. Serve others. Rick Decker, CAPP, reminded us in the June edition that ours is a service industry and that we can and should expand the products and services we offer our customers.
  4. Think and act strategically. Following lessons learned in his extensive military career, Al Corry, CAPP, in August discussed how critical it is to have a big picture game plan and to execute that plan.
  5.  Have fun. In perhaps my favorite Entrance column of the year, Mike Swartz in November sagely reminded us to find fun in our work and in life.
  6. Be open-minded. In the December edition, Michael Klein, CAPP, pointed out that one can believe in free enterprise and also in protecting the environment.
  7. Be thankful. While this resolution doesn’t come directly from a board member’s column, each person I’ve had the chance to serve with at IPI reminds me of how special our family really is and how lucky I am to be a part of such a great effort.

Good luck writing your own New Year’s resolutions and thank you for your part in making IPI and our industry a success this past year. Here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous 2013. Onward.

Parking Gets a Spot at the White House

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President Obama has just announced his intent to nominate of IPI Board Member Tim Haahs, P.E., AIA, president and CEO of Timothy Haahs and Associates, to the Board of Directors of the National Institute of Building Sciences. That’s an important role and a significant honor. You can read the official White House release here. And more about the work of the National Institute for Building Sciences here.

What was one of Tim’s first reactions when IPI sent heartfelt congratulations? Tim said he will “make sure Parking Matters®!”

For those of you fortunate enough to have met Tim, you know this is well deserved. His visibility in this important post will reflect well on our entire profession and is fitting for such a visionary and capable expert. Tim is a longtime IPI Board member who contributes greatly to parking, transportation and community building. He is an engineer, architect, head of one of the industry’s best-regarded and most successful parking consultant firms, a prolific writer on the topic of parking and transportation, a community leader, pastor, and beloved colleague and mentor to many of us in the parking community.

You can read his bio here, but that doesn’t do justice to the effect Tim continues to have on our industry because of the unique spirit he brings to everything he does, and to his spiritual self that is ever present. All of us at IPI offer him our most sincere congratulations for this well-deserved achievement.

 

Help Wanted: Corporate (Parking) Sustainability Officer

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I believe there are three primary drivers of sustainability especially among corporate entities: profitability (when businesses see that pursuing sustainable practices does not mean profits must be sacrificed); convenience (when businesses make and sell the connection between sustainability and convenience); and a balance of carrots and sticks (when government sets the rules so there is an even playing field and incentives and penalties help businesses transition to a more sustainable way of doing business). If this is the “what” in the next wave of sustainability, the next logical question might be who will bring about this change.

The presence of corporate (or chief) sustainability officers (CSOs) is becoming commonplace among the most successful companies. AccountAbility CEO Sunil A. Misser offers that CSOs are typically responsible for reducing costs by improving energy, supply chain, and resource efficiencies; establishing processes to monitor, manage, and mitigate sustainability-related risks; managing and monitoring stakeholder engagement processes that spearhead innovations to increase revenue; and enhancing the reputation of the company and the value of the brand. Misser goes on to point out that the number of CSOs has increased recently for three main reasons:

  1. CEOs and business leaders have realized there is tremendous value to be gained by mainstreaming sustainability into business practices.
  2. Companies are increasingly approaching sustainability with the same level of discipline (i.e. planning, execution, measurement, reporting) that is demanded in every other functional area.
  3. Companies have been pressured to elevate sustainability to the C-suite by regulators, media, shareholders, consumers, competitors, and other stakeholders.

Sustainability is expanding rapidly into the parking industry, and great work is being done in many places. But it may be that we haven’t yet resourced our efforts appropriately until we do as many successful corporate entities have by adding the strategic position of corporate or chief sustainability officer to our leadership teams. From parking management company to manufacturer and service provider, now might be the time to add a CSO to your leadership team to ensure that you make the most of your sustainability efforts.

MTI: Claiming a Seat at the Table

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Sally Ride’s passing gives us an opportunity to reflect on the importance of exploration and the profound impact research can have on our society.  In our own sector research is equally critical. The Mineta Tranportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University announced yesterday their award from the U.S. Department of Transportation  of a $3.49-million grant to study “transportation research, workforce development, technology transfer and education.”  MTI will be teaming on the project with colleagues from Rutgers University, Howard University, University of Detroit Mercy, Grand Valley State University, Bowling Green University, Toledo University, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Pennsylvania State University.  No doubt, the consortium’s work will produce findings that will positively affect us all.

In looking over the list of schools included in the work I can’t help but think of the fine parking professionals at or near each school who I hope will be included in the effort.  Experts such as Tad McDowell at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and Clayton Johnson from the Downtown Toledo Parking Authority, to name two, are seasoned parking and transportation professionals who would bring a tremendous amount of practical experience to the table.

Research is critical to expanding our knowledge base, and it’s exciting to hear about efforts that are directed at our field.  To get the most of the effort, the right people need to be included. In this case, the MTI and its colleagues need to look no further than their own communities to find capable, smart, talented people who can help them ensure their efforts bear the most fruit.

