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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 4.59.30 PM

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.

A Bitter Pill to Swallow

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

For many years, the UK has seen a rise in so called cowboy parking squads. The parking squads issue official-looking £100 tickets, often to drivers just a few minutes late returning to their cars. Elderly and disabled people have been specifically targeted at hospitals and downtown stores.

After issuing what appear to be official penalty notices, the squads use threats to terrify motorists into paying up. In many cases, however, the tickets are issued unfairly and without legal authority. More worryingly perhaps is the fact that some hospital trusts are even taking a cut of up to 10 per cent of the parking firms’ profits.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles decided enough is enough and said rogue firms will not be tolerated. As a result, he launched a government investigation into how how these companies hit hundreds of thousands of drivers with £100 fines for minor infringements outside shops and fast-food chains.

Last week a popular daily newspaper, The Daily Mail, launched a campaign to encourage drivers to stand up to these parking cowboys

daily mail campaignThe newspaper informed readers as follows:

Want to send a message of defiance to the parking pirates? The Daily Mail is here to help. Simply print out the notice above and put it in a prominent place on your car windscreen or side window.

It tells the parking pirates that you’re on to their outrageous scam and won’t be tricked or bullied into paying bogus fines. And we can also send you a fantastic glossy sticker version—absolutely FREE.

Although their tactics may be adding fuel to the fire, I for one am glad that those giving the parking industry a bad name are finally being challenged. Cowboys, watch out—the sheriff is in town!

Raising Standards in the UK

Patrick headshot 2012 cropped

There is so much happening in the parking world at the moment that it’s hard to catch one’s breath.

The British government is pressing ahead with its plans for local authority parking, the Daily Mail has kicked off a summer offensive against the private parking sector, the Royal Mint is poised to launch a consultation on the new £1 coin, and Park Mark reaches the ripe old age of 10—to name but a few.

There is a link, though, between all these events, and it’s not just that they all have something to do with parking. They throw down a challenge to the parking profession in general and the British Parking Association (BPA) in particular to demonstrate our resilience in putting the other side of the argument and our commitment to drive standards in parking ever higher.

So we have successfully persuaded government not to ban CCTV outright but rather to allow its continued use in specific circumstances; we have shown through establishing Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) and renewing the Code of Practice on Parking on Private Land that Daily Mail readers who are recipients of parking tickets have an independent means of redress against those tickets; we are directly involved with the Mint prior to its formal consultation so we can shape and influence policy on behalf of our members; and through Park Mark, we can demonstrate we really are serious about raising standards and not just talking about raising standards.

We are going to talk more about raising standards though during the autumn as we try to engage with members on how to develop a Professionalism in Parking Award for all sectors to continue to drive those standards still higher. We need to demonstrate to government, media, and stakeholders that we can do it so we have the tools and the commitment to tackle future onslaughts in the future. That’s why lots of things happening is a good thing if at the end of them you come out on top.

I believe the parking profession can come out on top if it truly believes in raising standards in every part of its make up.

Our Changing Industry

Doug Holmes

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s song starts, “It was 20 years ago today,” but in my case, it was 45 years ago. I, along with several other young people, was selected by Rotary International to represent our respective countries through the Rotary Youth Exchange program, living for a year overseas and being immersed in an entirely different culture.

Fortunately, the country I went to—Sweden—was populated by friendly, outgoing, and caring people; I didn’t understand a lick of their language when I arrived on August 4, 1969. But in 45 years, there has not been a day I haven’t reflected on someone or a place or an event during that year.

How does that relate to the wonderful world of parking? After a 10-year career as a cop, I jumped into parking in 1986. It had to be easier than dealing with drunks, physical altercations, and the mind-numbing process of shift rotations and court days. Nine to five, Monday through Friday, with weekends and holidays off—how hard could it be?

For one thing, parking was a cash-rich environment; back then, there were few computer systems (I had a typewriter on my desk). Tracking that cash was a huge consumer of time. Anyone not inside of the industry had no concept of the dynamics of parking. It was generally an afterthought.

Modernization was slow to start. The highest-tech gadget available was the electronic single-space parking meter. Things such as multi-space parking meters, pay by space, pay on foot, etc., moved forward in Europe, but not here. Thankfully, in the last decade, there has been a revolution in parking technology.

I remember wanting to purchase a PARCS for our operation to link all three of our garages together. I wanted all remote devices hosted on a single network so that I could view real-time activity from my office across campus. Vendors looked at me as if I had a third eye before delivering a lecture on how that was not really what I needed.

Today, the applications of technology seem endless. It has created a new and evolving language we’re all learning. The social effects are astounding. Computer-driven lighting systems and new luminaires are reducing the consumption of electricity and positively affecting the environment.

