About Isaiah Mouw, CAPP

Isaiah Mouw, CAPP, LEED Green Associate, is a vice president for Municipal Citation Solutions, at Republic Parking Systems. He serves on the IPI Advisory Council, Sustainability Committee, and Parking Matters® Committee.

Glow in the Dark

Isaiah Mouw

If you happen to be driving through the Netherlands along the N329 highway anytime soon, you might suddenly feel like you’re driving through a Wachowski Brothers movie set. Studio Roosegaarde has developed glow-in-the-dark road markings that were recently installed along a 500m stretch of highway.

Typical road markings are made of reflective paint, but still often require energy-consuming streetlights to guide the way. The glow-in-the-dark road markings installed in the Netherlands charge using the sun during the day and then glow at night, eliminating the need for an abundance of streetlights and saving energy and maintenance dollars. Further plans for this concept involve creative solutions such as snowflake images that would glow on the pavement when the temperature drops below a certain point to remind drivers to be cautious of ice. This reminds me a lot of the Solar Roadways concept of using LED lights in solar-powered road panels to deliver safety messages to drivers as they drive along the highway.

All that said, I’m not sure if these phosphorescence markings would be of much to use to the parking industry. It would be neat to have parking lot spaces and signage glow in the dark, but not at the cost of eliminating lighting and decreasing the overall sense of safety in your facility.

What do you think?

The Watergate Garage

Isaiah Mouw

I just finished reading All the President’s Men by Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. The classic Mouw_Blogbook chronicles the investigative reporting of the Watergate burglary and the ensuing scandal of the Nixon administration’s attempted cover-up which eventually led to the resignation of Richard Nixon.

Gene Roberts called the work of Bernstein and Woodward “maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time.” Robert Redford produced and starred in the film of the same name, and the authors introduced the world to one of the most infamous parking garages in the world.

Woodward secretly met with an anonymous FBI source nicknamed “Deep Throat” in the Rosslyn Garage in Arlington, Va., to get secret information on the Watergate scandal. The book validates the fact that parking garages can be extremely creepy, as the two chose to meet in a dark corner of a secluded garage in the middle of the night with odd sounds and sporadic noises freaky enough to frighten the likes of Stephen King. Reading it makes me wonder how easily such a meeting could happen today with the progressive security measures and technological advancements the parking industry has embraced in recent years.

Could Deep Throat and Woodward meet today in the bottom level of a parking garage without being captured on camera? Could they even get into a restricted access facility that requires credentials? Would sensors cause smart lights to turn on as they walk throughout the garage alerting management of activity in the bottom of the garage? Would the design of the garage have incorporated Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles that would make it harder to meet out of view of passers by? Would a roaming security guard ask them their business in the garage?

There are many garages where it’s still possible to hold secret secluded meetings, but it’s fun to think about the many garages that, thanks to technology and security upgrades, Woodward and Deep Throat  would have to pass by. Today, I think they’d have to meet in a park instead of a parking garage.

The Solar Parking Lot

Isaiah Mouw

The Wright Brothers started in a garage. Amazon started in a garage. Hewlett Packard and Disney both started in garages. Mattel started in a garage. The Ramones started in a garage. And the world’s first solar roadway started in a… parking lot. The Solar Roadways team just finished up the world’s first solar parking lot.

Scott and Julie Brusaw stand beside the Solar Roadways prototype parking lot

Scott and Julie Brusaw stand beside the Solar Roadways prototype parking lot

You might remember Scott and Julie Brusaw from their presentation at the 2013 IPI Conference &Expo or the feature in the February 2013 issue of The Parking Professional. They told us of their dreams to pave the world’s highways with high-tech solar panel roadways. Their purpose is to replace our nation’s deteriorating highway infrastructure and crumbling power grid with an intelligent highway system that pays for itself through the generation of electricity and doubles as an intelligent, self-healing, decentralized power grid. With the completion of this parking lot, they are one step closer to their dream.

“One of the biggest challenges of this phase was to explore and test various glass surfaces and textures and test them for strength, traction, and durability and all test results have exceeded our expectations. In addition to the solar cells, the panels contain heaters to keep them snow and ice free and LED lights for road lines and verbiage”, says Scott Brusaw. You can check out the pictures of the prototype parking lot here.

