About Helen Sullivan

Helen Sullivan is IPI’s communications counsel.

Parking Matters®? Prove it!

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I’m not a parking professional, but after talking to the media about the industry since 2009, I certainly think it’s fair to call myself a parking cheerleader and advocate. You could say Parking Matters® is my baby—even my three adult daughters will say it’s true.

WhyParkingMatters

If you record milestones in the lives of your children, you’ll understand that I feel similarly in sharing a new white paper IPI has published titled, “Why Parking Matters: The case for why parking –and the expertise of parking professional— is integral to the future of our cities.

From the earliest days of IPI’s Parking Matters® program, it’s been easy to talk to reporters and describe an industry whose dramatic, exciting, positive change is worthy of attention. The convergence of technology, sustainability, and a focus on customer service has given us credible and important stories to share with decision-makers at municipalities, universities, airports, hospitals, retailers, downtowns, sports arenas, and beyond.

This new white paper, coupled with a companion piece summarizing innovative parking programs in the U.S., and the “Smart Parking: A Tale of Two Cities” infographic produced by the Smart Parking Alliance™ this summer, is a powerful tool that takes us a step further in telling our story.

Focused on the municipality market, Why Parking Matters® includes discussions of the economics of parking, sustainability, and how parking contributes to making more livable, walkable communities.

The white paper supports IPI’s mission to advance the parking profession. The call to action?  Rethink your parking strategies, starting with the expertise of a parking professional.

I hope you’ll download Why Parking Matters® and share it widely with colleagues and clients. You’ll also receive a hard copy with next month’s The Parking Professional magazine.

The white paper is a living document. If you have a particular statistic that makes the case for Why Parking Matters®, please share it with me at sullivan@parking.org. If your city is not one of the 13 included in the Innovative Parking Programs in the U.S., send me a summary of its innovations and we’ll add it in.

Why National Heatstroke Prevention Day Should Matter to Parking Professionals

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Another child died of heatstroke in a parked car while I was writing this blog post. 
Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 7.48.14 AM

Click on this link to download IPI’s Parking Safety Matters public service ad/fact sheet about preventing children from dying in hot parked cars and help get the word out! You can even customize it with your organization’s logo. Post the information on your website, tack it to office bulletin boards, print it and share with staff to increase their awareness, and distribute it on the windshields of cars parked in your garages or lots so drivers will know they cannot leave a child in a car for even a minute.

Jan Null, the nation’s leading expert on this topic who spoke at the 2014 IPI Conference & Expo in Dallas and who is working with us on this public service initiative, just updated his online statistics to 19 child deaths in hot cars this year.

There’s been an extraordinary amount of media coverage about this issue this year, and expect more today; July 31, is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) National Heatstroke Prevention Day. Heatstroke is how most of these innocent infants, toddlers, and young children die, often within minutes because children’s bodies are more susceptible to heat. Participating organizations will post social media messages throughout the day, asking people to share the posts on Facebook and retweet using #heatstroke.

You can also help by signing a petition supported by a number of child safety groups to help gain attention for this issue and to encourage government action.

Would you ever leave your baby in a car? Most everyone says no. But the sad truth is that good parents–normal, just-like-you parents–do. It’s heartbreaking. Often one parent or caregiver thinks the child is with someone else. Sometimes it’s just a case of being distracted. Often a sleeping child is simply left behind, or a child playing in an unattended car gets trapped inside and is not found until it is too late.

Though southern states see more incidences, geography is not a valid predictor, says Null. The temperature in a closed vehicle can rise 19 degrees in just 10 minutes and skyrocket 43 degrees in an hour. Cracking the windows has little effect. Even a 72 degree day in Seattle can be deadly. See a time-collapse video illustrating how fast a car heats up here.

