The Changing Face (and Terminology) of British Parking

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

As I sat down at the annual British Parking Awards in London (UK) last month, one particular category caught my attention: The Front Line Award.

The organizers announced that the new category was created to reflect the unfortunate hostile climate faced by those working on the ground in the parking industry in the UK.

The reason this category especially stuck in my mind was that I have closely followed changes in the terminology used to describe parking attendants. For many years, they were called traffic wardens and the general public seemed to accept that while they would also issue parking fines, their main role was to keep traffic moving in the city.  Was it no coincidence that at the same time that their name changed to civil enforcement officers, the public began to see them as confrontational? Soon after their title change, the British public realized that they now had the power to issue large fines for parking. This, I think is where the aggression began.

This new award certainly seems to support this theory, as does the winner’s job title: Jade Glover is a hate crime ambassador for APCOA Parking.  Sadly, part of her daily routine now includes carrying a DNA swab kit in a bid to prosecute more common and aggravated assaults.

In the event Jade is assaulted, she can use one or more dry swabs to extract saliva from her skin or uniform and report her attack to the local police.  This can then be matched against 6 million records in the national DNA database.

How sad that someone who is dedicated to making our streets less congested now resembles an extra from CSI. What do you make of it? I look forward to reading your comments below.

 

 

 

Investing In Parking

L. Dennis Burns

A recent project asked that we evaluate trends in the parking industry. One of the specific areas of focus was parking technology.

IPI released a very nice piece last year, 2013 Emerging Trends in Parking, based on a survey of its members. Two of the top trends noted in the report were the rapidly-expanding use of smartphones and mobile apps as both a means of pushing out information about parking and as payment options.

The report said, “Topping the list of trends in the $30 billion parking industry is the ‘move toward innovative technologies to improve parking access control and payment automation,’ cited by 59 percent of respondents. Another top trend is ‘real-time communication of pricing and availability to mobile/smartphones.’”

The second major trend related directly to the expansion of payment options:

“The second leading trend is the ‘demand for electronic (cashless) payment,’ with cities such as Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Houston, and Miami among others, incorporating pay-by-phone programs. Acclaimed as the world’s most successful of its type, the D.C. program has earned 550,000 customers and accounts for 40 percent of the city’s parking revenues. About 80 percent of the seven million transactions to date employ smart phones, with payment options that include credit cards, an online and mobile money management solution, and PayPal.”

As we began our own investigation of industry trends, a friend shared an interesting fact with me” Almost $25 million in funding has been invested in parking-focused mobile payment firms during the past 12 months:

  • Passport – $6M (December 2013)
  • Pango 6.5M (February 2014)
  • QuickPay – $5.5M (February 2014)
  • ParkMobile – $6.3M (February 2013)

These facts, combined with other significant investments by major multi-national corporations such as Xerox, 3M, etc., reinforce the fact that the importance of parking is being recognized on a broader scale than ever before.

This speaks volumes about the advancement of the parking profession and underscores the critical role parking plays in community and economic development, the importance of parking planning, the evolution of a more sustainable transportation industry, and ultimately our ability to directly enhance the parking experience of millions of parking patrons every day. It’s an exciting time to be a parking professional!

 

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.

 

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®.

 

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!

The Smartest People in the Room

Wanda Brown

In my recent opportunity to discuss the IPI association with Fox 40 News in Sacramento (see it here), the host asked, “Why did you choose parking as a career?” I could tell she did not have a clue about what we do, and without thinking, I immediately responded, “Because everything I’ve ever wanted to do in my career, I found in this profession.” It was true!

Some may think our profession is only about parking cars. I wanted to present her with a list of the experts we have in our membership who are CAPP graduates, many with master’s degrees, some with Ph.D’s, working in finance, management, engineering, urban planning, consulting, information systems, and architecture. She didn’t know about the massive layers of expertise required to operate in such a complex industry that not only manages public behavior, but is a direct link to essential services that are necessary for life.

