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Where Has The Year Gone?

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

Overheard one recent Sunday morning while sipping coffee and reading the paper at the Jones family dining table:iStock_000022015805_Large

Robyn (my wife): “Hey, did you realize that Christmas is only two months away?”

Me: “Huh? Sorry, for a second I thought you said something about Christmas.”

Robyn: “Yes, it’s only two months away.”

Me: “I wonder how my fantasy team is doing today?”

Robyn: (narrows eyes, appears unamused).

Me: “But don’t we still have Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving to celebrate? And don’t forget National Donut Day …” (muttering in barely audible, defeated husband voice) ”Where has the year gone?”

Later that day at the grocery store:

Me: “Look at the wrapping paper, icicle lights, and fake trees. I guess you’re right, Christmas is just around the corner.”

Robyn: “Silly man. Of course I’m right.” (winks)

You and I might be in denial but the holidays are right around the corner. The good news is that if we start now, we can get the shopping done, lights hung, and meals and travels planned. If we procrastinate, we may still get through the holidays but it might be stressful and unpleasant.

As parking professionals, we have many things to do, whether we provide parking for an airport, downtown, special event venue, commercial district, or university. We must complete scheduling rosters and ensure that our facilities are clean and presentable, and we may need to order de-icer, snow shovels, or umbrellas for our patrons. Another thing we need to do is complete and execute our holiday communications plan. This entails being proactive, pointed, and persistent.

Being proactive requires that we establish relationships with our media partners so we know what they need and how we can deliver it. It also means that we have a well-thought-out plan and the tools and resources to get the job done. Being pointed requires that we have focused our key messages and know exactly what is important to communicate to our public. Being persistent means that we recognize that the parking public receives our message in many different ways and that we explore and utilize each fully.

Soon, I’ll be on a ladder with driving snow at my back as I work to get the Christmas lights on the house and I’ll no doubt have cards to send and presents to buy. But I’m certain I’ll think longingly to the time not long ago that I could have started in on the holiday tasks and avoided cramming everything into the last few weeks, hoping that I don’t miss something important. We can work now to get our holiday communications plan in place for a successful season free of the stress of bad planning and poor execution.

I Want You to Want Me

MichelleJonesHS

What’s in your wallet? Or on your Key Ring app? I admit it, I love my loyalty cards. Airlines, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, specialty retailers … I have them all. I love to feel like I’m appreciated for patronizing a business regularly. Whether it’s an occasional free burrito bowl at Qdoba or a complimentary item at Sephora during my birthday month, it just makes the shopping/dining/travel experience all the more enjoyable.iStock_000049550260_XXXLarge

Well, what if we could say the same for parking? Wouldn’t it be cool to have a gift card or loyalty card for the parking garages and spaces that you frequent? Or what if your everyday parking garage rewarded you with a free car wash once a month for being a loyal customer?

The ability to gift teen and college drivers with a loaded parking card for those pay-and-display or pay-on-foot machines would be ingenious. While this might decrease enforcement revenue, it also may increase lawful parking sales and encourage responsible parking habits.

The app companies are creative. ParkMe offers points and The Parking Spot airport parking service does have its Spot Club. For a company like that, maybe every 100th use of their app could earn one a $5 credit?

Logistically I realize this may involve partnerships between parking facility owners, operators, card manufacturers, etc., but I think if nearly every other type of business we encounter can achieve this sense of loyalty appreciation, surely there are opportunities for the parking industry as well. Who’s with me?

Become an Authority Figure

iStock_000020000698_Large

When I was in college way back in the 20th century, bumper stickers and tee shirts suggesting that we Question Authority were in vogue. Authority figures were anathema, not to be trusted or followed. (Come to think of it, things may not have changed so much—my kids still behave this way!)

iStock_000020000698_LargeIn the business world, however, authority is still in vogue. We rely on authorities to share insights and provide best practices to help us manage our organizations more effectively, efficiently, and profitably. This is one of the underlying foundations of public relations (my specialty). If you can establish yourself as an authority on subjects that matter to your customers and potential customers, you have taken an important step toward gaining their business.

This is why publicity has always been such a powerful marketing and business development tool. Articles in local and national business and industry press provide a great opportunity to demonstrate your expertise on issues customers and prospects need help with. And there are plenty of opportunities to author bylined articles in local or national newspapers and magazines, or serve as experts to be interviewed for articles.

Blogging offers similar opportunities to assume authority of issues your customers and potential partners care about. In fact, blogs offer a uniquely attractive opportunity because you aren’t constrained by editorial calendars or magazine’s publication guidelines. You can write about anything you want in any format you please. You can construct your messages with a focus on what your audiences want to read rather than on what an editor wants. Blogging can be a wonderfully effective complement to a publicity program too. That’s why you should be blogging.

