Multitasking Parking

In Denver, Colorado, a company called Flight Car is striking up an interesting bargain with its customers. They can park for free if Flight Car can rent out their vehicles while they’re away. According to 9news.com:

Flight Car offers customers a free place to park while they travel, and a ride to and from the airport as long as the customer is willing to allow the company to rent the car at a discounted price to one of its users. If the car is rented out, the owner gets paid, usually around $30 to $40, according to the company. Flight Car will also wash the vehicle and vacuum it out. If the car isn’t rented out, the owner still gets a free place to park and a car cleaning.

It’s a fascinating twist on paid parking AND car rental policies. Of course, not every customer is going to want to make this bargain, but it’s an interesting option for those who do. I think that regular car rental agencies and parking providers need to be aware of this new business. It’s an opportunity for them too, if they want to take it.

The sharing economy is only expanding. Millenials especially have a diminished attachment to traditional modes of operation – whether that’s transportation or communication or acquisition. They are less attached to the idea of ownership than older generations. Its a trend that’s evolving and growing and businesses of all sizes will want to adapt.

Read the article here.

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Cheaters Sometimes Prosper

In the wealthy town of Aspen, Colorado there are still people who find themselves short of money. So short, in fact, they found a way to cheat parking meters so they could get parking for free. They had lots of friends who were also low on cash, so they told their friends how to fool city parking meters – by swiping maxed-out pre-paid debit cards. Those friends told their friends, and since 2012, city officials estimate they have lost $700,000 in parking revenue, reports www.coloradoindependent.com.

“They just elected to find a loophole and abuse the system,” said Blake Fitch who took over as interim parking director for Aspen when the previous director was transferred to ice-rink duty after the extent of the scam came to light last fall.

The city of Aspen has several options for addressing this widespread dishonesty. One approach could be to double parking fees until the loss is regained. But that doesn’t seem fair for the many honest people who didn’t join in on the heist. Furthermore, the article reports that investigators have narrowed down the profile of the alleged parking thieves.

The Colorado Independent Consultants Network, which has become Aspen’s hired gun on the parking matter, has determined by studying patterns in the scam that the parking thieves were likely local working stiffs rather than the tony ski town’s wealthy visitors and second-home residents. That conclusion is based on the fact that the pay stations that were ripped off the most were in parts of downtown where construction projects were under way. Besides, the thefts didn’t increase during peak seasons when Aspen is jammed with visitors.

A very long paper trail and the expensive costs of new meters  and independent investigations is only adding to the financial pain this is causing the city. If the city’s hopes to penalize the guilty parties does not pan out, it might just have to recognize its own part in the situation: flawed technology and poor oversight.

People commit this kind of dishonesty because it’s anonymous. They are not stealing from anyone, they are just tricking a parking meter – a faceless, lifeless parking meter that won’t know any better or be hurt in any way. Putting a face on the injured party – namely, the city and its residents – might improve the outcome.

Read the rest of the article here.

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I’m surprised that they get you there at all

Kevin Williamson, National Review’s roving reporter takes off on the airlines in his recent piece Unholy Alliances.  You can read it yourself. Suffice it to say, he isn’t a fan of our air transportation system.

On the other hand, I am amazed that the airlines work at all.  Consider:

They have to buy huge machines that cost upwards of $100 million each.  These machines have a million parts anyone of which fails, and hundreds of people die.  Each of the airlines have hundreds (some thousands) of these machines which must be in certain places, at certain times, and work without fail. And on balance, they do.

They have tens of thousands of employees who must to their jobs unerringly, dealing with the public, many of whom, like Williamson, expect perfect service and leave little room for error. By the way, at any given moment in the US, there are over 4000 flights in the air.

I normally fly Delta.  There is history there but suffice it to say that the airline has been good to me.

On my last trip, I was scheduled to fly out of Chicago through Minneapolis to Los Angeles.  If you want to go to Atlanta, there are a bunch of flights each day to and from LA, or to Minneapolis, or Detroit, or Salt Lake City, or Cincinnati. However, Chicago, not so much.  But I don’t mind. They have wifi on every flight and I can get a lot of work done

I was at the airport early and the agent told me he could route me through Detroit and get me home three hours earlier.  Great — He took my bag and I was on my way. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the Club Room I was told that my Detroit flight was late and I would miss my LA bound flight. However, the agent in the club room told me she would fix it and send me through Atlanta.  I was standby on an early flight out of Atlanta, and booked on one an hour later. In either case I would be home early. Go Delta.

