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.

Personal Freedoms vs. Public Ideals

Patrick headshot 2012 cropped

I was talking with a friend who is a London bus driver the other day.

He was saying how important bus lane and parking enforcement were in his job and how grateful he was that local authorities take their enforcement responsibilities seriously enough to ensure that people don’t park their cars obstructing the bus. He said nothing frustrated him more than “selfish” (his word) drivers stopping in bus stops or bus lanes or on narrow corners.

I saw him again a couple of weeks later and he told me he received a parking ticket (on his own car) for stopping briefly on a yellow line. He was as cross about getting the parking ticket as he was about other drivers blocking the passage of his bus.

I tell this story because it nicely illustrates the dichotomy that many of our members face on a regular basis. We all think reducing congestion, improving road safety, and encouraging and helping buses are good things–it would be difficult not to. But we’re not happy if our personal freedoms are curtailed in the pursuit of these ideals.

The British government’s consultation–the responses to which are now being sifted through by Department for Transportation (DfT) civil servants – didn’t take account of the importance of good parking management to these objectives around congestion and road safety. The British Parking Association (BPA) has been reminding government of why good parking management exists and that we should be careful what we ask for when we fail to take account of these wider ideals.

The government’s own report says that traffic in the UK will increase on our roads by 43 percent by 2040. Local authorities will need the tools to deal with the clear threat to congestion and road safety which this growth will create. This is not a good time to be making it more difficult for authorities to address that task.

 

Parking in the Middle

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

The girl from Ipanema goes parking!

On a cold and wet night a few weeks ago, I made my way to London’s Heathrow Airport to board a flight to São Paulo, Brazil for Expo Parking, organized in cooperation with Abrapark (the Brazilian Parking Association) and IPI.

I 100 percent admit that I was expecting it to be a very slow four days on the expo floor . How wrong I was! The story is in the numbers: thousands of feet of exhibition space, 100 exhibitors, and crowds of industry attendees.

The first thing that hit me upon landing in São Paulo was the sheer volume of cars on the road, and that this congestion lasts all day, every day. A short journey from Sao Paulo International Airport to my hotel should have taken 20 minutes; two and a half hours later, I was still stuck in traffic.

The main problem is that Brazil’s roads are not built for its current car ownership boom. In 2012, the number of cars on the road rose to a staggering 42.2 million. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending who you ask), present-day public transport is not a viable option.

These two problem areas formed the basis for discussions at the Third Brazilian Parking Conference, held during Expo Parking 2013 in São Paulo last month. The conference, organized by Abrapark, focused on urban mobility, and of course, parking was high on the agenda. The age old chicken-egg scenario was debated at length: do parking lots encourage car use? Needless to say, we did not reach a definitive conclusion.

After a few days of meetings and talking to people on the show floor, it soon became apparent that urban development is at the top of everyone’s agenda in both government and business circles. What I hadn’t realized was that parking is seen as an important ally in this development.

As of 2012, Brazil had 34 international airports, 458 shopping centers, and 661 sports stadiums and that number is on the increase–as is the number of parking spots needed! It was nice to see parking taking an advisory role in the quest to figure out what to do with all those cars.

 

Parklets: Something to Consider

L. Dennis Burns

The concept of parklets (small park-like spaces on parts of streets that have been repurposed) is taking off around the U.S. I have come to expect to see them in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, but I must confess I was a little surprised to find one when I recently visited Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The following is an excerpt from a very well done “How to” manual from San Francisco on how to develop Parklets as part of neighborhood improvement projects:

San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks Program facilitates the conversion of utilitarian and often underused spaces in the street into publicly accessible open spaces available for all to enjoy. The Parklet Program is one component of the Pavement to Parks Program, which provides a path for merchants, community organizations, business owners, and residents to take individual actions in the development and beautification of the City’s public realm.

