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Group Listening


Research can really help guide decision-making. You may have done some formal or informal marketing research for your organization. Easy access to SurveyMonkey and other online surveying tools have made polls a snap, though I feel strongly that without the assist of a bona fide marketing research expert, questions can be poorly worded or worded to invite bias and result in useless or erroneous results (but that’s a post for another day).

Years ago, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was a client of mine when I worked for the Washington, D.C. advertising/public relations agency Henry J. Kaufman & Associates.Sullivan post graphic

My wonderful FTC client liaison, Nancy Sachs, and I became good friends during a stretch of years when we developed public service announcements to help educate consumers about everything from the FTC’s Funeral Rule to buying used cars. Before each campaign, we did marketing research that included conducting focus groups with eight to 12 people.

These two-hour sessions were carefully moderated by a professional marketing researcher and recorded. Focus group rooms are generally equipped with two-way mirrors so ad agency personnel can watch without becoming a distraction (with full disclosure, of course).

What great entertainment–and so enlightening– to hear people express their feelings on a topic that matters to you or your cause.

Here’s the point: Listening—not just reading results, but really listening–is very valuable when it comes to customers and others you want to reach or serve.

What made me think of this today? I am sitting at gate C in Terminal A at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. I’m at an eatery that features at each station an iPad with menu, a plug to charge my phone, and a credit card swipe. From this vantage point I can see my gate which is only about 40 feet away. There must be at least 60 of these stations in this central gate area and travelers are digging it! I charged my phone, ordered breakfast, watched CNN, swiped my credit card to pay, collected a receipt, and was on my way.

Someone did some really good thinking to develop this system and my guess is some good focus-grouping was part of it.

What would bringing together a group of your community, customers, tenants, patrons, students, faculty, staff, or other stakeholders do for your organization?

Kid in a Candy Store


That’s me. A kid in a candy store this week as I began what I consider total fun—pouring over the results of IPI’s Emerging Trends in Parking Survey and beginning to crunch the numbers, while looking out my window here in D.C. at the sno-caps, even though the calendar says March.

As in past years, IPI members and the parking community really came through—a whopper of a response—and the high numbers make this survey meaningful and projectable, offering a pay day of valuable insights and information. Kudos and a kiss to the entire Parking Matters® Committee (but particularly co-chairs Cindy Campbell and Casey Jones, CAPP, along with Vanesssa Solesbee—the three musketeers on this project) for reshaping the survey this year and adding some new questions about parking minimums and placard abuse.

Can you guess how many of your colleagues would recommend parking as a career to those currently in high school or college? I can’t share exact percentages yet, but suffice it to say, good ‘n plenty!

Special thanks to Todd Litman, executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, who was a lifesaver for allowing us to use his materials for a series of questions on transportation demand management (TDM). The responses to the TDM questions validate just how much more than parking parking folks deal with!

We kept a few questions from past surveys that deal with emerging trends so we can measure changes over time, but it’s the new questions on the survey  that are out of this milky way and will make you look like a smartie.

Beyond analyzing results of the survey as a whole and trying to connect all the dots, we also slice and dice the information by sector. How do parking professionals at airports, for instance, differ from those at cities or universities in how they see societal trends that are influencing parking?

I’m not the ultimate cracker jack marketing researcher, so the IPI survey is also being analyzed, as in the past, by Maria Ivancin of the Washington, D.C.-based Market Research Bureau.

When the results are published and shared in conjunction with the 2015 IPI Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, we’ll all have a lot to chew on!

While we are be-twix-ed and between the close of the survey and the publication of the results in June, you are welcome to view a past survey here.

P.S. Are you snicker-ing, yet? The first person who sends me an email with the correct number of candy brands mentioned in this blog, will receive one item of his or her choice from the IPI store, at ShopIPI. Write to me at

Recommendation from a Research Junkie

L. Dennis Burns

I confess: I have officially become a research junkie. The good news is that given my job, this is actually a good thing! The best part is sharing some of the great work that I have stumbled onto with friends and colleagues.

One really nice piece of work that deserves a wider audience is a study: “Driving Urban Environments: Smart Growth Parking Best Practices,” published by the Governor’s Office of Smart Growth in Maryland.

This study does a great job of capturing both the importance and the challenges associated with parking. It addresses the increasing concerns related to the downsides of an auto-based landscape that no longer holds the promise of progress and growth, but rather fosters congestion that steals precious time from our lives and creates significant environmental concerns. In contrast, this work promotes the promise inherent in smart growth strategies, recognizing that the future and vitality of our communities is dependent upon our ability to foster better planned, more environmentally protective, more sustainable patterns of development.

The promise of smart growth strategies, however, does not come without its challenges, and no aspect of development illustrates this better than parking. The following quote captures the essence of this work: “Parking requirements now drive many site designs, and are often the make or break issue for financing new developments. Too many quality smart growth projects remain on the drawing board because they simply cannot solve the parking dilemma. We need parking, but we need to re-think parking design, parking financing, and parking supply and demand to better meet the needs of communities, developers, and users.”