The parking industry can once again lead the way by donating to Solar Roadways’ Indiegogo crowdsource fundraising campaign which goes live on Earth Day (April 22). They plan to raise funds to be used to hire a team, plan for production and gear up for manufacturing, one parking lot at a time. It’s a fascinating project, and I’ll report back as new developments arise.

Be Thankful for the Blockers

Isaiah Mouw

In the New York Times bestselling book, Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior,  authors Ori and Rom Brafman explore the value of different roles in group dynamics. The book references a study in which family therapist David Kantor set up cameras throughout many rooms in different family homes. In every family he studied, members traded off playing one of four distinct roles:

  • Initiators: Have new ideas. Highly optimistic about new ideas/projects.
  • Blockers: Likely to question or block new ideas/projects.
  • Supporters: Side with either the initiator or the blocker.
  • Observers: Just observe. They don’t take sides but rather comment on the obvious.

These roles are not just found in families, but in almost every kind of group you can imagine. And as a manager, you may want to stack your team with lots of initiators and very few blockers. As the book finds, though, blockers are a very important part of group dynamics: they often save us from getting into trouble.

Maybe you were an initiator at your last operations meeting and had the brilliant idea to host a skateboarding competition in your garage, only to have the blocker shoot it down due to important safety and security issues. Blockers are so important that some companies pay people to fill the role. In a program designed by NASA, airline crews are trained to block a captain’s decision when he or she might skip certain safety procedures or make questionable decisions.

Early in my career, I managed an on-street operation that was approached by a television production company looking to follow our officers as they wrote tickets and dealt with the public. I was excited about this new idea–a reality show based on our parking operation! A producer and filming crew followed us around for several days filming the pilot. They liked what they saw and proceeded with their pitch to our board of directors. Luckily, blockers on the board shot down the idea.

“It’s a reality show. They’ll only focus on conflict, on the negative,” said one smart board director. He was blocking, and he was correct. We ended up not signing the contract, which I am quite thankful for now.

Be thankful for your blockers. They are an integral part of the decision-making process and often have probably saved you from making a big mistake, like the time you had the idea to let Hollywood blow up your garage for a new summer blockbuster movie (not, of course, that we know anyone who’d do that).

Fixing Broken Windows

Isaiah Mouw

I’ve listened to several speakers validate a common criminological theory–”fixing broken windows.” This was introduced by James Wilson and George Kelling in 1982, and proposed that monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition (i.e., no broken windows or other signs of chaos) will prevent further vandalism and even more serious crime. In other words, an effective and simple way to prevent vandalism and other crime in your garage is “fixing the broken windows”–keeping the garage well maintained and clean, changing out defective light bulbs immediately, etc.

While to some this may smack of environmental determinism, Kelling has plenty of research that supports his revolutionary–yet simple–notion: if people are cued to understand that breaking the rules is tolerated in a certain environment, they’re more likely to break the rules in that environment. Kelling, in fact, was given the opportunity to provide a real-life demonstration of his theory when he was hired as a consultant for the New York City Transit Authority in 1985. His theory, implemented by David Gunn, aggressively targeted small crimes such as fare dodging and graffiti tagging while improving the overall atmosphere of the subways. The result, according to a 2001 crime study, is that crime fell suddenly and significantly and continued to drop over the next decade.

If you allow graffiti to remain in your facility for a long time, you can expect more graffiti to come your way. If you are slow to changing out lights, you can expect break-ins to continue. In a 2013 IPI Conference & Expo presentation, The Art of Parking, speaker Jeff Petry explained that placing art on different levels in one particular garage eliminated graffiti and biologicals altogether. In a garage where graffiti was common, simply adding art stopped graffiti and urination in those areas completely.

This is not advocating that security is not needed. But remember that keeping your garage clean, maintained, well-lit, and fixing the other broken windows of your parking facility is doing more for your facility than simply looking nice.

 

 

 

 

Greatness Hiding in Plain Sight

Isaiah Mouw

On a Friday morning in January 2007, commuters passing through the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D.C., were treated to one of the finest musical performances many would ever experience. Unfortunately, none of the commuters recognized it as being great.

