About L. Dennis Burns, CAPP

L. Dennis Burns, CAPP, is senior practice builder and regional vice president with Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. He is a columnist and frequent contributor to The Parking Professional magazine. He serves on the IPI Advisory Council, the Professional Development Task Force, and the Parking Program/Accreditation Task Force.

Mobility as Service

L. Dennis Burns

I recently embarked on a new area of research: multi-modal mobility as a service (as opposed to a product one might own). This brings together many elements from the fields of transportation and mobility, emerging technologies, environmental sustainability, changing demographic trends, and communications advancements. It is related to the concept of the connected traveler in that it embraces and leverages our new abilities to easily access a range of combined mobility services via smartphones and, increasingly, vehicles and other devices. Integrated mobility services offer new and easy ways to access options that can be tailored to better meet customer needs and address a range of issues related to the fact that soon, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will live in megacities.

The future of urban public transportation lies in mobility systems that provide bicycles, cars, and other transportation modes on demand. Most mobility assets will be shared instead of owned by users–a phenomenon known as shared-use mobility. Convenient and reliable lifestyle and mobility services will be offered to connected citizens who will be able to easily access them via their smartphones. These services will become viable alternatives to car ownership, as they are more tailored to customer needs and will ultimately be more cost effective and environmentally sustainable, and reflect the lifestyle choices of a new generation.

Combined mobility services take the concept of shared-use to a new level, recognizing that desires for flexibility and efficiency are further advanced when shared-mobility solutions can be offered in an integrated platform. For service providers making the transition to combined mobility services, these developments offer a real opportunity to deliver sustainable growth during the next decades.

Many of these new services are delivered as apps that connect the different participants. For example, Washington, D.C.-based RideScout integrates data from a host of different providers, including those offering carshare, bikeshare, fixed-route transit, and ride services.

Another intriguing model is Zappos’ Project 100, which aims to create a seamless network of 100 on-demand chauffeured Tesla sedans, 100 shared vehicles, 100 shared bikes, and 100 shared shuttle bus stops that a phone app optimally assigns to each subscriber who inputs a destination. This mixed-mode concierge service could be the next level of the concept of mobility as a service.

The parking industry has much to contribute to this new mobility future. After all, shared use is already an emerging trend within our industry. I am in the process of developing several new concepts for existing clients who are ready to take the next step toward combined mobility. I encourage you to learn more about this exciting area. Together, we can help develop strategies that will allow the parking profession to be a creative force for applying combined mobility solutions for the future. I hope you will join me for the ride!

 

Investing In Parking

L. Dennis Burns

A recent project asked that we evaluate trends in the parking industry. One of the specific areas of focus was parking technology.

IPI released a very nice piece last year, 2013 Emerging Trends in Parking, based on a survey of its members. Two of the top trends noted in the report were the rapidly-expanding use of smartphones and mobile apps as both a means of pushing out information about parking and as payment options.

The report said, “Topping the list of trends in the $30 billion parking industry is the ‘move toward innovative technologies to improve parking access control and payment automation,’ cited by 59 percent of respondents. Another top trend is ‘real-time communication of pricing and availability to mobile/smartphones.’”

The second major trend related directly to the expansion of payment options:

“The second leading trend is the ‘demand for electronic (cashless) payment,’ with cities such as Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Houston, and Miami among others, incorporating pay-by-phone programs. Acclaimed as the world’s most successful of its type, the D.C. program has earned 550,000 customers and accounts for 40 percent of the city’s parking revenues. About 80 percent of the seven million transactions to date employ smart phones, with payment options that include credit cards, an online and mobile money management solution, and PayPal.”

As we began our own investigation of industry trends, a friend shared an interesting fact with me” Almost $25 million in funding has been invested in parking-focused mobile payment firms during the past 12 months:

  • Passport – $6M (December 2013)
  • Pango 6.5M (February 2014)
  • QuickPay – $5.5M (February 2014)
  • ParkMobile – $6.3M (February 2013)

These facts, combined with other significant investments by major multi-national corporations such as Xerox, 3M, etc., reinforce the fact that the importance of parking is being recognized on a broader scale than ever before.

