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.

On a Mission

Bridgette Brady

When asked his profession, the brick layer responded to his son, “I build cities.” His conviction influenced the behavior of the boy, who grew up to be a very successful and highly-regarded leader in the apparel industry. His son committed to lead and engage employees through the development of a company vision that paralleled his father’s understanding of the importance of his profession.

I discovered this story while researching behaviors of effective leaders and it has resonated strongly with me since. The most effective leaders are able to translate the biggest of pictures into a strategic mission and actionable plans. It seems in this context, the big picture is the preface to the mission: It is the simplest way to communicate the importance of a profession. Mission statements are where we start for strategic planning, but do they communicate why we need a mission?

As access management professionals, we know what we do is important, that it matters, and that every single person is affected by our efforts every day. However, when I’m asked about my profession in casual conversation and reply with, “I provide transportation services at a university,” I get cricket noises and blank stares. I wonder if saying, “I move futures,” would frame a different conversation and pique interest. I then envision following up with my saying, “How, might you ask?” Assuming they hang around for the answer, I’d then go on with, “My department provides transportation services to an entire university–an organization dedicated to shaping futures.”

Whether for organizations, firms, or individuals, the big picture is different, demonstrating the diverse needs of our industry’s customers, constituents, and stakeholders. It also confirms that we are widely important in the grand scheme of things–in the big picture.

 

News Year’s Resolution: Customer Service

L. Dennis Burns

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

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

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

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

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

Branding: The Real Deal or Fancy Packaging?

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

My kids received Kindle tablets for Christmas. Santa thought the devices might lead to more reading but so far, the kids have been trying
SPLogosout game after game (thankfully, only free ones so far). One game they like has you guess the name of a company from a partial image of its logo. That got me thinking about what makes a brand strong and recognizable even if a consumer never buys the product or service behind the logo.

I got my first lesson in effective parking branding in Portland, Ore., in the early ‘90s, when the Smart Park brand was created for the city’s public parking system. The brand was clean, bold, and simple, and accompanied by spokesperson Les Park, who was at your service. Most importantly, the brand conveyed friendliness, safety, and economy–exactly the attributes to overcome negative perceptions about downtown parking as being impersonal, unsafe, and expensive.

More recently, my company, Standard Parking, began the process of rebranding itself following its merger with Central Parking. Please forgive the unintended company plug, but it’s rare to be in a position to describe what goes into developing a company brand. I’m sharing some details in the hope that readers find the information useful.

Standard Parking Corporation changed its corporate name to SP Plus Corporation (though for the time being the company will continue to conduct its parking operations under its legacy brands). The visual centerpiece of the rebranding effort is a new SP+ logo that is fresh, colorful, and bold. Its elements preserve a connection with the legacy brands (SP in recognition of Standard Parking and a “+” symbol in Central Parking’s legacy gold color). The “+” highlights that the company is about more than just parking, having evolved into a team of operations specialists who link innovation with market-based expertise in parking, transportation, facility maintenance, event logistics, and security services. The company’s new commitment statement, “Innovation In Operation,” signifies a promise to apply innovative thinking in everything the company does.

There’s much more to an effective brand than a fancy logo. In order for a brand to stick, it must convey and deliver on its value proposition. Otherwise, it’s just slick packaging and empty promises.

 

Be Thankful for the Blockers

Isaiah Mouw

In the New York Times bestselling book, Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior,  authors Ori and Rom Brafman explore the value of different roles in group dynamics. The book references a study in which family therapist David Kantor set up cameras throughout many rooms in different family homes. In every family he studied, members traded off playing one of four distinct roles:

  • Initiators: Have new ideas. Highly optimistic about new ideas/projects.
  • Blockers: Likely to question or block new ideas/projects.
  • Supporters: Side with either the initiator or the blocker.
  • Observers: Just observe. They don’t take sides but rather comment on the obvious.

These roles are not just found in families, but in almost every kind of group you can imagine. And as a manager, you may want to stack your team with lots of initiators and very few blockers. As the book finds, though, blockers are a very important part of group dynamics: they often save us from getting into trouble.