Dressed as a common street performer, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell played in the Metro station as part of a Washington Post experiment. One of the world’s finest classical musicians played some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made–a $3.5 million dollar Stradivarius. What happened? Out of the nearly 2,000 people who passed Bell in a span of 43 minutes, only one man stopped to listen for a few minutes, one woman recognized him, and several children stopped to stare.

Just two days before this experiment, Bell sold out a Boston theater with an average ticket price of $100. But dressed in jeans and a baseball cap playing in an ordinary subway station, there were no rounds of applause, no cameras flashing, and no stopping to enjoy the beautiful music. The study raised several questions, including whether we recognize talent in an unexpected context, and the Washington Post story won a Pulitzer Prize.

At the 2013 IPI Conference and Expo, Roamy Valera, CAPP, was honored with the James M. Hunnicutt, CAPP, Parking Professional of the Year award. Roamy has done more for the parking industry than many of us will do in our lifetime, but what is amazing is that he started as a parking enforcement officer. A supervisor–Daniel Rosemond–saw something in Roamy and gave him a chance with a promotion. The rest, as they say, is history.

The next time you are looking for the next big thing, the next all-star manager, or the next creative marketer for your organization, don’t forgot to look around you. Don’t be like the Metro commuters who didn’t see the beauty or the greatness around them. Try looking within your organization and imagine what one of your employees could do in a different environment. Hiring within isn’t always the answer, but if you automatically dismiss someone within your organization who’s looking for a chance…you may just be passing on the future Parking Professional of the Year (which will accept nominations soon–which of your colleagues might fit the bill?)

 

 

 

 

 

Solar Roadways Make Headlines

Isaiah Mouw

Remember Solar Roadways from the general session presentation at the 2013 IPI Conference and Expo in Ft. Lauderdale? Scott and Julie Brusaw, inventors and co-founders of Solar Roadways, introduced their concept of solar road panels and what they can do for the parking industry and the world (click here to read the feature about their project in The Parking Professional). If you had the opportunity to sit in on the presentation, you witnessed something special. And now, the little company with big aspirations is moving closer to fulfilling those aspirations.

Just this week the Brusaws announced on their Facebook page that they were “chosen by our peers as a finalist in the World Technology Awards in the category of Energy. We are amazed to find ourselves in the company of so many remarkable people. Some of the other finalists in various categories include: Mark Zuckerberg, Sal Khan, Andreessen Horowitz, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, Bill and Melinda Gates and Elon Musk. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in N.Y. in November. Our selection as finalists means that we are now Fellows of the World Technology Network. What an honor!”

There’s more news, too: Solar Roadways’ short documentary directed by Michele Ohayon, which was shown at the 2013 IPI Conference & Expo, will be featured at the Big Eddy film festival in New York on September 21. You might even be on a date with your significant other and have this short documentary shown at the movie theatre before your movie starts. That’s because thanks to a partnership with Spotlight Cinema Network, the Solar Roadways documentary will screen before features at all Regency and Landmark Theatres between August 23 and September 19.

The Brusaws hope to pave the world with solar panel roadways, but it all begins with a parking lot. It’s pretty cool that we all saw the inception of this movement. What can parking professionals do to support their work? You can help spread the word on social media. I am a big fan of TED Talks and think that Scott Brusaw would make an excellent TED speaker. You can nominate him here as a TED Speaker. I think it would speak volumes if parking professionals helped get him chosen, to help further their message and concept of Solar Roadways.

There’s more ahead for solar roads and parking lots. Stay tuned!

Olmsted and the Urban Park

Isaiah Mouw

Many consider one of the greatest champions in urban beauty to be Frederick Law Olmsted. My career in parking has sent me to several of Olmsted’s beautiful parks around the country, including Central Park (New York City); Forest Park (Springfield, Mass.); and Cherokee Park, Iroquois Park, and Shawnee Park (Louisville, Ky).

Visiting the temporary parks across downtown Louisville on Park(ing) Day 2012, I stumbled upon a space sponsored by the Olmsted Parks Conservancy. I had a great conversation with their staff about Olmsted’s pioneering work in Louisville. Consider, for example, the creation of parkways. Olmstead and architect Calvert Vaux (co-designer of Central Park) coined the term “parkway” to describe pleasure roads lined with trees and segregated for pedestrians, cyclists, and horse carriages. Louisville’s parkway system stretches 26 miles and connects the many parks in the Olmsted Park System.