This speaks volumes about the advancement of the parking profession and underscores the critical role parking plays in community and economic development, the importance of parking planning, the evolution of a more sustainable transportation industry, and ultimately our ability to directly enhance the parking experience of millions of parking patrons every day. It’s an exciting time to be a parking professional!

 

Openness and Innovation

L. Dennis Burns

How can parking be the same, and yet so different, in every community?

Whether the community is a downtown or a university or a medical campus (or any number of other specialized environments), its fundamental parking elements are essentially the same. Yet the dynamics of special operational considerations, economics, politics, social factors, historical context, and even individual personalities combine to create an almost infinite variety of unique combinations that make every parking program a case study in uniqueness.

Sometimes the defining characteristic can be a lack of management when small communities are just evolving to the point where growing demand is creating the need for basic parking management. Other programs are characterized by a hardening of the arteries and a lack of vision or innovation. Still others are choked by a fragmented or dysfunctional organizational structure. On a more positive note, we also have an increasing number of examples of programs that have evolved into well-developed and sophisticated access management programs in which a broad range of parking, transportation alternatives, planning, and economic development strategies are effectively integrated to help support and advance a community’s larger strategic goals.

After many years of evaluating parking programs all over the country, I have learned a few simple, but important lessons.

One of these is to value your first visit to a new place–you will never get a second chance to experience a place for the first time. If you are sensitive to this experience and pay close attention, these initial impressions can be quite valuable.

A second related lesson is to appreciate the unique elements of a new place. It is easy to get jaded by long experience and think you have seen it all. But staying open to new approaches and accepting that there are always new methods, different tactics, and creative new applications of old concepts is critical to staying fresh, perceptive, and creative.

All this reminds me of two old quotes: The first is, “Nothing is stronger than habit.” (Ovid) and the second is, “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” (Albert Einstein).

Here’s to keeping an open mind. Cheers.

News Year’s Resolution: Customer Service

L. Dennis Burns

I recently read an article by Andreas von der Heydt entitled, “Improving and Exceeding at Customer Service. Really Exceeding at it!

I know it sounds like something so fundamental that it almost goes without saying, but as I reflect on 2013 and the colleagues and peers who inspired me, those who rose to the top of the list are the ones who really care. They care about responsiveness and exceed expectations (both their customers’ and their own). They embody the essence of caring about delivering quality in all they do, and that caring separates good professionals and companies from the best ones.

In his article, von der Heydt outlined several keys to creating and maintaining an exceptional customer service culture that struck a chord with me:

  • Offer a good and reliable product/service. Be willing to change or adjust it and perhaps even your business model if needed.
  • Put customer-focused thinking at the center of everything. Customer service is not a department. It´s an attitude and everybody´s job! It needs to be at the very core of every successful company´s DNA. Practice it every day.
  • Treat all your customers with the same high level of sincere respect and make your customers feel important and appreciated. Treat them as individuals. Your job is to help make them successful.
  • Train, excite, and empower your staff. That means everyone–not just your customer service reps. Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation.
  • Use leading technology. Tailor it to your unique business and customer needs. Customers define the systems and IT structure required to provide outstanding customer service.
  • Never stop learning and improving. Think ahead. Anticipate future needs and wants (and possible problems) of your customers. Always go a step further. Get constant feedback.

As Robert M. Pirsig said in his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: “The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”

Parklets: Something to Consider

L. Dennis Burns

The concept of parklets (small park-like spaces on parts of streets that have been repurposed) is taking off around the U.S. I have come to expect to see them in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, but I must confess I was a little surprised to find one when I recently visited Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The following is an excerpt from a very well done “How to” manual from San Francisco on how to develop Parklets as part of neighborhood improvement projects:

San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks Program facilitates the conversion of utilitarian and often underused spaces in the street into publicly accessible open spaces available for all to enjoy. The Parklet Program is one component of the Pavement to Parks Program, which provides a path for merchants, community organizations, business owners, and residents to take individual actions in the development and beautification of the City’s public realm.

Parklets are intended as aesthetic enhancements to the streetscape, providing an economical solution to the need for increased public open space. Parklets provide amenities like seating, planting, bike parking, and art. While parklets are funded and maintained by neighboring businesses, residents, and community organizations, they are publicly accessible and open to all.

