It’s Not Just About Parking Cars
By John Van Horn
"The successful companies will be the ones that take an holistic view of their client’s operations. They will focus not just on parking cars, but on the entire transportation complex, from the moment a person decides their destination all the way through transportation choices, wayfinding, greeting, movement through the project, to their final goal.
“We have an executive vice president who deals with all types of alternative transportation, from shuttles to (carsharing service) Zipcar, and works with clients to provide assistance in ensuring their visitors and employees have appropriate choices in transportation.”
Parking Today spoke with Joe Wenderoth, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Lanier Parking Solutions in Atlanta. He looked at his company’s approach to the parking industry.
“The urban landscape is changing dramatically. When my family and I moved to Atlanta, we lived in the suburbs. I commuted by car every day. Now we live here in the central city. I can walk to work, catch the subway, or rent a Zipcar. I love it. I have more time for my family and my career.
Atlantic Station is a good example of the city’s changing landscape. Lanier’s Executive VP of alternative transportation, Glenn Kurtz, worked closely with the developers of this 130-acre brownfield development to establish the Atlantic Station Access and Mobility Program (ASAP). ASAP leverages the flexibility of the project’s multi-use design and multi-modal infrastructure to maximize travel options available to employees, retail patrons and residents.
Those options include shuttles, a vanpool program, ridesharing assistance, guaranteed ride home, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and a shared car program where people can rent a car by the hour for special needs.
There was a recurring theme in our discussions with Wenderoth. Recruiting, hiring, training.
“You must match your people with the job. Although we look at all aspects of transportation, we don’t forget the ‘block and tackle’ basics of the parking business.
“We are the first person that a visitor sees when they visit one of our clients, and the last person they see when they leave. This is a tremendous responsibility.
“Parking is a fluid and dynamic business. You have to manage your company. You can’t become complacent.
“Public Private Partnerships are of interest to cities, however our feeling is that they may be structured differently in the future. Cities want to keep more control over their assets. Our experience is that they see parking not only as a revenue generator but also as a complement to other economic opportunities. Cities hire on cost, all things being equal.
“Airports? Sure, if you have an on airport operation you must market to compete with active off airport sites. You sell the benefits that the close in airport locations bring – clean well lit structures, ease of walking to the terminal, the benefits of not having to take, particularly here in Atlanta, a rather long shuttle ride.
“Our focus has been on commercial real estate companies. They often need more than just a parking operator but a partner to help them deal with all aspects of transportation as it relates to their site.
“Zipcar has been a tremendous success. We brought them to Atlanta and have cars available at more than 40 urban locations. Most people are just a few blocks from a Zipcar. It’s great – you can take public transportation to work, and if you have an out of office appointment, just reserve a Zipcar. Pick it up, pay by the hour, and then return it to a reserved space. It’s economical, easy, and green.
“We have to take what is dealt. Everywhere you turn there is concern about the environment. 'Green' is a watchword in many parking and transportation conversations. Companies that ignore the concept do so at their peril.
“The idea is to take a look at the entire transportation aspect of a development and working with local government, environmental groups, mass transit advocates and property developers,” said Wenderoth, “to put yourself at the center of many of the decisions made when a site is developed. You bring expertise to the project and solidify your position as a partner in the future of the development. That can only be good for your company, and for the neighborhoods where you work.”
J. Michael Robison founded Lanier in 1989 after returning to college from a successful beginning in the parking business with Republic Parking. He built his foundation on the principles of creating an institution with an exceptional level of customer service never experienced before in the parking industry. Robison sought to ensure that every client receives the quality care that can only be delivered by an owner, by issuing equity in the firm to not only its executives, but to the core ranks of management throughout the organization.
Lanier has over 300 locations in 46 cities mostly in the Southeastern part of the U.S.
Article Abstract from December, 2009