We must understand local, state, and federal laws and how they apply to the people we serve and work for. We must also understand facility design, construction, and maintenance; sustainability; human resources; public relations; technology; finance and budgeting; and the list goes on and on. Maintaining compliance across a myriad of professional disciplines can only be achieved through an industry of well-prepared and disciplined professionals who operate ethically and efficiently. Our industry truly makes the world work, as these interconnected services produce the fiscal vibrance we all appreciate.

So, it is no wonder that Parking Matters® is a critical outreach. What other industry has professionals who are required to know so much? I think we are the smartest people in the room. We may be missing from some rooms, but the world is learning we are here and moving this profession forward.

 

 

 

Shifting the Discussion: An Assignment for Parking Professionals

L. Dennis Burns

I have recently been contacted by several reporters from all over the country asking about a range of parking-related issues ranging from taxes to impact fees to performance-based pricing.

Each call began with questions that had an inherently negative angle. I guess I should be used to that. Recently, however, I have taken a different approach. I have tried to shift the discussion from implicitly negative starting points to something more like, “Yes, you are correct; parking is a critically important area. Are you aware of the many advances made by the parking industry in recent years? Some of these advances involve leveraging new technologies, adopting more progressive urban design approaches and better integrating parking into larger community access and economic development strategies. Others involve creating a range of more sustainable parking and transportation strategies. Have you tried pay-by-cell phone yet? Have you gotten a text message notifying you that your meter is about to expire? Have you gotten an e-coupon on your cell phone from a store around the corner from where you parked and paid with your phone?”

We do (and will continue for decades to come) live in a society where the automobile is the dominant form of personal transportation. In this reality, parking will continue to be a connection point around which many key issues of our times will resonate – economic, social, environmental, equity, and accessibility issues are just a few examples. And as long as that is the case, parking professionals will play key roles in making our communities function.

We have an incredible story of increased connectedness, demonstrated progress, and accelerating advancement to tell. We also share a common challenge: how do we better broadcast this story of industry transformation? If we don’t do it, who will?

IPI published a guide to talking with the media last year–”How to Speak Parking Matters®.” It’s a free download that’s quite helpful when reporters come calling.

If you find yourself, perhaps somewhat defensively, addressing a negative question from a reporter, a customer, a city council member, or anyone else, take that opportunity to shift the discussion to a passionate description of the real and dramatic progress we have made. I think you’ll be surprised at how receptive your audience will be.

 

Parking Publicity: Making “The List,” Watching it Twice

The List   Parking Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress   Around Town Story

Watch this fun video about parking during the holidays and share the link. It’s just one example
of IPI’s annual publicity campaign (via the Parking Matters® program) to provide the public with
holiday parking advice that reflects well on the parking profession. This is a video of a segment
on the hot new show The List, which aired last Friday on network affiliated stations in Phoenix,
Baltimore, Tampa, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Tulsa. IPI Chair Casey Jones, CAPP, is featured
via a Skype interview with the reporter, and not only is IPI mentioned, but the segment also
includes footage of our website. As usual, the commentary includes light-hearted disbelief that
there is an association for parking professionals, but there’s time spent talking about industry
innovations such as mobile apps as well.

Our Parking Matters® program is generally focused on business-related media, but a few times
a year we send out something that will generate general consumer coverage–trying to get some
fun, positive coverage about parking–and that’s what our holiday tips news release is all about.
Educating the public to be careful because so many crashes take place in parking areas is a
good public service message as well, and it’s good for the industry.

I have another list – it’s the (long) list of the IPI members who have taken time out of their day,
often at a moment’s notice, to speak to reporters and be ambassadors for the entire profession
through the Parking Matters® program.

In the past months, Dennis Burns, CAPP, helped me frame a message for the UBM Future
Cities blog, Larry Cohen, CAPP, was interviewed for a Pennsylvania newspaper, Roamy Valera,
CAPP, was quoted in a Florida daily, Art Noriega fielded questions from a business reporter
in Arizona, Bob Harkins and Geary Robinson, CAPP, were featured experts in a column in
Buildings Magazine, Cindy Campbell is tapped for radio and newspaper articles regularly, Mike
Drow, CAPP, was quoted in BOMA Magazine, Isaiah Mouw, CAPP, Mike Klein, CAPP, Allen
Corry, CAPP, Rick Decker, CAPP, Tim Haahs, Gary Means, CAPP, Tom Wunk, CAPP, Laurens
Eckelboom, Liliana Rambo, CAPP, Dave Hill, CAPP, and many others, have all provided
outstanding Parking Matters® media support. Read examples of media coverage, along with
tips on How to Speak Parking Matters here.