Parklets are intended as aesthetic enhancements to the streetscape, providing an economical solution to the need for increased public open space. Parklets provide amenities like seating, planting, bike parking, and art. While parklets are funded and maintained by neighboring businesses, residents, and community organizations, they are publicly accessible and open to all.

This terrific manual can be downloaded here.

According to the manual, the world’s first formal public parklets were initially conceived and installed in San Francisco in 2010. Earlier this year, 39 of the mini-parks had been installed throughout San Francisco, and the program is being emulated in cities around the world.

The creation of parklets in your neighborhood celebrates local grassroots initiatives, community- building, and sustainable transportation initiatives. While not quite a mainstream phenomenon yet, the movement is growing. Don’t be surprised if one pops up near you soon!

 

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.

Real-Time Pricing in the Real World

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

The last few years have seen a real explosion in terms of the number of people using mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. As we know, the mobile industry is a fascinating, fast-paced environment where technologies, devices, and companies change every day.

Love them, or hate them, mobile devices are here to stay. So, as is the case with your mother-in-law, you just have to get on with it and embrace them.

It is crucial for parking operators to keep pricing information as up to date as possible because like it or not, many drivers make decisions based on price, and there is nothing worse than arriving at your chosen destination and realizing that the space will now cost you more.

Many of you will scream, “No, constant price changes are not convenient for the driver! They create confusion!” Some of you will be in agreement that dynamic pricing allows for better yield management, which in turn optimizes revenue.

Those in the “green” corner have realized that up-to-date pricing achieves the goal of opening up spaces, reducing unnecessary driving around. This has been seen in San Francisco, where intentionally raised on-street prices (on high-demand blocks) are steering drivers to park on another street or in a neighboring parking lot, opening up prime street spots.

Still not convinced? I’ll leave you with a story that illustrates the value of distributing real-time information about parking pricing:

The operator of a parking lot at a railway station recently agreed to a price change whereby drivers leaving their cars at the station parking lot and continuing their journey by train were entitled to a discount of nearly 50 percent on the posted daily parking rate. All they had to do was purchase the ticket at the counter instead of at the payment machine or online. But this information wasn’t conveyed to customers in real time (as it would be via mobile), and 99 percent of the drivers there didn’t know about it.

The operator is still receiving complaints three weeks later.

 

Parking Packs Off the Purple

Kim Fernandez

Crabcakes and football. That’s what Maryland does.202938488_ec04ba0712_o

If you set aside lacrosse and Berger Cookies, the line from “Wedding Crashers” almost got it right. True Baltimoreans generally prefer picking our own steamed crabs (malt vinegar, Old Bay, amen) over eating somebody else’s handiwork in a cake, of course, but one takes what one can get when Hollywood takes over. Our world champion Ravens reign, and it’s a purplewashed place to be. Next week, though, we’ll suffer the injustice of watching our team open the NFL season from afar, and it’s all because of parking.

Football is a bit akin to religion in parts of our fair state–Robert Irsay’s 1984 run out of town only solidified our faith–and we threw our Ravens and their Lombardi Trophy a heck of a party earlier this year. We also take Purple Fridays pretty darned seriously, donning the royal color for work and play on the last day of the work week most of the year. So why are we resigned to watching next week’s kickoff on our TVs at home?

Parking. See, when Baltimore retired the edge-of-the-city Memorial Stadium, which the Orioles and Colts shared for years, to build the decidedly downtown M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, it made sense to put them next to each other with a giant parking lot in between. They sit just blocks from the city’s Inner Harbor and the main business and tourism district, and there aren’t a lot of spaces to spare on game days. And because the outcome of the 2013 Super Bowl wasn’t known until February, Major League Baseball unwittingly scheduled the Orioles to play at home the night of Sept. 5–the same night, as it turned out, our Ravens will kick off the NFL season.

Two sports, two stadiums full of fans, one parking lot. No go. The Orioles held their ground and refused to move or reschedule their game, the scales tipped, and the Ravens were sent to Denver for their opener, leaving many football fans more than a little irritated (I haven’t watched or tracked an Orioles game all season, but I digress).