This isn’t just a one-day, or one-summer initiative. IPI’s Safety and Security Committee, co-chaired by Geary Robinson, Ph.D., CAPP, and Bruce Barclay, CAPP, will be developing other ways for you to be part of this important public service campaign. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Want a poster to put in elevators, or display areas? Write to me at sullivan@parking.org and I’ll send you a poster art file you can take to your local print shop. (Send me your hi-res logo and I’ll put it on the poster before I send you the art file.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saving Lives of Children in Parked Cars

Helen Sullivan

The parking industry is in a unique position to save the lives of a few children this year. We can also prevent devastation and wheresbaby_4cheartbreak for parents who unintentionally forget their children in parked cars, where escalating temperatures can cause heatstroke (hyperthermia) and death in a matter of minutes. Yes, minutes.

When the outside temperature is 80 degrees the inside temperature of a car, even with a window cracked open, can heat to 99 degrees within 10 minutes; 109 degrees in 20 minutes, 114 degrees in 30 minutes, and 123 degrees within an hour. Children’s bodies heat up three to five times faster than those of adults. This is illustrated in a video produced by the General Motors Company that can be viewed under the vehicle heating tab on the website of Jan Null, a geophysics professor at San Francisco University who has researched and documented heatstroke among children in parked cars.

IPI issued a news release, “Parked Car Alert: International Parking Institute  Warns of Child Deaths in Summer Heat,” to media outlets last week, and sent our allied state and regional parking associations a localized news release so they can assist in this public service effort.

Every year, more than 20 children die in hot parked cars in the U.S. alone. State laws vary. In some, parents are sent to jail for murder, leaving behind spouses, other children, and shattered families.

Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning column on this topic in 2010. “Fatal Distraction:  Forgetting a Child in the Back Seat of a Car is a Horrifying Mistake. Is it a Crime?”  The column will be painful to read, but I hope you will. Weingarten provides the details, both personal and legal, of numerous cases where children died from heatstroke after being unintentionally left in cars.  Weingarten admits to very nearly leaving his own child in a parked car once–the only thing that saved his baby was a sound from the backseat just before he exited the vehicle. If not for that, Weingarten laments that he, too, would have left his child to die in the car.

How many children have died in your state this year? You can find out here.

Tomorrow, July 31 is National Heat Stroke Prevention Day, sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Null’s website and SafeKids Worldwide provide good advice, including:

  • Never leave a child alone in a car, even if you think it’s “only for a minute.”
  • Remember that you are traveling with a child by placing an item you need such as a purse or cellphone in the backseat.
  • Consider placing a large stuffed animal in the car seat when it is not in use, and moving it to the front seat as a reminder a child is in the back.
  • If you see an unattended child in a parked vehicle, call 9-1-1 to bring assistance from a local police or fire department that can open the car while parents are located. If the child is in distress due to heat, find a way to get the child out immediately and spray the child with cool water.

Those who manage or own parking facilities may be able to do more than the average citizen by finding ways to post remembers for patrons.  NHTSA offers ways to become involved in their campaign, “Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock” along with an informative, downloadable pdf.

NHTSA is asking people to tweet and post on Facebook every hour on the hour between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on July 31 using the hash tag #heatstroke. We will be joining in that effort at #IntlParkingInst and on IPI’s Facebook page.

This is a perfect time for all of us to be alert to children (and pets, too) left unattended in parked cars, and to share the message with others that in these cases every minute counts.

How Does Your Call System Stack Up?

Helen Sullivan

An early mentor of mine said the most important person in any organization is the receptionist. Just as the parking garage is the first impression of a driving destination, the first impression for someone calling a business is the person (or robot) answering the phone. And we all know how infuriating that can be.

I love the instant call-back systems at amazon.com and apple.com, among others. In the customer service sections of their websites, just type in your phone number and within about 10 seconds, a customer service rep is ringing you back.

Calling a doctor’s office recently to schedule an appointment, I became mired in a hopeless loop in a system that simply was flawed. There was no way to the right place due to a glitch that kept landing at the main menu. (Speaking of doctor’s offices, does everyone really need to take lunch and shut phones down from 12 to 1 p.m., just when most working people have the chance to squeeze in a call to make an appointment?)