But what about my bag. “No Problems” she said. They would find it and reroute it to Atlanta and put it on the first flight. If I missed that flight, it would be in LA before me.

Right, I said. No way that was going to happen. She was confident. “They are pretty good down their in baggage handling. Now what does your bag look like?”

I was resolved that I would get my bag some time the next day, if at all.  I made the earlier flight out of Atlanta and when I got to LA, I went to a computer terminal in baggage claim and waved my baggage tag in front of it. The display said that my bag had been logged on the the flight from Atlanta and when I looked up, it was the first one coming off the carousel.

The system worked.  Understand that I would not have been disappointed if it had not, since I didn’t expect it to, however the more often it works, the more faith I have in the airline.

Sorry, I don’t want to fly in a broken plane into bad weather.  If it needs to be fixed, have at it. If there are thunderstorms, fly around them. I know that Chicago is not good in snowstorms and that many airports in the Midwest and south slow down in the summer due to thunderstorms. I know that and I allow for it.

Are some airlines better than others. Of course. It has to do with mission and attitude. If the mission is to be profitable, then they will be. If the mission is to treat their customers with respect and dignity, then they will, and be profitable too.

I’m off to Boston and then the UK in a couple of days. Lots of different flights, plane changes, and the like. However I have time to spare and if things go wrong, a good book to read.

Sorry Kevin, airlines aren’t perfect,  but most work better than you should be able to expect.

JVH

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Meter Prank Sets Off Parking Discussion in Small Town

In the tiny two-stoplight town of Winters, Calif., an April Fool’s Day trick has inspired public debate on the subject of parking. Some prankster put up a working parking meter in front of a local business, and a few residents paid into it. Rumor has it, city officials instigated the prank as a joke in response to complaints about inadequate parking in the city. The debate that followed shows that even in a town with a population of only 7,000, parking shortages are a subject of interest. There are those in Winters who see paid parking as a real option, and others who see free parking as the only option.

Store Manager Gino told FOX40 the prank was as much an April Fool’s joke as it was a jab at him personally. He claimed to have complained about the cramped parking situation downtown on multiple occasions.

“I don’t think we need meters, we need a parking lot. A free parking lot,” Gino said.

Neighbors agreed that even if the meter were real, people in Winters would opt out of paying for parking.

City officials are not taking down the meter or looking for the person who set it up. Instead, they’re taking the opportunity to make an impression on residents.

“In a small town you learn to have a sense of humor about everything. If we leave it out here for a week or so it will be the buzz of the town,” Donlevy said.

Read the rest of the article here.

 

 

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Parking Industry Exhibition 2015 – A Record Breaking Event

PIE 2015 is history. The first major parking event of the year broke all records for attendance and exhibit space. Over 1120 parking pros attended the four day event and over 100 exhibitors plied their wares in the exhibit hall.  “Awesome” was a comment heard over and over from those who braved 32 degree weather in Chicago this past week.

Sunday brought boot camp. “I don’t know why you call it boot camp,:” said one attendee. “I’ve been in the business nearly 30 years and am taking away a lot of good information I didn’t know.”

The first session was a traditional boot camp, which not only covered parking information but spent considerable time team building and bringing an understanding of parking operations that was previously unheard of.  The afternoon brought technology with cutting edge discussions stripping away much of the confusion new products bring to the industry.

Quiet piano music filled the background  Sunday Evening as more than 250 exhibitors and speakers flocked to the Parking Today sponsored reception where they had the opportunity to talk in an unstructured and relaxed atmosphere.

Monday brought warmer weather and the beginning of the seminars. One attended said that he came to PIE for “super seminars” covering everything from auditing to onstreet enforcement, from EMV chip card technology,. One of the featured sessions was a meeting of former 3M customers who were able to compare notes and discuss options after the closing of the industrial giant’s parking division late last year.

The exhibit hall opened with the raising of the parking gates as attendees flocked to see the new and not so new parking products and services.  Exhibitors seemed uniformly impressed with the quality and quantity of the attendees. A change in PIE’s policy this year which insisted that all attendees, including those just visiting the exhibit hall floor paid a fee not only did not reduce attendance, but also ensured that those signing up actually came.

PIE is known for its networking events and ‘speed networking’ was no exception. Over 100 attendees faced off across a table Monday Afternoon to quickly exchange contact information and begin discussion on needs and solutions. These were followed up Tuesday on the exhibit hall floor.