Olmsted helped establish the notion that open spaces are for everyone, not just the elite. Beginning as a surveyor, Olmsted went on to help design beautiful places such as Central Park in New York City, the Niagara Reservation in Niagara Falls, and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., all of which earned him the title Father of American Landscape Architecture. Olmsted taught the world to respect the “genius of place.” He wanted his designs to stay true to the atmosphere and character of their natural surroundings.

How does this relate to parking? Olmsted believed nature could be integrated into urban environments for the benefits of everyone. Too often, city officials and parking professionals lose sight of this concept, and that leads to ugly examples of paving paradise to put up a parking lot.

How can parking professionals become more like Olmsted? What can we incorporate into our urban parking environments that can benefit everyone, not just those parking a car? Comment below.

 

 

 

Creepy, Crawly Critters

Isaiah Mouw

The Interstate 35W Bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River on August 1, 2007, killing 13 people. After an shutterstock_125749664investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), faulty design was blamed for the collapse. However, the original culprit was pigeons. Pigeon droppings contain acids and ammonia, and if not removed will eventually rust steel and dissolve concrete.

At The 2013 IPI Conference & Expo, I stumbled across the booth of a company that specializes in pigeon problems. Avian Flyaway is an expert in bird control services and bird deterrent systems that are used across the U.S., including on famous landmarks such as the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. I wish I had their information earlier in my career, when we accepted contracts where pigeon droppings were so bad that we had to use a snow plow to help remove them.

This made me want to compile a list of other critter issues we’ve witnessed over the years in parking:

Opossums. Last year, we had to remove an opossum from our parking lot. The opossum was affixed atop a reserved parking sign and apparently did not want to give up his parking space. I’ve heard that opossums play dead as a defense mechanism. Unfortunately, this critter missed the memo, and instead growled and snapped its teeth at anyone and anything. Luckily, with a friendly nudge from a broomstick, it jumped and took off.

Snakes. Earlier this year, we had a four-foot snake slither underneath the bottom of a truck whose owner parked at his home in a rural area. The parker drove his truck downtown and parked in the garage that houses our office. The snake decided he had enough fun in the truck, got down, and checked out the parking garage. Several screams later, we were able to locate and capture the snake, who can now be visited seven days a week at the local zoo.

Elephants. (Thankfully, this did not occur in one of my facilities.) Giving a whole new meaning to the elephant in the room, a circus elephant escaped from his handlers and galloped through a municipal parking lot. No one was injured. You can watch the video here.

As far as animals and parking working together, check out the website to the Denver Zoo parking garage. From their website: “Combining graphics, a sound system that challenges visitors to name the animal, and well-lit parking levels, the garage is secure and easy to navigate. Many features have been incorporated to insure easy zoo access for all visitors. Each level has been given a specific animal designation: level one, the top level of the garage, is Boa; level two is Macaw, three is Tiger, and four is Zebra. Graphics on each floor correspond to the animal name, making remembering which floor a car is parked on that much easier.”

Do you have any interesting parking garage critter stories? Please share with us in the comments below. Rest assured, no animals were harmed in their removal from the above mentioned parking facilities.

 

 

Parking and Surgeons

Isaiah Mouw

A recent medical study published in the British Medical Journal Open concluded that patients place as much importance on finding a parking space as their surgeon’s clinical ability. Let that sink in for a moment.

The study concluded that factors such as the parking experience, food quality, and cleanliness of the hospital are as important to the patients as the clinical skills of the surgeon. Researcher Colin Howie, a senior orthopedic consultant at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said, “The clinical skills of the surgeon were on a par with a parking space.” In other words, parking matters a great deal in hospital environments.