IPI Chair Casey Jones, CAPP and IPI Executive Director Shawn Conrad, CAE serve as our
primary media spokespersons, of course, and they are on speed dial – not a week goes by
they aren’t tapped for a media interview. We’re spreading the word about the value of parking
professionals, and that’s cheerful news to spread, this season and always.

Parking and the Annoyance Threshold

Dave Feehan

Like most Americans, I am relieved and grateful that election season has finally subsided. Well, mostly. Not every television channel rumbles with constant attack ads. My land line (yes, I still have one, but never answer it) has ceased to be the target of hundreds of robo-calls. My mailbox is once again filled with innocuous flyers promoting local supermarkets instead of candidates and causes, and my email seems empty without the 50 daily pleas for political financial support. A blogger for Daily Kos called this barrage an attack on our collective “annoyance threshold,” a term I used about a year ago in a parking pricing report for a major West Coast city.

Not too many years ago, people in the parking business seemed mostly unconcerned with the annoyance threshold. If parking customers didn’t appreciate lugging a pocket-breaking load of quarters with them every time they went downtown, too bad. If parking garages were dull, dirty, and dangerous, we still collected their money, frequently without thanks. If drivers didn’t like tickets, towing, and booting, well, they should have been more careful. At the same time, city officials and downtown organizations wondered why downtowns kept losing retail, dining and office establishments to the suburbs.

Thankfully, we parking professionals woke up one day and realized that customers had lots of choices. Some of these choices were managed by people who understood what an annoying experience parking in downtowns and urban business districts could be. Then, in just a few years, a revolution occurred. Pay by credit card? Sure! Pay by cell phone? Coming soon to your city, if it’s not already available. Clean, safe parking structures? Of course! We were listening to our customers!

But I worry that we are in danger of once more forgetting the annoyance threshold and what our customers like and don’t like. Too many cities are now in financial trouble and see parking as a cash cow. Untested or poorly-designed variable pricing programs can easily annoy and confuse our customers. Some parking kiosks are user friendly; some, not so much. Signage and wayfinding? Too expensive. We should all remind ourselves that we are in business for one reason: to serve people, not to store cars.

Practitioner-Engaged Parking and Transportation Planning

L. Dennis Burns

I guess it’s true. There are no new ideas.

I recently spoke at the Healthcare Design Conference in Phoenix. While waiting in the speakers’ lounge, I struck up a conversation with another presenter. She asked what my topic was (Parking and Transportation Master Planning for Healthcare Campuses) and I asked her what she was speaking on. Her topic was Practitioner-Based Healthcare Planning.

I was kind of floored, because I had just been drafting an article based on the same concept, but within the parking and transportation planning arena (thus no new ideas). I guess even for me and my colleagues, the idea wasn’t really new. A small group of colleagues and I have been bringing in practicing parking professionals on our projects for years to provide added value and insight, but somehow giving it a label such as “Practitioner-Engaged Parking and Transportation Planning,” seemed to put a new spin and a different focus to the practice.

The reasons I am excited about this approach are threefold:

  1. I know from numerous experiences that this approach really does add significant value and sometimes unexpected insights to a consulting project.
  2. The sheer number and diversity of innovative programs being led by highly qualified parking professionals has grown exponentially. It used to be a challenge to find qualified candidates; now the problem is narrowing down the list!
  3. All of this speaks to amazing qualitative growth and development of the parking industry over the past 10 years.

I give IPI a huge amount of credit for creating the idea of a “parking professional” years ago and following through with programs that have made that concept a working reality. The exponential growth of creative ideas that have led to new and innovative programs and strategies is propelling our industry forward!

