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About Christina Onesirosan Martinez

Christina Onesirosan Martinez, MBA MCIM, is marketing director at Parkopedia, where she is responsible for the company's global marketing operations. She serves on IPI's International Outreach Committee.

The Future of Parking and Urban Mobility: A UK Perspective

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

Earlier this year, The British Parking Association (BPA) decided to launch a special interest group to tackle an area that was rapidly gaining momentum: urban mobility. More specifically, the group was asked to look at where parking fits into this area, if anywhere at all!

Reporting to the BPA’s Operational Services Board, we are a small group with representation from commercial operators, municipalities, suppliers, and academia. It is proposed that we are more flexible than a special interest group and our group may even have a limited lifespan. As a result, lively discussions soon arise during our meetings! We meet on an ad-hoc basis with meetings called as required.

This somewhat non-traditional arrangement, we hope, will help us successfully achieve the group’s main objective: To provide a forum for a broad cross-section of members and interested parties to examine key issues surrounding the future of technology in relation to parking and the wider issues affecting the profession as a result of its use.

From our 1st meeting, one common message soon became our unofficial motto when discussing technology in relation to parking and urban mobility: one size does not fit all

Groups such as ours should be very clear when making recommendations on how technology can be integrated at various levels of an organization. The “one size does not fit all” approach should be made crystal clear. (Parking technology suppliers—are you listening?)

By creating useful documents such as a top-10 list of technologies being used with their associated pros and cons, our group aims to be the friendly face of technology.

Our draft terms of reference are clear:

  1. Inform members about trends and changes in new and emerging technology and innovations and advise on current government intentions with regard to the use of technology.
  2. Provide and deliver a platform for members and other stakeholders who are experimenting with new approaches in technology to share their experience openly and widely.
  3. Develop knowledge sharing and develop ideas and best practices in the field of technology, innovation and future parking trends.
  4. Inform and influence government about current and emerging technology, creating trust at both local and national levels.
  5. Identify collaboration opportunities with like-minded organizations, encouraging and fostering good working relationships between parking, traffic management, and urban planning sectors.
  6. Identify areas where change will take place and seek to stimulate debate and discussion and publicize the work of the BPA and its members.

If you, like me, are regularly asked the following questions, you will no doubt agree that this group will be kept busy:

  •  Does my parking lot really need an app for reservations? What type? Are there different types?
  • What is the role of parking in urban mobility and traffic management?
  • How will technology impact my current commercial models?
  • As mobility and technology changes and develops, do we need to re-envisage what the parking sector represents and re-focus on enabling mobility rather than being perceived to restrict/enforce?
  • What role does parking have in the smart cities and multi modal journeys/inter-connected journeys?

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.

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.’”

U.K. Drivers Enjoy New Parking Resource

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

Research commissioned by the British Parking Authority showed that nearly 24.7 million motorists in the U.K. believe parking rules and regulations are extremely confusing. Half are unaware of their parking rights, and an astonishing one in 10 does not know the difference  between the rules for parking in a municipality lot versus a private parking lot.

The recently launched "Know Your Parking Rights" initiative provides trusted information to motorists who want to understand parking.

The recently launched “Know Your Parking Rights” initiative provides trusted information to motorists who want to understand parking.

How many times have you heard a customer say (or how many times have you said), “I had no idea you couldn’t park here,” or, “Is that citation really legal?”

Drivers often become frustrated because they don’t fully understanding parking do’s and don’ts from both a practical and a legal perspective. How many of us can confidently say we know our responsibilities and rights as a motorist?

Without clear guidance and awareness, frustration and conflict often arise between drivers and parking authorities/lot operators.

The recently launched Know Your Parking Rights initiative wants to be a beacon of light and clarity by providing trusted information to motorists who want to understand parking.

The initiative aims to give clear advice on:

  •  What to do if you receive a parking ticket.
  • What signs to look out for and what they mean.
  • Useful facts about the appeals process.

An easy-to-use website provides drivers with an option to download the Know Your Parking Rights Consumer Guide for information and best practice on parking.

With a bit of common sense and a visit to this new website, motorists in the UK should have all they need to avoid parking fines this holiday season.

A Bitter Pill to Swallow

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

For many years, the UK has seen a rise in so called cowboy parking squads. The parking squads issue official-looking £100 tickets, often to drivers just a few minutes late returning to their cars. Elderly and disabled people have been specifically targeted at hospitals and downtown stores.

After issuing what appear to be official penalty notices, the squads use threats to terrify motorists into paying up. In many cases, however, the tickets are issued unfairly and without legal authority. More worryingly perhaps is the fact that some hospital trusts are even taking a cut of up to 10 per cent of the parking firms’ profits.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles decided enough is enough and said rogue firms will not be tolerated. As a result, he launched a government investigation into how how these companies hit hundreds of thousands of drivers with £100 fines for minor infringements outside shops and fast-food chains.

