Just a Taste of PIE 2006…
More than 700 people attended the 2006 Parking Industry Exhibition in Chicago and Los Angeles. According to Event Leaders Sandra Watson and Dawn Newman, it was an unabashed success.
New this year was the concept of the two events being tied together by audio and video on the Internet and “Speed Networking.”
“We know that PIE is a networking event,” Newman said, “so we attempted to formalize it a bit. We enabled a very large group of people to get to know one another individually in a very short period of time. It was amazing to see.”
Following are a few observations by PT staffers at PIE 2006:
What the Rev Control Vendors Think About Cashless
The senior staff of six companies that manufacture revenue control equipment sat in front of a group of interested attendees at PIE and spoke about the future of technology in parking. The panelists had a few “moments” when one used the word “imbecile” and another asked a questioner how many Jeff Foxworthy albums he had. But there was also considerable substance in the presentation.
The primary focus was on the use of an automated system to collect parking fees. Most agreed that an AVI-type system interlinked to a person’s credit cards was, without a doubt, the most convenient for the parker and the best for the parking operation. It also was agreed that facilities would never go completely cashless, at least not in America.
It was thought that an American’s individuality and desire to be able to use non-trackable cash would keep some parkers in that mode, no matter what.
Personally, I think it will be a business decision by the parking facility operators and owners. They will weigh the cost of collecting that cash from the maybe 2% who won’t park there or don’t have a credit card versus the amount of money they will receive from those folks and make a decision. My prediction: The decision will be for cashless – you can’t stay in a major hotel or rent a car without a credit card.
The 23-Minute Answer
As usual, Don Shoup gave a “Shoupista” oriented talk, and it was well received by the assembled masses in both Los Angeles and Chicago. His facts and ideas were clear and compelling. No doubt.
However, when the Q and A began, it was “interesting,” to say the least. To one question, Don responded in spades – 23 minutes worth.
If his remarks proved anything it was that Don certainly has a passion for his topic.
He honored us with a more “succinct” response to the questioner, who turned out to be, we think, Bill Bortfeld of the city of Santa Monica:
I enjoyed meeting you at the Parking Industry Exhibition and apologize for not being more succinct in answering your question.
As I recall, I thought you asked whether what worked in Old Pasadena [CA], which has lots of off-street parking, could work in Los Angeles, where there isn’t enough off-street parking.
Here is what I probably should have said:
First, when you don’t have enough off-street parking, it’s even more important to charge the right price for curb parking. If drivers depend on curb parking, you need to manage it so that a few spaces are always available for people who want to park. You need to manage the curb parking so drivers don’t constantly cruise for a vacant space and loudly complain about a shortage of parking.
Second, without knowing how much off-street parking spaces cost and how much drivers are willing to pay for them, no one knows how much off-street parking is ‘enough.’ Most of the guidelines on how much such parking is ‘needed’ are dangerous and misleading mumbo jumbo. The demand for parking depends on its price, and is not an absolute number.
Third, Los Angeles has more off-street parking spaces per square mile than any other city on Earth, so it’s hard to say that Los Angeles doesn’t have ‘enough’ off-street parking.
Fourth, Old Pasadena and Westwood Village [near UCLA] both have about the same number of off-street parking spaces. In 1992, [the city of] Pasadena installed parking meters and began charging $1 an hour for curb parking until midnight and on Sundays; it also dedicated the meter money to pay for added public services in Old Pasadena. In the same year, Los Angeles reduced the meter rate in Westwood from $1 an hour to 50 cents an hour, and kept curb parking free in the evenings and on weekends; Los Angeles does not use the meter money to pay for added public services in the Village. Old Pasadena boomed and Westwood Village decayed. Which city has the right policy?
So that’s the short answer, at least if I did understand the question.
A Valet Surprise
At PIE, PT moved from seminar to seminar to see that all was going well. The roundtables were no exception. We had four, dealing with handicapped parking, lighting, problem customers and valet parking.
As we walked through the first three, there were no surprises – about two dozen people in each, lively discussions, and the like. In the fourth – valet – we were stunned. More than 60 people crowded the room. Leader Mike Pendergraft of American Valet Parking had his hands full.
When asked about the popularity of the session, we were told it was simple: No one had ever had a valet session before. People want to talk about service – and what’s more service than valet. Well, duh! –
It was suggested that as traffic in garages becomes heavier, it’s better to add valet and valet assist at peak times than build a new garage to handle those few cars that need parking during rushes. On-street valet has become popular in many areas, as has using valet at airports, in hospitals and at other spots that previously didn’t have the service. Valet is on the move.
The Public/Private Team
The first seminar at 2006 PIE II in Los Angeles – simulcast to PIE in Chicago – dealt with the privatization of individual parts of the parking operation. Mary Houghton of the Phoenix Group led Bob Hindle of Parking Concepts, Jano Baghdarian of the city of Glendale, CA, and Bob Bortfeld of the city of Santa Monica through an interesting discussion of the issues of the public/private team.
The concern: If the public sector has too many formal ways to charge-back the private sector for errors, the private group could be motivated not to report problems and work to fix them. This is particularly a problem when dealing with customers.
Jano pointed out that although Glendale has $400 or $500 fees it can assess its vendors for mistakes, it seldom does. “For one thing, they can simply pay it.” Well, think about it: If paying the $500 saves them $10,000 in other ways, why not just pay the fine and go on?
On the other hand, Jano said, if the vendor is motivated to provide the best service, and brings problems to the city or other public entity without fear of recrimination, issues can be quickly resolved, and communications work out well. If it becomes clear that a vendor simply isn’t doing a good job, the best way to handle it is to void the contract and hire another. Trying to force someone to do a good job seldom works
Another big surprise was the popularity of Speed Networking – more than 100 people jammed the room and 17 three-minute sessions getting to know the others in the room. It was like “speed dating,” but the results were a lot of contacts that could be used when problems or questions arose in the future.
Leader Kimberly Kayler said her feedback was overwhelmingly positive. A few kinks will be worked out before next year.