Maybe you were an initiator at your last operations meeting and had the brilliant idea to host a skateboarding competition in your garage, only to have the blocker shoot it down due to important safety and security issues. Blockers are so important that some companies pay people to fill the role. In a program designed by NASA, airline crews are trained to block a captain’s decision when he or she might skip certain safety procedures or make questionable decisions.

Early in my career, I managed an on-street operation that was approached by a television production company looking to follow our officers as they wrote tickets and dealt with the public. I was excited about this new idea–a reality show based on our parking operation! A producer and filming crew followed us around for several days filming the pilot. They liked what they saw and proceeded with their pitch to our board of directors. Luckily, blockers on the board shot down the idea.

“It’s a reality show. They’ll only focus on conflict, on the negative,” said one smart board director. He was blocking, and he was correct. We ended up not signing the contract, which I am quite thankful for now.

Be thankful for your blockers. They are an integral part of the decision-making process and often have probably saved you from making a big mistake, like the time you had the idea to let Hollywood blow up your garage for a new summer blockbuster movie (not, of course, that we know anyone who’d do that).

British Parking Challenges Continue

Patrick headshot 2012 cropped

There’s been no let up in the British government’s and member of Parliaments’ fixation with the parking sector.Car_BritFlag__163052918

Following various statements from Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles and his new High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis about the impact of parking on the shopping centers of our towns and cities, the House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee published its report in October.

I found the report a little lackluster to be honest, not really tackling the issues on which it received evidence and concluding somewhat meekly that government should do something about the perception that councils are using their parking enforcement powers to generate revenue.

There were some useful recommendations around the need for government to tackle foreign registered vehicles, to arbitrate on the conflict between the needs of the freight industry and the wider road using the public, and it stopped short of recommending that mobile closed-circuit television (CCTV) used for parking enforcement should be banned–something the communities and local government department has advocated.

But the way forward on these issues is at best muddled. Government will respond (probably early next year) to the Select Committee’s report. In the meanwhile the British Parking Association (BPA) has called for and is organizing a summit to try to drive some leadership into the debate so we can all better understand what it is that needs to be done to restore public confidence in local authority parking management and to set out the local authority case for properly and legitimately managing traffic and parking in their communities. Transport Minister Robert Goodwill (who replaced Norman Baker) has already agreed to attend.

The time is fast approaching when these particular chickens will come home to roost and local authority traffic and parking departments need to be part of the solution. So I wish you all a very happy holiday and ask you to prepare for resolution in the new year to get this sorted once and for all.

Not Teacher But Awakener

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

I was recently talking with a few colleagues and the discussion turned to the topic of mentors. The question of who our mentors were and why was thrown out on the table and brought about an interesting conversation. You won’t be surprised that qualities such as “driven,” “tough but fair,” and “had your back” were used to describe the people who served as our coaches, advisers, and guides. Ours were also experts in their professions, successful, and fiercely loyal to those invited under their wings.

As each person shared their stories, I couldn’t help but think how lucky one is to have a mentor and how important it is to one’s growth, maturation, and success. No one in our group picked anyone without integrity and character, or anyone who didn’t see being a mentor as an important role. Under the guidance of our mentors, we each awoke to our own potential and learned firsthand what qualities go into being successful in any pursuit.

I’ve been fortunate to have several mentors. One who comes to mind was a guy I  met in the military and served with in the Iraq war. He taught me how to look after people, was one of the most technically proficient people I have ever met, and there wasn’t a challenge he couldn’t overcome.

What about you? Have you thought about your mentor lately? What characteristics stand out about your mentor? Are you a mentor? And finally, have you thanked your mentor lately?

Talk is Cheap

Jeff_Pinyot

I know many parents who shelter their kids from real conversation, but they’re a great way for children to learn about life. My son Jonathan (JP) loves to learn about my business.

“Do you have investors? Do you have debt? Are we rich? Why are you always so grumpy?” Answers: Yes, yes, no, and because the answer to the third question is no.

Real life is the very best teacher. No college economics class can replace Life 101. My kids are used to every opportunity being a business opportunity. Driving through Birmingham, Ala., on spring break one year, my daughter said, “Dad, look at the awful yellow lights on that parking garage over there. You should meet with that owner and let him know that you could save him some money.” I met with the owner the next morning.