The hospitals found that patient (customer) satisfaction depended on issues outside of the surgery they were having. We in parking are not too surprised by the results of this survey as this customer service principle is true in almost every realm of parking sectors. A hotel guest’s valet parking experience at a five-star hotel will influence the guest’s customer satisfaction at that hotel and the hotel’s five-star rating. The first thing a visitor to a city must do is park. That parking transaction, whether on the street, in a garage, with a phone, or at a meter, will shape the visitor’s perception of that given city. The same goes for prospective students or parents of students visiting a university. Did the parents feel their child would be safe on that campus based on their parking garage experience? Parking is often a critical and powerful factor in a customer’s overall experience–not just their parking experience.

When our youngest son was born, he needed surgery. Boston Children’s Hospital had a world-renowned surgeon known for his work with the type of procedure our child needed. For us, this surgeon’s ability was infinitely more important to us than our parking experience or the cafeteria food. That being said, we will always remember the excellent customer service shown by the staff at the hospital. If you asked someone for help locating a certain place in the hospital, they didn’t just give you directions–they walked you there. The parking staff was also friendly and the parking garage used a kid-friendly, creative wayfinding system with pictures of animals. Children loved it and parents loved having help remembering where their car was.

The fact that hospital patients in this survey said that the parking experience was as important as the surgeon’s ability speaks volumes. Remember this and take pride in knowing that improving your parking services is usually going to help improve the customer’s overall day, not just their parking experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Human

Isaiah Mouw

Spend enough time in parking operations and you’re guaranteed to need to respond to a complaint. One way to grow from a good operation to a great one is re-thinking the way you do that. If your typical response is, “We apologize for any inconvenience,” you may be doing a bad job handling the situation, says author and business leader Daniel Pink. In an article from The Telegraph, Pink challenges us to “only speak like a human at work.”

We’ve all received emails that said, “We apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused you.” But is this how you respond when you are truly sorry? Can you imagine telling your spouse, “I apologize for any inconvenience this may have brought on you?” Jason Fried, author of ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever, tells of a day he saw a woman spill coffee on a stranger in a Chicago café. The spiller’s response was, “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” That, Fried says, is how we react when we’re really sorry.

“When you say, ‘I’m sorry,’ you’re owning,” he explains. “When you say ‘I apologize,’ you’re renting.”

A research study performed by behavioral economist Dan Ariely showed that when customers are treated rudely, they are more likely to act vengefully. For example, they may not tell the parking cashier the truth when they are given too much change. When customers are treated kindly (like human beings), they are more inclined to behave honorably.

Don’t go replying to complaints with, “My bad, dude,” but try letting your customers know you own the problem by speaking more like a human–by saying, “I’m sorry.” Parking automation and robotics are quickly taking over many facets of the parking industry. Do we really need them taking over our speech?

(If you feel like reading this blog post was a waste of your valuable time, I apologize for the inconvenience this might have caused you.)

 

 

Piloted Parking

Isaiah Mouw

An estimated 10 million vehicle accidents occur each year and many of them take place while parking. Audi thinks they’ve found a solution with their piloted parking system. Similar to the Google driverless car, the Audi parking system will rely on ultrasound or cameras affixed to the vehicle to locate empty parking spaces within a garage or parking lot and conveniently park itself without a driver. You have to watch this video to truly appreciate it. It can even parallel park.

Benefits to the driver include saving time, fewer accidents, and not having the Seinfeld moment of losing one’s vehicle in a garage, as the vehicle will return to the driver with a simple tap of a button on one’s smartphone. In the not so distant future, anxious teenagers will no longer have to worry about parallel parking in front of an intimidating driver instructor; they’ll just have to know how to operate their phone. Questions from parking professionals are numerous, from how this will work in a controlled environment, how to stop it from parking in reserved spaces, protocols for an accident, and what happens in the always-humorous “standoff” situations.

Many argue that the freedom and fun in being able to step on the gas pedal and speed down a highway outweighs any benefits of a driverless car, but few would be against avoiding the drive through a busy garage to locate a parking space. One thing is for sure: technology like this will more than likely dominate the roads in the next decade, making me think how this will affect our industry, specifically valet and parking access and revenue control systems.

BO-GOA

Isaiah Mouw

In an article featured in The Telegraph, business guru Daniel Pink discusses the Buy One, Give One Away (BO-GOA) model made famous by TOMS shoes.  TOMS promise is simple: “With every pair you purchase TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One.”

