Data-Driven Performance Improvement in Placemaking

L. Dennis Burns

I recently returned from the International Downtown Association (IDA) Annual Conference in Canada’s beautiful capital city of Ottawa. I have had a long and positive association with the IDA and have learned much from my downtown management colleagues through the years. This year was no exception.

Data-driven analysis is nothing new in the consulting or parking worlds, but two presentations at this year’s IDA conference took the application of rigorous data collection and analysis for two very different projects to a new level. I thought I would share these examples with you.lburns1

The first example was from Simon W. Quin, executive director of the Institute of Place Management (IPM) in the U.K. In collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University, the IPM was exploring the performance-forecasting factors related to placemaking. Two hundred one factors were identified and analyzed relative to how much influence each factor has on the vitality and viability of a place and how much control a location has over the factor.

Using a scatter graph to map the factors, some factors either did not have much effect or couldn’t be changed without significant effort or costs. However, 25 key factors were identified as being highly impactful and those for which place managers had a significant degree of control through which they could affect change.

lburns2These factors, which fell into the “Get on with it!” category in the top graphic, include many elements that are important to parking professionals. In particular, the factors of, walkability, accessibility and livability were prominent. Additional factors that could be embraced by parking and transportation professionals included amenities and elements related to the “experience of the place,” such as appearance, attractiveness, safety, and security.

This research effort is just midway into a year-long analysis and I look forward to following it as it evolves. You can learn more by visiting placemanagement.org.

In my next blog post, I will outline another great example of data-driven research as applied to the place making initiative known as “The Porch at 30th Street Station” in Philadelphia. The level of detail involved in the development and refinement of this place making project provides many potential lessons for parking professionals as we begin to embrace place making to improve our customer’s experiences within our facilities and campuses.

Glow in the Dark

Isaiah Mouw

If you happen to be driving through the Netherlands along the N329 highway anytime soon, you might suddenly feel like you’re driving through a Wachowski Brothers movie set. Studio Roosegaarde has developed glow-in-the-dark road markings that were recently installed along a 500m stretch of highway.

Typical road markings are made of reflective paint, but still often require energy-consuming streetlights to guide the way. The glow-in-the-dark road markings installed in the Netherlands charge using the sun during the day and then glow at night, eliminating the need for an abundance of streetlights and saving energy and maintenance dollars. Further plans for this concept involve creative solutions such as snowflake images that would glow on the pavement when the temperature drops below a certain point to remind drivers to be cautious of ice. This reminds me a lot of the Solar Roadways concept of using LED lights in solar-powered road panels to deliver safety messages to drivers as they drive along the highway.

All that said, I’m not sure if these phosphorescence markings would be of much to use to the parking industry. It would be neat to have parking lot spaces and signage glow in the dark, but not at the cost of eliminating lighting and decreasing the overall sense of safety in your facility.

What do you think?

Ray LaHood Knows Parking

Shawn Conrad

“America is one big pothole right now.” This line came from former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, in an interview Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 4.59.20 PMfeatured in the June issue of The Parking Professional.

Before interviewing Secretary LaHood, magazine editor Kim Fernandez knew he has a passion for fixing/repairing America’s infrastructure woes, but what she pleasantly discovered is that he also knows parking!

For 15 years, LaHood served on the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, a standing committee tasked with looking after U.S. highways, bridges, rivers, public buildings, emergency management, and economic development. It was there that he learned how vital America’s transportation system is to keeping the economy growing, and committed himself to securing transportation infrastructure that remains strong and safe.

In a recent nationwide survey of local government officials conducted by IPI with American City and County magazine, IPI learned there is a disconnect in what many government officials know about the innovations and technology available in the parking industry. Happily, Secretary LaHood proves an exception to that rule. If you haven’t read the June article about Ray LaHood, please do so; you’ll enjoy his perspective.

To entice you to to pick up the the current issue of The Parking Professional, which features LaHood on the cover, I will leave you with four quotes. Enjoy:

“Transportation and parking are interrelated, and the government should help to mitigate congestion by encouraging further innovation by these private enterprises.”