Will our family ever get rich from dad’s decision to quit a solid job of 24 years to start a lighting business? While our investors, my partners, and I believe the risk and investment will pay off, “rich” has a far deeper meaning. I am already rich in the support of my loving family and the sacrifices that they have made so I could reinvest my life into this business. We are rich in experiences.

I’ve always said, when the time is right, there will be a book. The book will be a “How To”, or a “How Not To” book. I am working on the chapters right now.

Be green, but don’t just hug a tree. Climb it!

 

Fall is Pedestrian Collision Season

Mark Wright

It might not feel like fall yet depending where you are, but noticeably earlier sunsets should be a signal to parking professionals that pedestrian collision season is just about here.

Pedestrian accidents occur year-round, of course, but the autumn months are particularly hazardous as pedestrians and drivers both adjust to the seasonal loss of late-day light. Parking areas are as vulnerable to this effect as roadways.

Here in my home-base of Montgomery County, Md., county officials reported a 34 percent increase in the number of pedestrian collisions in parking lots and garages in 2012. They also reported that parking lot and garage incidents accounted for 29 percent of all pedestrian collisions in the county that year.

The Montgomery County Police Department looked at the incident data for all pedestrian collisions occurring in parking lots/garages in calendar year 2012 and found that 94 percent occurred in parking lots (as opposed to garages), 74 percent were the driver’s fault, and 31 percent involved a vehicle backing out of a parking stall or travel lane.

Every jurisdiction is unique, certainly, and some have higher or lower numbers of pedestrian incidents in parking areas. Nonetheless, parking professionals just might be the best people to help prevent these sorts of injuries.

IPI is helping solve the problem early in drivers’ education through dissemination of its free publication, How to Park: A Must-read Manual for Teen Drivers, (downloadable at www.parking.org/teenparking), which was developed in conjunction with AAA and the AAA Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education. Here’s a news release just distributed to teen and parenting media last week. If you’d like copies of the manual to distribute within your organization or community, contact Henry Wallmeyer at Wallmeyer@parking.org. You can even arrange to get copies printed with customized information and your logo on the back cover.

Are you teaming with pedestrian safety staff to address risks, educate drivers and pedestrians, add lighting, or take other steps to prevent accidents? Leave a comment below to share your efforts and lessons learned.

 

 

Greatness Hiding in Plain Sight

Isaiah Mouw

On a Friday morning in January 2007, commuters passing through the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D.C., were treated to one of the finest musical performances many would ever experience. Unfortunately, none of the commuters recognized it as being great.

Dressed as a common street performer, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell played in the Metro station as part of a Washington Post experiment. One of the world’s finest classical musicians played some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made–a $3.5 million dollar Stradivarius. What happened? Out of the nearly 2,000 people who passed Bell in a span of 43 minutes, only one man stopped to listen for a few minutes, one woman recognized him, and several children stopped to stare.

Just two days before this experiment, Bell sold out a Boston theater with an average ticket price of $100. But dressed in jeans and a baseball cap playing in an ordinary subway station, there were no rounds of applause, no cameras flashing, and no stopping to enjoy the beautiful music. The study raised several questions, including whether we recognize talent in an unexpected context, and the Washington Post story won a Pulitzer Prize.

At the 2013 IPI Conference and Expo, Roamy Valera, CAPP, was honored with the James M. Hunnicutt, CAPP, Parking Professional of the Year award. Roamy has done more for the parking industry than many of us will do in our lifetime, but what is amazing is that he started as a parking enforcement officer. A supervisor–Daniel Rosemond–saw something in Roamy and gave him a chance with a promotion. The rest, as they say, is history.

The next time you are looking for the next big thing, the next all-star manager, or the next creative marketer for your organization, don’t forgot to look around you. Don’t be like the Metro commuters who didn’t see the beauty or the greatness around them. Try looking within your organization and imagine what one of your employees could do in a different environment. Hiring within isn’t always the answer, but if you automatically dismiss someone within your organization who’s looking for a chance…you may just be passing on the future Parking Professional of the Year (which will accept nominations soon–which of your colleagues might fit the bill?)

 

 

 

 

 

WikiLots

Mark Wright

Mark Zuckerberg sent me a check the other day, enclosed in a thank-you card that read, “Thanks for your data. Here’s our royalty payment for its use. Keep up the good work. BTW, I’m wearing an Edward Snowden mask to this year’s FB company Halloween party. Bwaahaahaa.”