I’ll be wearing my purple and yelling at the TV instead of tailgating on Thursday, along with thousands of my fellow Marylanders. If you ask us that day, I guarantee everyone will agree: Parking Matters®.

 

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.

Back to Life in Abu Dhabi

David Hill

Today, I am in Abu Dhabi, population just less than 1 million and capital of the United Arab Emirates–a modern, urban oasis situated at the crossroads of four continents.

It’s a fascinating place–a bit like Las Vegas without the gambling and glitz, with over-the-top architecture, high-rise mega projects, broad avenues, crazy traffic, hot and sunny days, cool and pleasant nights, dozens of languages spoken, restaurants, night clubs, shopping malls, ocean vistas, and the occasional sand storm, all held together by cheap cars and gasoline and a mutual quest for available parking.

Up until a few years ago, parking in Abu Dhabi was unregulated and free; as a consequence, I am told, it was chaos with a lot of parking on sidewalks, double parking in streets, and vehicles jammed into drive aisles in parking lots. There are numerous private garages in downtown Abu Dhabi and amazingly, some offer free parking 24 hours a day, but the space is not organized or advertised, and so it is difficult to know if you will find a space at any particular time. To bring some order out of this chaos, the city created Mawaquif, a branded parking authority, to provide regulation and enforcement and apply some control mechanisms to the street. In a very short period of time, Mawaquif has done what appears to be a pretty good job. Most parking areas on the streets and in public surface lots have regulatory signage, paint on the curbs, and a zoned pay and display system that charges up to 15 dirhams ($5) for parking up to 24 hours. Time at the meters is not strictly regulated, the fee seems to do the trick.

There is considerable competition for space, particularly for long-term parking for downtown employees during the morning rush. The city is now turning to garage construction in high demand areas, and there are several public structures under construction. The Emiratis believe in doing things big–if you build it, they will come and if you build it bigger, more will come and they will bring money. The UAE was part way through a major building boom back in 2008 when the financial crisis hit, and many of the mega-projects that were in mid- construction simply halted. From my vantage point, parking projects are revving up, the cranes are swinging, and the projects are coming back to life.

There are interesting times ahead.

Parking and Gardening

L. Dennis Burns

Ahh springtime! Trees are budding (at least here in Arizona), the orange trees are getting full, and soon the excitement of Cactus League Baseball will be upon us. I am once again filled with renewed optimism and recently took stock of the broad strokes of progress being made in our industry.

In the March issue of The Parking Professional magazine, I reflect on an unlikely combination of topics: parking and gardening. Great strides are being made in the parking industry, in large part thanks to parking professionals whose energy, creativity, diversity of knowledge, and skills are transforming communities across the country.

Have you ever seen the old movie “Being There,” starring Peter Sellers and written by Jersey Kosinski? (If not, you should!) Sellers plays the main character: one Chauncey Gardener, a simple, unsophisticated, and uneducated man (except by television) whose occupation is that of a gardener. Following the death of his aging employer and through a series of accidental events, Chauncey is thrust into a very high-profile role when he is introduced to a politically connected millionaire. His simplistic responses to the media and others, based on all that he really knows–gardening–are seen as brilliant and insightful. He begins to be considered not as simple but nearly enlightened (thus the title).

Inspired by some of Chauncey’s gardening-themed responses, I began to see connections between parking and gardening that require a bit of seasonal perspective to come into focus. The progress being made by parking professionals in many communities is really quite inspiring and is explored further in my article. One of my favorite quotes in the piece is from British poet, novelist, and gardener Vita Sackville-West, who once said: “The person who has planted a garden feels that they have done something for the good of the world.”

I hope you’ll read the piece, let me know what you think, and join me in congratulating the host of parking professionals who are making significant differences in their communities every day!