 

 

The Emotional Cost of Parking

Wanda Brown

I had the distinct privilege of hearing Dr. Richard Mouw from Fullerton Theological Seminary speak on civility recently. The topic of discussion was how to disagree with respect and reverence. He relayed an experience he had while visiting a local store: driving around the lot, he finally found that coveted parking place. He didn’t realize there was a woman who had been waiting for that very space. As he pulled in, he watched her drive around to another space and felt very badly about his oversight. To correct his obvious error, he approached her to apologize and explain how awful he felt. She responded, “Just leave me alone! You have no idea what kind of day I have had.” He still apologized, and she finally turned around and said, “Thank you for your apology”.

Hearing the story, my mind raced back to parking in a hospital setting. How many times do we hear that there is great emotion attached to one parking space. To the user, that spot is access to a loved one who is sick or dying, or the space you return to after surgery. It confirmed for me what I already knew: Parking is emotional. It is more emotional than financial.

It is no wonder that with the inclusion of a wayfinding system in our newest structure, our patient satisfaction scores went off the chart. Those little green lights softly say to the user, “I’ve been waiting for you,” versus older structures that said, “Find me if you can.” What can we do as parking professionals to meet the emotional cost associated with our parking spaces and ease the sting and frustration that comes with it?

Sandy Side Effects: Where Do We Put All The Cars?

Brett Wood

First, let me express my deep sympathy for our friends and colleagues in the path of Hurricane Sandy last week. I know many were and continue to be affected, and our hearts and prayers go out to you.

I was watching continuous news coverage of the event last week, when one story in particular caught my attention. On Wednesday, the national news reported that people were beginning to make their push back into work in Manhattan and that the lack of subway services and reduced transit were causing hundreds of thousands of people to take to their personal automobiles to enter the city. The news was reporting the effects on congestion and traffic, but my first thought (as a Parking Geek) was, “Where in the world are all of those people going to park?”

Mayor Bloomberg did the right thing requiring everyone to carpool into the city. The requirement that all cars have at least three people to enter the city via the four East River bridges will effectively reduce congestion by more than half the potential capacity. The problem still remained that the number of people driving into New York was still likely larger than on a normal operating day.

As I grew more interested, I found the following research from local Transportation Planner Michael Frumin, from 2009. During primary morning peak hours, the New York Subway system carries nearly 400,000 people into the City. At the same time, the average vehicle occupancy entering the City was 1.2 people per vehicle, meaning that if the subway capacity was converted to vehicles, an additional 324,000 vehicles (and parking spaces) would be needed to handle the added capacity. Then, with an average of 325 square feet per parking space, the additional vehicular capacity would require almost four square miles of parking–that’s three times larger than Central Park.

While there are likely many more important lessons we will learn from Hurricane Sandy, it would be prudent for our transportation and parking planners to understand what happens when we take our country’s largest transit infrastructure offline. If that’s not a case for a renewed emphasis on improved TDM and transit infrastructure, I don’t know what is.

 

The Art of Parking

Jeff Petry

Having the “Sunbathing Lady of the Lot” suddenly appear in our parking lot opened my mind to parking art. It also led me down a path of path of parking art that has included Knotty Knitters crafting cozies for meter poles and bike racks, a yearlong partnership with students at nearby Lane Community College to design and fabricate custom bike racks, a North American art competition on the wall of a parking garage that’s run for three years now, poetry installed in the stairway of a parking garage, a poem on the epark Eugene iPhone app, digital art on top of parking garages, and a street artist competition on concrete parking bollards.

We in Eugene have enjoyed a breadcrumb approach to incorporating art into our parking program. It started with the city’s Public Art Plan goal to “incorporate art into everyday objects.” It continued by inserting the word “parking” into this goal and working to “incorporate art into everyday parking objects.”

My first exposure to parking art was an overnight installation by the 12th Avenue Collaborative group that placed a parking space-sized, bikini-clad lady in our lot. I had a choice: trash it or let it stay. The artists made the decision easy by paying for all the parking spaces they used, and the lady attracted a lot of downtown visitors and positive attention, which is great news for any parking program.

Recently, at the Pacific Intermountain Parking & Transportation Association (PITPA) Conference and Tradeshow, keynote speaker Darin Watkins, of Washington State University, asked the audience, “How many of you can say you had three positive media stories  about your program in the last year?” I was able to raise my hand because we have invested in local partnerships that bring creativity to our parking system. This idea, however, is not unique. It could be implemented anywhere. All it takes is a parking professional willing to ask the question. Are you that person?