It pays to be an authority figure if you are marketing a product or service. Blogging and seeking out publicity opportunities are great places to start.

Cleveland Clinic CARES About Parking Symposium: Oct. 28-29

2015 symposium logo

We invite you to join us for the 3rd Annual Cleveland Clinic CARES About Parking Symposium,held in cooperation with the International Parking Institute (IPI) and Parking Solutions, Inc. This year’s event will take place October 28 and 29 at the InterContinental Hotel and Convention Center located on the Cleveland Clinic Main Campus in Cleveland, Ohio.2015 symposium logo

What began in 2013 as the award winning Cleveland Clinic Parking Services Team sharing its innovative CARES model (Customer Experience, Available Parking, Responsible Finance, Engaged Employees, Sustainable Business), has transformed into a highly interactive event where healthcare professionals from all over the world come together and network, initiate dynamic discussions, share best practices, and more.

This year’s theme is Driving ForwardUsing Technology, Data, and Best Practices to Improve Your Transportation and Parking Operations. Hospitals and parking organizations from all over the country will be attending and sharing their best practices and lessons learned related to this year’s theme.

Here are a few of this year’s highlights:

  • Keynote speaker: Gordon M. Snow, Cleveland Clinic Chief of Protective Services.
  • Guest speakers include representatives from:
    • IPI’s Technology Committee.
    • The Cleveland Clinic.
    • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
    • Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
    • Lehigh Valley Health Network.
    • Oregon Health & Science University.
    • More to be announced soon.
    • Topics will include Cyber Security Threats, Valet Successes, Valet Parking Technology, Transportation Management Planning, Commute Trip Reduction Laws, Alternative Modes of Transportation, Patient Experience, Shuttle Bus Conversion from Diesel Fuel to Natural Gas, Managing Employee Expectations, Ambassador Services, Shuttle Bus Technology, License Plate Recognition, and Inventory Management, and more!
      • The parking services team at the Cleveland Clinic Parking Services operates 44,000 spaces, 11 garages, 116 surface lots, 50,000 internal customers and 24 valet locations. They were awarded the 2013 Silver Award from the Partnership for Excellence (Malcom Baldridge State Level Program). This award is the nations highest honor for performance excellence through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership. The mission of Cleveland Clinic Parking Services is to provide safe and convenient parking while constantly seeking innovations that enhance quality and service, operating fiscally responsible, and contributing to a healthy environment.

We are very excited about this year’s event and hope you can join us. Please visit info.parkingsolutionsinc.com/cares to learn more and register for the event.

Contact me directly at robinsonj@parkingsolutionsinc.com or 614.453.1507 with any questions.

 

Guest Blogger Jeremy Robinson is marketing manager with Parking Solutions, Inc.

We Challenge You: Park Your Park

Rachel_Yoka 2013

We know parking isn’t just about cars—it’s all about people, mobility, and transportation systems that work together to build community. Who knows better how to transform a parking space than the leading organization of parking professionals?

From a one “park” in 2005 to nearly 1,000 tiny parks around the world in 2011, Park(ing) Day has grown by leaps and bounds. An annual worldwide event in which artists, designers, and citizens get creative, this movement takes metered parking spots and turns them into temporary parks. Many cities even host their own Park(ing) Days, including Denver and Philadelphia. This year’s one-day celebration of tiny, temporary parks in parking spaces will be the best yet because this time, it’s your turn.

IPI is throwing down the gauntlet to parking professionals to participate in Park(ing) Day.  Here’s how.

  1. Go do your homework at parkingday.org and sign up.
  2. Let us you know you plan to participate by sending an email to yoka@parking.org.
  3. On Park(ing) Day, post your best photos to IPI’s Facebook Page (facebook.com/IPI.InternationalParkingInstitute) with the hashtag #IPIParkingDay.
  4. Use all your social media channels to get the word out, and have a little (or a lot of) fun with it.

The winning team will receive their own Parking Matters® swag bag and, of course, bragging (and blogging) rights. I, for one, cannot wait to see what you crafty parking professionals come up with.

International Towing and Recovery Museum

Isaiah Mouw

Oklahoma City may boast about being home of the world’s first parking meter, but it was my hometown of Chattanooga, Tenn., that gave birth to the tow truck. I didn’t know this tidbit of information before visiting the International Towing and Recovery Museum on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The museum was a pleasant surprise with lots of antique tow vehicles and other unique tow vehicles including the “World’s Fastest Wrecker” and an actual military wrecker that marched alongside Patton’s advance on Germany.mouwblog

Towing goes hand-in-hand with most parking operations and typically is associated with a negative experience or connotation. It’s easy to yell at a tow truck driver or tow yard employee (remember ESPN’s Britt McHenry) who has towed your vehicle, but that might change for a visitor to the Towing Memorial in the front of the museum which recognizes hundreds of towing professionals who lost their lives on the job helping others. A short section of the museum also remembers the tow drivers who worked round the clock during 9/11 to clear debris and vehicles helping rescue workers at Ground Zero.