Try calling your own business. Does the phone system work? How’s the hold music? Does a real person respond? If not, why? Does everyone take lunch at the same time, abandoning phone customers to voicemail?

If your after-hours voicemail message says your office opens at 9:00 a.m., guess what a customer who hears it at 9:05 thinks? I love the approach at Nordstrom: Their doors always open about 10 minutes before their posted store hours begin. Things are quite different at competitive retail outlets where early-bird shoppers often wait outside locked doors past opening time.

I recently read about a real estate company that increased business dramatically just by having the receptionist add a positive comment about the agent with whom a caller would be connected. As in, “I’m going to connect you with John Doe. John is this region’s most experienced commercial real estate agent. I know he’ll have answers for you.”

Frustration with phone call holding is such a prevalent problem, new services are cropping up to address it. Free apps like FastCustomer and LucyPhone will wait on hold for you and ring back when a rep gets on the line. If you try it, let us know.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It

Helen Sullivan

“Extra, extra, read all about it,” was the cry of newsboys on the street hawking special editions of newspapers to passers-by back shutterstock_104688506Extra Extra Newswhen that was the main way we got our news. The media, in all its forms, is still one of the best ways to get the word out.

Each year, we leverage the IPI Conference & Expo as an opportunity to remind the media that there is a great deal that is newsworthy about the parking industry.  IPI’s Parking Matters® program is focused at the conference and year-round on generically promoting the parking industry and the value of parking expertise in the early planning stages of projects.

Airing last night at 10 p.m. ET in 96 million US households was the first of a three-part series on the Travel Channel called “Extreme Parking.” If you were at the opening session of the IPI Conference & Expo in Fort Lauderdale last week, you previewed a rough cut of the third segment that focuses on the future of parking. This is a knock-your-socks-off, hats-off to the parking industry that you are going to love!

Casey Jones, CAPP, IPI immediate past chair and spokesperson extraordinaire, is prominently featured and narrates large segments of the episode. John Schmid, chairman of the board of the Green Parking Council (now an affiliate of IPI), is also interviewed about Canopy Airport Parking, which was a 2012 IPI Awards of Excellence winner (see the July 2012 issue of The Parking Professional for more).

Another great success is the report, “Parking Industry Tries to Make Your Life Easier,” that aired this week on 600 National Public Radio (NPR) stations coast-to-coast. The story is the result of our invitation to Miami-based NPR reporter Kenny Malone and the Miami Herald. Malone devoted serious time to listening and learning. He came to the conference Monday, and came back for more, spending time in the Tuesday general session, walking the Expo hall floor, and interviewing quite a few IPI members. He left our conference with a whole new view of our industry–a positive view. I hope you’ll take the time to listen to his story.

Reporter Angel Streeter, with the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel also covered the conference with an article focused on technology and sustainability.

Chris Woodyard, blogging for USA Today’s Drive On, reported on the Emerging Trends in Parking Survey, which featured a section on the top cities identified by parking industry respondents as being among the most innovative and trend setting when it comes to parking. Read the blog here.

Post-conference media coverage is still rolling in, such as this piece that appeared in the Denver Tribune.

There was a time when nearly all media coverage about parking was negative. It’s “extra” gratifying to see the parking industry increasingly reported about in the positive light it so deserves.

 

Action Item: Parking Trend-spotting Survey Time

Helen Sullivan

“Trends, like horses, are easier to ride in the direction they are going.” shutterstock_113788327
John Naisbitt
, futurist, author of Megatrends

Understanding trends can make you smart, make you money, and make you successful.

I urge you to take five minutes to participate in IPI’s third annual Emerging Trends in Parking Survey. There are only 10 questions, plus a few at the end for demographics. I think you’re going to enjoy the new questions we’ve added this year, which help identify cities that are progressive when it comes to parking.

In addition to capturing overarching trends that are affecting the parking industry, there are questions related to trends specific to parking and sustainability. There’s also a provocative new question this year about the bad parking and driving habits parking professionals find most frustrating.