BO-GOA , explains the article, “‘is a model where the consumer can continue to reap satisfaction as the shoe gets worn. Most other consumption causes a decrease in satisfaction, as products become obsolete and head towards landfill.’ As a result, the giveaways, though costly, increase customer satisfaction and deepen loyalty.” TOMS isn’t the only company to have successfully implemented a BO-GOA model: Warby Parker donates a pair of glasses for every pair sold, and Happy Blankie gives away a blanket to a needy child with every bedcover sold.

While giving a parking space to someone in need for every parking space purchased doesn’t seem practical, parking companies can implement goodwill practices that create customer satisfaction. For example, in April 2012, the Parking Authority of River City (PARC) spearheaded free parking for a special event in exchange for donations of non-perishable food or toiletry items. The donations were to be distributed to needy individuals and families. The results were astonishing. Hundreds of people donated items in exchange for free parking.

It seems to be popular consensus that no one enjoys paying for parking. But in Louisville, people paid for parking with donations that probably cost more than the usual parking charge because they knew they were helping someone in need. I bet the next time one of those customers has to choose between a PARC facility and a competitor, they’ll choose the PARC facility because they’ll remember their feel-good experience there. Similar to a BO-GOA model, this situation allows the customer to reap the satisfaction weeks after the parking transaction.

With immediate marketing benefits through free social media marketing, goodwill examples like these will help your organization set itself apart from the competitors while also helping someone in need.

 

Solar Roadways and Parking Lots

Isaiah Mouw

I recently stumbled across this video about Solar Roadways. The concept involves turning roadways and parking lots into solar panel road surfaces that generate electricity. Inventor and co-founder of the Solar Roadways project Scott Brushaw explains, “There are 25,000 square miles of road surfaces, parking lots and driveways in the lower 48 states. If we covered that with solar panels with just 15 percent efficiency, we’d produce three times more electricity than this country uses on an annual basis and that’s almost enough to power the entire world. Roads are collecting heat anyway; this thing collects the power and stores it.”

One concern was creating glass strong enough to support the heaviest loads under the most extreme conditions, but they believe they’ve created a weatherproof, high-strength surface that’s up to the task. But the biggest concern is, of course, cost. One of these solar panels (12’x12’) can cost up to $7,000, and the plans to cover the roadways would call for billions of these panels. Do the math.

The Solar Roadway project recently received a $750,000.00 grant to build the first solar surface parking lot. With an estimated industry average cost of $4,000.00 per space to construct a parking lot, this $750,000 is not as large as it first seems. These solar panels consist of embedded LEDs that can be used to create crosswalks or traffic warnings. They could also be used to mark parking spaces. Imagine being able to change your layout design any day of the week, depending on your demand. These panels will also have the capability to charge electric vehicles while parked. The system will warm itself during the winter to melt away any snow or ice. The Solar Roadways team should have the parking lot completed in November and will be presenting the results shortly after.

This is not just a sustainability issue. Yes, it is very sustainable as the renewable energy from the proposed Solar Roadways project would literally cut greenhouse gases in half. But it may also make economic sense sometime in the future. The cost of petroleum-based asphalt continues to rise, while solar power has been falling at a rate of 7 percent per year for the last 30 years.  As technology improves each year, the cost of solar technologies should continue to drop. Solar panel surface parking lots could pay for themselves quickly as they generate renewable energy in the future.

To me, solar road surfaces is an important aspect  of the future of parking. Not this decade or even the next, but down the road, I think we will all be parking on solar surfaces.

 

Parking Efficiency, but at What Cost?

Isaiah Mouw

This fall, Starbucks will accept payments through a mobile app developed by a company named Square. Customers will be able to pay by holding up their phones and allowing Starbucks employees to automatically charge the customers’ cards.

