You Have to Give to Receive (Positive Media Coverage)

Jeff Petry

 

Can you image a newscast beginning with, “Well, you don’t have to go to the library to pick up good fiction. Downtown Eugene now has a very unusual venue for stories–the steps of a [public] parking garage.”

Can you imagine a municipal parking program staging an event that is covered by every local media outlet and involves the mayor, award-winning local writers, and celebrity Slug Queens?

Can you imagine a municipal parking program where getting positive media coverage is considered the norm?

I can because it is happening right here in Eugene, Ore. The City of Eugene’s municipal parking program, Epark Eugene, has garnered many positive news stories and kudos from the community. These stories have focused on projects the parking program has sponsored with community groups throughout downtown.

The quote above was the lead in line for a local news segment on November 30, 2012 for our Step into Stories installation, which displayed original flash fiction pieces (stories of 200 words or less) from local authors on 48” square panels in an internal stairway of our oldest downtown parking garage. During the dedication event, each author read their panels in the stairway (11 total stories) with the media filming and recording the whole experience. It cost $1,400 and returned at least 3 times that amount in positive media broadcast.

You have to give good things to report to receive good media coverage. You can’t just say something; you have to do something. Making visible positive changeand inviting the community to be part of it gives the media something to show and talk about. It also helps to give them something they might not expect.

Good media coverage can change the community conversation about parking and open new possibilities. You start attracting people like a student who wants to display her fiber art project on top of your parking garage, which becomes part your downtown’s First Friday Art Walk. Or, you work with other artists and community members on other large events.

While this is the season of giving, parking professional must think about giving thoughtful gifts back to the community all the time.

 

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.

 

PARK(ing) Day Completes our Streets

Jeff Petry

Today is PARK(ing) Day –an international day where our metered parking spaces turn into park spaces that promote creativity, civic engagement, critical thinking, unscripted social interactions, generosity and play.*

Why are we sometimes hesitant to embrace a concept such as PARK(ing) Day? Have a seat on my couch and let’s talk about our anxieties:

  • Safety: Having people, especially kids playing, in a parking space next to moving traffic is dangerous.
  • No turnover: The space is essentially reserved all day long and the abutting businesses lose convenience customers.
  • It challenges our thought: It can be difficult for us to think about an on-street parking space being used for something other than an automobile.

I understand these concerns, as they all went through my mind with my first experience of a PARK(ing) Day. The top two disappeared when I saw the safe layout of the transformed spaces and neighborliness of the PARK-ers with adjacent businesses (There is a free PARK(ing) Day manual that addresses these issues, too).

The last, I realized, was just a reaction to tackling something different from our day-to-day work, but the fresh perspective of PARK(ing) day provides a healthy challenge to our profession. We need to be pushed outside our comfort range to maintain a robust understanding of how our profession integrates into larger community concerns.

The mission behind PARK(ing) Day, however, is not that different from other familiar situations. Many municipal and campus parking lots are viewed as land bank sites for future development. How many of us have had a surface lot converted to something else–likely a building or parking structure? How many of us carry this normal development scenario over to the on-street parking system? Is it really that big of a leap of parking faith to think about converting an on-street parking space to a different use, at least for a day?

We must recognize that our streets are public spaces that serve more than just a transportation function. Our public spaces provide the opportunity for social interactions, public gathering spaces, vending, events, and even sometimes temporary conversion to a park for a day. PARK(ing) Day feeds into the concept of a Complete Street that aims to allow socioeconomic uses for our streets to coexist happily with our transportation needs year ‘round. PARK(ing) Day provides a short-term experiment to help us and as our enlightened community members and decision makers visualize a different use of a metered, on-street parking space. It can also help us parking folks expand our professional roles and re-think the services our management can provide.

 

*Original PARK(ing) Day concept by Rebar. www.rebargroup.org., www.parkingday.org

The Art of Parking

Jeff Petry

Having the “Sunbathing Lady of the Lot” suddenly appear in our parking lot opened my mind to parking art. It also led me down a path of path of parking art that has included Knotty Knitters crafting cozies for meter poles and bike racks, a yearlong partnership with students at nearby Lane Community College to design and fabricate custom bike racks, a North American art competition on the wall of a parking garage that’s run for three years now, poetry installed in the stairway of a parking garage, a poem on the epark Eugene iPhone app, digital art on top of parking garages, and a street artist competition on concrete parking bollards.

