In Search of Utopia

Brett Wood

I just wrapped up major evaluation and documentation efforts on one of the coolest (and most challenging) projects I’ve done in a while. The City of Aurora, Colo., which has a population of more than 325,000 east of Denver, is largely a suburban-based community with no real parking vision—just a collection of strip malls, big box stores, and other suburban development. There is a large medical campus, but outside of that area, the urban context just doesn’t exist in Aurora. However, RTD (the regional transit provider) is on the cusp of opening a light rail line that will include nine stations in Aurora and connect the community with Denver and the airport. To say that things are about to change in Aurora would be an understatement.

That’s where our client comes in. The City of Aurora had the foresight to say, “we could have a parking problem.” But instead of waiting to see how that played out, they decided to get in front of the train (so to speak) and make sure they were ready. So for the past six months, we have been developing a business plan and a parking program from the ground up.

At our kickoff meeting, we joked the city had the opportunity to create Parking Utopia, where they learned from all the lessons of the many communities that have braved this transition before. Before long, what was a funny line became a mantra for the project.

We set out to create parking utopia, which, in our minds, was based on these tenets:

  • The community, including the customer and the economic vitality of the community, is the most important aspect of the program
  • It’s about so much more than parking; the system should be a conduit for improving mobility, access, and growth within the community
  • Enforcement should be based on compliance and education rather than heavy-handed regulations
  • Technologies should be designed to be easy to use for both the customer and the manager
  • The staff should be ambassadors for the program, helping the community learn about how and why we manage parking
  • The community should be engaged throughout the life of the program, helping define the future by providing existing feedback
  • Decisions should be made based on real data from the community, ensuring that new program elements meet the needs of those they serve
  • Parking should be priced to manage demand and promote community needs, not generate revenue
  • If they make positive revenue, it should be reinvested into the community.

I don’t know if you noticed a theme there, but it was all about the community. Utopia didn’t mean gadgets and gizmos or progressive policies. Rather, it meant creating a parking program that worked for Aurora and positioned them for success. So, with all of that said, what’s your ideal parking utopia?

Are We Prepared?

Dave Feehan

A survey in the Washington Business Journal asked readers if they were canceling planned trips to Baltimore as a result of recent demonstrations and riots. More than 60 percent said they would and another 20 percent said that while they would not cancel a planned trip, they would be more cautious. Baltimore isn’t the only city that has seen demonstrations and unrest. In fact, any city or suburb that experiences an incident of questionable police behavior this summer is almost certain to see some form of demonstration or protest.

Combine these human-related incidents with other factors—for example, the nearly unbelievable increase in the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma, prospects of increasingly severe weather, and an apparent increase in sinkholes—and suddenly, parking managers and operators need to ask themselves a few questions: Do we have an emergency preparedness plan, how good is it, when was it updated, and are we financially prepared for what could happen?  The IPI Safety & Security committee is developing Emergency Preparedness Guidelines just for this purpose.  This new resource will be invaluable to your operation, and available for download this summer.

I worked with the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District in downtown Washington D.C., a few years ago. I thought I had seen good emergency preparedness plans in other cities where I’ve worked, but this one was on a whole different plateau. Of course, the southern edge of this district has a unique architectural feature called the White House, so the Golden Triangle BID has to think about all kinds of terrorist threats as well. But anyone who thinks terrorism can’t strike in their town isn’t paying attention. Remember the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City?

Immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, I called a hasty joint meeting with International Downtown Association members and members of BOMA, the Building Owners and Managers Association. We arranged a conference call with members in perhaps a dozen cities, and several people on the call expressed fears for their downtown skyscrapers. Not Minneapolis. The BOMA representative in Minneapolis said his greatest fear was an attack on the Mall of America, bookended by massive parking garages. A truck bomb in either one or both would be devastating.

Now would be a good time to review (or create) a robust emergency preparedness plan for your parking system. You may find that one possible danger isn’t physical, like a bomb, earthquake, hurricane, or tornado. It may simply be a major loss of revenue occurring when customers, out of fear, don’t show up.

Did You Hire Them or Create Them?

Mark D Napier

I have had the opportunity during my career to teach courses on management and leadership. Without exception, every time I teach a course, there will be one or more students who lament about the poor quality of his/her subordinates. The subordinates are generally long-term employees but occasionally are recent hires. The student wants to know how to “fix” the subordinates. Will training work? What about progressive discipline? Should I reassign him/her?

It is clear that when we find an employee who is not performing acceptably, we need to act to correct performance. After all, that is what some of us were hired to do. When I dig a little deeper, I find this is not an isolated incident of a few rogue employees, but an almost circular occurrence of one employee after another. This takes significant time from the supervisor and drains positive energy from a significant segment of the workforce. The supervisor may tell me success stories in which he/she was able to terminate or retrain a substandard employee. Affirmative action to correct performance is a good thing.

Unfortunately, we do not examine the most important issue: Did you hire a substandard employee or did you create one? Let me be clear, those are absolutely the only two possibilities. Failing to examine this reality is dooming the organization to perpetually revisiting the address of underperforming employees. We all want to believe that our hiring processes are sufficiently discriminating. If that is true (big if), we hired a person capable of acceptable performance. How then did we end up with this poor performing employee?

