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Stockton, Calif. Parking Meters Disappearing

In Stockton, Calif., almost 700 parking meters have gone missing in the last year. Recent video surveillance shows the thief rolling a stroller up to a meter and dismantling the meter head. He plops the meter head into the stroller and ambles away. Pictures of the theft are on nbcsandiego.com.

Motorists are confused and police are frustrated.

“We don’t understand why they’re down here because they’re not making that much money,” Stockton police Officer Joe Silva said.

I have to disagree with Officer Silva. Stockton police say almost 700 meters have been stolen and, according to the video, it takes the thief a few minutes to do his dirty work. Let’s say the stolen meters each have about $15 in change inside – and I’m estimating low – then the thief has made about $10,500 in the last year. Divide $10,500 by the amount of time he’s spent cutting the heads off parking meters – we’ll go with 5 minutes a piece – and that’s 3,500 minutes, or 58 hours. This guy is making $180 per hour stealing parking meters.

The risk he takes is high, but so is his profit. His overhead is a stroller and a few tools, which he’s possibly also stolen. He might have to give a percentage to Coinstar for counting his change, but it’s a small amount. No doubt his other job(s) involve taking things that aren’t his. I’m not saying $10,500 a year is enough to live the high life, but it’s a pretty good return on his time commitment, expenditures and effort.

I think it’s time to stop being shocked that these meters are being stolen and start making it harder to steal them.

Watch the video here.

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Women in Parking and Parking Today

Back in 2011 I had the honor of providing a room for the organizational meeting of Women in Parking. It was during the IPI show in Denver. My wife told me that I should simply supply the room, let them know where it was, and leave. That I did (with some assistance from a couple of those present). Since then the organization, under the watchful eye of Ruth Beaman, has grown and prospered.

Being a lazy sort and looking for others to do my work, I came up with the idea of having WIP, as its known, provide all the content for an edition of Parking Today. Colleen Niese provides the editing skills (and does a great job) and it becomes one of the best read and best written of our annual set of magazines.

This year is no different and the July issue will be focused on the women in our fine industry. I commend the advertising section to you vendors out there as we donate a percentage of the revenue to WIP. Jump on board and support this most worthy group.

Contact Marcy at marcy@parkingtoday.com. She will send you all the info.




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New Themes for No Parking

Just another reason to distrust millennials – they don’t want cars. Maybe they’re trying to be environmentally friendly and financially responsible, but I think it’s something else. I think it’s because they don’t want to grow up. According to thenewstribune.com, in Washington state, two apartment buildings currently under construction in Tacoma will not offer parking for residents.

One of the buildings is owned by Koz Development. Its 104 units will include apartments  from 250 to 400 square feet in size. Maybe it’s better for residents to own as little as possible – who knows if there will be room for car keys in an apartment that tiny.

One Tacoma community leader says the apartments will be attractive to millennials who are just starting their careers and don’t want to own a car. The apartments are near a train station, an Amtrak stop, a bus hub and a Link Light Rail station.

“We have always located our projects in transit-oriented neighborhoods and near amenities with the intent of supporting an affordable, car-free, minimalist lifestyle,” said Koz Development president and CEO Cathy Reines via email.

Eric Huseby is the city’s parking coordinator. He says residents with cars can rent spaces throughout the downtown area. After the apartments are finished and lived in, the city will study how parking is affected.

I find the stereotypical millennial to be annoying. It’s the passive, indifferent attitude they live by that gets on my nerves – mostly because I don’t see how any of them survive with such limited incentive. But they will survive, and their approach to life and the practical matters of adulthood will serve them as it alters our culture. Parking-free apartment buildings are a huge indication that the millennial mentality is having an impact.

Read the article here.

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Parking Today Media in NOLA

Three members of the PTMedia staff will be in New Orleans next week to celebrate parking with the IPI.  We will have a booth at the event (404) and look forward to seeing you.  Marcy, Astrid and I will be staffing the booth. We will have copies of my new book, “Death by Parking” plus full information about PT Media, the Parking Industry Exhibition and neat places to visit in NOLA.


