About Doug Holmes, CAPP

Doug Holmes, CAPP, is interim director, Transportation, Penn State – Retired. He serves on the IPI Advisory Council, is Co-Chair of the Professional Certification/CAPP Committee, and a member of the Professional Development Task Force.

Our Changing Industry

Doug Holmes

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s song starts, “It was 20 years ago today,” but in my case, it was 45 years ago. I, along with several other young people, was selected by Rotary International to represent our respective countries through the Rotary Youth Exchange program, living for a year overseas and being immersed in an entirely different culture.

Fortunately, the country I went to—Sweden—was populated by friendly, outgoing, and caring people; I didn’t understand a lick of their language when I arrived on August 4, 1969. But in 45 years, there has not been a day I haven’t reflected on someone or a place or an event during that year.

How does that relate to the wonderful world of parking? After a 10-year career as a cop, I jumped into parking in 1986. It had to be easier than dealing with drunks, physical altercations, and the mind-numbing process of shift rotations and court days. Nine to five, Monday through Friday, with weekends and holidays off—how hard could it be?

For one thing, parking was a cash-rich environment; back then, there were few computer systems (I had a typewriter on my desk). Tracking that cash was a huge consumer of time. Anyone not inside of the industry had no concept of the dynamics of parking. It was generally an afterthought.

Modernization was slow to start. The highest-tech gadget available was the electronic single-space parking meter. Things such as multi-space parking meters, pay by space, pay on foot, etc., moved forward in Europe, but not here. Thankfully, in the last decade, there has been a revolution in parking technology.

I remember wanting to purchase a PARCS for our operation to link all three of our garages together. I wanted all remote devices hosted on a single network so that I could view real-time activity from my office across campus. Vendors looked at me as if I had a third eye before delivering a lecture on how that was not really what I needed.

Today, the applications of technology seem endless. It has created a new and evolving language we’re all learning. The social effects are astounding. Computer-driven lighting systems and new luminaires are reducing the consumption of electricity and positively affecting the environment.

New materials and construction techniques are extending the lifespans of parking decks. Everywhere we look, the technological revolution that was so long in coming is growing exponentially. GPS applications are locating open spaces for drivers, who pay for parking with their phones. Efficiencies in locating parking, of course, leads to a decrease in gasoline consumption and a reduction in pollution. All of this is good.

A complete change of culture is in swing. In other words, parking is shifting, and rather quickly. Like being plunged into the foreign land of Sweden many years ago, change can be painful or it can be exhilarating, vexatious or liberating.

Welcome to the brave new world of parking.

Are You Communicating Effectively?

Doug Holmes

Communication.  It is a wonderful thing in today’s electronic world … when it works.  It seems that the faster the modes of communication given us by technology, the greater the demand for even faster methods of communication.  Basically, though, it is a pretty simple set-up: a sender, a receiver and a message.

Unfortunately, a lot of interference can crop up between a sender and receiver.  Good communication requires a two-way delivery of information between the parties and understanding the information conveyed in both directions.  Texting or email is especially prey to this problem.  If you can’t see the face of or hear the vocal inflections of the person you are communicating with, a lot of message misinterpretation is possible.

The “reply” key can have a hugely negative effect.  Frequently, people hit reply or “reply all” (even worse) without checking the address field to see to whom the message is being sent.

There is a tendency to assume that once you hit send, the information in a message is immediately in the brain of the recipient.  Immediately. Bad assumption.  Rarely is any thought given to the possibility that the recipient did not check their inbox at all.  Horrors.  Could he have been on vacation?  In an all-day conference or training session?

An email server might send something screaming to your junk folder because it misidentified the message as spam.  I don’t know about you, but I do not go through my junk folder every few hours.

I know a lot of people who would prefer to answer a text message then check their voicemail and return a phone call.   I work the other way–I’ll respond to a voicemail almost immediately.  (I say almost because I am retired and nothing should be assumed to be immediate due to that status.)

What’s the point? If you are sending urgent, time-sensitive information in an electronic format and expect an immediate response, maybe it is better to pick up that old-fashioned device called a telephone and talk to the person on the other end.  Or, at least call to make sure your colleague got your message.

The ADA Parking Conversation

Doug Holmes

It started back in March when I noticed a string of messages on the CPARK-L e-discussion list about parking for those covered under Fotolia_49835773_Sthe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The conversation first focused on “free” disabled parking, and then moved on to “tiered” disabled parking, before moving on to parking for disabled vets, ADA parking at special events, enforcement of ADA parking spaces including misuse of ADA tags/placards, and then most recently to special parking for pregnant women.

We frequently see articles or presentations about calculating the number of ADA spaces required, ADA space dimensions, or appropriate signage. Less frequently are discussions about the political fallout from creating, enforcing, placing, or relocating ADA spaces. There are so many facets to the issue that it continues to require considerable thought. After all, we are dealing with the well-being of our society.

