Park Across America Opens to Huge Success
June, 2007The process of providing information about the parking industry went high-tech in April when nearly 250 people in four cities attended seminars “connected” through broadband Internet lines and closed-circuit television. New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle were the host cities for the first Park Across America conference, sponsored by Parking Today magazine. At least one seminar originated in each city but was simulcast in the other venues.
The “Mess” That is Credit Cards
Blake Laufer from T2 Systems was on the stage at the State University of New York in Purchase and took attendees on a horrifying ride into the abyss that is credit card security. Sure, there were a lot of terms and jargon, but suffice it to say that if you don’t meet Visa’s criteria, you could end up with major fines. And it’s not just the problem of your vendor (the folks that provide the equipment to receive and store the credit card info); it’s your problem, too.
Blake pulled no punches, but did give you the tools you need to find your way in this potentially problematic issue. Today, 75% or more of all parking transactions are by credit card (in places that accept cards), and you will be left at the gate if you don’t offer this convenience to your customers. Blake’s message – do it, but beware.
PPP – Public Private Partnerships – New York
Three P – The Public Private Partnerships – was perhaps the most wide-ranging presentation of the five. Rick West and his panel of investment bankers, consultants and parking operators gave an overview of just how public agencies can work with private equity banks to lease their parking infrastructure, generate huge amounts of cash, and move the liability of aging parking facilities to the private sector. They used as a case study the recent lease of four garages in Chicago for just over $500 million by a consortium led by Morgan Stanley. Alan Lazowski from Laz Parking spoke only a few minutes but stressed the importance of working with your operator both before and after the deal is completed to ensure a smooth transition and to be certain the quality of parking services is increased, not lessened, by the process.
Saving Money in Operations – Chicago
Former head of parking for the city of Cincinnati and now parking consultant with the Consulting Engineers Group, Chuck Cullen took attendees on a tour of parking operations and all the ways one can save money, and make money, by focusing on certain aspects of operations. Change a light bulb here, clean up an oil spot there, review your staffing levels (adding an employee might save you money in the long run) – they all make a small difference, but generate a large bump in your bottom line, and increase your customer service at the same time.
A Parking Building – San Francisco
Rick Choate, a parking facility designer from Southern California, held forth on the design of parking buildings (they aren’t structures, lots or decks, he says, but buildings), and how you design your garage can affect the cost and sometimes even whether it can be constructed in a timely manner. A few rules to follow, and you can make a huge difference in your project.
Revenue Control – Seattle
Dennis Cunning lived up to his reputation as “parking’s bad boy” as he took attendees on a tour of revenue control, and all the issues dealing with conversion to pay on foot, the problems with audits and, yes, even a tad on those contracts with your operators. This single hour gave the more than 200 in attendance enough information to pay for their registration fee and time spent with PAA 10 or even 100 times over.
Each presentation was recorded on DVD. They will be available on PT’s website in mid-June. The next Park Across America program is scheduled for Oct. 11 in Fort Lauderdale, Baltimore, San Antonio and Los Angeles.