 

Inspired Leadership on EV

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)
Ballard

Supporting EVs is a matter of national security for Indianapolis Mayor Ballard

President’s Day is a day of celebration in honor of our nation’s leaders. Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Lincoln, and Kennedy are among those on my list of most admired presidents, but JFK tops the list for his inspired leadership.

President John F. Kennedy, addressing a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961, established the national goal of reaching the moon by the end of that decade. His moonshot inspired our nation to achieve what seemed like a near-impossible dream at the time. Today, we all know Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar module’s ladder and onto the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969. Without the president’s leadership, vision, and action, we may never have achieved that milestone.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his own “moonshot” last week: to make his city a national leader in promoting the use of electric vehicles (EVs) over the next several years. He envisions adding something along the order of 10,000 EV charging spaces to the city’s parking facilities in less than a decade. It’s an ambitious goal, and the mayor’s leadership on the topic is to be admired.

The EV push is getting support from another mayor.

Late last month at the Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge, I had the privilege of meeting Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. Mayor Ballard has implemented aggressive and innovative efforts to move most of his city’s fleet of vehicles to electric power (heavy-duty vehicles will be powered by compressed natural gas), and hopes to replace its 3,100 gas-powered cars and trucks with EVs by 2025. Contrary to what you might expect, Mayor Ballard is not a left-wing tree hugger: he is a Republican and a Marine Corps veteran of the first Gulf War. He explained that moving aggressively on electric vehicles is motivated by his desire to never send troops to foreign lands to fight for oil, and to allow his city to reap important and significant cost savings. For him, EVs are about national security, both military and financial.

To be sure, Bloomberg and Ballard come from very different ideological places. Each, however, is exhibiting leadership on the sustainability front which is having tremendous impact on the parking industry.

 

 

Announcing Change

Bill Smith

If you are a municipal parking manager, you know how daunting it can seem to roll out policy, procedure, or rate changes. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news. These changes aren’t necessarily bad news, however, and you shouldn’t treat them that way. Many municipalities and public organizations don’t have strategies to explain change, and communication is essential to the success of any parking planning initiative.

Here are five tips for assuring a successful roll-out:

  1. Build support first. Policy and procedure changes are made for a reason. Prior to publicly rolling them out, explain them and their benefits to key stakeholders. Listen to—and answer—any concerns they have and ask for their support.
  2. Create a plan to inform the public of the change. This will likely include writing and distributing a news release announcing the change, as well as assembling materials that explain the anticipated benefits. If possible, brief the media before the changes are announced so they are fully informed when they write their stories. Keep in touch with reporters who are covering the story and make yourself available to answer questions and concerns.
  3. Anticipate who won’t support the changes and why. You’ll have a general sense of what kinds of questions and concerns people will have. Have answers ready before you announce changes.
  4. Don’t be afraid of opposition. You will never please everyone. Most people, by nature, don’t like change. Assume you will have to win over the community and that it might not happen overnight. Recognize that opponents may have legitimate concerns that could help to refine and improve the new policy.
  5. Trust yourself and your decision. Policy and procedure changes don’t just happen. They are the result of careful consideration and your knowledge of how parking affects the community. Trust that you made the right decision. If you communicate why and how the decision was made, chances are your community will agree.

 

Envisioning the Future: Parking’s Role

Jeff Petry

Parking Enforcement Officer: Duties Performed

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

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

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

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

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

Parking: Coming of Age

L. Dennis Burns

Has big business finally found its way to parking? Consider the following:

  •  3M has acquired Federal APD (PARCS), PIPS (LPR), Sirit (AVI), and VES (a toll service provider located in southern California). 3M currently operates a division that focuses on transportation, but this is significant entre’ into the parking industry.
  • Affiliated Computer Systems (ACS) became part of Xerox which also has a transportation division that includes commercial vehicle operations, electronic toll collections, motor vehicle services, on/off street parking, photo enforcement, public transport, and transportation management.
  • Serco (the largest company you’ve never heard of) is the systems integrator behind the SFpark program.
  • Zeag, which recently acquired Magnetic Corporation, was recently acquired by a large Swiss company.