Networking continued in force Monday evening at the “Casino Night” party, with Las Vegas style ‘gambling’ filling the hall and hundreds of attendees enjoying themselves. “It was the best networking event evah” noted one exhibitor.  “We could talk, have some fun, and there wasn’t music blasting everywhere you had to scream over. PIE folks know how to put on an event>”

Tuesday brought temperatures in the 60s and more seminars and exhibits. With the exception of a slight hiccup in the food serving line, the seminars and exhibits flowed smoothly. “I really appreciate the fact that PIE doesn’t have seminars at the same time as the exhibits,” noted one exhibitor. “It means we have unfettered access to attendees. Its good for us and for them.”

Wednesday rounded out the event with a dozen seminars focused on technology. “Wow,” said one industry veteran.  “There was hundreds of people still here. At most shows, the last day is a ghost town.”

PIE 2015 was organized by Eric Abel supported by Marcy Sparrow, Kelley Havener, Joyce Newman, Astrid Ambroziak, Sandra Smith, and Francine Van Horn. The Parking Today staff took a week off from magazine publishing to support the Parking Industry Exhibition.

“I am extremely proud of my team,” said John Van Horn, PT Editor. “As usual they rose to the occasion and put on a grand event.”

PIE 2016 will travel to Las Vegas and be held at the Westgate (Formerly Hilton and LVH) hotel. The Westgate is the rebranded property located adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center.  The dates of the event are February 28-March 2, 2016. PIE selected Las Vegas as its next venue to celebrate Parking Today’s 20th anniversary.

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The Show is Going On

Parking Today’s talented team is toiling away today at Day 3 of the Parking Industry Exhibition. While not everybody could make it to the trade show, including myself, there are ways to access the helpful information PIE presenters are sharing. Visit the PIE site, and click on the “educational seminars” link on the left column. There you will find a complete list of the seminars going on at the show, and a number of links to download the presentations.

One seminar, offered by Dennis Cunning from DLC Consulting, covers revenue control, auditing and contracts.

Regardless of the internal corporate controls, the simple fact remains that the operation of technology and equipment in the field still requires manual human input that requires continuing audit controls at the field level.

It’s just one sentence of the presentation, but it answers a lot of questions. Mainly, yes, technology is a huge factor in the industry, and, yes, people are still vital to the process of selling parking.

There are industries that can be completely automated, but parking is not one of them. There might be fewer people on the ground, but they are still needed behind the scenes. As long as cars move and parking lots dot the earth, people will be needed to manage them. There is no way to make transportation completely digital.

The PIE show is in Las Vegas next year. If you didn’t make it to the show this year, start saving up now.

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Customize Parking Options Whenever Possible

A parking plan for two cities in coastal England is drawing mixed reviews. According to www.telegraph.co.uk, leaders in Brighton and Hove are considering reducing parking prices on rainy days in hopes that the discount will draw more visitors. So far, the intention is to research how similar programs have worked in other cities and the capabilities of technology to carry out the plan.

Councillors in Brighton and Hove are suggesting they charge motorists “significantly less” for street parking on rainy summer days. The scheme, which would be unique in Britain, is modeled on flexible parking charges used in San Francisco and Madrid.

Critics say the plan will cause confusion and be impossible to implement. Leadership says discounts will be based on weather predictions, not real-time weather.

“It wouldn’t be a case of someone sat there saying ‘It’s just started showering, lets reduce prices’. If you know on the Friday that it’s going to pour on Sunday, then you could cut them.”

I don’t have any money or other interest invested in this development, so my opinion is based on the hypothetical. It seems completely logical to use technology to customize parking options. Rainy and snowy cities can adjust parking requirements during inclement weather. Holidays and high-traffic days can be addressed with higher prices.

Every city has different parking needs and different parking patterns. Parking prices, enforcement and perks can all be arranged to fit the locale.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Meters and Cars and Bikes, Oh My

Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh has just announced a plan to make his city’s streets friendlier, reports Boston.com. The announcement outlined a detailed approach to making transportation and parking easier for everybody.

Part 1. A section of Commonwealth Avenue will be the first major testing ground for the goal of accommodating multiple modes of transportation, as the city plans to install 6-foot-6-inch protected bike lanes. A

Part 2. Coin-fed meters will soon be quaint relics in Boston. The city aims to replace them with smart meters that accept credit cards and smartphone payments.

Part 3. Absent-minded drivers will no longer find their cars missing if they forget to move for street cleaning day—at least in one neighborhood.

Part 4. The mayor announced Boston will adopt the Vision Zero Initiative, a comprehensive way of thinking about road safety pioneered in Sweden and adopted by other U.S. cities like New York and Chicago. The goal is to completely eliminate traffic deaths.