This terrific manual can be downloaded here.

According to the manual, the world’s first formal public parklets were initially conceived and installed in San Francisco in 2010. Earlier this year, 39 of the mini-parks had been installed throughout San Francisco, and the program is being emulated in cities around the world.

The creation of parklets in your neighborhood celebrates local grassroots initiatives, community- building, and sustainable transportation initiatives. While not quite a mainstream phenomenon yet, the movement is growing. Don’t be surprised if one pops up near you soon!

 

Wise Beyond Your Field

L. Dennis Burns

A good friend recently paid me a huge compliment when he gave me the book, Wise Beyond Your Field: How Creative Leaders Out 9780985530525_p0_v2_s260x420Innovate to Out Perform, by Nancy K. Napier and “The Gang.” The compliment was that my friend thought I already exemplified many of the approaches in the book.

The “gang” referenced above includes a very interesting and diverse set of successful leaders from different fields, including the Ada County (Boise, Idaho) Sheriff’s Office, the Boise State University football program, advertising firm Drake Cooper, Healthwise, The Idaho Shakespeare Festival, the Trey McIntyre Project, and WhiteCloud Analytics.

Each of these organizations, says the book, “epitomizes the qualities of outstanding creative learning organizations: constant curiosity, non-defensiveness about examining their success and mistakes, relentless attention to building and preserving strong cultures, and a disciplined approach toward creativity and innovation.”

I have written previously about the concept of “multilingual” parking professionals, which is a term I use to mean those who appreciate that parking and transportation are disciplines that naturally have a broad range of connections to many other fields. The modern parking professional must be conversant in the languages of economic development, urban planning and design, transportation demand management (TDM), technology, communications, marketing and branding, engineering, maintenance, and security, among other areas.

It is our responsibility as parking professionals to continue to broaden our perspectives by becoming well versed in these other “languages” so we can then educate our colleagues in other fields of the value of including parking professionals in their work.

As our industry has grown and evolved, the influx of new talent from a wide range of other fields has infused our workplaces with a great base of professional diversity. A strong foundation of technological advancement and innovation is transforming our industry in ways that would have been hard to imagine even a decade ago.

I encourage you to check out this short, but inspiring book. Then, take someone from another field to lunch and see if you don’t come away with some fresh ideas that might lead to an enhanced perspective or even a new approach that will enhance your program’s performance.

Shifting the Discussion: An Assignment for Parking Professionals

L. Dennis Burns

I have recently been contacted by several reporters from all over the country asking about a range of parking-related issues ranging from taxes to impact fees to performance-based pricing.

Each call began with questions that had an inherently negative angle. I guess I should be used to that. Recently, however, I have taken a different approach. I have tried to shift the discussion from implicitly negative starting points to something more like, “Yes, you are correct; parking is a critically important area. Are you aware of the many advances made by the parking industry in recent years? Some of these advances involve leveraging new technologies, adopting more progressive urban design approaches and better integrating parking into larger community access and economic development strategies. Others involve creating a range of more sustainable parking and transportation strategies. Have you tried pay-by-cell phone yet? Have you gotten a text message notifying you that your meter is about to expire? Have you gotten an e-coupon on your cell phone from a store around the corner from where you parked and paid with your phone?”

We do (and will continue for decades to come) live in a society where the automobile is the dominant form of personal transportation. In this reality, parking will continue to be a connection point around which many key issues of our times will resonate – economic, social, environmental, equity, and accessibility issues are just a few examples. And as long as that is the case, parking professionals will play key roles in making our communities function.

We have an incredible story of increased connectedness, demonstrated progress, and accelerating advancement to tell. We also share a common challenge: how do we better broadcast this story of industry transformation? If we don’t do it, who will?

IPI published a guide to talking with the media last year–”How to Speak Parking Matters®.” It’s a free download that’s quite helpful when reporters come calling.

If you find yourself, perhaps somewhat defensively, addressing a negative question from a reporter, a customer, a city council member, or anyone else, take that opportunity to shift the discussion to a passionate description of the real and dramatic progress we have made. I think you’ll be surprised at how receptive your audience will be.