“By increasing availability of parking options near busy destinations, we can help slow the sprawl of congestion. It is necessary and forward-looking to integrate parking policy and transportation policy in urban planning projects.”

“Infrastructure investment is intricately linked to quality of life for these reasons; infrastructure and economic growth go hand-in-hand.”

“One of the most important reasons for investing in American infrastructure is ensuring that the United States remains an economically competitive and viable global leader.”

Transforming Transportation

paul_wessel

I spent a day and a half last week at “Transforming Transportation,” at the opulent headquarters of the World Bank in Washington, D.C., with hundreds of big thinkers from China, India, Russia, Latin America, and elsewhere. There was lots of excitement about ways sustainable transport can expand mobility while avoiding congestion, air pollution, and reliance on imported fuels. They also got it that Parking Matters®; as the mayor of Quito, Ecuador, pointed out, “If we keep current car ownership trends, we will have to park on the moon.”

German climate and transportation expert Daniel Bongart argued that “Parking pricing, congestion charging, license plate auctions are keys to financing sustainable transport.” We heard about solving the “last mile” problem for parkers and commuters in Hangzhou, China, with “The Biggest, Baddest Bike-Share in the World.” Now boasting 240,000 trips per day on more than 60,000 RFID-tracked bicycles, it is projected to grow to 175,000 bikes by 2020.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, keynoting with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, emphasized that transportation change can happen quickly at the city level where the streets–and parking–are controlled. He’s working with mayors of the world’s megacities to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency around the globe. Their C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, recognized Park(ing) Day last year.

The event affirmed that people from across the globe are realizing Parking Matters®. The response to my supplementing the handouts on the official table with Green Parking Council and Green Garage Certification information was so strong that I had to keep replenishing the stack!  As the parking industry pulls together to help parking become part of the solution, the solution-seekers are realizing our contributions.

That’s a very good thing. The challenge is profound and upon us as World Bank President Kim compellingly explained, “If things go badly, by the time my three-year-old son is my age, the oceans will be 150 percent more acidic, coral reefs will be melted away, fisheries will be completely disturbed, and every single day, food fights and water fights will occur somewhere in the world. Working on transport is part of this moral responsibility we have to the cities of today, and to future generations.”

Putting Parking into its True Context

L. Dennis Burns

I recently looked back over some archived files and articles and was struck by an observation: there is always an “implicit context” behind any article or work of research. This applies not only to my own work, but on a larger scale to all the research and reports that I reviewed.

In the older parking work, the context seemed much smaller and rather insular to industry-specific topics. Most pieces were specific operational subsets of fundamental parking management areas, such as revenue control, facility maintenance, or other operational functions.

At some point about five or six years ago, a gradual shift began away from the strictly operational to a broader, more strategic perspective. This broadening of perspective began to lead to discussions of how parking interacts with a wide range of other related professions, including planning, urban design, economic development, downtown management, etc.

I recently developed a new presentation on The Transformation of America’s Parking Paradigm. One of the sections in this presentation discusses the new context through which I now view parking. A series of slides discusses a set of criteria or concepts that form the context base I use when I consider the application of parking design and management strategies. Consider this list of topic areas:

  • Density.
  • Third Places.
  • Scale.
  • Walkability.
  • Mixed and Multi-use Development.
  • Street-Level Activation.
  • Adaptive Re-Use and Infill.
  • Vitality and Energy.
  • Local Character.
  • Safety/Security.
  • Sustainable Transportation.
  • Accessibility/Integrated Access.
  • Multi-modal/Mobility Plans.
  • Parking Strategic Plan.
  • Active Transportation/TDM Integration.
  • The “Experience Economy.”

The list could go on and on, but it is clear to me that as a profession we have come to recognize that the work we do goes much further than the mere temporary storage of vehicles. Parking, by its very nature, is a connection point within the framework of our transportation systems and our communities/institutions at large. They have a natural complexity and importance and deserve special attention. It is encouraging to see that many thought leaders from other disciplines and professions are beginning to come to this same realization. With this new infusion of diverse perspectives and resources, who knows what the parking context might look like in another decade.

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.