Then I awoke and realized it was all a dream. Nobody’s paying me for access to my personal information. Darn.

It was still early, so I went back to sleep.

Then Julian Assange texted me. His message read: “We believe everyone has a right to free parking. So, we’ve started a website called WikiLots, which will locate and aggregate your vehicle’s parked location 24/7, using data already being broadcast by your vehicle and augmented by fixed and mobile cameras (typically plate-reader-equipped police cars). WikiLots will set the world free, free, free…”

Then I awoke and realized it was all a nightmare. Nobody cares or tracks where I drive or park, do they? Nah.

In real life, I read this recent article in the Wall Street Journal (When Your Car Is Spying on You) in which Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., observes that Nissan plans to have affordable driverless vehicles on the market in 2020. Those vehicles, he says, will automatically share a lot of data about us.

“Nothing is stopping private operators from creating databases of plate numbers, faces, and identities — cross referenced by matching photos you and others post online on your Facebook profiles and elsewhere. These will be indexed by place of residence. Stores will know who you are the minute their cameras catch your plate arriving in their parking lots.”

That means a row full of occupied parking spaces is basically just data on a stick. It’s a yummy treat for any entity — corporate or government — with a sweet tooth for information about who we are, what we do, where we go and what we like.

What role should parking play as this new era of über-data dawns? Is the parking profession meant to promote its benefits or defend users against its excesses? Are parking pros destined to be proactive participants or passive bystanders in this trend?

It’s still early. Sleep is so tempting — yet suddenly so elusive.

 

Copybooks for All

Rachael Yoka

My kids started school a week ago (finally). It is of note that they resurfaced and re-striped the parking lot over the summer. This caused a certain amount of chaos, but it was a wise investment that will improve conditions in the long run. This post isn’t actually about that, though.

My kids have classes in history, english, math, and more. I am to provide a copybook for each distinct subject–a separate, individual copybook where my son and daughter will write useful information and things worth remembering about each subject.

Sadly, most of the time this is the case. Interdisciplinary explanations, connections, and impacts from one related subject to another (history and social studies, for example) go largely unexplained and unexplored at the elementary level, which I would argue is the best time to teach about those connections. Language and math and history and art and politics cannot be cleanly separated, and to do so leaves our kids at a disadvantage.

In the “real” world, do we operate differently?

Planners plan walkable (or drivable) cities.
Architects design green buildings and contractors build them.
Engineers create complete, green streets.
Parking and transportation professionals plan and operate assets to access said cities, buildings, and streets.

Few organizations, courses, or programs address not only these honorable endeavors, but also the complex relationships, synergies, and conflicts among them. Sustainability and smart growth can serve as that umbrella concept, but what more can we do?

To IPI’s credit, through its Parking Matters® program and other industry outreach efforts and alliances, inroads are being made so related professions take a more holistic approach that includes parking.

But we have much ground to cover. We do what we learn early in life.  We have learned to silo these “subjects.” I would rather be under the colorful umbrella that captures the nuances and relationships of the subjects we learn, and the work we do.

I, for one, would support a change in that paradigm, from Kindergarten all the way up to CAPP!

 

Johnny or Rudy: An Easy Coaching Decision

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

My son plays on the lightweight football team for his junior high school. He’s light even for that team. He doesn’t have blazing speed, or Football Pic 2the surest hands, or a cannon for an arm, and he doesn’t yet deliver bone-crushing hits.  But he does have one thing that I’d take over all other attributes: he’s got the right attitude.

The other night was their first game of the season and I couldn’t have been more proud of him. Though he was on the sideline more than on the field, he focused his energy on pumping up his teammates. He handed out high-fives, cheered on the Hornets, and when he got in, he hustled to the ball and even managed to pick off the opposing quarterback.

There are many job openings at this very moment in our industry; many can be found on IPI’s website.  All of these postings include a long list of skills required for the particular job. This is to be expected, but I believe firmly in the old adage that says, “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” I’ve made good hiring decisions throughout my career by focusing on attitude and less on skill. Often, I have hired a candidate who has nominal parking experience compared to other applicants.