We are already seeing apps like this in the parking industry through pay-by-phone parking vendors. But Starbucks is taking it a step further–soon, their customers will not even need to take their phones or wallets out of their pockets. The Square mobile app will use the phone’s GPS system to detect that a customer walked in and will automatically connect the customer to the store’s computerized checkout software. Square CEO Jack Dorsey explains, “You can actually walk into a merchant, keep your phone in pocket, keep your wallet in your pocket, and a picture of you pops up on the register. … You can just say, ‘I’m Laurie, and I’d like a cappuccino,” and your card is charged in the background.”[1]

Having visited nearly every booth at the IPI Conference & Expo, I don’t doubt parking vendors are exploring payment methods through companies such as Square as I type this entry; we are already very close thanks to the use of technologies such as near field communications (NFC) and quick response (QR) codes. Imagine driving into a gated parking garage, running an errand, and driving out without stopping. Entering the garage in your vehicle activates the mobile GPS parking timer, and exiting the garage stops the mobile GPS timer that charges your account. No stopping. No vehicle idling. No cash handling. No cashiering. No pay-on-foot machine. Nothing.

Some people would love this. As an introvert, sometimes it is difficult for me to carry on a conversation with the gas attendant about the weather or the recent rise in gasoline costs. On the other hand, I often find myself wanting to take a Louisville Slugger to the automated fuel dispenser, after playing 20 questions with the screen: “Would you like a car wash today?” “Would you like to use your debit card to save $0.03 per gallon?” “Are you a loyalty member?”

I go to Starbucks nearly every day. The employees know I like an extra shot of mocha, and they know I’m allergic to wheat. They know the names of my wife and children. They even got me a birthday card on my actual birthday.

I’m not advocating for or against automated cashiering–there are many benefits to both. I just want to challenge you take a look at your customer base and see what it is they want. Are they business men and women in a hurry to get to work and get home, or are they grieving hospital guests looking for comfort and a smile from a friendly cashier? Or can both systems be implemented blending automated cashiering with an employee present during peak periods? Technology has done miracles for the parking industry and saved our owners and clients millions of dollars in captured revenue. Just make sure that as a parking and transportation professional, you are doing your homework and managing the technology efficiently, before a machine takes over the operation and the human connection gets lost in techno space.

 

Carmageddon and Why Parking Matters

Isaiah Mouw

Around this time last year, the Kentucky Speedway held its inaugural Sprint Cup Series event resulting in one of the worst traffic catastrophes in sporting history. An estimated 20,000 people missed the inaugural Quaker State 400 because of what some said was poor parking and transportation planning. Fortunately, the speedway was given a second chance at redemption earlier this month as it hosted the Quaker State 400 once again.

Donna McMillen, area manager for Riverside Parking, Louisville, attended the race both years. Knowing the area and potential for traffic issues, she arrived nearly 10 hours early for the 2011 race.  In hindsight, this proved a wise decision: she was able to avoid the parking and traffic disaster that interfered with so many other drivers, including half of her expected party.

I live in Kentucky and followed with interest to see if Kentucky Speedway would redeem itself this year.  Happily, it did. Collaborating with parking vendors, speedway officials, the state police, the Transportation Cabinet, and the governor’s office, the speedway spent more than $11 million on transportation upgrades, including adding 33,000 parking spaces. This year, McMillen arrived only one hour before the show and was able to drive right in with no issues. “This year, there were people visible directing traffic and pointing people to available parking areas. You didn’t see that last year,” she says. Parking played an important and central role in the planning process this year.

For the past two years the International Parking Institute (IPI) has been waving its Parking Matters® banner high. To the 20,000 people who missed the race last year, parking mattered. To Kentucky Speedway managers and owners who had to answer to the fans for last year’s parking and traffic fiasco, parking mattered. Time and time again, parking professionals are left out of the planning process with often devastating results. I was delighted to see that parking and transportation took a priority this year and to see the State of Kentucky redeem itself, because Parking Matters®.

Shared Spaces

Isaiah Mouw

A recent flight offered me the time to read ReThinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking by Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D.  (The Parking Professional cover story, May 2012. [PDF]) One concept that caught my attention was that of shared space designs for streets and parking lots.

Shared space involves the redesign of streets/land areas to blur distinctions between drivers and other users by removing clear-cut rules, signage, and traffic lights that should prompt caution, low speeds, and a negotiated approach to the right-of-way. In other words, removing the typical safety boundaries in a street or parking area creates an intentional unsafe environment. Creating an unsafe and unfamiliar environment causes drivers and users to be extra cautious.

Sound ridiculous?

