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Uber, Parking, Hotels, and Airports

Last year about this time, I had meetings in Chicago.  I drove to LAX, dropped my car at the Parking Spot, took the shuttle to the airport and flew to O’Hare where I rented a car.  I drove it 10 minutes to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and parked in their giant structure. I crossed the bridge to the hotel, pulling my bag, entered the lobby and checked in. The process from plane to room, about 45 minutes.

The next morning I drove downtown – an hour and 15 minutes on the Kennedy “Expressway.”  I parked in one of the many SP Plus run garages in the loop and walked to my meetings. I then reversed the process and returned to my hotel. (I stay at the Hyatt O’Hare because it’s the location of PIE and I get a cheap upgrade.)

The following morning I checked out, drove to Budget, turned in my car, took the shuttle to the terminal. Transferring my bag four times (room to car, car to shuttle stop, stop to shuttle, shuttle to terminal.  Total time room to terminal: 40 minutes. At LAX I caught Parking Spot’s shuttle and picked up my car. Total cost, car rental plus parking, $325.

This week, I had meetings in Chicago. I decided to try something different. I took Uber to LAX and was dropped at my terminal.  I arrived at O’Hare and took the hotel shuttle to the Hyatt. Total time, plane to room, 30 minutes. Bag schlepping – twice – on and off shuttle.

The next morning, I took Uber from the hotel to my meetings downtown. A relaxing ride of about an hour and I had time to check email and return a few calls. I was dropped in front of my meeting. I walked a few blocks to the second meeting, then caught Uber back to the Hyatt.

The next morning I took the shuttle to the terminal – Total time room to terminal 20 minutes. Total cost for Uber $150 (OK I splurged on Uber X.)

A week ago I interviewed Jerry Skillett of Manhattan’s Icon Parking (and four other parking companies) and asked him about the affect he saw Uber had on his business. “Minimal,” he said. “Uber and Lyft only touch parking companies significantly in two places, hotels and airport parking.”

People are taking Uber to the airport, he told me and that’s causing problems for airport parking companies. Car Rental firms are taking a huge hit, too, but that’s another story.  Jerry went on to say that hotel valet and self park was in decline because those cars that weren’t rented weren’t parking at the hotels where business people stayed.

He noted that although I stayed by the airport and drove downtown to my meetings, most business travelers stay closer to their meetings and then after parking their car at the hotel walk or cab it to their business.  So the loss of local parking business due to Uber was minimal.

From my point of view, the ease and convenience of Uber like services far outweighed the fact that I was actually saving money. And according to Jerry, with the exception of hotels and airport parking, he is seeing virtually no reduction in his business.

I was in Chicago for a photo shoot for the cover of the next Parking Today, our Parking Technology Today issue. On the cover will be four “young guns” representing three new parking companies, Mark Lawrence of Spot Hero, Wen Sang and Diego Torres-Palma of Smarking and Harlan Karp of Parkonect. This discussion came up over a post shoot lunch. More on these four and our very spirited conversation later.

We could learn from the taxi industry and why they are failing. First Don’t Panic.  Second be nimble enough to change with the times. I use Uber because its easy, fast, and the cars are clean. The drivers are good too. I wonder why taxi companies can’t have an app, clean cars, and drivers that don’t snap at you when you want to go from LAX to the Marina.

If people use apps to take Uber, why not use apps to find parking. Spot Hero, Parking Panda, Park Whiz and the rest are there looking for garages to sign up. We need to rethink our business model. Do we want full garages, or do we want to increase the per space revenue?  Smarking might be able to help with that.

It was a great time in Chicago, even though it did rain on our outdoor shoot. These young men didn’t seem to care. My umbrella worked just fine.

JVH

 

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Park-and-Ride a Rising Market for Parking Industry

Every once in awhile I have a million-dollar idea that I wish I could make reality. The truth is, I’m a writer, not an entrepreneur. I can live with that. An article I just read on parknews.biz gave me my latest million-dollar idea and I’m sharing it with blog readers today. It’s parking for mass transit. According to greenbiz.com, park-and-ride is an up- and-coming parking arena with enormous potential.