We must examine the culture of the organization, the effectiveness of supervision, and the merit of our evaluative processes to determine where they failed. If we did not create this substandard employee, then we hired him/her. We must examine the hiring processes and the pool of potential employees we draw from to determine how it failed to yield an acceptable employee.

When the fire department responds to a fire, they promptly put it out. Next, they try to determine what caused the fire so future events might be avoided. Your underperforming employee is analogous to the fire and you have to respond to it. Now, determine what caused the fire!

Rare Compliments

Kim_Fernandez_March2015

About a year ago, I sent a complimentary email about someone to his boss, thinking she should know about the great job he was doing. Several hours later, she wrote back, “Thank you for your note. We don’t often hear from people with good things to say.”

Tell me that doesn’t break your heart just a little bit. Maybe you’re nodding in agreement with her. We’re (the editorial “we,” of course, not you and me specifically) very quick to file complaints, verbally or in writing, when someone slips up on the job, but those nice notes? They seem to get lost in our mental shuffles. So much to do; so little time.

A friend told me a few weeks ago, “We live on compliments,” and I think it’s pretty spot-on, especially in an industry such as parking where the complaints and insults can fly a lot more frequently than the niceties. We all like hearing we’re doing a good job and most people don’t hear it often enough.

It’s Friday, and where I am, the sun is shining and the day feels full of potential. I’m issuing myself a challenge and I hope you’ll challenge yourself and your colleagues with me: For every complaint (maybe every two or three; we’ll be reasonable), give someone a compliment. Say something nice. Tell someone they’re doing a great job, in our out of your department. Tell someone who works for you, the barista who foams up your latte, the guy or girl who rings up your next cart of groceries, or even your spouse, significant other, kid, or neighbor. And then give yourself a pat on the back, because you just did a great thing yourself.

What is Your Vision for Parking Enforcement?

Mark D Napier

When considering the title question, I fear some of us (assuming a measure of honesty) are thinking, “To write more citations than last year to ensure an increase in revenue.” Really? If this is our enforcement vision, clearly stated or only inferred, how does this translate into a serious examination of our parking management success in terms of organizational goals and enforcement officer performance? Will this enforcement vision generate public support?

I introduce these questions to stimulate thought. Consider that in reality a continued increase in the number of citations we write is an indication of failure. If we can agree the purpose of enforcement is to change behavior and that enforcement should have an educational nexus, we then have to face the fact that increasing noncompliance is an indication that we are failing to deter and/or failing to educate. Another possibility is that our parking programs are so woefully inadequate or so poorly marketed as to nearly invite noncompliance. This, too, is not indicative of any parking management success.

Enforcement personnel who are primarily evaluated on the volume of citations they write will find violations. However, these may not be the violations we really should be pursuing and may be motivated by a need to produce some magic number of citations each day without respect to the merit of the presenting violation. The possibility for unethical behavior on the part of enforcement officers is a concern and, stated or not, this could be considered a quota. Finally, any vision of enforcement that is evenly subtlety predicated on a number of citations as a goal effectively feeds into the very stereotypes of our industry we seek to dispel.

Whether a campus or municipality, we must consider what our vision for parking enforcement is. We have to determine if that vision is in harmony with our larger organizational goals, if the vision provides positive guidance to enforcement personnel, and if that vision could stand the test of the light of day.

5:E NORDISKA PARKERINGSKONFERENSEN

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

jonesblog3In Swedish, 5:E NORDISKA PARKERINGSKONFERENSEN translates to the 5th Nordic Parking Conference. This gathering of just fewer than 500 attendees and 50 exhibitors from 17 different countries took place last week in beautiful Stockholm, Sweden, presented by the Swedish Parking Association, SvePark. Though the many languages spoken there are unique to our own, the topics and interest in continuing to make progress in our industry is universal. The theme of this conference is innovation and I delivered a presentation on the future of parking.

In looking to the future and what it will hold for our industry, I start with a look back. It’s important that we recognize while we’ve made progress, our parking public may not yet have forgotten about our old ways of doing things. It’s not been that long ago that the technology we offered was no more sophisticated than a metal box with slots cut in it for inserting cash, and we often built parking garages that were inhospitable to the patron and degraded external surroundings with poor design. Our singular focus seemed to be about parking cars, less so on serving the people and businesses relaying on access to our parking facilities, and seldom, if ever, did we acknowledge our part in protecting the environment and engaging the communities we serve. Thankfully things have changed.

Our future is indeed bright because: 1) we now view our role as a service industry; 2) we embrace and advance technology to improve customer service, operational efficiency, and revenue control; 3) we are active in contributing to economic, environmental, and social sustainability; and 4) we’ve broadened our focus to include all modes of travel, not just single-occupancy vehicles.

Jonesblog1It’s a good thing we’re open to new ways of thinking. In my talk I included four converging factors that our industry must be mindful of if we’re to continue making positive strides in the years to come. These include: 1) the continued urbanization of the world; 2) changing attitudes toward owning and driving private vehicles; 3) the decreasing cost of smartphone computing; and 4) the emergence of big data and increasingly sophisticated transportation algorithms that will help us facilitate more efficient use of transportation infrastructure, including parking resources.

jonesblog2After my talk, I realized that I’d forgotten one major key to our continued success: strengthening our global parking community. By sharing our experiences, both good and bad, we are able to learn, innovate, and celebrate our successes. This promotes the collaboration necessary for a vibrant, expanding, and critical industry in which to grow and succeed.