What’s in a Parking Brand?

Brett Wood

Can you name many parking programs off the top of your head? Maybe the one you work for?

If you pay close attention to the industry, you know SFpark. They have been at the forefront of the parking technology revolution for a few years now. But it’s more than their robust approach to parking management that makes them famous; it’s their brand and the way they present themselves to both the San Francisco community and the parking industry. They developed an iconography and brand that announces to the parker that it’s safe and easy to park when you see the SFpark logo. And even beyond that, they expanded their brand into a marketing and education campaign that compliments the programs mission and goals. See the print version here, and the video they developed here.

I recently helped lead a branding exercise with the City of Seattle Department of Transportation, along with one of the industry’s premier branding experts, Todd Pierce of Pictoform. The exercise was eye-opening and engaging, and the result was a brand and communication strategy that supported the new program, promoted new policies, spun a positive image of the parking agency, and had a little fun with a local flair.

The first component of the exercise was creating a brand for the on-street system. The sign design we came up with expresses the brand, communicates policy, and informs the parker of specific programs (in this case, “Value Block,” which might have lower rates or longer time limits to promote parking in less-used fringe areas).

The second component was to develop an educational video that explained the new policies. Working with local media specialists Team Soapbox, we decided a more local approach worked better than the animated SFpark approach. From our perspective, it seemed fun to see how the Seafair Pirates (a Seattle icon) handled the new program. The result was a humorous set of videos that Seattle residents can easily connect with.

The parking industry is evolving at a rapid pace, and the way we present ourselves is becoming more important than ever. It’s time to put your best foot forward and show your customers you mean business!

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.

Parking’s Beautiful Images

L. Dennis Burns

I admit it, I really like parking! When you truly get absorbed into a profession or any area of serious interest, there is no end to the dimensions and nuances you can see that are lost on others.

Not many things have captured my interest as much as parking, but the one that has is photography! Stick a camera in my hand and I can wander happily for hours and hours no matter where I am. Check out this cool image from an off the beaten path parking lot in Seattle!

I was thrilled to learn that IPI had found a way to merge two of my favorite things into a friendly competition: The Parking Professional Photo Contest! How great is that!

The categories for submissions include:

  • Beautiful
  • Funny
  • People in Parking
  • Structure/Lot
  • Nature
  • Most Offbeat or Unusual

Every photo submitted will also be considered for the Best in Show award, which comes with a free registration to the 2013 IPI Conference & Expo in Ft. Lauderdale, and publication on the cover of a future issue of The Parking Professional. Winners of individual categories will receive Parking Matters® shirts and see their photos published in the magazine as well.

I can’t wait to see the kinds of images that will be submitted. Imagine trying to capture the essence of our profession in photographs. The possibilities are endless! I’m already searching my files for the perfect parking picture. I hope you will join me!

Want more info? Go to: www.parking.org/photocontest.

Thinking Outside the Lot

Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D.

Guest blogger Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D. is professor of landscape architecture and urban planning and head, joint program in city design and development, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is author of Re-Thinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking, and of a feature in the May issue of The Parking Professional.

One look at a typical surface parking lot raises many questions: Can parking lots be designed in a more attractive and aesthetically pleasing way? Can environmental considerations be addressed and adverse effects mitigated? Can parking lots provide more than car storage? Can they be integrated more seamlessly into our built environment in a way that is not only practical but also elegant and enjoyable? What can be learned from usage behavior and the manipulation of lots by unplanned-for users such as teens, food vendors, theater companies, and tailgating sport fans?

In the May issue of The Parking Professional [PDF], I offer thoughts from my book, ReThinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking. The book explores the origins of the surface lot and its influences on our culture; I think even the most mundane lot has potential to be much more. I argue, using the parking lot as an example, that molding everyday places though simple, generative interventions can transform the way we live and interact with our surroundings.