Shared spaces has been widely used over the past 20 years in cities such as Delft, Netherlands; Bohmte, Germany; and Brighton City, U.K. Designers of a shared space plan in the Delft state, “Separating traffic flows blinkers people and causes an increase in speed. Because everyone has their one lane, people take less account of other road users.”[1]

This is an example of why more pedestrians are killed crossing the street at marked crosswalks than unmarked crosswalks. Pedestrians compensate for the “safe” environment of a marked crossing by being less cautious about the oncoming traffic.  The book, Target Risk, by Gerald J.S. Wilde discusses Sweden’s efforts to change from driving on the left-hand side of the road to driving on the right. People compensated for the new traffic changes by driving more carefully. During the next year, traffic fatalities dropped 17 percent, before eventually returning gradually to their previous levels.

Of course, a concept as radical as this does not come without its complaints. Coventry City, U.K., recently implemented several shared space designs in several of its town junctions in part of redevelopment plan for the upcoming Olympic Games. Many city residents are not happy with this plan, leading to a petition with more than 700 town signatures to put an end to such designs, as well as a Facebook page entitled “End Coventry’s ‘Shared Spaces’ Experiment.”

I am not advocating parking professionals take down all their parking and traffic flow signage and open up their parking lots to be used as public free-for-alls, but this concept is definitely worth looking into in more detail.

Preventing Garage Suicides

Isaiah Mouw

Cindy Campbell recently wrote an excellent blog post about being trained for the unexpected after a suicide took place in one of her parking facilities. In the past few weeks, there have been several examples in the news of people threatening to commit suicide by jumping out of parking garages. Thankfully in both cases, the police and authorities were trained for the unexpected.

Andy Troth (CAPP) and I wrote an article [PDF] about suicide for The Parking Professional a few years ago after dealing with suicide jumpers at our own parking facilities. The article outlines why suicide from jumping happens, where suicide from jumping most commonly occurs, how parking professionals should handle this tragic event should it occur in their garage, and how to help prevent suicide from happening. We reached out to some suicide experts, including Lanny Berman, Ph.D., ABPP, executive director with the American Association of Suicidology. What we found is that parking garages are prone to suicide attempts because they provide easy access to great heights, and jumping from great heights offers a high certainty of death. Suicide by jumping from a parking garage affects all market segments especially universities, hospitals and municipalities, so shouldn’t we be prepared?

To learn more on how to handle this situation should it occur in your facility, check out the article or visit IPI’s webinar on the subject.

All Is Vanity … Plates

Isaiah Mouw

A Yahoo article recently told the story of Danny White of Washington, D.C., who purchased a vanity plate that simply said, ‘NO TAGS’. What’s the problem with this? Enforcement officers write “no tags” when issuing a parking ticket for a vehicle with no license plate. As a result, White has racked up a total of more than $20,000 worth of parking tickets, none of which belong to him.

Washington, D.C. driver Danny White thought he had a really good idea for a joke. But the joke’s on him–to the tune of $20,000, reports local affiliate NBC4.

White’s prank started 25 years ago when he got a vanity license plate reading, “NO TAGS.” He told NBC4 that he was ”Just having fun!” and that ”D.C. don’t get the joke. They don’t get it.”

The article also mentions Nick Vautier of Los Angeles, Calif., who bought a vanity plate with his initials. Enforcement officers there often use “NV” when writing a citation for a plate-less vehicle. Vautier eventually changed his plate after scores of unpaid ticket notices flooded his mailbox.

Early in my parking career, I used the plate “ABC123″ when training officers to write parking tickets. There was a woman in a nearby town who kept receiving notices for unpaid tickets even though she rarely came to our city; her tags were, of course, ABC123. Being a teacher, she would not part ways with that plate.

Some cities now scan bar codes from state inspection stickers when issuing parking tickets. The scan records bar code data including plate type and VIN. This eliminates much of the confusion from vanity plates or the growing number of specialty plates that use the same number system as unadorned tags, but depend on the officer to differentiate by noting a college logo or other plate design.

Whatever the resolution is, I’d have to agree with a comment on the website: “It’s 2012. This should be something that technology should be easily able to fix.” The other I like is this: “My next car will have the plate ‘I FORGOT’. That way, if I get in a hit and run accident and the cops ask the guy I hit what the license plate was of my car…”