New materials and construction techniques are extending the lifespans of parking decks. Everywhere we look, the technological revolution that was so long in coming is growing exponentially. GPS applications are locating open spaces for drivers, who pay for parking with their phones. Efficiencies in locating parking, of course, leads to a decrease in gasoline consumption and a reduction in pollution. All of this is good.

A complete change of culture is in swing. In other words, parking is shifting, and rather quickly. Like being plunged into the foreign land of Sweden many years ago, change can be painful or it can be exhilarating, vexatious or liberating.

Welcome to the brave new world of parking.

The Three Hardest Words to Say

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

What do you suppose are the three hardest words to say? You might guess, “I love you,” if you’re in a relationship but unsure if it’s the one, or it may be, “I just can’t,” if you’re perpetually volunteering. Some might even offer, “I am sorry,” which is one I’m often not the first to say. These are good choices, but what about, “I don’t know”?

I recently subscribed to the Freakonomics podcast by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, authors of the popular book by the same name. Levitt and Dubner suggest that admitting you don’t know something is about the hardest thing we, as adults, can admit. We are trained from childhood to offer a fabrication, lie, or untruth when we don’t know the answer to a particular question. Why is this so?

Not knowing something is often seen as a weakness. Information is power and when we admit we don’t know something, perhaps we are admitting we are inferior to someone who is better informed. We may feel our job is at risk, fear losing a sale or a client, or worse yet, form a poor self-image and lack confidence if we don’t know enough.

Like many of the ideas in their book, Levitt and Dubner offer a different way of thinking. Instead of making something up to protect our job, sale or image, how about we freely admit when we don’t know something and commit to finding out?

In the parking industry in particular, integrity and honesty are by far the most important characteristics we must possess. Our clients, customers, and business partners rely on us being truthful whether we’re a public institution, publicly traded, or privately held altogether. Without trust, we simply cannot build lasting relationships, honor our commitments, or care for resources that belong to someone else.

We must to be careful to only use, “I don’t know,” to a question whose answer we really shouldn’t be expected to know, and take responsibility to master our job or duties so we possess the knowledge and skill we need in our area of responsibility. Admitting ignorance and simultaneously having a desire to find out the answer shows integrity and a passion to learn and be resourceful. How about we turn the three hardest words into the seven easiest: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” Oh, and make sure you do find out.

A Recipe to Reframe the Parking Matters® Conversation

Bridgette Brady

“You need to involve more planners in your associations,” said Gordon Price after his keynote address at the PIPTA conference in Seattle. I swear, I saw faces light up when he said it. Why? We were excited because Price, a renowned urban planner, former politician, and now writer and college instructor, had just acknowledge that what we do … matters.

During his keynote, Price offered a new way of communicating that Parking (and transportation) Matters and he did it without knowing that this is what we’ve been saying all along. He reframed the conversation about our role in creating urbanity and place by providing a recipe for transportation choice. He was no longer using plannerspeak, instead relating the topic to something we all love: food. It didn’t hurt that he was a little spicy–pardon the pun–with his choice of phrases, which kept the audience engaged.

My interpretation is this; you need a whole cup of human density in an area, a tablespoon each of mixed-use and proximity to services, with a couple pinches of good design to serve up a transportation choice. Thankfully, one choice is the car, which implies the need for parking. Of course, the other plated transportation choices are mass transit, active transportation, and sharing modes.

Price also offered a non-numeric equation for those who don’t go anywhere near a cookbook and the kitchen, using the same variables whereas TC (transportation choice) follows the equal sign. For those that prefer plannerspeak, he communicated further in the address that “form follows parking.”

Price hails from Vancouver, a city well known for smart land use and comprehensive transportation systems. His career as an urban planner and politician occurred in Vancouver, lending to his credibility as a subject matter expert. As a side note, he’s really funny too.

I truly hope that within the coming year, you are able to experience his keynote address because he gets it. He understands we need to be involved in planning for access to place. It might be odd to blog about a blog but just in case you are interested, Price’s is Price Tags.

How Premium Can a Parking Space Get?

Frank L. Giles

In the parking industry, timing and location make the difference between a 9 x 15-foot slab of concrete and a revenue-generating asset. Depending on the location and time, that slab of concrete can be worth $5 or $25 per day. Premium parking can generate demand that will push the price though the stratosphere. So, how premium can a parking space get? How much will someone pay to park his car in that perfect spot?

I recently heard about a parking space for sale in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood; asking price: $250,000. Yep, that’s a quarter of a million dollars for access to one parking space. In a place like Manhattan, parking is almost always at a premium. It’s the same conundrum that befell the first citizen to purchase a brand-new Model-T Ford: “So where do I put this thing?” Today, with triple the number of cars on the road than 50 years ago, the parking industry is still finding new and better answers to that question.