Tack (Swedish for thanks).

Warrior or Ambassador?

Dave Feehan

With the nation’s attention recently focused on Ferguson, N.Y., and other police shootings, it might be a good time to revisit how parking systems provide security in their facilities and offices.

Some parking systems hire and deploy their own employees as security officers. Some contract with private security firms. Others may hire off-duty police officers. Some parking facilities are patrolled by Business Improvement District (BID) personnel.

Law enforcement has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Today, by some estimates, there are as many private security officers as publicly employed sworn police officers. Foley, Minn., recently disbanded its police force and hired a private security team to patrol its streets.

Discussions of security are generally not the hottest topic at parking conferences. Yet security is sometimes a life-and-death issue, and parking systems that handle security poorly may be putting customers and employees at risk, to say nothing of liability concerns.

Several years ago, when I was the president of the downtown organization in a midwestern city, we provided additional security through our BID. We patrolled downtown sidewalks and the skywalk system as well as augmenting parking garage security. The first important question we had to address was, should we employ our own security workers or contract with an outside firm? We elected to hire our own, because we wanted more control over who was hired and what kind of training was provided.  Fundamentally, we had to decide: Do we want to employ warriors or ambassadors?

There is an old saying in human resources that I often find extremely helpful: Hire attitude and teach skills. In our case, we wanted security patrol personnel who were ambassadors first and warriors only when absolutely necessary. If I were putting together a SWAT or SEAL team, I might think differently about whom to hire.

So what advice might I give a local parking operator or manager? If your facilities are not frequent crime locations, having security officers who are friendly, outgoing, and knowledgeable about their surroundings, who carry maps and event schedules, but who know what to do in an emergency might be the right choice. Your officer is more often going to be helping someone with a dead battery or chasing away a skateboarder than apprehending a murderer or bank robber.

Of course, there are many other considerations when evaluating parking security—cost, internal capacity, availability of good contractors—but if parking is the first and last experience for many downtown users and if your security personnel are the first people they encounter, what message do you want to send? Does your garage feel like a war zone or a hotel lobby?

Parking Permit Fees: Cost vs. Price

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a parking advisory committee meeting at a major university. This committee, like most parking advisory groups at universities, is made up students, faculty, and staff, and is charged with making recommendations about parking and transportation to the vice president overseeing the parking department. I’ve observed three of their meetings this year and they seem reasonable enough—well-intended and pretty eager to make things better for their campus and themselves

The main topic this past meeting was next year’s permit fee increase. I was helping with the second agenda item so I got to sit back and observe the group’s discussion. My host, who oversees parking, warned me ahead of time that things would get heated as he had prepared two proposals: one that raised the parking permit rates by six percent, and the second by zero. The first, he argued, was needed to create new cash flow for debt service on the next garage they need to build (and the committee wholeheartedly supports), and the second if the garage is not built. I’m sure by now you can guess where the conversation was headed.

The committee wants the garage but doesn’t want want permit fees to go up to get it. Instead, the discussion focused on the how much salaries and tuition would increase in the coming year and that permit prices shouldn’t go up more than the anticipated increase in salaries. It’s certainly true that the fee for any good or service should not be beyond what the market will allow, but tying price to wages ignores the cost of providing that good or service.

At this point in the meeting, I raised my hand. I asked the group if they knew how much it costs to provide for the development, operation, and maintenance of their parking facilities on a per-space basis and attempted to make the point that this figure should be the starting point of any discussion about permit rates. When I was finished, all I saw were blank faces—so much so that I wondered if what I’d said was in English or some foreign language. I was politely thanked for my expertise and then the committee unanimously voted to raise permit rates no more than next year’s expected salary increase.

I can’t say how much groundwork the parking director did prior to this meeting, but I’m guessing that the committee would have been more equipped to make a sound decision based on the right things if they’d been educated along the way about the true costs of providing for parking on their campus. For now, I’m hoping everyone there gets a big raise.

Big Time

Rachel_Yoka 2013

One of the things I love about my career is that I get to meet amazing people all the time, both in the parking world and beyond. In our industry we connect with so many other areas of life—academics, politics, real estate, transportation, healthcare, you name it. I am always pleased to find commonalities and, of course, challenges that overlap and relate to one another in every sector and market segment.

During the holiday season, I found that a fellow dinner guest also worked in parking, for a large private operator in Philadelphia. When we received tickets to a luxury box for the Sixers, we found our host started his career in parking and got into the hospitality world that way. I recently connected to a friend of a friend on Facebook. As we chatted through the typical “what do you do” conversations, I learned  he runs a high-end valet parking operation in the suburbs that specializes in healthcare and retail clients.  When I got around to what I do at IPI, his first comment was, “You all are big-time.”

Parking is big business. Very conservatively estimated at $30 billion, our industry has far-reaching and considerable effects on each of those intersecting sectors. (As a side note, IPI is beginning some exciting research to explore the actual size and impact of our business—stay tuned for more on that.) As I gave his comment more thought, I realized that, indeed, we are big-time. IPI’s LinkedIn group has more than 5,000 followers, and that is the tip of the iceberg.

The 3,000 parking professionals who will join us in Las Vegas later this year for the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo will no doubt agree: We are big-time. And if we don’t already have a seat at the table to make decisions in every one of the sectors mentioned above, we are well on our way.

Demand Exceeding Supply: Parking Professionals Wanted!