This study addresses parking management and design as a critical factor in the context of smart growth strategies for urban environments and reaffirms the key role parking plays in effective community and economic development.

I encourage you to check out this great piece of work.

Parking Matters®? Prove it!


I’m not a parking professional, but after talking to the media about the industry since 2009, I certainly think it’s fair to call myself a parking cheerleader and advocate. You could say Parking Matters® is my baby—even my three adult daughters will say it’s true.


If you record milestones in the lives of your children, you’ll understand that I feel similarly in sharing a new white paper IPI has published titled, “Why Parking Matters: The case for why parking –and the expertise of parking professional— is integral to the future of our cities.

From the earliest days of IPI’s Parking Matters® program, it’s been easy to talk to reporters and describe an industry whose dramatic, exciting, positive change is worthy of attention. The convergence of technology, sustainability, and a focus on customer service has given us credible and important stories to share with decision-makers at municipalities, universities, airports, hospitals, retailers, downtowns, sports arenas, and beyond.

This new white paper, coupled with a companion piece summarizing innovative parking programs in the U.S., and the “Smart Parking: A Tale of Two Cities” infographic produced by the Smart Parking Alliance™ this summer, is a powerful tool that takes us a step further in telling our story.

Focused on the municipality market, Why Parking Matters® includes discussions of the economics of parking, sustainability, and how parking contributes to making more livable, walkable communities.

The white paper supports IPI’s mission to advance the parking profession. The call to action?  Rethink your parking strategies, starting with the expertise of a parking professional.

I hope you’ll download Why Parking Matters® and share it widely with colleagues and clients. You’ll also receive a hard copy with next month’s The Parking Professional magazine.

The white paper is a living document. If you have a particular statistic that makes the case for Why Parking Matters®, please share it with me at If your city is not one of the 13 included in the Innovative Parking Programs in the U.S., send me a summary of its innovations and we’ll add it in.

A Day in the Life of a Parking Professional

Shawn Conrad

What are all the day-to-day tasks involved in being a parking professional?

That’s what we are trying to ascertain with the IPI Parking Job Analysis Survey, which you may have received this week.

This isn’t just another survey–the Job Analysis Survey is particularly important to all of us because it will help us develop a real-world profile of the tasks and responsibilities of parking professionals. That profile will help us better explain the scope of work of our profession to others, and help guide us in developing on-the-mark training and professional development programs within our own ranks.

The difficulty in doing a Job Analysis Survey can be that you really need an extraordinary number of respondents in order for the survey to be truly representative, truly valid. In this day of overburdening emails, too much information, and time constraints, how do you break through the clutter and convince people to take 15 minutes to complete one?

I risked seeming like a wild and crazy optimist when I told our talented and very experienced Job Analysis project consultant, Kate Windom, that I believed our members would surprise her with their response. (Not to brag, but I’m the envy of other association executives when I boast that IPI members in the hundreds fill out our annual call for volunteers.) I knew (hoped!) that I could count on our enthusiastic, thoughtful, and always generous members who were sure to take just 15 minutes to share their thoughts.

Even I was wowed by the response we received to just our first email requesting survey participation. Kate says she’s absolutely never seen anything like it! The response was beyond our wildest dreams!

We still need more. So if you haven’t yet seen an email about the Job Analysis Survey in your mailbox, on IPIs Facebook page, or through the IPI LinkedIn group, please send an email to and ask for a link to the survey. Just write “Job Analysis” in the subject line. You don’t have to be an IPI member to participate. It takes just 15 minutes (every one is a gift to us and to the industry) and you could win an iPad Mini just for responding.

The survey is important in our quest to advance the parking profession and your input is vital.

MTI: Claiming a Seat at the Table

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

Sally Ride’s passing gives us an opportunity to reflect on the importance of exploration and the profound impact research can have on our society.  In our own sector research is equally critical. The Mineta Tranportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University announced yesterday their award from the U.S. Department of Transportation  of a $3.49-million grant to study “transportation research, workforce development, technology transfer and education.”  MTI will be teaming on the project with colleagues from Rutgers University, Howard University, University of Detroit Mercy, Grand Valley State University, Bowling Green University, Toledo University, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Pennsylvania State University.  No doubt, the consortium’s work will produce findings that will positively affect us all.

In looking over the list of schools included in the work I can’t help but think of the fine parking professionals at or near each school who I hope will be included in the effort.  Experts such as Tad McDowell at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and Clayton Johnson from the Downtown Toledo Parking Authority, to name two, are seasoned parking and transportation professionals who would bring a tremendous amount of practical experience to the table.

Research is critical to expanding our knowledge base, and it’s exciting to hear about efforts that are directed at our field.  To get the most of the effort, the right people need to be included. In this case, the MTI and its colleagues need to look no further than their own communities to find capable, smart, talented people who can help them ensure their efforts bear the most fruit.