What is needed next is a renewed vision and exciting ideas for the 21st century parking lot. As a leading voice of the parking industry, the International Parking Institute champions new directions through its Awards of Excellence, which recognize outstanding design in parking. These awards encourage imagination and creativity that help find new solutions intrinsic to the function of the lot, but go beyond the typical aesthetic embellishments and illustrate potential for our future built environment. I am looking forward to hearing about this year’s winners in June.

What do you think can be done to encourage better design in surface lots?

 

Smoke Screens and Sustainability

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

Soldiers in combat used to find cigarettes in their rations. Today, such a thing would be unimaginable given what we know about the dangers of smoking. The climate change debate is very much like the argument over tobacco in the 1960s following reports about the dangers of smoking. At a point in both discussions, the science was understood.

The near-universal view on climate change can be summed up this way: “The build-up of heat-trapping emissions from fossil fuels and clearing forests is changing the climate, posing significant risks to our well-being. It stands to reason, then, that reducing those emissions would greatly reduce risks associated with climate change.” So say Andrew Hoffman, director of the Erb Institute at the University of Michigan, and Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In their recent article Hoffman and Frumhoff describe the debate over climate change as a social challenge similar to the one that occurred around smoking. Conclusive evidence did not stop tobacco companies from spending huge sums of money to discredit the science and encourage people to smoke. It was only after public consciousness was raised that change began to take hold.

To raise public awareness, we need trusted leaders to bring about fact-based and respectful dialogue that is based on shared values. IPI is doing this through our sustainability committee, through content offered at our 2012 Conference & Expo, and through The Green Standard sustainability column in The Parking Professional. But as an industry, we need to ask ourselves if we’re like big tobacco, or are we taking action as leaders in an effort to respond to unequivocal science?

The Magic of Transitional Places

L. Dennis Burns

Parking facilities are not merely temporary storage facilities for automobiles. They are also the interface or transition between the vehicular and pedestrian experience.

These modal intersections can be much more than utilitarian connection points. Consider train stations, which we associate with spectacular building forms and public areas. Union Station in Washington, D.C. and Grand Central Station in New York City come to mind as traditional examples. These environments are much more than simple transportation connection points; they have a special energy and excitement. In them, we transition from one point to another and there is a certain excitement related to movement, exploring new environments, the anticipation of a specific event, and the unknowns of a new place. All of these elements combine to create a special vitality. These places can capture and enhance the positive and magical elements that go along with being in the mode of journeying.

There are also many examples of how poorly-designed or maintained transitional places can lead to feelings of uncertainty, trepidation, and even fear. These types of experiences can have a dramatic effect on the overall experience, even if the final destination met all expectations.

Parking facilities are probably the most numerous and undervalued modal intersection points in the world. We should take a fresh look our facilities and how the experiences we generate have a direct bearing on businesses and functions that depend on us as their customer gateways.

Take a critical look at your parking facilities and re-imagine them as community gateways, designed to meet the special needs of sojourners transitioning from one mode of travel to another. The more we take on the ownership of our limited but critical segment of the journey, the more we enhance our value to our customers and our communities.

How are you enhancing your facility as a community gateway?

The Conundrum of Paid Parking

Brett Wood

We are often asked about the implementation of paid parking within a community. Citizens, business owners, property owners, employees, and employers all want to know three things:

  • How will this affect business?
  • Who is going to be accountable for the system?
  • How do you measure success?

These are difficult questions to answer, but we find ourselves trying to answer them more and more. Every community reacts differently, and the success or failure of a parking system depends on everyone involved. Your community should consider these thoughts:

The community has to support implementation. You don’t have to believe in it, but if you want your business to succeed in the new environment, it’s imperative that you educate yourself, your employees, and your customers about the benefits and use of the system.

Forget about revenue. Paid parking shouldn’t be a cash grab for the general fund. For successful implementation, everyone has to understand that paid parking is about management, providing incentives to park away from premium spots, and encouraging prime spots to turn over.

Give something back. Provide some tangible benefit to the area through benefit districts that pay for transportation and community enhancements, and tell people you are doing it. Put a sticker on every meter that tells your customers where the money goes.

Ease up on the tickets. If you implement paid parking, focus on compliance. Ease up on citations. By educating your customers about how and where to park, violations should go down and revenue should be unchanged.