At the very least, hiring decisions should be made based on equal amounts of skill and attitude. This will ensure that you’ve got the best, most capable people on your team.

If my son keeps playing football, he’ll gain the necessary skills to contribute even more on the field. Until then I’m grateful he’s carrying himself like a true champion.

The ADA Parking Conversation

Doug Holmes

It started back in March when I noticed a string of messages on the CPARK-L e-discussion list about parking for those covered under Fotolia_49835773_Sthe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The conversation first focused on “free” disabled parking, and then moved on to “tiered” disabled parking, before moving on to parking for disabled vets, ADA parking at special events, enforcement of ADA parking spaces including misuse of ADA tags/placards, and then most recently to special parking for pregnant women.

We frequently see articles or presentations about calculating the number of ADA spaces required, ADA space dimensions, or appropriate signage. Less frequently are discussions about the political fallout from creating, enforcing, placing, or relocating ADA spaces. There are so many facets to the issue that it continues to require considerable thought. After all, we are dealing with the well-being of our society.

There is no single law that covers ADA implementation. In addition to federal ADA statutes, there are building codes, state laws, and even institutional permutations that tell parking professionals how to provide reasonable access. One such issue concerns fees: ADA does not address fee structure per se. However, many cities do proscribe fees or the lack thereof. Additionally, in some cases, institutions such as hospitals or universities create their own application within the general framework of ADA. In short, it can be a very complicated matter to address adequately.

This coming Wednesday, August 21, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, IPI will host a look at some of these issues via a webinar you can attend from your desk. This is a panel presentation by former IPI Chair Linda Kauffman, former executive director of parking for the city of Allentown, Pa.; Teresa Trussel, director of transportation for Ohio University; and Bill Kavanagh, director of parking planning and design for the Harman Group.

I will be the moderator of the panel and I truly believe it will pose an interesting look at some ADA issues. I am also thoroughly convinced that it will stimulate even more questions and may lead to some of you to do some of your own research and help further the knowledge and capabilities of the parking profession.

Visit parking.org/webinars to register. Come join us for an hour!

 

My Worst Nightmare: The Parking Death Spiral

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

This term “death spiral” conjures up images of nothing good in my mind. As a kid, I had a frequent nightmare about jumping off the bridge of a huge ship and spiraling downward without being able to stop my free-fall. Luckily, I’d always wake before hitting the water, where I’d certainly perish.

In a real death spiral, the thing spiraling (organization, state, business, or person) continues a downward progression that only accelerates as conditions worsen. Mounting inertia grows, making revival nearly impossible.

I recently returned from the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) annual University Summit, which brought together 60 transportation demand management (TDM) and parking professionals to talk about university parking and transportation. Some of the schools most successful in advancing the use of alternatives to driving were there, including Stanford, the University of Washington, Arizona State, and the University of Colorado. The topic of the death spiral was prominent at this conference and worthy of further consideration.

Most higher education parking departments are self-supporting auxiliaries. This means that no outside resources are provided, and programs and services are funded through parking fees and fines. Alternative transportation programs have become increasingly important to universities in reducing driving, furthering sustainability goals, and enhancing the pedestrian environment.

There is, from our perspective, a downside. As more people find alternative ways to reach campus, (bike, bus, carpool, walk) revenue streams and expenses are affected. The more successful an institution is in shifting people away from single-occupancy cars, the fewer parkers there are to fund the entire parking and transportation program. This creates a spiraling effect that can result in financial instability.

Some might argue that the obvious response is to abandon alternative transportation altogether. While I’d disagree wholeheartedly with that approach, I do believe that the traditional funding model for higher education parking and transportation may be incompatible with alternative transportation goals. A new model is needed. The strategic partnership between IPI and ACT offers the best chance of coming up with a new model to help us all avoid a TDM and parking nightmare.

Wise Beyond Your Field

L. Dennis Burns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Lost Things

Wanda Brown

Recently, one of my shuttle drivers turned in a wallet that contained cash, credit cards, and a number of other personal items. I began trying to contact the owner to reunite him with his property. Every call reached a dead end until I found an insurance card with his member number on it. I contacted the company and left a message with my number for a return call.