L. Dennis Burns

Normally when I contemplate parking supply vs. demand, it is for a client trying to document the adequacy of their existing parking resources compared to current or projected needs. This is a fundamental type of parking analysis. Lately however, a new dimension of parking supply/demand has had me scratching my head.

More than ever, I have been actively engaged in helping communities either developing or updating strategic plans for their programs. Another trend has been to help communities that have never developed a formal parking program begin that process from scratch. It is great testament to the growth and maturity of our industry that more and more communities are realizing the importance of having a strong parking program to support nearly all other aspects of healthy urban or campus environments. The message that Parking Matters® has definitely made it to primetime!

It is rewarding and exciting to see this level of appreciation and understanding of the complexity and value of parking and the larger realm of access management, but it is also leading to new challenges and opportunities. Along with this growing understanding of the importance of having strong and well-managed parking systems comes the need for strong and experienced parking professionals to run these programs. There is clearly a growing need for more parking professionals to meet the demand that is emerging. I know of at least 10 communities that are actively searching for top level candidates and know of another half-dozen will be doing so in the coming year.

Exacerbating this issue is a growing tide of existing parking professionals who are considering retirement! Several of my closest friends and colleagues are beginning to map out their plans to leave their parking executive positions. And while there are many talented younger professionals in the pipeline, the demand for this level of top-level talent, at least from my perspective, is far exceeding the demand.

This may be an interesting challenge for IPI to consider in coming years. In the meantime, if anyone is looking for new opportunities, please drop me a line!

Cha-Ching—Chasing after Parking

Wanda Brown

Growing up in St. Mary Parish in Louisiana, I got a chance to see a number of great examples of hospitality toward your neighbor. There was always someone you could call to get a ride (free of charge of course) to go to a doctor’s appointment or to the grocery store or even to church. Little did we know that this hospitality would grow to the tune of a billion-dollar industry.

Already producing billions in revenue, commute options such as Uber ($4.9 billion) are already leading the way in replacing taxi services. After seeing how many new companies are following suit (Lyft, Blablacar, Hallo), it started me to thinking: The larger these options become, what types of shifts might we see in the parking industry? What will happen to the building of new structures and what effect will a reduction have on supporting industries? Could the next generation purchasing fewer cars and deciding not to obtain driver’s licenses be the next big step in a paradigm shift? Will there be less hardware purchases and more software? How will hardware differ from what it is today?

These are questions that came to mind after reviewing software applications such as ParkWhiz ($12m), SpotHero ($7.4 million), Pango ($6.5m), or Parking Panda ($4.7m), which are certainly making access to parking less stressful and establishing themselves as a viable support system to companies that include Uber and Lyft.

With the aging Boomers and the encroaching Millennials, it is almost certain that there will be great demand for such services far into the future—not to mention fewer on the road decreasing CO2 emissions. I heard this morning on the news that insurance companies have already begun providing coverage for these new innovative options, seeing clearly the handwriting on the wall.

What should we be doing then to capitalize on this new trend? Where do these innovative options take us as an industry? What new skills, knowledge, and abilities will be required for this change? Will it further change the way we teach and train our future parking professionals?

I don’t know about you, but I am hoping that as the aging process in my life continues, I can go back to a time in my life where my neighbor is still willing to pick me up (for a small fee, of course).

Winter Snow and Parking

Bruce Barclay

Looking out at the almost whiteout conditions on the runways at Salt Lake City International Airport, I am amazed that the planes have clearance to take off and land. Weather-wise, we have been extremely fortunate this winter compared to the Northeast, Midwest, and even the Southern U.S. Until this morning, Salt Lake City had less than 7 inches of snow this meteorological winter, defined as December through February. We average about 56 inches of snow each winter. The winter of 2014-15 will go down as the warmest and least snowy meteorological winter since records have been kept dating back to the 1870s.

We often underestimate the effect of snow and freezing rain on our facilities. The effort that goes into clearing the runways, roadways, and parking lots to keep the airport safe and open is critical and often goes unnoticed. The mobilization of huge snow brooms to clear snow from the runways is like watching a symphony perform. Each instrument knows its role and performs admirably. Without a clean runway, planes cannot take off or land, essentially shutting the airport down.

The challenges facing parking facilities are similar. If parkers cannot gain access into the lots, they cannot board the shuttles to the terminals and therefore cannot board the planes. Cars park for days at a time at an airport. The additional labor involved clearing a parking lot that is near capacity poses an additional concern. Wind rows that are formed as plows go behind parked vehicles are difficult to deal with during freeze/thaw scenarios. Small cars have a difficult time maneuvering over built-up snow and ice in the lot. If enough snow has accumulated, the additional challenge of snow removal from the lot comes into the equation. Many areas of New England have more than 100 inches of standing snow. Much of that will be there until the spring thaw.

The challenges facing a university or municipality are quite similar. If the roads are not cleared prior to morning rush, workers and shoppers cannot get into the central business district. Surface parking lots need to be cleared of snow and ice to facilitate parking. Adequate chemicals need to be on hand to facilitate the melting of ice and snow. Walkways and sidewalks need to be cleared for pedestrians, especially on college campuses where many students walk between their dorms and classes.

Although the snow will only last a short while today, it is refreshing to get back into winter mode, mobilize our snow desk, and deal with the cleanup of the runways, roadways, and parking facilities. There are other parts of the country that remain inundated with snow and are in much worse shape than Salt Lake City.