The museum also had a lot of kid-friendly tow trucks along with several replicas of the most famous children’s tow truck celebrity: Mater from Pixar’s “Cars” movie. I love visiting unique or quirky museums when I travel and this was no exception. But most importantly, this may have inspired me to start the first ever International Parking Museum. If there’s a museum for barbed wire and a museum for toilets, why can’t there be one for parking.

Get Ahead Of Local Parking Coverage

Bill_Smith_Jan.2015

During the past five years, thanks in part to IPI’s Parking Matters® national public relations and marketing efforts, positive stories about parking abound. According to IPI’s soon-to-be published Emerging Trends in Parking Survey, nearly 50 percent of parking professionals surveyed think perceptions of parking are improving. But, we all know when local papers run editorials about parking,  the coverage isn’t always fair and parking is often misunderstood. When parking is in the news often there’s a problem—or a perceived problem—with local parking. Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that has been learned by dozens of cities in recent months, from Tampa to Los Angeles.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire right? Actually, no. Sometimes smoke is just smoke.

Unfortunately, when it comes to municipal parking plans and regulations, misunderstandings abound, but a proactive communications program can go a long way in helping educate stakeholders, including the media, so media coverage is balanced. Residents, business owners, and other stakeholders have opinions about how parking should be managed but they typically don’t 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 do parking time limits seem too short? There are planning reasons for these regulations too. The problem is, stakeholders often aren’t aware of why these 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 the newspapers are editorializing.

Every city and town should have a strategic communications program designed to keep the public informed about its 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.
  • 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 designing websites 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.

If you’re looking for examples of positive local parking marketing efforts, read the inspiring case studies of the 16 winners of the Parking Matters Marketing & Communications Awards on the website or in The Parking Professional in July.

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.

 

Rare Compliments

Kim_Fernandez_March2015

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

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

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

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

Happy Parking

MichelleJonesHS

What if we could make the world a little brighter… a little happier… one person at a time?  I subscribe to a magazine called Live Happy:

Live Happy magazine is serious about happiness.

Weaving the science of positive psychology through inspiring features, relatable stories, and sage advice, we help people discover their personal journey of happiness in life, at work and at home.
I was on their website last week because I heard about the International Day of Happiness, which falls on March 20 this year. They have issued a challenge—the #HappyActs Challenge—to see how many “happy acts” we can complete by the International Day of Happiness.  A happy act might be offering to mow your neighbor’s lawn, running some errands for an elderly person, complimenting a coworker, or paying for the order of the person behind you in the coffee shop line.

In the parking industry, we all have opportunities to brighten someone’s day. Exceptional customer service can go a long way to ease a driver’s perceived pain of paying for parking or receiving a parking ticket, etc. Smile when you speak to your customer. Send a handwritten thank-you note to the person who took your meeting. Hand out a gift card for a cup of coffee when issuing that parking permit.

Live Happy will donate a dollar to Big Brothers Big Sisters for every person who accepts the #HappyActs challenge by clicking through and signing up. (As if you needed more incentive to do something awesome!)  You’re encouraged to share your #HappyActs on social media! Spread the smiles!!

Do you accept?

 

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.

IPI Shows off Park(ing) Day Spirit

Kim Fernandez

A great time was had by all. It’s a cliche, but an appropriate way to describe IPI’s first official foray into Park(ing) Day last Friday, 100_1314when parking spots all around the world were transformed into temporary parks, cafes, libraries, and public spaces (see the August issue of The Parking Professional for more).

A spirited group of IPI staff members joined the design pros at BonoTom Studio (the folks who make The Parking Professional look so good) for lunch in a parklet on Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va. Lining a space with faux grass (after paying the meter, of course) and decorating with everything from garden chairs to fanciful gnomes, we invited passers by to kick back in the sun, enjoy a cookie, and talk about parking. For their part, visitors told us about other Park(ing) Day installations they’d passed during the day and even wished us a happy Park(ing) Day as they drove past.

100_1302We had a great time participating in this event, and would love to hear about your festivities. Comment below, or send your story and a photo or two of your parklet to fernandez@parking.org–we’ll publish them in a future issue of the magazine (also think about entering your Park(ing) Day photos in our contest–visit parking.org/photocontest for information).

See you on the street next year!

Spreading The Word

Bill Smith

I am a parking nerd, which would be a source of merriment for my father if he were still alive. You see, my dad was an engineer and well-known authority on handicap access and historic preservation. When I was young, I used to love to tease him about being, well, a nerd. When we were together, there was never a shortage of pocket protector jokes (which he always accepted with good humor).

If he could see me today he would surely be getting his revenge.