Hitting Our Stride

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I’ve run about 20 marathons and half marathons over the past 10 years and while each one is unique (talk about unique: at the Newport, Ore. marathon I ran in early June, runners were treated to raw Yaquina Bay oysters at miles 11 and 19), each also offers a similar ending, at least for me. As I hit the finisher’s chute elated and relieved to be finished, a sense of accomplishment washes over me quickly. After a few minutes, I regain a small amount of composure and find other runners to chat with about how the race went and what big race is next. There is an overwhelming sense of community, accomplishment, inspiration and yes, well-earned fatigue among the runners at the finish.

As we boarded buses heading back downtown after our closing fiesta event held at the Corona Ranch at the end of the 2012 IPI Conference and Expo in Phoenix, I couldn’t help feeling these same things. This fun, exciting, and at times surprising closing event capped off what I consider to be one of the very best conferences we’ve ever held. With more than 2,400 attendees, 220+ exhibitors, and 25 countries represented, it’s difficult not to feel a great sense of accomplishment and inspiration about where our industry has been and is heading. Thank you all for your part and for making this a memorable and hugely successful event.

Some think of life as a race with a start and finish and winners and losers. I think of life and running as a journey with hills and valleys and lots of water stations, and good company along the way.

On to Phoenix!

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I remember my first IPI Conference & Expo vividly. I was serving as a contractor to a city, and my client suggested that I attend. Up to that point I had no knowledge of what IPI was all about and why attending the conference was all that important. Quite honestly, I wasn’t all that excited to go. Being away from the office felt risky and the thought of the catch-up work I’d face on my return was a bit overwhelming. But I needed to be responsive to my client’s requests so I sucked it up and got on a plane headed for Las Vegas, not expecting much.

I could not have been more wrong about the importance of that Conference. In fact, my time there flew by. I made connections with people I continue to work with today, and that trip launched what I consider to be the most important professional association of my career.

Each year IPI’s Conference & Expo simply gets better and this year will be no different. From our world-class general session speakers to our largest-in-the-industry Expo to the chance to greet new and old friends in the halls of the Phoenix Convention Center, this is the event I look forward to all year long.

If you’ve not yet registered, it’s not too late: visit www.parking.org/conference for details. If you have, I’ll see you in Phoenix. I look forward to advancing the parking profession with all of you next week!

More on Climate Change

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Last week, John Van Horn, at his Parking Today Blog, wrote a response to my blog post about the need to take leadership on the sustainability front.

Here is more information I wanted to share, with links to additional resources on this topic.

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists who publish in the field and every major scientific academy in the world agree that climate change is real, is mostly caused by humans, and requires urgent action. The fact that carbon dioxide (CO2) warms the Earth has been known since the 1800s. It is also well known that man has increased the CO2 content in the atmosphere by 40 percent since the industrial revolution by burning gigatons of fossil fuels every year. Arguments such as “it’s the Sun” or “it’s natural variation” have all been debunked in scientific literature. Read more at SkepticalScience.com.

Recent studies show that extremely hot days in summer that happened about 0.25 percent of time 50 years ago are now happening about 10 percent of the time–a 4000 percent increase. The same study concluded that there is a high level of confidence that the recent Texas heat wave, the Russian heat wave the year before that, and the 2003 European heat wave (that killed tens of thousands) were not natural events and were indeed caused by climate change. Even an organization funded by those who deny climate change, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study, found that the Earth has warmed +0.8°C (+1.4°F) which is consistent with NASA and other scientific organizations’ results.
Speaking of NASA, while a group of retired astronauts, engineers, and administrators did write a letter to NASA, not a single one of the signers has any climate science qualifications.

Part of the confusion among media about climate change stems from a fossil fuel-funded disinformation campaign (which includes some of the same groups that tried to show there was doubt that cigarettes were dangerous). The facts speaks for themselves: Farmers are planting weeks earlier than they used to, 90 percent of mountain glaciers are melting around the world, gravity satellites show that Greenland and Antarctica are losing more than a hundred cubic kilometers of ice ever year. Last year, there were 14 U.S. weather events with $1 billion or more in damage. The previous maximum was nine events and the long-term average is four.

Continuing to deny science will hasten our arrival to a point where there is no turning back. And that point is fast approaching. Even a few degrees increase in average temperature will create a climate spiraling out of control for future generations.

It’s time to accept reality and take steps to protect our children, our grandchildren, and our planet.

A first step is to read more on this topic. Here are two suggestions:

http://epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment/downloads/EndangermentFinding_ClimateChangeFacts.pdf [PDF]

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/12/1206_041206_global_warming.html

Smoke Screens and Sustainability

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Soldiers in combat used to find cigarettes in their rations. Today, such a thing would be unimaginable given what we know about the dangers of smoking. The climate change debate is very much like the argument over tobacco in the 1960s following reports about the dangers of smoking. At a point in both discussions, the science was understood.