It worked! The young man was thrilled to get his wallet back. And no wonder–he  explained that it had been lost for more than a year. We started laughing as I told him he must have had an angel watching over his lost wallet, because no one found it lodged in the seat of our shuttle in all that time.

This got me thinking about lost things that can be found. There are so many professions where lost skills are never realized again. With a persistent downward economy, downsizing, and re-structuring, some skills have been contracted out or simply lost in the shuffle of economic survival.

We are not seeing that trend in the parking industry. Not only have lost skills been revitalized, but they have been taken to new levels of precision. We feel a new excitement that convinces us we are becoming better, sharper, and greater than we have ever been before. This is demonstrated in our offerings to the industry, the excellence that is achieved in our competence, and the cutting-edge technology we use to make our communities run more efficiently.

I know I have had the opportunity to find lost things.  Skills I achieved in jobs past have seen a new light and been used at levels I never thought would be achieved. I guess you can say that the parking industry is not an industry where skills sit idling, but has a definite movement that takes them to new places.

What new places have you seen lately?

Free Parking Downtown? It All Depends

Dave Feehan

Anyone who is either an admirer or a critic of Donald Shoup should read his book. It’s essential to be well-informed before making a fateful decision to jump into variable priced parking or alternatively, free parking, both of which can work, but both of which also have drawbacks. In big cities such as San Francisco, where there is very strong demand and parking supply is limited, Shoup’s theories have proven effective, at least in the short run, but may be too new to gauge their effect over a longer period of five to 10 years. In smaller towns, a very different situation may suggest a different approach.

The problem in many smaller downtowns is regulating downtown employees and employers who take up valuable on-street parking while off-street garages and lots remain partially vacant.

The whole point of parking is that it’s not about storing cars. It’s about attracting shoppers, diners, visitors, workers, and residents to downtown. To do that, city officials should direct parking managers to create the most customer-friendly parking system possible for all of the above. That doesn’t mean parking should be “free”–it never is. It does mean, however, that paid parking should not cross the “annoyance threshold,” as I call it. And free one-or two hour parking has its place. It works very well in downtown Boise, Idaho, for example.

When people ask me whether or not they should adopt the variable pricing approach I tell them, it all depends. I recommend you do a strategic parking plan first, and then figure out if free parking or variable priced parking makes sense and accomplishes what you want to accomplish, which is a healthy and vibrant downtown.

Food Truck Webinar Today

Henry Wallmeyer

My first experience with a food truck, or “roach coach” as it was affectionately known, was as a high schooler working a summer job at DSC05203 a junkyard in Richmond, Va. At precisely 10:30 every morning, the break whistle would sound and we’d head to the food truck waiting at the entrance with the latest in in prepackaged sandwiches, chips, and snacks. It was by no means a culinary treat, but it was a welcome break in the day. Fast forward 25 years and food trucks have progressed from that pickup with insulated diamond-pattern doors covering a refrigerator case to the most interesting-looking fully-functional kitchens on wheels, serving the most diverse food available.

Food trucks are even showing up now the big and small screens. The Great Food Truck Race is a reality television series on the Food Network featuring competing food trucks. The competitors are teams of talented cooks who have dreamed up unique food concepts and want to turn their dreams into a reality, which is to operate a food truck business. (Season four begins August 18.)

On the ABC TV show Happy Endings (which, sadly, was cancelled, but that is for another blog) after Dave Rose was left at the altar by his fiancée, he followed his dreams of quitting his office job and became self-employed with his own food truck business: Steak Me Home Tonight.

Want proof food trucks have really arrived? They have their own association. The DC Food Trucks Association (DCFTA) is a group of nearly 50 Washington, D.C., food truck owner-operators who seek to sustain the wellbeing of our industry, foster a sense of community, and work in partnership with the District of Columbia to improve food truck regulations.

Food trucks have come a long way, but have they come too far too fast? The prevalence of food trucks is forcing parking departments to find unique ways to balance the needs of restaurants, citizens, and entrepreneurs in what many have deemed the downtown food truck wars. For many, it’s a big challenge.