Initially, I worried that this could be the end of innovation and the beginning of a new corporate mentality that might become pervasive, but then these negative thoughts were drowned out by the following:

  • This investment in our industry is a reflection of the fact that parking is being recognized for the important industry that it’s become.
  • New investment from large multi-national corporations will mean new advancements for the whole industry.
  • The effect of thought leaders such as Don Shoup, Casey Jones, CAPP, and others has created new awareness and spurred huge government investments through agencies such as FHWA and others.
  • Innovative governmental agencies such as the Seattle Department of Transportation and the Washington D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) are moving forward with creative research and implementation programs even without big federal grants.
  • Transportation planners and transportation demand management (TDM) professionals are becoming more engaged with parking industry practitioners to create new partnerships.
  • Universities are beginning to create sustainable transportation degree programs.
  • The number of smaller technology-based start-ups are increasing and interest by venture capitalists is increasing.

After some reflection, it seems to me we are on the verge a whole new era of growth and advancement. But then, I am always so negative.

All Roads Lead to Technology

EmergingTrends_100sq

According to a new survey released today by the International Parking Institute (IPI), technology, sustainability, revenue-generation, and customer service are the top trends in the parking industry and the things most parking professionals are looking for.

The 2012 Emerging Trends in Parking Survey was released at the IPI Conference & Expo in Phoenix, Ariz., this morning. It showed that cashless, electronic, and automatic payment systems join apps that provide real-time information about parking rates and availability and wireless sensing devices that help improve traffic management as the top in-demand technologies in the industry.

More than one-third of respondents said that demand for sustainable services is a top trend, and that they’re talking about energy-efficient lighting, parking space guidance systems, automatic payment process, solar panels, renewable energy technology, and systems that accommodate electric vehicles and/or encourage alternative methods of travel. Technologies that help people find parking faster take cars off the road; an estimated 30 percent of people driving around cities at any time are looking for parking, wasting fuel and emitting carbons.

Survey participants also said that convincing urban planners, local governments, and architects to include parking professionals in their early planning processes is a priority; doing that, they said, would help prevent many design problems in final projects. And when asked where parking should be included as a course of study in academic institutions, nearly half of the survey participants said schools of urban study, followed by business or public policy schools.

The full survey can be accessed on IPI’s website.

Making the Call

Vanessa Rogers

In early 2011, I started spending a little time on Fridays writing down the names of one or two customers I’d recently worked with on an issue to touch base with the following week, to see if their issue(s) had been properly resolved and if the solution we came up with was still working.

When calls from customers or businesses reach my desk, it’s usually because the individual or company has exhausted all other options and needs to talk about a negative experience they had with a front line staff person. These messages come from Facebook, Twitter, website inquires, emails, and even the occasional, good old-fashioned phone call. It would be very easy to think that people who contact me are just doing it to pointlessly complain (especially my frequent squeaky wheels), but I still think one-on-one customer outreach is critical to the success of any downtown or municipal parking operation. Many of the interactions I have with customers can be challenging and (not uncommonly) uncomfortable, but I continue to spend time each Friday writing down names of people to call.

I think magic lies in the relationships that are forming between downtown development professionals and parking professionals who realize that it might just be time to get back to the basics when it comes to customer service. It may sound straightforward but nine times out of 10, all a customer wants is to have their voice heard. With all the dollars that are spent on marketing, public relations, and customer incentives, I’m always amazed how far a few minutes of my time will go towards creating goodwill.

Try this experiment and let me know how it goes: carve out a half-hour each week to follow up with one person or organization you’ve recently worked with on an issue. Ask them how everything is working out. Tell them you appreciate their contacting you because it makes you better at your job. Listen to them, empathize with them, and most importantly, be honest with them. You can’t fix everyone’s issues, but people know when someone is being straight with them. After several months of Friday follow-up phone calls, I can tell you that the reaction you’ll get from your customers is profoundly addictive.