Point of View
Amsterdam, Dubai, London and Harrisburg
By John Van Horn
I was impressed with the Intertraffic show this year, and I'm sure the 10 or so from the U.S. who weren't connected with an exhibitor were too. It's big, it's bold, and if you want to see the cutting-edge technology, it's in Amsterdam every other year.
I blogged from the floor, and you can get more of a feel by reading my comments there. However, I will say that if this show is even remotely what the industry will look like in the future, we are in great shape.
A few of the emerging technologies will take some work, but they just might be keepers. "Near Field Technology is on the cutting edge and just could, in a few years, turn every cellphone into an access card."
On-street equipment was in every other booth, with P-and-D and pay-by-space machines in every technology, shape, color, brand and national origin. I would guess there were 25 companies with products in this field.
The attendees blew me away. I'll bet I saw 75 to 100 of my old friends in international parking (I actually have that many business cards), and they were all excited and talking about projects in the mill (OK, some were vaporware). They were from China, Australia, the UK, all across Europe, from Israel and India. Even a few from the U.S.
This show had an excitement I hadn't seen in years. It wasn't the "new" technology; it was the "feel" of the room. I had never seen so many people so positive about the future.
Remember, the U.S. is usually a bit behind. I would say that the next five years will see a ramping up unparalleled in our industry.
I'm saddened to report that Stan Cramer, and his off-airport parking operation in Harrisburg, PA, has lost the first round of his battle with the local airport to keep his business, or at least be properly compensated for it. You can read the details elsewhere in this edition of PT.
Government run amok; there's no other way to put it.
I asked Stan if he was a member of the NPA or IPI. He said no. I guess that's why neither organization has jumped to his support. Someone might want to give him a call, however. Members of both organizations could be greatly affected by the outcome of this case, no matter which way it goes in the end.
I have his number.
I had to laugh at the luxury in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Wolfgang Baumann, Founder of Automaten Technik Baumann, told me about the famous seven-star hotel in Dubai. Its smallest room is nearly 2,000 square feet. When Wolfgang checked in, he was with his wife and children and, of course, couldn't use the smallest suite; that was for two people only.
I went into this restaurant in London and stopped dead cold. It was noon and filled with patrons, but the piano player was playing a melodic rendition of "Love Story." The displays along the wall were filled with folks checking their e-mail, the decoration was a wonderful birch, and the place reminded me of a trendy restaurant I like in West Hollywood.
I went back outside to check the sign - sure enough, it was McDonald's ...
Yes - the perfect combination of ambience, high-tech, mediocre food and low prices. What more could one want?
I have been the first to trumpet the efficiency of the Brits and, most particularly, the Dutch, but this latest trip to Europe was an eye opener. I had a number of less-than-stellar experiences and was disappointed.
Heathrow's Terminal 1 is a disaster. If you want to fly in to Heathrow and then transfer to a flight to Ireland, it's a nightmare. After you ride on a bus for 10 minutes from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 and go through security - I have never understood this one since you come from the airside of the airport - you then have a 25-minute walk to your plane - that's well over a mile.
Also, I had at least three bad experiences in restaurants in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. People are listless; they just don't seem to care at all. I could list crabby London cabbies (unheard of); incredibly poor service in a computer store, where I never did get waited on; the "four-star" hotel in Amsterdam for $300 a night that had foam rubber for the mattress; the clearing of security not once but twice at Amsterdam's Schipol airport to get to the plane - that's right, once to get into the airport proper, full body search, and again at the gate, another full body search.
Don't get me wrong - I have been going to the UK and Holland for nearly 30 years. I know what to expect and when to expect it. Taking into consideration my advanced age and my membership card in the curmudgeon club, I found the "little things" just falling apart.
The most shocking part of the trip was arrival at Los Angeles International Airport. I expected the usual 45-minute fiasco. I was through Immigration without breaking stride - well, almost: I stopped and nearly dropped my teeth when the officer actually smiled and welcomed me home.
Some of you will be reading this for the first time at the IPI conference in Las Vegas. We'll be there with bells on - drop by the Parking Today booth and look us up.
Article Abstract from May, 2006