Welcome to the Sharing Nation

Wanda Brown

“OMG! What the heck?” That was all I could say after reading the Time magazine article, “Strangers Crashed my Car, Ate my Food and Wore My Jeans: Tales From the Sharing Economy,” by Joel Stein. Opening your private home to strangers for a $35 meal or renting your personal vehicle to someone you’ve never met before was more than I could grasp. How did such a seemingly dangerous act become so popular? Why is this new shift from acquisition to rental in such demand? After making a number of inquiries of individuals between the ages of 25 and 35, I discovered it was more about accessing services than owning them.

Services such as Airbnb, which provides rental of housing; Vinted, which provides clothing rental; and Uber which provides taxi services, are among the popular services in the sharing economy. As I continued to read the article, I noticed that there were apps that dealt with parking, too. Rental of driveways or parking in someone’s public parking spot were common ways I was quite familiar with, but the services that allowed a driver to reserve and pay for parking before he or she reached their destination truly opened my eyes to how this next generation of commuters were thinking. The ease of getting what you want when you want it was the catalyst for such demand. How creative it is and what out-of-the-box thinking to maximize the use of possessions and plug in the social connection with it. Wake up, Boomers!

Services provided by Uber and Lyft offered the convenience of taxi-like services and provide even greater ease in moving from point “A” to “B” without the stress of driving. These two options were invading the monopolies that cab drivers once enjoyed—sort of like what the Internet did to map sales or the encyclopedia industry.

The sharing economy is more about getting the most value out of what others own as well as enhancing the experience of using it. I conveyed this information to my daughter who I assumed would also find it absurd, only to find out that she was accessing such a service to take her to the airport the very next day. I spoke with one of my administrative staffers who also confirmed that it is more about the social and convenience aspect of what these services offer.

I must admit, that while these services would never persuade me to cease using my car, it is clear that there is a creative shift of social sharing that is pushing the envelope of how we look at the future of parking as an industry. I think it is sustainable and environmentally-friendly; it also offers key indicators as to what the future of parking will look like when the next generation of parking professionals takes over. I guess the old cliché, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” has been replaced with, “I will take the experience of your toys to a whole new level.”

A New Spin on Shared Parking

Brett Wood

The planning side of our industry has actively promoted the concept of shared parking for more than 20 years now. The idea basically states that two or more land uses can share a parking space because their peak utilization patterns will allow for variations in demand. Basically, I need the parking space in the morning, you need it in the afternoon, so let’s build one space and save $20,000. The concept has been wildly successful at mixed use developments and shopping centers, helping right-size parking supply and save precious land.

The concept has and will continue to evolve over time, allowing for better use of limited space. But new trends in our ever-changing world may change the way we define shared parking. In one of my recent posts, I discussed the trends that were changing the transportation and parking industry. One of the defining trends is the idea of shared resources, including ridesharing, carsharing, and bike sharing. All of these trends are well documented, with high-profile providers like Uber, Car 2 Go, and CitiBike making headlines across the country.

What’s not as highly documented is the idea of parking sharing. While the concept isn’t new, it certainly doesn’t get the headlines that Uber does. A coworker of mine in Atlanta recently got a SpotShare app and says it has completely changed the dynamic of how parking is utilized in his residential tower. The app allows residents to donate their spaces when not used, or request spaces for guest parking. What was once a challenging exercise is now an easily managed system. While currently reserved for resident and guest parking, the system has the potential to unlock unused spaces throughout a parking system.

Another example is occurring on the west coast of the U.S., with the Luxe Valet app, which allows motorists to request an on-demand valet (similar in concept to Uber, but for parking your car). The app works by allowing a motorist to request a valet near his or her destination. A meeting space is arranged and the driver arrives, gives the key to the valet, and the car is whisked away to a local facility with pre-arranged parking agreements in place. The motorist is no longer looking for visible public spaces because the valet company has linked them to previously underutilized private space.

Both of these concepts get at the true meaning of shared parking, which is providing parking for destinations without requiring an overabundance of parking assets to support their use. Traditionally, parking was shared among property or business owners as a resource for their customers. However, these trends are shifting the shared parking decision to the user and unlocking a whole new set of possibilities within the parking industry. It may not be too much longer before we can achieve a vision of a fully shared parking systems that doesn’t carry a designation as public or private, just parking.

Employee Retention: Task or Duty?

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

A close friend of mine quit his job yesterday after three years of frustration, unhappiness, and anxiety. This was brought on by a culture of poor leadership and supervision, where his boss and others often took credit for his hard work. When he gave his notice, his boss could only say, “I feel like I failed you.” This was certainly true but his boss had also failed the organization by not beginning the retention effort of this highly capable employee on day one.

You see, my friend has the strongest work ethic of any person I know, he is a team player to the core, and he never really cared about his official job duties—he just did whatever needed to be done. The organization clearly recognized that it had under-appreciated and under-valued my friend but it was too late by the time he’d had enough. Indispensable is not a term you should use to refer to any employee but he was close. Contrast this to my own experience.

A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail invite from the person to whom I report. It was titled “Task Update,” which could have meant several things. I hadn’t dropped any balls or missed any assignments so I wasn’t altogether sure what we’d be talking about. Would my job be changing, was his changing, or could it be something else?