 

Parking and Gardening

L. Dennis Burns

Ahh springtime! Trees are budding (at least here in Arizona), the orange trees are getting full, and soon the excitement of Cactus League Baseball will be upon us. I am once again filled with renewed optimism and recently took stock of the broad strokes of progress being made in our industry.

In the March issue of The Parking Professional magazine, I reflect on an unlikely combination of topics: parking and gardening. Great strides are being made in the parking industry, in large part thanks to parking professionals whose energy, creativity, diversity of knowledge, and skills are transforming communities across the country.

Have you ever seen the old movie “Being There,” starring Peter Sellers and written by Jersey Kosinski? (If not, you should!) Sellers plays the main character: one Chauncey Gardener, a simple, unsophisticated, and uneducated man (except by television) whose occupation is that of a gardener. Following the death of his aging employer and through a series of accidental events, Chauncey is thrust into a very high-profile role when he is introduced to a politically connected millionaire. His simplistic responses to the media and others, based on all that he really knows–gardening–are seen as brilliant and insightful. He begins to be considered not as simple but nearly enlightened (thus the title).

Inspired by some of Chauncey’s gardening-themed responses, I began to see connections between parking and gardening that require a bit of seasonal perspective to come into focus. The progress being made by parking professionals in many communities is really quite inspiring and is explored further in my article. One of my favorite quotes in the piece is from British poet, novelist, and gardener Vita Sackville-West, who once said: “The person who has planted a garden feels that they have done something for the good of the world.”

I hope you’ll read the piece, let me know what you think, and join me in congratulating the host of parking professionals who are making significant differences in their communities every day!

 

Practitioner-Engaged Parking and Transportation Planning

L. Dennis Burns

I guess it’s true. There are no new ideas.

I recently spoke at the Healthcare Design Conference in Phoenix. While waiting in the speakers’ lounge, I struck up a conversation with another presenter. She asked what my topic was (Parking and Transportation Master Planning for Healthcare Campuses) and I asked her what she was speaking on. Her topic was Practitioner-Based Healthcare Planning.

I was kind of floored, because I had just been drafting an article based on the same concept, but within the parking and transportation planning arena (thus no new ideas). I guess even for me and my colleagues, the idea wasn’t really new. A small group of colleagues and I have been bringing in practicing parking professionals on our projects for years to provide added value and insight, but somehow giving it a label such as “Practitioner-Engaged Parking and Transportation Planning,” seemed to put a new spin and a different focus to the practice.

The reasons I am excited about this approach are threefold:

  1. I know from numerous experiences that this approach really does add significant value and sometimes unexpected insights to a consulting project.
  2. The sheer number and diversity of innovative programs being led by highly qualified parking professionals has grown exponentially. It used to be a challenge to find qualified candidates; now the problem is narrowing down the list!
  3. All of this speaks to amazing qualitative growth and development of the parking industry over the past 10 years.

I give IPI a huge amount of credit for creating the idea of a “parking professional” years ago and following through with programs that have made that concept a working reality. The exponential growth of creative ideas that have led to new and innovative programs and strategies is propelling our industry forward!

 

 

Putting Parking into its True Context

L. Dennis Burns

I recently looked back over some archived files and articles and was struck by an observation: there is always an “implicit context” behind any article or work of research. This applies not only to my own work, but on a larger scale to all the research and reports that I reviewed.

In the older parking work, the context seemed much smaller and rather insular to industry-specific topics. Most pieces were specific operational subsets of fundamental parking management areas, such as revenue control, facility maintenance, or other operational functions.

At some point about five or six years ago, a gradual shift began away from the strictly operational to a broader, more strategic perspective. This broadening of perspective began to lead to discussions of how parking interacts with a wide range of other related professions, including planning, urban design, economic development, downtown management, etc.