Premium parking is one way to make sure that those perfect parking spots get some amount of turnover and that the available spaces in a place like Manhattan are shared. Although $250,000 may be a bit on the high side, premium parking is dictated by time and location, and everyone has a shot at the perfect spot–if you can afford it.

Variable Pricing Spreads, but is it Right for Everyone?

Dave Feehan

Credit Professor Donald Shoup with spotting a nascent trend and injecting it into the world of parking. Variable pricing has become a concept and practice pioneered in San Francisco and being considered or implemented in a number of other cities. But according to a recent National Public Radio (NPR) report, variable pricing has also become the rage in other industries as well.

Take air travel for example. Prices vary, day to day and hour to hour. A ticket on the same flight might cost 40 to 50 percent more or less depending on the day of the week and hour of the day it is purchased. Prices also vary according to what services you require. Spirit Airlines is probably the biggest proponent (or offender, if you prefer): A bag that you carry on costs less than one you check, but its cost also varies with how, when, and where you check in.

Another industry that is seizing on variable pricing is sports. Buy a ticket in advance online and pay one price, but pay at the gate and, depending where you sit, you might pay five to 10 times as much. Teams are considering changing prices based on the attractiveness of the opponent, day of the week, and the success of the local team.

I think variable pricing is a great tool–in the right cities, in the right locations within those cities, and managed thoughtfully with both a short- and long-term perspective. That said, I still have reservations as to whether every city should adopt the practice. Where parking is scarce and where there are many affluent people who will pay just about anything for a safe, convenient parking space, variable pricing makes great sense. It also makes sense in terms of residential parking discounts, as Shoup recently proposed, and as a way of rewarding other behaviors such as driving small cars and hybrids.

But in cities and towns that are still struggling to revive their downtowns, where retail stores and restaurants are fragile, and where the culture is resistant, I would think long and hard before introducing a system that confuses local customers and may spell doom for struggling shops and diners.

Parking Manager Lemonade Stand

Jeff Petry

Last week, as part of an effort to solicit feedback on a proposed parking rate increase, I set up my parking manager lemonade lemonadestand at various locations in our downtown. The intent of the lemonade stand is to give parking customers an opportunity to provide feedback, face to face. It is a friendly, and perhaps unexpected, approach to engage everyday parking customers, right where they are.

The lemonade stand was set up for about six hours at three locations over the course of three days. Here is what I learned/observed:

Downtown Park Location (lunch time):

-      A consistent flow of vehicle and pedestrian customers at our weekday Farmers’ Market that included downtown employees, families, people in suites or workout clothes, all ages, bicyclists–a perfect mixture of downtown customers!

-      A street violin player playing pleasing background music that could be heard better in the lulls of the vehicle traffic.

-      A farmer’s market booth staff person was curious about the “competition” of a lemonade stand and was pleasantly surprised to the find the City of Eugene’s parking manager in his bowling shirt uniform talking to downtown customers!

-      No questions or concerns on the parking rate increase, just smiles.

Downtown Parking Garage (4:00 – 6:00 p.m.)

-      More smiles from customers heading home from work.

-      Biggest question – Why did you remove all the trash cans from this garage?

  • Note: We removed trash cans from this parking garage to minimize our custodial needs and due to trash studies showing it was used by people dumping their home garbage in our cans. As a follow up, we will place a few more trash cans on the ground floor retail entry areas.

-      One downtown employee delivered an envelope containing a letter signed by about a dozen people asking us to not increase rates.

-      General comments of no issues with the first monthly permit rate increase in seven years.

Another Downtown Parking Garage (7:00 – 9:00 a.m.)

-      General questions such as: Where is the bus station? Is there secure bike parking? Why are you here?

-      General comments of no issues with the first monthly permit rate increase in seven years.

-      Several people took photos in the lemonade stand to show their coworkers.

The lemonade stand augmented a communications strategy that incorporated mail and social media, and allowed the parking program to add a personal touch to parking management and talk to our everyday customers. It helps defray the emotion that is present in emailed feedback. It provides a visual token that customers will remember for months to come. And, most importantly, it humanizes our parking program.

So, would you like a glass of lemonade?

Are You Communicating Effectively?

Doug Holmes

Communication.  It is a wonderful thing in today’s electronic world … when it works.  It seems that the faster the modes of communication given us by technology, the greater the demand for even faster methods of communication.  Basically, though, it is a pretty simple set-up: a sender, a receiver and a message.