Market, market, market. Before you implement paid parking, start educating your customers about it. Pilot studies are a great way to test new technology before you buy. Don’t be afraid to try three or four vendors and equipment types. Test them all at one time. Ask people what they think.

Be flexible. Provide payment options. Don’t be afraid to raise or lower rates if you don’t find the balance you like. Go into the implementation with the mindset that year one is a trial, and include your stakeholders. Because they are using the system, and they are educating your customers.

Parking Op-ed in the New York Times

Shawn Conrad

There was an op-ed in the New York Times yesterday by Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D., professor of landscape planning and urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who has written a new book, ReThinking A Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking. I sent a letter to the editor of the New York Times (below) that supports IPI’s efforts to advance the parking profession. Look for a feature from Dr. Ben-Joseph in the May issue of The Parking Professional. I welcome your comments.

My Letter to Editor of the New York Times:

Thank you to Eran Ben-Joseph for bringing attention to the importance of parking in his New York Times op-ed, “When a Parking Lot is So Much More.”

The Survey of Emerging Trends in Parking conducted by the International Parking Institute last year found that many problems identified with parking facilities today could often have been solved had parking professionals been consulted earlier in the planning process. Well-planned parking can increase use of mass transportation, reduce the number of people commuting, encourage alternative travel methods and better utilize parking through shared use. There is a new generation of parking professionals with diverse expertise in urban planning, public policy, transportation, architecture and engineering who are making significant progress in improving parking through advanced technology, better design, and a focus on sustainability to create more aesthetic and livable communities.

Three Ways to Change the Game

Brett Wood

The other day, we talked about the changing perception of parking. As a follow-up, here are a few real-world examples of customer service approaches that have helped change the perception of parking:

  • Ticket forgiveness. Rick Onstott, parking director at EasyPark in Anchorage, Alaska, allowed first time offenders to take a parking quiz that negated the offender’s ticket. During the three-month period he ran the offer, nearly 4,000 people took the survey (and all passed!). While there may not be a direct correlation to reduced citations, the perception of the parking program has reversed course and his group has built a lot of positive momentum.
  • Leveraging technology. Adam Jones, vice president of parking and operations for Downtown Tempe Community, Inc., in Tempe, Ariz., installed new on-street meter technology along the community’s major retail and activity corridor. Credit card usage debuted at 25 percent of all transactions and violations have seen a slight decline, while overall revenues have stayed consistent for the program. This validated Jones’ approach to compliance through education rather than strong-armed enforcement, encouraging patrons to properly pay for transactions rather than penalizing them with parking citations.
  • Better information. San Francisco is at the forefront of the parking technology revolution with their SFpark program. The program uses new payment technology, sensors, and smartphone applications to make the parking experience seamless. Initial reviews are encouraging and the associated press and industry buzz has created a very positive perception of the program.

These are just a few examples of areas where parking perceptions have been boosted by proactive programs. Have you tried something similar? Let us know in the comments!

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.

The Changing Perception of Parking

Brett Wood

I have a secret obsession: I like to find online articles about parking management decisions in various communities and read the comments that the local folks add at the end. Sometimes I don’t even read the articles. I shoot straight to the bottom and read the comments. Most times, those comments read like this:

“I can’t believe they are going to charge for parking…nobody is ever going to come downtown again!”

“Why does the city constantly try to hurt business? More parking management means less customers.”

You almost never read:

“Why, what a wonderful idea! Now I will be able to find a convenient parking space.”

For so long, our industry has been plagued by perception: there is not enough parking, parking costs too much, suburbs with free parking are better than downtowns with paid parking, parking enforcement is only out to get people’s money.

It’s up to parking professionals to change those perceptions, and it’s amazing what little decisions can do to help change a customer’s mind about parking. A focus on improving customer service goes a long way in changing the perception of parking, both inside and outside of our industry. The ultimate goal of parking managers today should be maximizing customer experiences rather than focusing on maximizing revenue. Because, just like they told Kevin Costner’s character in “Field of Dreams,” “If you make the parking experience better, they will come.”

We don’t have to go that far to improve the perception of parking. We just need to start thinking about how our customers will use and appreciate our parking decisions.