After 20 years of creating public relations programs for parking firms and industry groups, I have genuinely come to love parking. I’m fascinated by the ways it affects our lives, the creative solutions engineers and planners come up with to solve difficult parking challenges, and the cool new technologies that are constantly being introduced. And I love to talk about these things. Being Italian, talking comes naturally to me, and as a public relations (PR) professional, talking is my business.

Over the course of my career I have come to realize that it’s not just marketing or PR professionals who need to be spreading the word about parking. Anyone who works in the parking industry—whether as an owner, operator, consultant, or staff member—needs to be talking about the industry and why it’s important.

In this communication age, everyone is a marketer. Do you talk about your job when you are at parties or after attending church? If so, you are marketing. When you are with friends or colleagues, do you talk about your latest project or the organization where you work? Whenever you do, you are doing PR. Are you active on LinkedIn or other social media sites promoting your career? If so, you are also promoting your organization and profession.

Think about this the next time you are talking about work, your latest project, or what you love about your job. Enthusiasm is infectious, and when you share yours with neighbors, friends, or even strangers, you have an opportunity to help people understand why parking is so interesting and essential. Sharing your passion for parking will benefit you professionally, help promote your company or organization, and bolster the parking industry.

Think about it…and then go spread the word.

 

Bill Smith will present “We Are All ‘Mad Men (and Women)’” at the IPI Conference & Expo General Session on Wednesday, May 22. This session will explain why everyone is a marketer and how promoting individual organizations and the industry itself benefits the careers of parking professionals. For information and to register, visit IPIConference.parking.org.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

You Have to Give to Receive (Positive Media Coverage)

Jeff Petry

 

Can you image a newscast beginning with, “Well, you don’t have to go to the library to pick up good fiction. Downtown Eugene now has a very unusual venue for stories–the steps of a [public] parking garage.”

Can you imagine a municipal parking program staging an event that is covered by every local media outlet and involves the mayor, award-winning local writers, and celebrity Slug Queens?

Can you imagine a municipal parking program where getting positive media coverage is considered the norm?

I can because it is happening right here in Eugene, Ore. The City of Eugene’s municipal parking program, Epark Eugene, has garnered many positive news stories and kudos from the community. These stories have focused on projects the parking program has sponsored with community groups throughout downtown.

The quote above was the lead in line for a local news segment on November 30, 2012 for our Step into Stories installation, which displayed original flash fiction pieces (stories of 200 words or less) from local authors on 48” square panels in an internal stairway of our oldest downtown parking garage. During the dedication event, each author read their panels in the stairway (11 total stories) with the media filming and recording the whole experience. It cost $1,400 and returned at least 3 times that amount in positive media broadcast.

You have to give good things to report to receive good media coverage. You can’t just say something; you have to do something. Making visible positive changeand inviting the community to be part of it gives the media something to show and talk about. It also helps to give them something they might not expect.

Good media coverage can change the community conversation about parking and open new possibilities. You start attracting people like a student who wants to display her fiber art project on top of your parking garage, which becomes part your downtown’s First Friday Art Walk. Or, you work with other artists and community members on other large events.

While this is the season of giving, parking professional must think about giving thoughtful gifts back to the community all the time.

 

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?

Step Into [Parking] Poetry

Jeff Petry

In an earlier blog post I talked about our bread crumb approach to partnering with creative people and organizations in our community. Our downtown parking garage display, Step into Poetry, provides a specific example of how simple the process can be for parking professionals.

This project was the result of a passing hallway conversation with an employee who is also a poet. I asked her if she knew any poets that would be interested in having their work displayed in a parking garage. The response was amazing. Within days, I received an email from the local chapter of the Oregon Poetry Association and scheduled a walk through a garage. I expected two or three people to attend, but was surprised by about 12 local writers! We toured the garage, coffee in hand. The poets formed three committees and presented me with three options to add poetry to the garage.

We picked an easy project to complete: panels in the stairs. From there, we moved to the design and poetry submission phases. I asked for help from another department’s graphic artist for the design layout, which incorporated what we learned from Todd Pierce’s “What’s Your Brand?” IPI webinar. The poets asked for submissions and permissions from their membership, and we worked together to select seven poems and a featured poem by Oregon’s Poet Laureate.

The Step into Poetry project is a success. It incorporates art into parking, reinvests parking funds where they are collected, supports local arts and the development of artists in our community, and reinforces the creative, distinctive culture of downtown. We have visitors who park in the garage just to take the stairs! Graffiti and vandalism have dropped to zero in this staircase since installation, and we enjoy many kudos from the community.

How do we build upon this success? We keep writing of course! In September, we will install “Step into Prose” panels that display flash fiction from local writers. We are tying the flash fiction to the city’s 150th birthday party by gathering submissions that look back over our past 150 years as well as looking forward 150 years.

All this took was asking a simple question.

Do you think this program might work in your community? Why or why not? Comment below.