Unfortunately, a lot of interference can crop up between a sender and receiver.  Good communication requires a two-way delivery of information between the parties and understanding the information conveyed in both directions.  Texting or email is especially prey to this problem.  If you can’t see the face of or hear the vocal inflections of the person you are communicating with, a lot of message misinterpretation is possible.

The “reply” key can have a hugely negative effect.  Frequently, people hit reply or “reply all” (even worse) without checking the address field to see to whom the message is being sent.

There is a tendency to assume that once you hit send, the information in a message is immediately in the brain of the recipient.  Immediately. Bad assumption.  Rarely is any thought given to the possibility that the recipient did not check their inbox at all.  Horrors.  Could he have been on vacation?  In an all-day conference or training session?

An email server might send something screaming to your junk folder because it misidentified the message as spam.  I don’t know about you, but I do not go through my junk folder every few hours.

I know a lot of people who would prefer to answer a text message then check their voicemail and return a phone call.   I work the other way–I’ll respond to a voicemail almost immediately.  (I say almost because I am retired and nothing should be assumed to be immediate due to that status.)

What’s the point? If you are sending urgent, time-sensitive information in an electronic format and expect an immediate response, maybe it is better to pick up that old-fashioned device called a telephone and talk to the person on the other end.  Or, at least call to make sure your colleague got your message.

The Brain Surgeon on Your Team

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

My consulting focus these days is on operational best practices for university parking and transportation departments. This differs from strategic planning in that the emphasis is placed on evaluating daily operations and making recommendations that improve operational efficiencies and program effectiveness. When I’m working with clients, we focus on the use of technology, enforcement climate, revenues and expenses, parking allocation systems, permit distribution, and organizational structure. I’ve discovered a common trend in organizational structure that often distinguishes aspiring programs from those that consistently perform at a high level.

There are countless ways to structure a parking and transportation department. Some programs are aligned along an inside-outside model in which office activities are managed by one leader and while someone else manages field work. Some programs separate parking and transportation or alternatives to driving, while others align all program groups under one director. None of these are necessarily bad, but the best programs include key skill sets; those that don’t have them are challenged to make real progress. Two areas I advise my clients to add if they don’t already have them are information technology (IT) and transportation demand management (TDM). Changes in the use of technology and our growing need to offer alternatives to driving make the addition of these specialties a necessity.

Comparing professionals experienced in the use of parking technology or moving people from single-occupancy vehicles to alternative forms of transportation with industry generalists is like pitting brain or orthopedic surgeons against general-practice physicians. We need leaders with broad experience to be sure, but the demands placed on our IT systems and the skills required to effectively promote van pool, rideshare, and transit use require program specialists.

One needs to look no further than to programs such as those at the University of Washington, Texas A&M, or Colorado State University to see what’s possible with the right team of skills and experience. It hasn’t been by luck alone that these programs have flourished. Instead, leaders there have built their programs around highly skilled specialists in areas of strategic importance.

Hashtagging Parking

Jeff Petry

Hashtags (preceding a word with the # symbol, such as #parking) were popularized by Twitter many years ago and have since found 2013-10-11 20.12.52their way into more places on the internet and social media. Sites such as Instagram, Vine, and Facebook, use hashtags to quickly link photos, videos, and comments across all of their users. It’s easy and there is no naming convention–type #parking into your search engine (or follow the link) and view the images it returns. Hashtag your organization, city, or parking program in the search box to see what your customers are saying!

So, how do you hashtag your program? It is important to understand what is out there. I use the Flipboard app on my iPad to track hashtagged words across all social media sites. If we dig deep enough, I am pretty sure most of our parking programs will come up under #parkingtickets and #parkingmeter. The trick for us is to do things that people want to hashtag in a positive light.

For example, my program, Epark Eugene, experienced some issues with customers having trouble locating multi-space meters on a busy street. We partnered with our city’s public art program to hire a local artist to paint (and protective coat) five of our meter housings. The project’s goals were to make it easier to find parking by:

  • Adding color to everyday parking objects.
  • Incorporating art that is identifiable at 25 miles an hour.
  • Including the universally-accepted “P” image.

Success is measured by increased meter use, reduced citations, and social media mentions of the new art using hashtags. See the Instagram photo in this post? It worked!
2013-10-19 20.34.11

Another project that used hashtags and social media to build positive messages around parking tapped into the current zombie craze. Downtown Eugene has a 1976 era parking garage with heavy duty steel doors that present a prison look in our stairways and have not worked in decades. Our parking supervisor painted the doors bright red and hung a sign that read, “Close Gate In Case of Zombie Outbreak.” We get nothing but smiles from this cool sign in a parking garage in downtown Eugene.

Just when we were getting used to and printing QR codes, along comes another technology tool! This one is really easy, so hastag your parking program!

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.