Magazine

Point of View

The IPI, Parking Free and Free Parking

By John Van Horn

The IPI show in Denver was grand. If this is what new Executive Director Shawn Conrad and his crew have in store, the IPI is moving out.
Jim Hunnicutt dropped by our booth at the IPI to say hello. He accused me of being famous. I told him that he was the famous one; I was just notorious.
Jim is one of the founders of the IPI. He said that when they had their first show, there were four companies that put their wares on card tables. The IPI has come a long way, baby. Jim said that technology has moved so far along that he’s not sure what a lot of the things in the room do. A wonderful, charming man, Jim Hunnicutt.
Where do you network at the IPI? It’s not in the meeting rooms; it’s in the bars, around the booths and even on the street.
I walked through the lobby of the Hyatt Regency, the main hotel for the conference, and ran into half the Federal APD sales team; they were heading out for a sales conference. Jack Provencher of Federal was talking to Ruth Beaman of IntegraPark. Jack ran off to the meeting after Joe Wilson and Bob Kane hurried through, spilling tidbits about 13 under being the winning number in the golf tourney and that Bob had won the “longest drive” trophy.
Ruth, her partner Kyle Cashion and I went into the bar for a soda – yes a soda – and were joined at one point or another by Robert Milner from the University of Maryland, Baltimore; Rick Decker from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport; and Frank DelMonico, this year from Laz Parking. Everywhere you turned it was parking, parking, parking.
Robert, Rick and Frank all had BlackBerries, which went off with e-mail simultaneously. It was Andy e-mailing them to be sure to check my PT Blog and to check for the Show Daily News, an e-magazine that we put out every morning during the IPI show. Now that’s good marketing!
Back at the setup, it was coming down to the wire. I found a Luke P and D machine by Digital sitting in an aisle three away from their booth. It was heavy, and I wondered how it got there. No one seemed to know, except that it was bound for StreetSmart, where they have some sort of business relationship. Nineteen folks from the union showed up and it was moved.
***
It’s a tangled web they weave ... when they demand “free” parking.
Macclesfield, in England, is considering “free” parking on Saturdays. The local merchants are demanding it as part of “Recession Mitigation.” The local authority is balking since it would cost about $50,000 in decreased revenue each year. From the city’s point of view, that’s a bad thing.
The merchants are saying that their customers complain about parking costs and that free parking would bring in more business.
I wonder if the merchants have considered the fact that free parking would also bring in folks who aren’t customers, but just want a place to park for free – employees, sightseers, those visiting friends, and the like. What will they do if instead of people complaining of paying for parking, they complain of no available parking?
I have not heard of a place where “free” parking was instituted that business increased. In virtually every case, increased business was related to better stores, prices, more reasons for people to come downtown.
If the merchants are so worried, why not have a pile of pound coins and give them to people who complain. Problem solved.
OK, that wouldn’t work since I would simply walk up the street complaining at every store. However, certainly a “validation” type of program would work, and I’m sure the P and D supplier could help with a “two-part ticket,” one for the car and one for validation, or to give to the merchant to get a pound or whatever. Problem really solved.
***
Alternative-fuel vehicles get “free” parking? Well, they are thinking about it in Estes Park, CO, which is somewhere near Boulder.
The proposal is to select a few parking spaces and reserve them for alternative-fuel vehicles. There is some discussion that would allow drivers of these vehicles to park there all day long, while those driving Belchfire 12s will have normal parking times.
By the way, the city of Cincinnati is considering allowing electric cars to park for free. How many are there in the Cincinnati area? Eight. Will it never end?
OK, say we allow high-mileage vehicles to park all day for free, thus taking them off the road. But the low-mileage SUVs, of which there are many in that area of Colorado, have to move on and spew their poison into the air.
Also, what is an alternative-fuel vehicle? Is it a hybrid? There are Lexus hybrids that don’t get 30 mpg. What about pedal power? CNG, LNG, body fat, electric? I wonder whether the idea shouldn’t be based on MPG, not the type of fuel. There are gas-powered vehicles that get 50 mpg. Why shouldn’t they qualify?
But then, this is a regressive policy. Only people with big bucks can afford the extra cost of a hybrid vehicle. So then upper-class folks get a pass on their parking charges, and the poor driving hand-me-down Chevy’s get screwed.
I say that if you are going to charge different prices for different vehicles, charge by square footage. A 1970 Cadillac or a 2008 Navigator should pay more than a Mini or a Sunbeam Alpine. Then the enforcement officer would have to carry a tape measure, and meters would have to have “small, medium, large and gigantic” buttons so the drivers could select the “proper” vehicle size.
Or we could just charge everyone the same and get on with it.
I’m off to Europe to attend Parken 2009, the parking trade show in Wiesbaden, Germany. Check this space in two months for a report.
Parking Today for next month is up to Marcy, as the August issue is our People In Parking Directory. See you in September.

Article Abstract from July, 2009




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