The time for the call came and after he asked about my family (which he always does) and if I was traveling too much (again, a standard question from him), he got down to the main purpose of the call. He asked me if there was anything I needed from him. This seemingly simple question speaks volumes about how he views his duty to our organization. His primary function is to make certain his reports have the tools they need to succeed and if there are barriers to accomplishing our mission. Despite the title of his calendar invite, taking care of his people isn’t a task to be put off—it’s central to our success.

My friend will start a new job in a few weeks and his new organization already appears to be the kind like mine, where employees feel appreciated and supported. Good employees will get away if they aren’t valued and appreciated, but caring and supportive supervision and leadership will ensure that quality employees remain a part of your organization’s success. Consider this before your best talent moves on.

Hey Buddy, Can You Tell Me About Changes to U.S. Coins?

Shawn Conrad

At the 2014 IPI Conference & Expo in Dallas, Jon Cameron, the U.S. Mint’s director, office of coin studies, discussed research the U.S. Treasury Department initiated on all circulating coins.  Cameron told a packed Opening Session audience that Congress wished to identify ways to reduce coins’ production costs.  Many might not know that each penny engraved with the 16th president’s likeness costs $0.0166 to make, or that each five-cent nickel costs $0.0809 to manufacture.

For the transportation industry and many other industries (vending, laundry) that rely on coin use, any alteration of the size, shape, weight, and electro-magnetic signature (EMS) of coins could require very expensive equipment alterations.

After extensive research and development on potential alternative metal compositions for circulating coins, the Mint’s Office of Coin Studies made the following recommendations to Congress:

  • Continue large-scale testing to identify a metal mixture that could potentially serve as an alternative to current coins in circulation while reducing costs.
  • Explore production improvements.
  • Continue to keep stakeholders (IPI and other organizations) informed and engaged in R&D efforts.
  • Initiate studies to understand consumer behavior regarding the use of coins in commerce.

In an age when the trust and transparency between government and business is often tested, it is very gratifying to see how open the U.S. Mint is to industry input.  With an estimated cost to U.S. businesses calculated between $2.4 billion to $6 billion to accommodate new coins, the Mint’s efforts to include all stakeholders is welcome.

You Really Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

Bill Smith

I’m 51 years old. I don’t know how old that is in dog years, but I do know that I’m not too old to learn. This was reinforced for me during the past six months as I worked with a brilliant team of branding professionals to put together a new website.

Now, right up front, I need to be honest: my old website stunk. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. It was boring. And because I hadn’t updated it since 2008, it was really outdated too. Ever heard about the cobbler’s kids needing new shoes?

The first thing I learned was that as much as branding is about what you know and what you do (and what you’ve done in the past, of course), it’s just as important to build your brand around who you are. What’s important to you (or your organization)? What do you stand for? Why do you do what you do?

Are you trying to revolutionize the ways parkers work with technology? Are you trying to rewrite the rules for how parking facilities are designed? Are you trying to make communities more sustainable through parking planning? These are your stories. Tell them. In a crowded marketplace filled with excellent engineers or planners or technology providers or parking operators, often, it’s who you are that makes you stand out.

The design process taught me something else: it’s not just about getting new customers; it’s about getting the right customers. Letting your personality and values shine throughout your marketing will help you attract customers and partners with whom you want to work.

Redesigning my website was an illuminating experience. It showed me that I may be an old dog, but I can still learn a few tricks.

The Power of Mentoring

MichelleJonesHS

The late, great Whitney Houston sang to us, I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.

Michelle with Ashley Cady, a lovely senior at the University of South Carolina.

Michelle with Ashley Cady, a lovely senior at the University of South Carolina.

This week, I had the privilege of attending the 59th annual conference of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). It was my 16th consecutive year of attending PCMA’s Convening Leaders and it’s where I go for my professional development, the way you participate in IPI’s Conference & Expo for yours.

I was a mentor to a college student who was attending for the first time and I served in a round table session for all of the college students, called PCMA U. It was so refreshing to speak with more than 25 wide-eyed young people all wanting to be event planners (and a couple wedding planners) upon graduation, and to hear their questions about the meetings and hospitality industries. They came prepared with calling cards and LinkedIn requests. Their initiative and financial sacrifice to attend were impressive. I offered to be there for them, not just during the conference, but going forward. I would happily send them job announcements and give résumé advice or help them connect with other professionals in my network.

In your varying roles as parking professionals, I would urge you to pay attention to and nurture the young people around you. One day, they will be the ones doing the jobs we do. Whether you can help them understand what you do every day, or recommend them for an internship or even a job, you’re helping the next generation of the parking industry. There are lessons that only our experiences can impart—lessons that are not taught in textbooks or classrooms.

Is Parking Really Different Elsewhere?

Bruce Barclay

From time to time, I have asked myself, “Is parking that much different in other countries?” The International Parking Institute (IPI) holds an International Parking Conference each year, most recently in Cali Colombia, so there must be common ground in order for the conference to be as successful as it has become. PARCS manufacturers are global companies, each having an international presence. With each question I asked, I realized more questions remained. Despite the differences in language, culture, and government rules and regulations, parking around the world may be similar and different at the same time.

I decided to do a quick inquiry into different parts of the world. I looked at the city of my birth—Dundee, Scotland—and New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. I relied on input from fellow IPI member and CAPP candidate Mark Jameson, who lives in Wellington, New Zealand.