It’s natural to zero in on the news of parking from a big city like Boston, but I read the article and thought about how much simpler this plan would be to implement in a small city – with much the same effect. Keep cyclists safe, make meter use easy, forgive the forgetful and emphasize safety. More bikes on the road makes parking less complicated. Smarter parking meters save time, money and encourage turnover. And those are just two parts of the plan.

It’s great to see a huge city like Boston coming up with a transportation plan that completely addresses the human element.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Can I park at a broken meter?

Most of my individual parking issues are caused by a lack of information. Sure, I got my driver’s license all those years ago and proved I could make left turns, park and decipher the color codes on the curb, but nobody every taught me the more detailed regulations of parking. And anyway, everywhere I go has different laws, rules and payment strategies.

For instance, I headed out to a local shopping area last week. It was packed with people and parking was tight. In what seemed a stroke of good luck, I found a spot right in front of the store I needed to visit. When I got out to pay, there was the hitch: a small note inside the meter saying it was broken.

I think that note is the reason the spot was empty, but I had a strong feeling, reinforced by a pressing need to park, that it is legal to park at a broken meter. Nobody’s making money off that space, but the space is still up for grabs, right?

I weighed my options, and considering what I know of parking enforcement in the area, decided to risk it. I was in and out of the store and drove off without a ticket. I still don’t know if that was legal or not, but I guess I got away with it. What I’d like is a cheat sheet, easy to read and easy to find, that will answer this question, and several others.

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Lowell Harwood, RIP

I received word that Lowell Harwood, a legend in the parking industry, passed away yesterday. I didn’t know Lowell, but knew his family and respected their work, not only in parking but also in development and charitable causes. Here is his obituary that ran in the local New Jersey press:

Lowell Harwood, Square Industries and
Harwood Properties Chairman
Lowell Harwood, a longstanding member of the Jersey City business community who grew his family’s parking company into a $100 million venture, died March 18. Harwood, a Short Hills, NJ, resident and former Kean University trustee, was 85.
Born in Newark and raised in Jersey City, Harwood returned to Hudson County after graduating from Kent State University and serving in the United States Army during the Korean War to work in the family parking business that began in 1920.
Harwood built and grew the business, breaking into the competitive New York market with a shrewd business model of choosing the right locations and charging reasonable prices. The company went public in 1969, with Harwood becoming chair of Square Industries, Inc., headquartered at 921 Bergen Ave. in Jersey City where Harwood was raised.
By the time the company was sold in 1997, the family operation had grown to a $100 million business with 135 locations across the United States. During Harwood’s leadership of Square Industries, the company managed parking at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., one of Harwood’s proudest achievements.
After selling the company, Harwood continued running Harwood Properties LLC, a private parking and property management company that continues to be managed by the Harwood family in Jersey City.
He served on the board of the Jersey City Chamber of Commerce, and served as the chamber’s president in 1958. In 1997, the Harwood family purchased the site of the former State Theater and created the first, new residential development in Journal Square in more than 50 years.
Harwood was also involved in numerous parking business associations, serving on the Board of Directors for the National Parking Association, the Metropolitan Parking Association and the New York Parking Association.
A philanthropist in Jersey City and throughout his home state, Harwood was a dedicated supporter of Christ Hospital serving on the board of trustees, the executive board and the Christ Hospital Foundation board for 40 years. While serving on the Foundation Board, Harwood donated funds to establish the Harwood Heart Center, a state-of-the-art coronary-care unit, which continues to bear Lowell’s name.
Harwood’s philanthropy included more than 10 years of service as a Kean University Trustee and Trustee Emeritus. Harwood implemented numerous campus improvement projects and donated a stained-glass window that remains the centerpiece of the Kean Hall Conference Center.
Harwood also founded the Kean University Gala event in 1997, which raised more than $1.4 million over seven years for the school’s scholarship fund, a cause for which Lowell was very passionate.
In recognition of his dedicated service to Kean, he was named the university’s ‘Man of the Year’ at its sixth annual gala in 2003. The Harwood Arena at Kean University is named after the former Jersey City businessman in honor of his leadership and generosity to the university.
His family belonged Temple Beth El in Jersey City for more than 50 years, and Harwood was a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Harwood is survived by his wife, Toby; his brother, Sanford; his children, Leslie and Craig; his grandchildren, Jonathan, David and Laura Ehrlich; and his nephews Brett and Scott Harwood.

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