Magazine

point of view

Lighting, Consolidation, and UC Berkeley

John Van Horn

Consolidation in our industry and its supporting vendors can be tricky. I am researching garage and surface lot lighting for an upcoming series of articles in PT. There are a plethora of lighting companies in the Chicago area, so it seemed reasonable to make one trip to the Windy City and talk to as many people as I could.
I contacted David Holladay at Quality Lighting, and he referred me to his sales manager, Brian Deady. I set an appointment with Brian and then called Ed Kramer at Metrolux Lighting and got his sales administrator, Leonard Chocholek. And he referred me to his sales manager, Brian Deady. After some rather confused gibberish on my part, it was determined that Metrolux and Quality were "sister" companies.
Not to be deterred, I continued and spoke to George Ryder at Kenall Lighting. He was a great help, being a former writer before heading sales and marketing at Kenall. George is a great source for "deep background," and it turns out that he had started his career at Quality and recommended I contact David.
He also recommended I contact Gardco and Empco Lighting. They are on the same web page, subsidiaries of the Genlyte group.
Those of you who attend trade shows regularly know that people do move within all industries, parking being no exception. While at Secom (nearly a decade ago, can you believe it?), I hired and trained many salespeople. I am proud to say that a number have moved on and now work in the marketing departments of other parking companies. You would be surprised at the length and breadth of the list.
A few senior staff in the sales and marketing operations of companies in parking don't have their roots in other like operations.
The joke always was that, at the end of the trade show, everyone staffing the booths would take three steps forward, they would rotate the booths, and then everyone would back up.
This is a good thing, I think. It brings the best in each organization to others.
Take a look at the "industry notes" in this month's PT. It lists person after person who has moved from company A to company B. One rather well-known name has moved from A to B to C in the last six months. Every move a step up.
We are an active and vibrant industry.
***
In this month's PT, there's an article about how the University of California at Berkeley, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District, Parking Carma and Quixote Corp. have banded together to study the effects of roadside signage on commuter traffic.
UC Berkeley received a grant from Caltrans to study whether placing a sign on the road giving the number of spaces currently available in a BART park-and-ride garage would alter the behavior of the drivers and fill BART's garages with vehicles that would otherwise crowd the Bay Bridge between Oakland and San Francisco.
The UC researchers spent three years studying the problem and, with Parking Carma and Quixote, developed an Internet-based program to allow drivers to make parking reservations at the site and track the number of parkers in a 50-space area set aside for the study. A sign on the freeway notifies drivers of the spaces available.
I can understand the motivation of each of the partners in this study. BART quite rightly wants more riders on its trains and wants to fill its garages. Caltrans wants fewer drivers on its freeways and would love to have them park at BART. Parking Carma and Quixote see potential business downstream if this works out.
I'm afraid, however, that my discussion with the study team leader at UC Berkeley didn't go very well. I think the discussion went downhill when I asked her if they didn't expect that if someone put up a sign where there was none and it said "Parking Available," more people would park in that facility?
I was told in no uncertain terms that obviously I didn't understand the problem. After all, these automated signs work well in Cologne, Tokyo, Minneapolis and Dublin, and should be able to work in the Bay Area.
My question was why did we need a three-year study to determine whether they would work in California? That was when I found out that BART, Caltrans, Parking Carma and Quixote were the beneficiaries of a glorified lab experiment that the wizards at UC Berkeley were using to find out how to alter the behavior of drivers. (Note that Caltrans funded the project and the other companies donated their wares.)
I wonder if the drivers on the freeway near the RockRidge BART Station know they are taking the place of those cute little critters that run around the maze in the lab.
Shucks, parking operators in Manhattan alter behavior every day when they change the rates on the signs outside their garages. I guess there is a different problem when the parking has no charge.
Perhaps a different study would be to determine if things that have a value placed on them are more desirable than those that are free.

Article Abstract from February, 2005




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