The near-universal view on climate change can be summed up this way: “The build-up of heat-trapping emissions from fossil fuels and clearing forests is changing the climate, posing significant risks to our well-being. It stands to reason, then, that reducing those emissions would greatly reduce risks associated with climate change.” So say Andrew Hoffman, director of the Erb Institute at the University of Michigan, and Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In their recent article Hoffman and Frumhoff describe the debate over climate change as a social challenge similar to the one that occurred around smoking. Conclusive evidence did not stop tobacco companies from spending huge sums of money to discredit the science and encourage people to smoke. It was only after public consciousness was raised that change began to take hold.

To raise public awareness, we need trusted leaders to bring about fact-based and respectful dialogue that is based on shared values. IPI is doing this through our sustainability committee, through content offered at our 2012 Conference & Expo, and through The Green Standard sustainability column in The Parking Professional. But as an industry, we need to ask ourselves if we’re like big tobacco, or are we taking action as leaders in an effort to respond to unequivocal science?

Learn From Thy Suppliers

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“Suppliers” is the term many of us use to refer to the people who make the products and services we use in our parking facilities. I prefer to use the word “partners,” as in partners in finding the best solutions to address the issues at hand.

Let’s face it–parking has advanced light years within the past few years. The cash-in-the-cigar-box days have been replaced by very technologically advanced equipment and software. It’s important stuff and it’s key to our effort to deliver excellent customer service, protect our revenue streams, and operate efficiently and effectively. Hats off to the research and development, innovation, and entrepreneurship that is taking place in our industry, fueled by a relatively small number of companies that are listening to the challenges faced by their customers and delivering some very exciting solutions.

At this very moment–Tuesday, April 24–IPI’s leadership is meeting with the CEOs of many of our industry’s leading suppliers to discuss how we can better meet the needs of our membership, our profession and our shared downstream customers: the parking public. We recognize that the supplier segment is critical to our industry’s success and the more we understand supplier needs, connect buyers and sellers in healthy dialogue, and create opportunities to influence the development of products and supplies, the better equipped we’ll be to succeed. In simple terms, this dialogue with suppliers is an important milestone in working side-by-side to achieve mutually beneficial goals.

The next time a supplier calls to tell you about a new product or asks for a few minutes of your time to discuss your needs, I suggest you make time and listen. Better yet, spend some extra face-to-face time connecting with our industry suppliers at the upcoming 2012 IPI Conference & Expo in Phoenix, June 10-13. Some of the best education I’ve gotten about parking has been from suppliers who are eager to share what they know.

Throwing the Book at a Librarian I Don’t Even Know

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There are rituals at universities, many of which take place at the beginning of each semester or holiday break. One popular tradition is to lament the quiet of those times when students aren’t on campus. On our most recent first day back after a break, a fellow staff member and I were participating in this tradition. I said something like, “I forgot how peaceful it is when the kids are gone.” He followed my altogether too-obvious quip with a story from his graduate school days along the same lines: he worked in the library where the head librarian was fond of asking, “Why don’t they just leave the books on the shelves where they belong?”

This got me to thinking. Do I wish my customers took their problems, complaints, and neediness someplace else? Am I happier when there are no lines, phone calls, or emails pleading for help? Have I become that fussy librarian? What about you? Do you love or tolerate your customers? How do you view the challenges and problems they bring? Do you secretly wish that they’d just park their silly cars and leave you alone?

Despite my off-hand remark to my colleague, I don’t think like the librarian. In fact, I’m a firm believer in garnering loyalty through challenging customer interactions. The moments our customers are needy, demanding, and want special attention put us in the perfect position to deliver. By solving their problems efficiently, creatively, and positively, we have gone a long way in earning their repeat business. Like the librarian, we can see our customers as the cause of all our problems or we can see them as the purpose for our existence and thrive on problem solving.

Sustainability: Thinking Big

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The pursuit of sustainability is going to be a way of life, not a passing phase or flavor of the month. Here’s evidence from two industries that are very different from ours, but relevant in that we share the common denominator of being petroleum-focused.

“Creating a sustainable future” is the lead in to United Airlines President and CEO Jeff Smisek’s February column in the company’s on-board Hemispheres magazine. The column describes the company’s historic November flight propelled by algae-derived biofuel; it was an important precursor to a commitment to purchase 20 million gallons per year of the stuff. Pretty bold move, I think, for a company that seems just as connected to petroleum as the parking business is.

Another great example of bold is seen in Ray Anderson, founder of carpet tile giant Interface. Anderson’s company committed to eliminate all environmental impacts by the year 2020. Shortly before his death in 2011, the company was halfway to meeting that lofty (some say impossible) goal. Interface says that in the past 17 years, it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent, fossil fuel consumption by 60 percent, waste to landfill by 82 percent, and water consumption by 82 percent while avoiding more than $450 million in costs, increasing sales by 63 percent, and more than doubling earnings.

If you haven’t already read IPI’s Sustainability Framework please do. This important document lays out what IPI stands for on the topic of sustainability and represents a bold step forward. I’ve read recently how the parking industry has been “doing” sustainability for a long time. Yes, we’ve been doing some good things, but up until recently there have been no game changers. If we intend to make meaningful progress, we need to think and act like Smisek and Anderson: BIG.