Magazine

Point of View

What’s New? And What’s Green …

By John Van Horn

The Intertraffic Amsterdam 2010 show in late March should give us some idea of what we will be seeing at the IPI exhibition May 10-13 in Las Vegas. The major players (revenue control companies, on-street equipment suppliers) are the same, and their wares on display, for the most part, are the same.
So what was new at Intertraffic? Not a heck of a lot. Most of the features were cleaner, better, faster, prettier versions of what was seen two or even four years ago.
I was impressed with a parking guidance system for garages that now uses video to monitor each parking space. With the LPR feature, you can key in your license plate number and it will tell you where you are parked. It was spun as “green” – park quicker, less pollution and fuel usage, etc.
There also was a new gate. I recommend that you check it out at the IPI show. Try to find the motor. Very fast, very rugged. I liked it.
One emphasis, however, was different. It was “green.” Everywhere at Intertraffic, there was a “spin” that turned what you saw last year as a gizmo to help park cars or collect money into a gizmo that saves electricity, lowers a carbon footprint, or whatever.
The push this year was power stations for electric vehicles. This is a way to collect money from people who plug their electric cars into outlets in the parking garages and charge the batteries while they are working or shopping or having lunch. It’s great – you use the ticket you pull on entry to turn on the electric “pump”; when you leave, you pay for your parking and your power at the same time.
The concept of shutting down pay-on-foot equipment when not in use and saving power was neat, too. Of course, suppliers of pay-and-display equipment have been doing this for years. Everywhere I looked at Intertraffic, there were solar cells and charts showing how much energy was saved by using this or that company’s gear.
As far as I could see, however, very few changes were made to the actual equipment (maybe some paint or a few words here and there); however, the PR folks and graphics designers had a field day.
IPI Executive Director Shawn Conrad and Bonnie Watts, its Sales & Marketing VP, were there. It’s been years since the International Parking Institute sent someone to Intertraffic. It was great to see them waving the red, white and blue.
But outside of a few here and there who were employed by the exhibitors, Shawn and Bonnie nearly doubled the number of Americans attending. Bob Caplin of Next Parking and his wife were the other two. Oh, and John Hammerschlag was in attendance, looking for ideas for his next garage. OK, I’m sure there were others, but I didn’t see them.
Manufacturers spend big bucks on Intertraffic. Some of the booths cost more than a quarter of a million dollars. No lie. The parties in the evening rival the “after” parties at the Academy Awards.
Plan to attend Intertraffic Amsterdam 2012. It’s worth the trip, even if you spend more time looking at the Rembrandts than at the exhibit hall.
“International” is going to be the parking industry watchword for the coming years. Expect to see parking events in China, Australia, New Zealand, India, Russia, Brazil and the Middle East. These will be “new” events and will begin to bring parking information to countries that really need it.
***
I wasn’t going to comment on this, but I just can’t stop myself. I attended a very fancy dinner the other night at one of the most expensive hotels in Beverly Hills. The “do” was put on by The Rosenfield Forums, a program of the UCLA School of Public Affairs. It appears that the funding group supports, with apparently a lot of money, forums of public interest across the country. Fair enough.
This one started with the dinner on a Thursday night and then held forth on Friday with presentations by four academics, a public sector administrator and a think tank founder. Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis was in evidence. He is a visiting public policy professor with UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning. Plus, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke at the forum, and California state Sen. Alan Lowenthal addressed the dinner.
From my point of view, everything was as expected. During cocktails before dinner, I was able to chat informally with Sen. Lowenthal and his wife, Dr. Debbie Malumed. They were nice people. Probably wouldn’t have minded to have had a drink or two with them afterwards.
Here, is my “however …” Lowenthal spoke at dinner for about 20 minutes, and frankly I was amazed.. He spoke in vague generalities, defended the California Legislature, which has a reputation only slightly better (or worse) than the U.S. Congress, and spoke mostly about getting projects that cost money through the Legislature. Huh?
The state of California is bankrupt. It has no money. There is nothing to spend. But I guess Job 1 in Sacramento is finding places to spend money. (BTW, his wife, who sits on boards and commissions as well as being an MD, had just returned from DC, where she lobbied and, according to her, got funding for some project or other.)
But back to Lowenthal’s talk. Doesn’t anyone understand that there is no money! We are in a recession. We need to do things to get business back on track. These legislators are simply oblivious to it all.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Sen. Lowenthal was alone in his comments. He got a rousing round of applause from the professors, grad students and local government bureaucrats that filled the room and dined on lobster, prime rib and fine wines – all paid for by a philanthropic organization that made its money in the private sector.
There was one bright spot. One of UCLA Professor Don Shoup’s protégés sat next to me and told me about a study he was doing on abuse of disabled placards. He and his staff go to areas of downtown LA and track every car that parks on the street. Every car!
He said the only way to get good information is to actually go there and do the work. “All good information comes from the field, not from estimates or computer models,” he told me. He and his staff are finding a high incidence of improper use of the disabled placard, with abuse found in more than 30% of the cases.
The other issue is that the disabled and those with disabled hangtags park on the street (where it is free), rather than in nearby parking structures, where the owners are required to have handicapped spots reserved but may charge for them. This causes the streets to be jammed with parked cars and the parking structures with empty spaces.
My dinner partners (with the Shoup protégé on one side and a Vietnam-era DC consultant/revolving door academic on the other) agreed that the only solution was to take the incentive to cheat away and charge the disabled for parking.
Free market, right on. Shoupistas rule, but not too loudly in that room.

Article Abstract from May, 2010




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