I started with Dundee and found a document on the City of Dundee’s website titled Parking Annual Report 2014, A few interesting items were noted that are almost identical to the issues we face in the U.S., but there are twists:

  • One change made in response to the review was upgrading pay-and-display parking meters, eliminating the need for coins as payment. A parker can park his car, walk to the pay-and-display machine, press a button on the device, send a text message from their phone, and the machine will print a receipt to display. This technology is very user-friendly with no need to set up any accounts in advance. If you have a phone, you have a payment method.
  • Dundee City introduced license plate recognition (LPR) at most of the car parks, allowing automatic entry and exit for resident permit holders and monthly parkers. Wellington uses LPR in garages similar to Dundee, and also for enforcement.
  • Enforcement within the City of Dundee is a challenge due to various restrictions.  An interim phase was added to the enforcement process. In lieu of a citation, the enforcement officer provides a warning notice. Repeat offenders get citations. I am not aware of many cities issuing a courtesy notice to parking violators, but there may be some.
  • Service improvements in Dundee over the course of the year included:
    •  Cashless payment service where parking can be paid for over the phone or via a mobile phone app.
    • The introduction of electric enforcement vehicles has allowed parking enforcement officers to provide more effective enforcement in areas preciously patrolled on foot.
    • One innovation that I thought was quite innovative was the use of body worn cameras (BWC) by enforcement officers. The purpose is to document abuse of enforcement officers by the public.  Since the introduction, the number of incidents of abuse against officers has reduced dramatically.
    • Wellington uses embedded sensors in the parking stalls of the CBD. The sensors allow a parker to use a mobile app to pay for parking and find available parking close to their parking destination.  An added benefit in Wellington is compliance enforcement.

I must admit that after my inquiry, parking is more universal than I had perceived. Terminology may be a little different, but the technology, concepts, and practices remain similar.

Holiday Parking Ideas

L. Dennis Burns

Every year I think about this, but have yet to follow up. So this is the year (with your help)!  I know there are lots of great ideas out there about how parking programs can integrate holiday promotions into their operations, but I have never seen them collected anywhere. Let’s start this year!

I will throw out a few examples and let’s see if we start building a library of holiday parking practices to share with our colleagues.  Here are a few ideas to get the sleigh sliding:

  • Houston Airport decorates their parking gate arms like candy canes.burns1

 

  • burns2Both the Lexington Parking Authority and the Fort Collins Parking Services department allow customers to pay outstanding citations with cans of food that are donated to local food programs.

 

  • A few years ago, the Downtown Boulder Inc. (DBI) collected citations from customer vehicle windshields and replaced them with the following note:

burns3

PS – DBI paid the citations to the tune of approximately $6,000.

  • Some shopping malls play Christmas music over speakers in their parking lots.

 

  • Some downtown districts offer free parking during the holidays to attract customers.

 

  • Some parking programs, downtown associations, and shopping malls sponsor holiday banners on the streets and in parking lots to promote the holiday season.

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Now it’s your turn.  What other holiday parking ideas can we come up with? List them in the comments. And happy holidays!

 

U.K. Drivers Enjoy New Parking Resource

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

Research commissioned by the British Parking Authority showed that nearly 24.7 million motorists in the U.K. believe parking rules and regulations are extremely confusing. Half are unaware of their parking rights, and an astonishing one in 10 does not know the difference  between the rules for parking in a municipality lot versus a private parking lot.

The recently launched "Know Your Parking Rights" initiative provides trusted information to motorists who want to understand parking.

The recently launched “Know Your Parking Rights” initiative provides trusted information to motorists who want to understand parking.

How many times have you heard a customer say (or how many times have you said), “I had no idea you couldn’t park here,” or, “Is that citation really legal?”

Drivers often become frustrated because they don’t fully understanding parking do’s and don’ts from both a practical and a legal perspective. How many of us can confidently say we know our responsibilities and rights as a motorist?

Without clear guidance and awareness, frustration and conflict often arise between drivers and parking authorities/lot operators.

The recently launched Know Your Parking Rights initiative wants to be a beacon of light and clarity by providing trusted information to motorists who want to understand parking.

The initiative aims to give clear advice on:

  •  What to do if you receive a parking ticket.
  • What signs to look out for and what they mean.
  • Useful facts about the appeals process.

An easy-to-use website provides drivers with an option to download the Know Your Parking Rights Consumer Guide for information and best practice on parking.

With a bit of common sense and a visit to this new website, motorists in the UK should have all they need to avoid parking fines this holiday season.

It’s a New Generation for Frosty the Snowman

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I have two children, ages three and six. So it is no surprise that we watch “Frosty the Snowman” during the holiday season. What did come as a surprise was the new version of the “Legend of Frosty,” which included a consistent storyline of a young girl studying for an urban planning career.

This was a very new type of Frosty for me to watch. I was impressed with the storyline and how directed it was toward the career path of urban planning. It made me think about how the parking industry can better engage younger generations into the profession.

Now more than ever, there is a focus on different generations interacting in the workplace. At this moment, America has more people over the age of 60 than under the age of 15. Organizations, leaders, and corporations are struggling to better understand how to engage, reach, motivate, and leverage Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers. By 2020, Millennials will be 40 percent of the workforce and the dominant marketing segment. Are we ready as an industry?