I recently developed a new presentation on The Transformation of America’s Parking Paradigm. One of the sections in this presentation discusses the new context through which I now view parking. A series of slides discusses a set of criteria or concepts that form the context base I use when I consider the application of parking design and management strategies. Consider this list of topic areas:

  • Density.
  • Third Places.
  • Scale.
  • Walkability.
  • Mixed and Multi-use Development.
  • Street-Level Activation.
  • Adaptive Re-Use and Infill.
  • Vitality and Energy.
  • Local Character.
  • Safety/Security.
  • Sustainable Transportation.
  • Accessibility/Integrated Access.
  • Multi-modal/Mobility Plans.
  • Parking Strategic Plan.
  • Active Transportation/TDM Integration.
  • The “Experience Economy.”

The list could go on and on, but it is clear to me that as a profession we have come to recognize that the work we do goes much further than the mere temporary storage of vehicles. Parking, by its very nature, is a connection point within the framework of our transportation systems and our communities/institutions at large. They have a natural complexity and importance and deserve special attention. It is encouraging to see that many thought leaders from other disciplines and professions are beginning to come to this same realization. With this new infusion of diverse perspectives and resources, who knows what the parking context might look like in another decade.

Parking: Coming of Age

L. Dennis Burns

Has big business finally found its way to parking? Consider the following:

  •  3M has acquired Federal APD (PARCS), PIPS (LPR), Sirit (AVI), and VES (a toll service provider located in southern California). 3M currently operates a division that focuses on transportation, but this is significant entre’ into the parking industry.
  • Affiliated Computer Systems (ACS) became part of Xerox which also has a transportation division that includes commercial vehicle operations, electronic toll collections, motor vehicle services, on/off street parking, photo enforcement, public transport, and transportation management.
  • Serco (the largest company you’ve never heard of) is the systems integrator behind the SFpark program.
  • Zeag, which recently acquired Magnetic Corporation, was recently acquired by a large Swiss company.

Initially, I worried that this could be the end of innovation and the beginning of a new corporate mentality that might become pervasive, but then these negative thoughts were drowned out by the following:

  • This investment in our industry is a reflection of the fact that parking is being recognized for the important industry that it’s become.
  • New investment from large multi-national corporations will mean new advancements for the whole industry.
  • The effect of thought leaders such as Don Shoup, Casey Jones, CAPP, and others has created new awareness and spurred huge government investments through agencies such as FHWA and others.
  • Innovative governmental agencies such as the Seattle Department of Transportation and the Washington D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) are moving forward with creative research and implementation programs even without big federal grants.
  • Transportation planners and transportation demand management (TDM) professionals are becoming more engaged with parking industry practitioners to create new partnerships.
  • Universities are beginning to create sustainable transportation degree programs.
  • The number of smaller technology-based start-ups are increasing and interest by venture capitalists is increasing.

After some reflection, it seems to me we are on the verge a whole new era of growth and advancement. But then, I am always so negative.

So Much to Learn!

L. Dennis Burns

I told a friend at this year’s IPI Conference and Expo in Phoenix that I couldn’t believe how much I was learning.

The pace of technological innovation continues at breakneck speed, but even more fascinating is the creative application of these advancements in parking management and sustainable transportation initiatives. Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., are all pursuing advanced programs that could redefine parking’s relationship with technology and our interaction with larger transportation and environmental disciplines. Somewhat ironically, despite the cutting-edge technologies and creative system design and integration, the basic elements of communication, customer service, and effective program management continue to be core issues that need to be addressed.

The innovation and product development of an increasingly diverse set of vendors and suppliers was really eye-opening. New products and services (not to mention professional colleagues) from around the globe were some of the most exciting elements of this year’s conference for me.

Equally impressive were the advancements in mid-sized municipal programs. At the top of this list are Michael Klein’s innovative program in Albany, the incredible turnaround of the Cedar Rapids parking program (now known as “Park Cedar Rapids,” led by Vanessa Rogers and Jon Rouse) following the devastating floods of 2008, and the City of Lincoln’s strong and steady progress in going from “Good to Great” under Ken Smith’s leadership. These programs show the depth and penetration of the industry’s progress.

Another key area changing how we are perceived is facility design: parking being “better integrated into the urban form” and designed with sustainability and economic development in mind. A great way to stay abreast of the innovation and industry advancement in these areas is the IPI Awards of Excellence program. Look for more on this year’s winners in the July issue of The Parking Professional.