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Autonomous Vehicles and Unintended Consequences

Our betters have been telling us that living in cities is a better way to live and that we need to be ready for the move to 700 square foot apartments and a lifestyle filled with urban parks, walking to work and school, and the hustle and bustle and stress of city life.

However some have mused that self driving cars (which would change the face of the parking industry and the way people get from place to place) might just change that urban utopia.

It seems that people would move to the city because living in the burbs and working in the city is difficult and therefore folks would move to those high rise apartments and love it. But what about the contrarian point of view.

What if autonomous vehicles made the trip back and forth so easy (no rushing to the train or bus, no schedule to keep, no hike from the station to the job) that people would find living in the burbs actually preferable to living in the city. The reduced traffic on the freeway would mean the trip to work would be a half hour rather than and hour and a half. You could sleep, catch up on email, or plan your day rather than fight traffic and crowds. Not a bad way to start (or end) the day.

Oklahoma City is the largest (in square miles) city in the US. Its outgoing mayor has been thinking about this issue as his city is the poster child of suburban sprawl.  He wonders if it gets easier to get to work and live in the burbs, why wouldn’t people do just that. After all, particularly if you have a family, having a few square feet where the kids can safely play and neighborhoods filled with trees and lawns might not be so bad afterall, particularly when your commute to work just got easier. PLUS autonomous vehicles would make carpools really easy.

In places like Oak City and my home here in LA where the size of the place has made public transportation difficult, self driving cars solve a lot of problems. However, in doing so, they may also mean that people can remain in the burbs and still work comfortably in the city.

The Law of Unintended Consequences has not been repealed.


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Death by Parking, the Published Book…

We have taken three of the episodes of my parking mystery story, “Death by Parking” and turned them into book form. It turns out that if you know what you are doing, this is not such a difficult process.  I don’t know what I’m doing, but Carla Green at Clarity Design Works does.

After her kind prodding and editing and fixing, she assisted in getting the book published on Amazon, and VOILA, we have Death by Parking Book One including the first episode, “The Laundry,” a middle episode “The Phantom” and the last episode (So far) “The Rendezvous.”

I am amazed at how time flies — I wrote the first words of “Death” in 2004:

A ringing in the distance stirred me from a deep sleep. It took a moment before I could determine whether it was the phone or the door. It was the phone. It was still ringing after I checked the time, 7 AM and I padded to the kitchen to silence it. ‘Manning’ I muttered. I don’t do very well before my first cup of coffee…

If you want more, its available on Amazon, in both print and kindle versions. You can find it here. Based on the number of sales to date, “Death” is number 388,821 on Amazon’s list. No where to go but up.

It was a serial in Parking Today, but I find it makes a tad more sense if you read it in book form. The need for reminders as to who is who and where we were a month ago is gone. I corrected a couple of egregious errors ( little things like the murderer couldn’t have possibly done it) and smoothed out some rough spots.

As Astrid was kind enough to write in her review in June’s Parking Today:

Its a journey that just like the protagonist’s and author’s beloved scotch from the Isle of Islay,  will taste tough, rough, peaty with just a touch of the sea, and most of all, will taste like a good time.”


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The Future of Parking

This seminar at PIE 2017 had standing room only.  People were queuing in the hallway trying to get in.  I didn’t go. But I was struck with the interest.

Why were literally hundreds of attendees at a trade exhibition so concerned about what the future had to offer. I noticed that most were under 50. Why?

I’m told that we go through three phases in our working lives. First, we are indestructible. We start out and if a job doesn’t work out, there’s always time.  Then we are focused. We have families and bills to pay, so we settle in and work. Then we are in the home stretch. We see the finish line. So we coast.

I’m sure you know someone in each of these phases.  Why were those under 50 so concerned about the future of parking? They weren’t coasting, they are still working and concerned. Maybe they should be.