You read about how different cities are facing the food truck challenge in The Parking Professional’s May cover story. Today, IPI is hosting a webinar to further explore the Food Truck Wars. Brandy Stanley, MBA, parking services manager, City of Las Vegas; Gary Means, CAPP, executive director, Lexington & Fayette County Parking Authority; and Mike Estey, parking operations & traffic manager, City of Seattle, will show you what these cities are doing to tackle the challenges that food trucks pose. Register here to see and take away examples of ordinances, pilot programs, and next steps in this battle.

Food trucks don’t just mean Lance crackers and automat-style tuna sandwiches anymore. But what does mobile gourmet mean for your parking operation? I hope you’ll join us today for a great conversation on just that.

Parking Looney Tunes

Jeff Petry

I recently came across this photo hashtagged with #parkingticket on Instagram:

Instagram - What to do

It challenges me as a parking professional. At first blush, it looks like a there is a hard-working commercial delivery driver with a large truck trying to get his load of beverages into a grocery store. Another rig is parked on the private parking lot, taking up a prime delivery spot and making it difficult for the delivery truck to turn around. But then there is that parking meter and the pesky parking enforcement officer, who seems to be issuing a citation.

Maybe there is more to this picture? Perhaps the citation is being issued after the officer asked the driver to drop some coins in the meter? Maybe the parking officer is working on his handheld after issuing another vehicle a citation and just happens to be standing there? Or might the parking officer and the delivery driver be chatting?

What would you do? If you showed this photo to your parking staff, how would they respond? I want to know, and have a simple anonymous online poll for you to take:

http://strawpoll.me/148297

My gut tells me, based on the officer’s stance and position relative to the truck, that the vehicle is getting a citation. The delivery driver does not appear to care. Delivery drivers often find getting the ticket worth the efficiency of meeting a tight schedule and ease of this delivery. It’s as we are in this perpetual cartoon of Wile E. Coyote (parking officer) trying to catch the Roadrunner (delivery trucks).

I will follow up with your responses in a later blog!

How Goes the War? Reservations about Reserved Parking

Frank L. Giles

I think every parking professional at some point has been part of or witness to the reserved parking wars. This is the silent war that Reserved parking shutterstock_615503takes place at parking facilities that offer reserved parking to a select few. Maybe parking has been reserved for some out of the need to make sure tenants have access to parking, or maybe it’s just an amenity for certain VIPs. Whatever the reason, it’s never long before someone bucks the system. One of the have-nots will throw that metaphorical rock through the window of the privileged by parking in that reserved space, and, as Bugs Bunny would say, “Of course you know, this means war!”

The disenfranchised reserved parker demands action from the parking office while the elusive violator uses guerilla tactics to continue the onslaught against the bourgeoisie. After a blitz of parking signage, orange cones, and violation tickets, a shell-shocked parking manager might ask him/herself, “What is it all for?”

Ordeals such as this can make a manager question the reserved parking concept altogether. Can we be sure it’s worth the headache? Each facility has its own unique clientele, and it’s up to the parking manager to determine whether or not a reserved parking program is even-handed or even needed at each facility. If it is, then order and peace are worth fighting for. Hunker down and hang in there, and if you can relate to this post, leave a comment and let us know: How goes the war?

 

Friendly, not…

Doug Holmes

A subscriber recently posted the following question to the CPARK-L list:

“Does anyone have a policy that allows students to park free during summer class time? I have a student that wants me to assist her in an English class assignment and proposal to do exactly that.”

Free Parking? That is one of the worst four-letter words in this or any language.  In fact, I think it was George Carlin’s eighth banned word, but he had to cut that routine down to 3:05 to make it onto a record.

The response from around 15 or so institutions was a resounding, “No!” Ann Szipszky of Seton Hall put it quite succinctly, “Oh dear, NO! Free parking for everyone would create a nightmare situation for us, not to mention the pleas in the fall, ‘But no one charged me in the summer,’ ‘I didn’t need a permit in the summer, why do I need one now?’ and then there is always, ‘No one told me I needed to buy a permit, I parked for free all summer.’ Free summer parking would be scary, very scary.”

Even if someone else is subsidizing “free” parking, it sets the parking office up for a bad beginning of fall semester. And what happens to the subsidizing agency or group when fall semester rolls around? Who has control over and responsibility for the bank?