Innovations in transit technology, business and policy are uncovering the real value of system components, and revealing that one of the most significant market opportunities is the park-and-ride (PnR).

Providing parking for public transportation users is a money maker that has a positive impact on the environment, communities and individuals. More available parking for mass transit users creates more mass transit users. That creates more mass transit. Parking is still part of the equation – a major part of the equation, because mass transit cannot be successful, in most areas, without it.

The article reports that while charging for parking can be a deterrent in other scenarios, charging for parking increases public transportation ridership. Despite that, most mass transit plans do not emphasize parking as part of construction, implementation or financial forecasts.

…most transit agencies don’t rank parking as a top strategy for attracting ridership, even though it is one of their highest expense categories. Given the imbalance in PnR management and use, it appears to be time for a new strategy.

It wouldn’t be too hard to adjust current parking technology and strategies to address the public transit setting. In my view, a new and untapped market is just ready and waiting for members of the parking industry.

Read the article here.

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Texas Judge Takes Parking Law Into His Own Hands

In Texas, you can make your own parking signs and share them with your neighbors and totally get away with it, at least that’s how it looks. Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Larry Meyers tried it out and suffered no consequences besides a warning from enforcement officers and probable embarrassment at the hands of the media.

Installing a parking or traffic sign on a public street without permission is a violation of a city ordinance, City Attorney Sarah Fullenwider said Monday. City officers first warned Meyers and gave him until Thursday to take them down, Bennett said, but then went ahead and removed the signs.

So Meyers didn’t even have to take down the illegal signs himself – enforcement officers did it for him, reports star-telegram.com. Parking Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett said Meyers will be cited if he repeats the offence.

Meyers has been a judge in Texas since 1992, so it’s hard to believe he doesn’t know anything about the legal preliminaries of the installation of street signs. He claims the signs were needed because Texas Christian University students are parking in his neighborhood.

The eight commercially made signs warned, “No parking anytime,” “Tow-away zone” and “Resident parking only,” but lacked identifying city tags on the back.

As far as politics go, this might not have been Meyers’ best idea. He’s the only statewide democrat in office in Texas and is running for reelection this year. His neighborhood homeowner’s association isn’t supporting his actions and his opponent is enthusiastically using the incident against him in her campaign.

Read the article here.

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One Billion YouTube Views

No, not my interview by Suzannah Rubinstein (you can view it Here)  but the Piano Guys.

We saw them this weekend at Los Angele’s Greek Theater. They are simply fantastic. Its a piano and a cello. That’s it. Most of the pieces they played were either written by them or adapted for this unique combination of instruments. About half way through the concert the Youtube folks came on stage and presented the guys with the one billion views award. Just over 100 artist channels, including some of the biggest names in music, have made this record.

If you listen to just one video, you will know why. Try this one.

All the best

JVH

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Lyft and Uber — No real threat to Parking

I interviewed Jerry Skillett, CEO of ICON Parking and five other parking companies on the east coast. It was a wide ranging interview and will be in an upcoming issue of PT.
One of the most interesting questions was the affect of Uber and Lyft on our industry.
Jerry’s answer — not so much.
He said that the ride sharing companies have affected off airport parking operations in some cities, but usually in those cities where the airport is located near the city center. In municipalities where the airport is miles outside of town (Washington DC, New York’s JFK, Dallas, Houston George Bush) the benefits of taking Uber aren’t so great. He noted that parking operations “touch” Uber and Lyft in only a couple of very small areas. The first is folks who rent cars and need a place to park them, and the second is hotels, where people have been moving from rental cars to ride share companies.
“Our experience has been that the affect on our company by Uber and Lyft has been minimal, if at all. But then, we have a business model that differs from many parking operations. Our goal isn’t necessarily to fill the garage, but to set our marketing to maximize revenue.”
Jerry is a smart guy — you will find the interview interesting and thought provoking…

JVH

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An Interview that actually made it to Youtube

I have been contacted a number of times by groups like CNN to provide an interview about parking. Every time, for whatever reason, the interview never makes it to the light of day. In one case, it was to air but President Bill Clinton fell off a porch and wrenched his knee. That seemed to be more important than JVH and parking. Bah

This week I had the honor of being interviewed by Suzannah Rubinstein of SpotHero. We asked her to our digs here in LA to talk about parking and Parking Today’s 20 years bringing news to our industry. You can see the interview here.