One final note: The selection of Rachel Yoka as IPI’s Parking Professional of the Year was the perfect choice! Congratulations, Rachel!

Parking’s Beautiful Images

L. Dennis Burns

I admit it, I really like parking! When you truly get absorbed into a profession or any area of serious interest, there is no end to the dimensions and nuances you can see that are lost on others.

Not many things have captured my interest as much as parking, but the one that has is photography! Stick a camera in my hand and I can wander happily for hours and hours no matter where I am. Check out this cool image from an off the beaten path parking lot in Seattle!

I was thrilled to learn that IPI had found a way to merge two of my favorite things into a friendly competition: The Parking Professional Photo Contest! How great is that!

The categories for submissions include:

  • Beautiful
  • Funny
  • People in Parking
  • Structure/Lot
  • Nature
  • Most Offbeat or Unusual

Every photo submitted will also be considered for the Best in Show award, which comes with a free registration to the 2013 IPI Conference & Expo in Ft. Lauderdale, and publication on the cover of a future issue of The Parking Professional. Winners of individual categories will receive Parking Matters® shirts and see their photos published in the magazine as well.

I can’t wait to see the kinds of images that will be submitted. Imagine trying to capture the essence of our profession in photographs. The possibilities are endless! I’m already searching my files for the perfect parking picture. I hope you will join me!

Want more info? Go to: www.parking.org/photocontest.

Rethinking Our Future

L. Dennis Burns

Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D., professor of landscape planning and urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has written a new book, ReThinking A Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking, and a feature about it for The Parking Professional [PDF], as well as a post here at the Parking Matters® Blog. Dr. Ben-Joseph makes many excellent points related to the importance and prominence of parking not only as a significant and necessary land use, but also the great potential that exists in rethinking it.

It is exciting to see the academic community beginning to recognize the significance of parking on so many levels. Donald Shoup, Ph.D., professor of urban planning at UCLA, deserves much credit for generating a greater awareness of parking to a broader audience.

Parking professionals today (I am proud to be considered one) routinely operate in a world of vision and scope that has expanded exponentially in the past decade. Parking is an exciting, multi-dimensional discipline that is more interesting, more varied, more relevant, and more valued than at any time in its history. Parking intersects with many other disciplines that today’s industry professionals are challenged to be fluent in; we know not only the fundamentals of parking management, but also those of related disciplines such as economic development, urban design, campus planning, sustainable transportation and brand development/communications, just to name a few.

Because of its importance, complexity, and specialized nature, the parking industry has two important challenges for the decade ahead: a need to prioritize education within the industry and to promote a greater awareness why Parking Matters® externally. I know that IPI has both of these priorities well in hand. The progress being made is truly exciting.

Thank you Dr. Ben-Joseph for helping to raise the level of discourse related to parking and for challenging all of us rethink how we do what we do.

The Magic of Transitional Places

L. Dennis Burns

Parking facilities are not merely temporary storage facilities for automobiles. They are also the interface or transition between the vehicular and pedestrian experience.

These modal intersections can be much more than utilitarian connection points. Consider train stations, which we associate with spectacular building forms and public areas. Union Station in Washington, D.C. and Grand Central Station in New York City come to mind as traditional examples. These environments are much more than simple transportation connection points; they have a special energy and excitement. In them, we transition from one point to another and there is a certain excitement related to movement, exploring new environments, the anticipation of a specific event, and the unknowns of a new place. All of these elements combine to create a special vitality. These places can capture and enhance the positive and magical elements that go along with being in the mode of journeying.

There are also many examples of how poorly-designed or maintained transitional places can lead to feelings of uncertainty, trepidation, and even fear. These types of experiences can have a dramatic effect on the overall experience, even if the final destination met all expectations.

Parking facilities are probably the most numerous and undervalued modal intersection points in the world. We should take a fresh look our facilities and how the experiences we generate have a direct bearing on businesses and functions that depend on us as their customer gateways.

Take a critical look at your parking facilities and re-imagine them as community gateways, designed to meet the special needs of sojourners transitioning from one mode of travel to another. The more we take on the ownership of our limited but critical segment of the journey, the more we enhance our value to our customers and our communities.

How are you enhancing your facility as a community gateway?