I spoke with someone this week who told me that he felt that parking operators were becoming obsolete, that with automation, use of credit cards, LPR, AVI, parking reservations, and the like, the need for traditional parking management in garages was becoming less and less.  The concept of allowing parkers to communicate with a central office, and have all aspects of the garage monitored off site meant fewer and fewer staff on site.

But as I looked around the exhibit hall, I began to wonder if operators were the only ones that could be experiencing a change. Were the dozen or so PARCS manufacturers, the half dozen ticket printers, the gate manufacturers…where they set to become the buggy whip makers of our generation.

What will the parking facility of a decade from now look like? Will there be refrigerator sized pay on foot machines, ticket spitters, card readers, gates, and the rest? Or with parking reservations, prepayment, credit cards, license plate recognition, and the like, will there be a need to collect cash, issue a ticket, and have gates to control access?

Will the changes come quickly?  I asked my friend how long it had been since he started receiving ‘chip’ cards to replace his mag stripe cards. Less than two years.  And now, how many places can you go (except filling stations) where mag stripe cards are even accepted. Change is coming at light speed.

If the parking reservation companies have their way, I will make a reservation to park my car and pay in advance. My license plate will be scanned on entry and exit. There will be no need for any expensive hardware in the lanes. Fantasy? I’m not so sure.

Are those people crowding into the “Future of Parking” seminar worried about their future, curious, or simply hedging their bets. Its probably a combination of all three.

Now is not the time to run for the bunkers, but it might be time to rethink our business models. Perhaps operators could look more to marketing, providing concierge services, and space management, maybe equipment providers need to rethink their business models and sell information and services, rather than hardware.

My crystal ball is still hazy, but it clears a bit as each day goes by. And what is see is change.


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Dead People Hogging Parking Spots

A recent audit shows that there are at least 35,000 dead people in California with valid handicapped placards. The Sacramento Bee, sacbee.com, reports that when Department of Motor Vehicle handicapped placard records are compared to a federal database of deceased individuals, thousands of matches show up. Not only that, other data shows that thousands of handicapped placard holders are aged 100 or older.

Based on the dates of birth provided by applicants, they determined that nearly 26,000 of the people holding permanent and temporary placards were 100 years or older as of June 30, 2016. Yet they said California’s estimated centenarian population as of 2014 was only about one-third of that number.

Other interesting numbers include the fact that in Del Norte County, the ratio of disabled placards and plates to registered cars and trucks is close to 5 to 1. Lots of handicapped people in Del Norte county.

Auditors are asking the state legislature to allow the DMV to compare handicapped placard holder rolls to the Social Security Administration’s database. They are also recommending requiring people who apply for handicapped parking privileges to show proof of their legal name and age.

Excuse me while I digest the news that these practices are not already in place. I know that just because something makes perfect sense doesn’t mean it’s actually going to happen. There are plenty of reasons why we let dead people keep their handicapped parking privileges – mainly faulty procedures and limited funds. But we can’t deny that the deficits in this system are directly responsible for the numerous occurrences of abuse.

Read the article here.

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Smart Parking – Can We Get a Seat at the Smart City Table

If one sniffs around Google and enter the right words, you will find a plethora of information about “Smart Parking.” Its an off shoot of “Smart Cities” and provides a springboard for Parking Pros in cities to secure a place at the “Smart” table in their community.  The following is from a blog by a software firm “Plasma:”  Ten benefits of “Smart Parking”