Last week a popular daily newspaper, The Daily Mail, launched a campaign to encourage drivers to stand up to these parking cowboys

daily mail campaignThe newspaper informed readers as follows:

Want to send a message of defiance to the parking pirates? The Daily Mail is here to help. Simply print out the notice above and put it in a prominent place on your car windscreen or side window.

It tells the parking pirates that you’re on to their outrageous scam and won’t be tricked or bullied into paying bogus fines. And we can also send you a fantastic glossy sticker version—absolutely FREE.

Although their tactics may be adding fuel to the fire, I for one am glad that those giving the parking industry a bad name are finally being challenged. Cowboys, watch out—the sheriff is in town!

The Changing Face (and Terminology) of British Parking

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

As I sat down at the annual British Parking Awards in London (UK) last month, one particular category caught my attention: The Front Line Award.

The organizers announced that the new category was created to reflect the unfortunate hostile climate faced by those working on the ground in the parking industry in the UK.

The reason this category especially stuck in my mind was that I have closely followed changes in the terminology used to describe parking attendants. For many years, they were called traffic wardens and the general public seemed to accept that while they would also issue parking fines, their main role was to keep traffic moving in the city.  Was it no coincidence that at the same time that their name changed to civil enforcement officers, the public began to see them as confrontational? Soon after their title change, the British public realized that they now had the power to issue large fines for parking. This, I think is where the aggression began.

This new award certainly seems to support this theory, as does the winner’s job title: Jade Glover is a hate crime ambassador for APCOA Parking.  Sadly, part of her daily routine now includes carrying a DNA swab kit in a bid to prosecute more common and aggravated assaults.

In the event Jade is assaulted, she can use one or more dry swabs to extract saliva from her skin or uniform and report her attack to the local police.  This can then be matched against 6 million records in the national DNA database.

How sad that someone who is dedicated to making our streets less congested now resembles an extra from CSI. What do you make of it? I look forward to reading your comments below.




Parking in the Middle

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

The girl from Ipanema goes parking!

On a cold and wet night a few weeks ago, I made my way to London’s Heathrow Airport to board a flight to São Paulo, Brazil for Expo Parking, organized in cooperation with Abrapark (the Brazilian Parking Association) and IPI.

I 100 percent admit that I was expecting it to be a very slow four days on the expo floor . How wrong I was! The story is in the numbers: thousands of feet of exhibition space, 100 exhibitors, and crowds of industry attendees.

The first thing that hit me upon landing in São Paulo was the sheer volume of cars on the road, and that this congestion lasts all day, every day. A short journey from Sao Paulo International Airport to my hotel should have taken 20 minutes; two and a half hours later, I was still stuck in traffic.

The main problem is that Brazil’s roads are not built for its current car ownership boom. In 2012, the number of cars on the road rose to a staggering 42.2 million. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending who you ask), present-day public transport is not a viable option.

These two problem areas formed the basis for discussions at the Third Brazilian Parking Conference, held during Expo Parking 2013 in São Paulo last month. The conference, organized by Abrapark, focused on urban mobility, and of course, parking was high on the agenda. The age old chicken-egg scenario was debated at length: do parking lots encourage car use? Needless to say, we did not reach a definitive conclusion.

After a few days of meetings and talking to people on the show floor, it soon became apparent that urban development is at the top of everyone’s agenda in both government and business circles. What I hadn’t realized was that parking is seen as an important ally in this development.

As of 2012, Brazil had 34 international airports, 458 shopping centers, and 661 sports stadiums and that number is on the increase–as is the number of parking spots needed! It was nice to see parking taking an advisory role in the quest to figure out what to do with all those cars.


The New Kid at the Auto Show

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

“You are going where?”

“The LA Auto Show.”

“But I thought you worked in parking.”

“ I do.”

So went a recent conversation with a friend who, coincidentally, used to design booths for auto shows.  He couldn’t believe there would be any interest in parking at the big one in Los Angeles. My response to him was to evoke a famous Bob Dylan track: The Times They Are a-Changin’.

One of the major trends for 2013 has been the connected car. Parking seems to not only fit extremely well into this trend, but is establishing itself as one of the essential elements.

We saw a glimpse of this back in September at the Frankfurt Auto Show, where European automakers showcased their leading technology. You guessed it, parking was there!

At the LA Auto Show, it became very clear that the automotive world sees parking as a very logical addition to navigation systems, and that these systems are fast gaining momentum toward being a standard in-car feature.

As Paul Asel, managing partner of Nokia Growth Partners, commented, “New auto technologies adopted in the next few years have the potential to alter our driving experience more than at any time in the past 50 years. The LA Auto Show offered a glimpse of what the next few years may offer. Much more is yet to come.”

Whether you operate a parking lot, provide parking information through a website or app, or manage payments and/or reservations, the auto world is ready to knock on your door.


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.