We in Eugene have enjoyed a breadcrumb approach to incorporating art into our parking program. It started with the city’s Public Art Plan goal to “incorporate art into everyday objects.” It continued by inserting the word “parking” into this goal and working to “incorporate art into everyday parking objects.”

My first exposure to parking art was an overnight installation by the 12th Avenue Collaborative group that placed a parking space-sized, bikini-clad lady in our lot. I had a choice: trash it or let it stay. The artists made the decision easy by paying for all the parking spaces they used, and the lady attracted a lot of downtown visitors and positive attention, which is great news for any parking program.

Recently, at the Pacific Intermountain Parking & Transportation Association (PITPA) Conference and Tradeshow, keynote speaker Darin Watkins, of Washington State University, asked the audience, “How many of you can say you had three positive media stories  about your program in the last year?” I was able to raise my hand because we have invested in local partnerships that bring creativity to our parking system. This idea, however, is not unique. It could be implemented anywhere. All it takes is a parking professional willing to ask the question. Are you that person?

Step Into [Parking] Poetry

Jeff Petry

In an earlier blog post I talked about our bread crumb approach to partnering with creative people and organizations in our community. Our downtown parking garage display, Step into Poetry, provides a specific example of how simple the process can be for parking professionals.

This project was the result of a passing hallway conversation with an employee who is also a poet. I asked her if she knew any poets that would be interested in having their work displayed in a parking garage. The response was amazing. Within days, I received an email from the local chapter of the Oregon Poetry Association and scheduled a walk through a garage. I expected two or three people to attend, but was surprised by about 12 local writers! We toured the garage, coffee in hand. The poets formed three committees and presented me with three options to add poetry to the garage.

We picked an easy project to complete: panels in the stairs. From there, we moved to the design and poetry submission phases. I asked for help from another department’s graphic artist for the design layout, which incorporated what we learned from Todd Pierce’s “What’s Your Brand?” IPI webinar. The poets asked for submissions and permissions from their membership, and we worked together to select seven poems and a featured poem by Oregon’s Poet Laureate.

The Step into Poetry project is a success. It incorporates art into parking, reinvests parking funds where they are collected, supports local arts and the development of artists in our community, and reinforces the creative, distinctive culture of downtown. We have visitors who park in the garage just to take the stairs! Graffiti and vandalism have dropped to zero in this staircase since installation, and we enjoy many kudos from the community.

How do we build upon this success? We keep writing of course! In September, we will install “Step into Prose” panels that display flash fiction from local writers. We are tying the flash fiction to the city’s 150th birthday party by gathering submissions that look back over our past 150 years as well as looking forward 150 years.

All this took was asking a simple question.

Do you think this program might work in your community? Why or why not? Comment below.

Envisioning the Future: Parking’s Role

Jeff Petry

Parking Enforcement Officer: Duties Performed

  • Enhances neighborhood livability and encourages economic activity.
  • Provides assistance and general information to a diverse population.
  • Works independently and exercises flexibility, dependability, good judgment, and a positive attitude.

These are the first three duties of a parking enforcement officer with the City of Eugene, Ore. They are also the priorities we want our officers to focus on. Parking enforcement is about people, not license plates. By focusing on customers, we change the perception of enforcement officers from ticket-writing vultures to city ambassadors.

This year’s IPI Conference & Expo featured a continual thread of sessions that aligned with one of our key priorities: enhance neighborhood livability and encourage economic activity. I learned about Calgary’s willingness to allow taxis in their fire hydrant zones (read more about this in the upcoming September issue of The Parking Professional), UNC Greensboro’s 12-step intervention for parkaholics, and adapting the service industry’s blueprinting tool at Arizona State University and the University of Chicago. I could name more, but there is not enough room here!

Eugene’s focus on enhancing neighborhood livability and encouraging economic activity dovetails with our larger community planning goals. Every community in Oregon has an urban growth boundary (UGB), which is a limit to how far it can physically grow out. This protects our farms and forests from unplanned development. The UGB must contain enough land for projected needs over the next 20 years. Envision Eugene is our community’s process for determining the best way to accommodate more people by 2032. Two vital goals identified by community members through Envision Eugene are to provide economic opportunities and neighborhood livability. Parking services has an important role to play in both of these goals.

Envision EugeneEnvision Eugene held a kid’s art contest to depict their vision of Eugene in 20 years. If these images are what our kids visualize for our future, how does parking contribute to their vision? Parking professionals can shape our community for good because Parking Matters®!