It is important to have a basic understanding of generational diversity. Moreover, can you and are you using this knowledge to your organization’s advantage? Join us at the 2015 IPI Conference and Expo in Las Vegas to learn more. Our Welcome Session keynote speaker is John Martin. John is the co-founder and CEO of Boomer Project, a national research-based marketing think tank that tracks generational trends and offers insight on how to effectively communicate with each generation.

To flourish, your organization must be age-aware. At the age of 60, Bruce Springsteen earned more revenue from his concert tour than Coldplay and the Jonas Brothers combined. How did he accomplish this? Bruce is age aware! Are you?

 

Getting Together

Rachel_Yoka 2013

There is something about meeting in person that simply cannot be replicated in any other way: To find common ground with another person or organization and to identify amazing opportunities face-to-face. Last month at GreenBuild, the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) annual conference and exposition, I was fortunate enough to represent IPI, along with the Green Parking Council (an affiliate of IPI). We met with one of the most dynamic teams I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with: the senior leadership of the USGBC. Their ability to communicate, their passion and fire for their work, and the pace of our conversation all added to the excitement of finding our common ground.

Of course their passion for their work shines. They know that the built environment (buildings and yes, parking garages) can add tremendous value to the triple bottom line—people, planet, and profit. They know that better buildings (and yes, garages) can build a better world for our kids and grandkids. And their drive to accelerate that process, to create a better physical environment and financial return, is simply contagious.

That cannot happen over a conference call. I have the same feeling every year at the IPI Conference & Expo. The level of excitement and collaboration can only happen when more than 3,000 of the greatest people in the world (parking professionals) get together in one place. I don’t know exactly what amazing outcomes and experiences will come out of the Vegas show in 2015. But I for one cannot wait to find out.

Are You Prepared For The Phablet Age?

Bill Smith

I’m an early adopter. I love toys, especially electronic ones. For the past few years, my favorites have been made by Apple—my Macbook Pro, iPad, and iPhone. So it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’ve already picked up an iPhone 6. I think I showed great restraint by waiting until the second day of release to get one, though!

I’m having a blast playing with my new toy. The bigger screen is easier on this old man’s eyes, and it’s much easier for me to type on. But the thing that stands out mostly for me is how the advent of the phablet (a cross between a smartphone and a tablet) is going to change marketing. Smartphones are nothing more than portable computers, and today’s larger phones with massive screens make them that much more useful for Web browsing and emailing.

If your organization hasn’t adapted to the new world order of phablets, you need to. According to one study, one in three Internet users already does the bulk of his or her surfing via mobile technologies. Organizations that haven’t optimized their online content for mobile users are behind the times and in danger of being left in the dust by their competition.

This is particularly true for parking companies. After all, whose customers are more mobile? Drivers want quick and convenient access to information about parking programs, available parking spaces, and validation—not to mention mobile payment options. But the power of mobile networking goes beyond drivers. City managers, parking owners, and facility operators use their iPads and smart phones to access information about consulting firms, technology companies, and other suppliers.

Desktop computers are so 20th century. If you want to compete in today’s marketplace, your online content needs to be smartphone friendly. Welcome to The Phablet Age!

Get Out Ahead Of Local Parking Coverage

Bill Smith

When local papers are running editorials about parking, it’s generally not a good thing. Typically, it means that there’s a problem—or a perceived problem—with local parking. Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that has been learned by dozens of cities.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire right? Actually, no. Sometimes smoke is just smoke. When you wave it away, there’s nothing there.

Unfortunately, when it comes to municipal parking plans and regulations, misunderstandings abound. Residents, business owners, and other stakeholders have opinions about how parking should be managed, but they might not understand what goes into parking planning and why planning decisions are made. Do parking tickets seem too expensive? There’s probably a planning rationale behind the rates. Do the hours of meter operations seem inconvenient or time limits seem too short? There are reasons for these regulations too. The problem is, stakeholders often aren’t aware of why decisions are made.

Cities and towns typically don’t systematically market their parking operations. Sure, they may do outreach when there’s an issue, but by then it’s too late. They’ve lost control of the context of the discussion when people are complaining and newspapers are editorializing.

Every city and town should have a strategic communications program designed to keep the public informed about parking rules and regulations and what the municipal parking plan is designed to accomplish. Such a plan should include:

  • Media outreach: This includes distributing press releases, backgrounders, and other media materials designed to inform the press about key parking policies and the roles they play in public policies. Outreach should also include regular briefings with editors, reporters, and editorial writers to explain parking initiatives and answer questions from the media. IPI’s Parking Matters® program provides this handy resource on speaking about parking in positive terms.
  • Social media: Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, and other social media platforms provide direct access to the public and other stakeholders. Take advantage of these tools to keep the public informed of parking initiatives and what they are accomplishing.
  • Websites: By creating discrete websites designed to inform the public of parking regulations and initiatives, cities and towns can assure that accurate and timely information is available to the public.
  • Public meetings: Parking administrators should regularly engage business and community leaders to keep them informed of parking plans.

It’s not enough merely to communicate, however. Communications programs must be proactive rather than reactive. In addition to providing valuable information, communications programs should anticipate concerns and grievances and head them off before they become issues. They should also be used to communicate good news—and parking has lots of that to share.

Take a proactive approach to informing the public about your parking program. You’ll sleep easier when you don’t have to worry about seeing your name in tomorrow’s editorial.