No matter what time of the year, operating a parking lot (and all the attendant activities that go into that effort such as office staff, utilities, maintenance, enforcement, etc.) continue.  Would this student approach the council of academic deans to request a tuition waiver during the summer? After all, not all the classrooms are full over the summer and class sizes typically run smaller than in other semesters.

I was reminded of a favorite parking quote when I saw this post: “Parking should be friendly, not free.” This phrase was coined by Rina Cutler who ran several municipal parking systems, and who even created a bumper sticker with it–one of her stickers hung over my desk until the day I retired.

There are times when you may have to accommodate an event (a Presidential visit comes to mind) with free parking, but, in my humble opinion, “free” parking is the antithesis of good parking management.

Sorry, this just reminded me of the good old days prior to retirement.

Downton Abbey, Downtown Parking

Jeff Petry

Downton Abbey is the blockbuster PBS television series set 100 years ago in Great Britain that explores the effects of societal, economic, and technological change on the British society through the eyes of the aristocratic Crawley family. The show is rooted in England’s great recession and follows the family drama through the sinking of the Titanic, flu pandemic, World War I, women’s suffrage, and the creation of the Irish free state.

Believe it or not, what fascinates me about Downton Abbey is what I have learned from it about parking:

  • Stewardship. Downton Abbey is a big estate with a lot of moving parts. The Earl wants to preserve the property for his family, employed staff, social hierarchy, and economic ties to the town of Grantham. We in parking are stewards of our public resources, including parking structures, surface lots, public streets, staff, and all the other moving parts. Our parking stewardship is also tied directly to the economics of our local community and our reputation.
  • Technology. In the first season of Downton Abbey, Violet, the Countess of Grantham, says, “First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel.” We are all comfortable or uncomfortable with various pieces of technology. Technology continues to change our parking interactions, from communicating to processing information to conducting transactions. Customers can pay for an on-street parking space while sitting in a meeting. We can video chat with upset customers in the field. And, pretty soon, our customers will be able to use at home 3-D printers to print their parking tags, vouchers, or other credentials.
  • Diplomacy. The biggest takeaway from Downton Abbey is the diplomacy exercised during utmost turmoil in the characters’ personal lives, business transactions, or world events. This is something parking professionals can perfect. We are always under external stress from customers who are unhappy about tickets, having to pay for parking, or our facilities. We are constantly working to deliver a better parking product while meeting challenges within our organizations.

Downton Abbey is a drama about people moving forward through life. It encompasses the extended Crawley family (our communities) that has hired staff (parking people) to provide the stewardship of the family assets through changing times. To be successful in our jobs, we must continue to maintain utmost diplomacy and preserve our legacy.

 

Joining the Smart Revolution

Brett Wood

I’ve heard a lot of questions lately about the evolution of parking. I started thinking and researching and found that, well, we have come a long way. I recently gave a presentation about this evolution from horse and buggy to car, from wind-up meter to multi-space paystation, from parking hotel (yes, that existed) to mega-sustainable, community-friendly parking garage. My conclusion was that we have transcended evolution and merged quite nicely into revolution. One of the reasons for this revolution is that our customers now have the world in their pockets.

With the rapid rise of cell phone ownership in the U.S., it’s only a matter of time before we see a massive shift in how our users interact with and pay for parking in our communities. According to research by the Pew Research Center, 88 percent of Americans own cell phones. Even more important, 46 percent of Americans own smartphones and use those devices for more than phone calls; this trend is escalating quickly, with another estimated 10 percent bump anticipated by the end of this year.

With these statistics and the continued evolution of the cell phone, is it any surprise that pay-by-cell payment options are popping up in communities everywhere? Pay-by-cell is not a new concept, but its acceptance is at an all-time high.

Consider the benefits:

  • User pays capital and maintenance costs.
  • User only pays for the time that they park.
  • User can receive notifications before they go over time.
  • Implementation is low cost (sometimes no cost) to the city.
  • Integration of smartphone applications allows for wayfinding, payment, management, enforcement, and communications, all through the user’s smartphone.

Even though that 12 percent of non-cell phone users represents approximately 30 million people, we are getting closer to a society that is plugged in and tuned in through their cell phones. The parking industry is poised and ready to capitalize on this evolution of American society. So, reach in your pocket, grab your smartphone, and join the revolution!