This is a nationally projectable, quantitative study developed and analyzed by marketing researchers that helps us benchmark and monitor parking industry trends. It also creates an opportunity for IPI to generate positive publicity that helps bring greater awareness for the important role parking has in terms of urban mobility, life on this planet, etc.

Your thoughtful answers to open-ended questions on the survey, such as “What’s the next big thing in parking?,” have been the seeds for IPI programming ideas, articles in The Parking Professional, and educational sessions at the IPI Conference & Expo. We listen!

We also use the results to guide the Parking Matters® program. One question asks you to weigh in on what group is most important for us to reach with our messages about the value of parking expertise. The collective wisdom shared in previous surveys to this question alone have been instrumental in targeting our efforts for maximum efficiency.

Ten questions – less than 10 minutes. Please weigh in. Your opinion counts. We’ll be releasing results in conjunction with the upcoming IPI Conference & Expo in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., May 19-22.

Please take the survey now, or by the Wed April 17 cut-off date. The survey is open to all parking professionals, but  IPI members in particular have a track record for incredible response rates to this type of survey, and that is appreciated beyond measure.

Parking Love List

Helen Sullivan

 

It’s no secret: I’m a bit fickle. I love some parking garages because they are extreme, some for their sheer physical beauty, some forP-HEART
their history, or because they are iconic, some for cutting-edge and just plain cool design, some for their intelligence, and some for being practical and sustainable. I have a particular soft spot for the ones that are artsy and have a poetic sensibility.

I am in the process of putting together a list of the parking structures I love best, and I’d like to meet a few new ones, too.  Please visit IPI’s Pinterest site to see photographs of a work-in-progress hot list of cool parking places:

  • 1111 Lincoln Road, Miami
  • Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee
  • Santa Monica Civic Center, Santa Monica
  • Michigan Theater, Detroit
  • Autostadt Car Towers, Wolfsburg
  • Car Park One, Oklahoma
  • Greenway Self Park, Chicago
  • Eureka Carpark, Melbourne
  • Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City
  • Nelson-Atkins Museum Parking Garage, Kansas City
  • The Poetry Garage, Chicago
  • Umihotaru, Tokyo
  • Parkhaus Zoo, Leipzig
  • Mineta San Jose International Airport, San Jose
  • Marina City, Chicago

By the way, this is my personal list, not an officially IPI-sanctioned list!  But, we will be surveying parking professionals soon, and with your input, this list will grow. Please share names, places, and photos of  parking facilities with a big wow factor that you love  –  on Valentine’s Day, and beyond.

 

Parking and IoT: The Internet of Things

Helen Sullivan

IoT stands for the Internet of Things, and it’s been dubbed by many as the next stage in the evolution of the internet. The word “next” doesn’t seem quite right, though, because it appears to already be here. If IoT isn’t part of your vocabulary now, it will be.

The effects on transportation, urban mobility, and life as we know it is huge–certainly in ways beyond what my non-technical mind can grasp, but I know that many parking professionals and parking equipment suppliers and service providers are already at the cutting-edge.

The Internet of Things came up when IPI Executive Director Shawn Conrad and I were meeting last week with Laurens Eckelboom of Parkmobile, and David Cummins of Xerox, co-chairs of IPI’s new Smart Parking Alliance.  And, I recently discovered that the Consumer Electronics Show dubbed 2013 the Year of IoT, as reported in a guest blog post on Forbes.com by Robert Raskin, Founder of Living in Digital Times.

The “internet of everything” is the focus of a CISCO Systems, Inc. 60-second ad called Tomorrow Starts Here now airing in some television markets, and is explained in a Cisco YouTube video. An internet search will find no shortage of references to IoT!

As with any big idea or innovation, IoT is not without its challenges, as outlined in this Wired blog by Andrew Rose, which warns of potential privacy and security issues.

I’m very eager to hear your thoughts on the Internet of Things — and what you see as its  impact on parking now, and in the future.  When I speak with reporters about parking, I like to bring these ideas to life with real-world examples.