  • 1. Optimized parking – Users find the best spot available, saving time, resources and effort. The parking lot fills up efficiently and space can be utilized properly by commercial and corporate entities.
  • 2. Reduced traffic – Traffic flow increases as fewer cars are required to drive around in search of an open parking space.
  • 3. Reduced pollution – Searching for parking burns around one million barrels of oil a day. An optimal parking solution will significantly decrease driving time, thus lowering the amount of daily vehicle emissions and ultimately reducing the global environmental footprint.
  • 4. Enhanced User Experience – A smart parking solution will integrate the entire user experience into a unified action. Driver’s payment, spot identification, location search and time notifications all seamlessly become part of the destination arrival process.
  • 5. New Revenue Streams – Many new revenue streams are possible with smart parking technology. For example, lot owners can enable tiered payment options dependent on parking space location. Also, reward programs can be integrated into existing models to encourage repeat users.
  • 6. Integrated Payments and POS – Returning users can replace daily, manual cash payments with account invoicing and application payments from their phone. This could also enable customer loyalty programs and valuable user feedback.
  • 7. Increased Safety – Parking lot employees and security guards contain real-time lot data that can help prevent parking violations and suspicious activity. License plate recognition cameras can gather pertinent footage. Also, decreased spot-searching traffic on the streets can reduce accidents caused by the distraction of searching for parking.
  • 8. Real-Time Data and Trend Insight – Over time, a smart parking solution can produce data that uncovers correlations and trends of users and lots. These trends can prove to be invaluable to lot owners as to how to make adjustments and improvements to drivers.
  • 9. Decreased Management Costs – More automation and less manual activity saves on labor cost and resource exhaustion.
  • 10. Increased Service and Brand Image – A seamless experience can really skyrocket a corporate or commercial entities brand image to the user. Whether the destination is a retail store, an airport or a corporate business office, visitors will surely be impressed with the cutting edge technology and convenience factors.

A buddy of mine focused on 4, 6, and 9. They spell out the WIIFM (Whats in it for me) as it relates to the consumer (Parker) and the organization that owns the parking facilities, be they municipal, university, airport, or private.

If a smart parking program can make a mundane parking experience one that can be relished, make the payment process seamless AND increase loyalty, plus decrease costs, what’s not to like.

The question is, frankly, how do we get that seat at the table.  Do we hitchhike with ‘Smart City” companies like Microsoft, Conduent, SAP, Cisco, and the rest, or do we take a leadership position by selling the benefits of “Smart Parking” as listed above.

It would seem to me that we can solidify our position by taking a lead. Unlike utilities, trash, police and fire which may benefit greatly from Smart City concepts but reflect little to the consumer (water still flows, police still show up, etc)  a “Smart Parking Program” will show consumers true benefits that are not only measurable, but also observable.

Politicians will love that.



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The Future – It’s Not Bad to Hedge Your Bets

Shopping center magnet Rick Caruso in Los Angeles is certain that autonomous vehicles are coming, and he thinks sooner rather than later. In this article featured on parknews.biz, he is quoted as saying:

“This isn’t a fleeting moment, some interesting blip that will come and go,” he said. “This will change traffic in L.A. in a very positive way.”

He’s talking about autonomous vehicles greatly reducing the number of parking spaces required for major projects such as the “Grove” in Los Angeles.  He says that today, his project receives literally thousands of visitors coming through their ride share (Read that Uber and Lyft) portal daily. Those relate to thousands fewer cars parking in his huge 10 story garage.

He and his ilk see self driving cars basically replacing parking in the next decade. So he is planning for the future. His garages have level floors, not ramps, so they can be converted to shops, offices, and apartments. Some are built with 13 foot ceilings so the infrastructure (HVAC, Plumbing etc) can be added for build outs when the parking is no longer needed.

“As you go above that (the first few floors), it gets more complicated,” he acknowledged. The towering garages “may become obsolete and have to come down and be replaced.”

Is all this going to happen in the next decade?  George Orwell wrote “1984” in 1950. His prediction was that his dystopian society was coming in 30 years. Here we are nearly 75 years later and well, look around.  The 21st century Los Angeles of Blade Runner Fame looks nothing like reality.

We like to believe that things happen faster than they really do. Caruso may be right. Its not a bad thing to plan for an uncertain future. We ignore it at our peril.  Note that Caruso isn’t not building garages, he’s planning them so they can be converted “IF” predictions come true.

Its not bad to hedge your bets.


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