SpotHero-JVH-cover-still

Suzannah is bright and incredibly young. She does a super job with the interview, plus transcribing it for PT September. She is also beginning to provide content for PT, PN, and our website.  We are proud to have her writings in PT.

Take a look at the interview. Its only about 10 minutes long. Suzannah is a master at controlling my long winded answers.

JVH

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Altoona, Wis. Tests Back-In Angle Parking

A new development in Altoona, Wisconsin provides shoppers, restaurant-goers and residents with a new angle on parking – back-in angle parking. Weau.com reports that city leaders chose the new approach because it is safer for drivers and pedestrians. City Administrator Mike Golat says a parking study in Tempe, Arizona inspired the use of this parking method in Altoona.

“They had an average of four crashes per month for four years with pull in parking and for a total of 48 crashes per year and when they changed to back in parking they had zero crashes the next four years,” Golat explained.

The back-in angle parking scenario also protects pedestrians because they get out of their cars and arrive at the sidewalk without going nearer the roadway. Golat says this method of parking is proven to be safer, but it will take time to get used to for everyday driving.

Golat says people are accustomed to head in parking the way they’ve always done it, so the back-in angle direction has not been a completely smooth transition.

Golat says the city does have more traditional options for parking available in the new development but he is hoping the public will catch on to the new trend.

For now, Altoona residents have a grace period and will not be ticketed for parking head in, but the policy will be enforced in the future.

Read the article here.

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Imaginary Parking Spaces Crowding Norfolk, Virginia

In their efforts to facilitate commercial use of historic buildings, planning officials in Norfolk, Virginia have been relying on a creative application of parking requirements. As older buildings are converted to new businesses, the city bypasses parking minimums by offering a credit for one space per 250 square feet, according to pilotonline.com.

This policy has created imaginary parking all over the city. It has worked until now, but as more and  more old spaces are updated, officials are concerned that there might be too much parking in Norfolk. They are considering a new equation for parking requirements around historic buildings.

The change would involve either lowering the parking requirement 50 percent or 30 percent, depending on where the property is located. Old buildings either downtown or in the “traditional” district – neighborhoods in the southwest quadrant of the city – would only need to find half the required parking spaces for their new uses.

Norfolk’s imaginary parking policy sounds down right crazy. I want to go park my imaginary car there and pay for my parking with imaginary money. But the reasons for the odd approach are sound and admirable: the city wants to preserve older buildings and maintain the character of its historic areas. Leaders don’t want Norfolk to look like every other city.

I’m not sure about imaginary parking, but I am positive about valuing the heritage of architecture.

Read the article here.

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15 Stories from the Ancient Greeks

I went to see Star Trek over the weekend.  Not the best, not the worst. But the previews were interesting. They are actually bringing out a remake of the Magnificent Seven and Ben Hur. I left the theater shaking my head.  What is that all about?

Can’t Hollywood do anything that isn’t based on a previous movie. How many remakes can we handle. They are never as good as the first one. Then I remembered a story a  friend told me ab out a flight from Dallas to London that took place 30 years ago.

Seems he was sitting next to a Greek History Professor from Stanford. She was telling him how she had been tasked with teaching Greek civilization to the Stanford football team. She knew that Gene Roddenberry had based many Star Trek episodes on Greek comedies and tragedies and she started her research.

She knew that much of literature is based on the Greeks (can you say Romeo and Juliet) and she then began to review Star Trek’s first seasons on TV. She was able to prepare a course based on 15 basic stories taken from Greek literature, and translate them into something her students could understand — the sci fi stories of Star Trek. Her class was standing room only.