There is no single law that covers ADA implementation. In addition to federal ADA statutes, there are building codes, state laws, and even institutional permutations that tell parking professionals how to provide reasonable access. One such issue concerns fees: ADA does not address fee structure per se. However, many cities do proscribe fees or the lack thereof. Additionally, in some cases, institutions such as hospitals or universities create their own application within the general framework of ADA. In short, it can be a very complicated matter to address adequately.

This coming Wednesday, August 21, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, IPI will host a look at some of these issues via a webinar you can attend from your desk. This is a panel presentation by former IPI Chair Linda Kauffman, former executive director of parking for the city of Allentown, Pa.; Teresa Trussel, director of transportation for Ohio University; and Bill Kavanagh, director of parking planning and design for the Harman Group.

I will be the moderator of the panel and I truly believe it will pose an interesting look at some ADA issues. I am also thoroughly convinced that it will stimulate even more questions and may lead to some of you to do some of your own research and help further the knowledge and capabilities of the parking profession.

Visit parking.org/webinars to register. Come join us for an hour!

 

Friendly, not…

Doug Holmes

A subscriber recently posted the following question to the CPARK-L list:

“Does anyone have a policy that allows students to park free during summer class time? I have a student that wants me to assist her in an English class assignment and proposal to do exactly that.”

Free Parking? That is one of the worst four-letter words in this or any language.  In fact, I think it was George Carlin’s eighth banned word, but he had to cut that routine down to 3:05 to make it onto a record.

The response from around 15 or so institutions was a resounding, “No!” Ann Szipszky of Seton Hall put it quite succinctly, “Oh dear, NO! Free parking for everyone would create a nightmare situation for us, not to mention the pleas in the fall, ‘But no one charged me in the summer,’ ‘I didn’t need a permit in the summer, why do I need one now?’ and then there is always, ‘No one told me I needed to buy a permit, I parked for free all summer.’ Free summer parking would be scary, very scary.”

Even if someone else is subsidizing “free” parking, it sets the parking office up for a bad beginning of fall semester. And what happens to the subsidizing agency or group when fall semester rolls around? Who has control over and responsibility for the bank?

No matter what time of the year, operating a parking lot (and all the attendant activities that go into that effort such as office staff, utilities, maintenance, enforcement, etc.) continue.  Would this student approach the council of academic deans to request a tuition waiver during the summer? After all, not all the classrooms are full over the summer and class sizes typically run smaller than in other semesters.

I was reminded of a favorite parking quote when I saw this post: “Parking should be friendly, not free.” This phrase was coined by Rina Cutler who ran several municipal parking systems, and who even created a bumper sticker with it–one of her stickers hung over my desk until the day I retired.

There are times when you may have to accommodate an event (a Presidential visit comes to mind) with free parking, but, in my humble opinion, “free” parking is the antithesis of good parking management.

Sorry, this just reminded me of the good old days prior to retirement.

Your Operation: What Would Ramsay Say?

Doug Holmes

Enjoying the fruits of retirement here in Canada, I am watching a show on the Beeb (that is, the BBC, not Justin Bieber) called “Kitchen Nightmares,” in which a failing restaurant calls in a famous British (more specifically, Scottish) chef to review, diagnose, and treat its dying business.

There are a bunch of these types of shows. Gordon Ramsay is not alone, although he may have been the first of his ilk. Bar Rescue, Ink Rescue, and a whole raft of others follow the same procedure.

What does food have to do with parking? Actually, not a whole heck of a lot on first consideration. But a consultant is a consultant, regardless of the discipline. In that regard, parking and food are intrinsically related.

This is like boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, etc. On T.V., invariably, Chef Ramsay quickly diagnoses the problems of the failing restaurant. Even when the owners don’t know or refuse to recognize the problems they have created, Ramsay immediately sees their issues and creates a path to success. Like the Dog Whisperer, the chef/consultant tries to fix the owners, not the dogs. The twist, which occurs with every restaurant, is that the owners begin to blame Ramsay for their problems.

O.K., you’ve waited for it. Now the parking analogy applies. How often have you blamed a parking consultant for problems your parking operation is facing, or flat-out rejected suggestions because the consultant “just doesn’t understand”? Did you try to define the issues prior to engaging the consultant? Is your assessment of institutional issues accurate? Have you provided the consultant with all of the information pertinent to the issues? Are you fighting the implementation of your recommendations of your consultant? Are you hearing comments like, “We’ve always done it that way” from your staff?

When you call in a consultant or ask for a peer review, you need to realize that the expert may not see the situation the way that you do. He or she may–and probably will–recommend some changes to the way you’re doing business.

Food for thought.