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!

The Importance of a Good Industry Education

Brett Wood

Just last year, I started working to earn my Certified Administrator of Public Parking (CAPP) designation through IPI. I have two degrees in civil engineering and professional engineering registrations in a couple of states, but throughout years of arduous years of study and training, the closest my classmates and I came to learning about parking was some coursework on the design of a surface parking facility. Very few universities or programs teach parking as a discipline.

Next time you get in a room of parking professionals, ask, “How did you get into parking?” I bet their various backgrounds range from business to transportation, design to policy, and everything in between. A lot of our industry leaders are self-made and self-taught. Many of them began as cashiers or operations staff and worked their way into parking management, and this background provides them with a strong knowledge of the industry. Thankfully, IPI recognizes this and uses their expertise to drive the CAPP program. These innovators are the same people who are leading the training in the classroom.

More importantly, the next round of parking innovators is sitting in the audience. While I have found great value in the materials presented in the CAPP class, my greatest takeaway has been the network of people I have met there and the knowledge I extract from them. These folks include a wide spectrum of public operators, private operators, municipal managers, airport parking managers, university parking and transportation directors, equipment manufacturers, and consultants. This broad cross-section provides a much more well-rounded experience for me and all CAPP candidates.

If you are considering the program, ask a CAPP candidate or graduate about the importance of a good education. You’ll invest both time and money in CAPP for sure, but my recommendation is to jump in feet first. The knowledge and network you develop may very well send you to the head of the class in your program and our industry.