Parking Publicity: Making “The List,” Watching it Twice

The List   Parking Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress   Around Town Story

Watch this fun video about parking during the holidays and share the link. It’s just one example
of IPI’s annual publicity campaign (via the Parking Matters® program) to provide the public with
holiday parking advice that reflects well on the parking profession. This is a video of a segment
on the hot new show The List, which aired last Friday on network affiliated stations in Phoenix,
Baltimore, Tampa, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Tulsa. IPI Chair Casey Jones, CAPP, is featured
via a Skype interview with the reporter, and not only is IPI mentioned, but the segment also
includes footage of our website. As usual, the commentary includes light-hearted disbelief that
there is an association for parking professionals, but there’s time spent talking about industry
innovations such as mobile apps as well.

Our Parking Matters® program is generally focused on business-related media, but a few times
a year we send out something that will generate general consumer coverage–trying to get some
fun, positive coverage about parking–and that’s what our holiday tips news release is all about.
Educating the public to be careful because so many crashes take place in parking areas is a
good public service message as well, and it’s good for the industry.

I have another list – it’s the (long) list of the IPI members who have taken time out of their day,
often at a moment’s notice, to speak to reporters and be ambassadors for the entire profession
through the Parking Matters® program.

In the past months, Dennis Burns, CAPP, helped me frame a message for the UBM Future
Cities blog, Larry Cohen, CAPP, was interviewed for a Pennsylvania newspaper, Roamy Valera,
CAPP, was quoted in a Florida daily, Art Noriega fielded questions from a business reporter
in Arizona, Bob Harkins and Geary Robinson, CAPP, were featured experts in a column in
Buildings Magazine, Cindy Campbell is tapped for radio and newspaper articles regularly, Mike
Drow, CAPP, was quoted in BOMA Magazine, Isaiah Mouw, CAPP, Mike Klein, CAPP, Allen
Corry, CAPP, Rick Decker, CAPP, Tim Haahs, Gary Means, CAPP, Tom Wunk, CAPP, Laurens
Eckelboom, Liliana Rambo, CAPP, Dave Hill, CAPP, and many others, have all provided
outstanding Parking Matters® media support. Read examples of media coverage, along with
tips on How to Speak Parking Matters here.

IPI Chair Casey Jones, CAPP and IPI Executive Director Shawn Conrad, CAE serve as our
primary media spokespersons, of course, and they are on speed dial – not a week goes by
they aren’t tapped for a media interview. We’re spreading the word about the value of parking
professionals, and that’s cheerful news to spread, this season and always.

Six Words About Parking

Helen Sullivan

Are you familiar with the six-word project that originated at Smith College and launched a movement? The idea is that you can sum up your life in six words. Here’s a six-word example from John Grogan, the journalist who cashed in big with his memoir Marley & Me: “The dumb dog sure paid off.”  There are websites and a growing list of books devoted to this endeavor. Six words about love, six words about work, six words about everything.

IPI’s Parking Matters® program in six words: Changing perceptions about parking through education. That’s six words. And, often that’s about all the chance I get to convince a reporter to write an article about parking or persuade an editor that there is another side to the negative spin on a story in the works.

Here are a few of my favorite six-word sound bites that serve as conversation starters about the importance of parking and the value of parking professionals:

  • Parking professionals focus on customer service.
  • Parking laws: Needed to prevent chaos.
  • Parking problem?  Consult a parking professional.
  • Emerging parking trends: Technology and sustainability.
  • Sustainable communities depend on parking expertise.
  • Prioritize parking in planning urban projects.
  • Parking is integral to urban planning.
  • A successful downtown depends on parking.
  • Economic development hinges on smart parking.
  • Police find criminals via parking violations.
  • Parking First Observers are trained anti-terrorists.
  • Parking is about moving people forward.
  • Technology is driving a parking revolution.
  • Counterintuitive, but parking and sustainability mesh.

One six word request:   Help me add to this list!