She also commented that it is well known that there are basically 15 stories. Virtually all episodes man creates goes back to the Greeks and their wisdom in understanding human nature.  (Did you know that the Lion King is based on Hamlet which is loosely based on Sophocles’ Oedipus the King.)

So I guess I can’t be too hard on screenwriters in Hollywood if the Bard picked up his ideas from the Greeks, and the bible.  But at least they could change the names, and perhaps the venue –Pyramus and Thisbe became Romeo and Juliet became Westside Story.  Shakespeare and Bernstein changed the name, location, and the rest. Can’t the highly paid scripters in Hollywood do the same?

Isn’t Google wonderful.

JVH

 

 

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One Number in a Book — Shoup’s 30%

Over the past two weeks we have had numerous entries on this blog concerning Don Shoup’s seeming contention that 30% of all traffic in a given area is searching for parking. This number is used to support his theories that setting prices so that a few spaces are always open on each block face would reduce cruising and this traffic congestion and pollution.

If you go back and reread the Shoup Dogg’s response and further comments here, and here you find comments like:

These studies date back to 1927.  The data were probably not very accurate when they were collected, and the results depended on the time of day, the specific place, and the season when the observations were made. The studies were selective because researchers measured cruising only when and where they expected to find it—where curb parking is underpriced and overcrowded. Nevertheless, cruising today is similar to what drivers have done since the 1920s, and the studies at least show that searching for underpriced curb parking has wasted time and fuel for many decades.

On most streets at most times, no one is cruising. But many people want a number, and I can’t stop anyone from saying that 30 percent of traffic is cruising. Nevertheless, on busy streets where all the curb spaces are occupied and traffic is congested, a substantial share of traffic may be cruising.

And

As I explained in the book, the data in these studies, which date back to 1927, were probably not very accurate when they were collected, and the results depended on the time of day, the specific place, and the season when the observations were made. The studies were selective because researchers measured cruising only when and where they expected to find it—where curb parking is underpriced and overcrowded. Nevertheless, cruising today is similar to what drivers have done since the 1920s, and the studies at least show that searching for underpriced curb parking has wasted time and fuel for many decades.

His point seems to be that cruising for parking wastes time, fuel, and causes congestion. The problem is that if only 2% of the traffic in a given area are cruising for parking, then spending $25 million (as at SF Park) to reduce this ‘problem’ might be overkill.

However, Don once told me “Its just a number in a book.”  The issue is that many take that number as gospel, no matter how much Don explains away its accuracy. As he quotes Lewis Carrol “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.” He was using the quote to describe what has happened when parking requirements are taken as commandments set in stone. But couldn’t the same thing be said for his 30% number?

Even if 30% of traffic in a given area at a given time are cruising for parking, should not those involved in spending millions on parking programs do their own research before hand. Shouldn’t they perform studies to have a baseline from which to operate. Given Don’s own description of the cruising percentage, shouldn’t each city ensure they have a problem before they jump into complex programs to fix it.

I can understand how attempting to bring the complex to a point where the average Joe or Josephine can understand can often blur some of the facts. I want to reduce traffic and pollution. 30% of traffic and pollution is caused by people looking for parking. If I can get them parking faster, then I can reduce traffic and parking 30%.  Clear, concise, but is it true in my case?

Certainly each municipality must do their own studies to ensure they understand their specific problems before they begin any parking program. For one thing, how can they know if they have succeeded.

Don Shoup has done more than anyone to bring parking and its issues to the forefront in our culture. His book is a landmark for everyone interested in our industry. The very title ‘The High Cost of Free Parking” tells the story. Not charging for parking instills a feeling that although parking cost a lot to provide, it should be free. People who don’t drive or even own a car are paying for the parking space that others use. One might make the case that childless people paying for schools is a positive thing for society, but I doubt one can be made in about parking.

Shoup’s book and his evangelism on the topic have opened eyes around the world as to the problems, causes, and potential solutions to our parking woes. One “number in a book” mustn’t negate all that.

JVH

 

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