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All Hail, Parking

Storm season isn’t over in the Plains states. Another ugly bunch of weather is circling the region right now. Reading about the tornadoes, hail and floods hitting the middle part of the country reminds me of my years in Texas and the seasonal fear of possible damage to myself, my home and my car. I’ve seen what hail can do to a car and I remember well the rows of Cadillacs protected by covered parking at dealerships where I lived.

Car dealers in Texas and other areas hit by hail recently are trying to sell off their damaged stock, some of which was damaged by hail, repaired and then hit again in a subsequent storm. According to automotivenews.com:

San Antonio is the latest victim, with a storm last week piling on more damage after one in mid-April that the Insurance Council of Texas declared the costliest hailstorm in state history.

More than 110,000 vehicles throughout the storm zone were pelted by large hail, causing about $560 million in damage, the group said. The April 25 storm was less intense, but that was no comfort to dealers already scrambling to deal with thousands of dented vehicles.

That’s a lot of dented cars. Because these storms are infrequent and impossible to predict, dealers take their chances showing cars out doors and buy insurance in case the worst happens. They call this rush to sell damaged inventory “hail mode” and some are willing to point out the silver lining.

“It actually is not always bad,” Islam Hindash, general manager of Mission Mitsubishi in San Antonio said, “because people want to take advantage of the dollars.”

If I were selling cars for a living in Texas or anyplace where golf-ball-sized hail is an option, I’d want them under covered parking, or better yet, indoors.

Read the article here.

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The IPI Convention — Where everyone who is anyone in Parking Goes to Meet

Yes, this week is parking week in the US, and ground zero is Nashville. the IPI has planned an exciting event for members and non member alike. If history is any gauge, this one should be a humdinger.  If you want to learn about it, go here.

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Nearly 300 suppliers and Lord knows how many people will converge on the home of Country Music to teach, learn, network, and just have a good time. It looks like Shawn and Bonnie have again done a super job.

Parking Today Media will be there in booth 1923 and will be showing off our brand new web site (check it out here.)   Plus find out everything about parknews.biz , Parking Today, and the Parking Industry Exhibition 2017.

I’ll be around, plus Astrid and Marcy will be adding excitement to our presence and maybe to the conference as well.

We look forward to a great week in Nashville, and to seeing old friends and making new ones.

Plan to drop by.

JVH

 

 

 

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Uber and Lyft and Airport Parking – Shocking

Suzannah Rubinstein over at Spot Hero’s Parking Exec has done yeomen’s work investigating and comparing the cost of parking at an airport vs. taking Uber or Lyft. You can read about it here.

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She found that in 80 percent of the cases, it costs less to drive and park than to take Uber or Lyft.  The further away you live, the more you save by driving yourself.  We are running the entire article in PT in July.

While I can’t disagree with Suzannah’s research, there is one thing. Its more convenient (and perhaps quicker) to take Uber. Load the bags at your front door, unload at the terminal. Likewise, there is something to be said for having the freedom of your own car. You can stop at the office, pick up something from the store, or just park at the beach and unwind.

However, that having been said, isn’t it time for our industry to start promoting this information. We as an industry panic at the slightest push back, but when we learn the facts, we shrug and let someone else promote.  Could not someone reach out to the off airport parking operators and generate some bucks to make this happen? Wouldn’t the airports themselves be interested in such a program.  (Christine and Shawn call you office.)

Airports are allowing promotion of Lyft (see picture above). Strange they are competing with themselves, but there you are. My friends say that its only $35 to take Uber to LAX. Of course that doesn’t count if there is surge pricing, or if they need a larger car (you have bags after all.) But remember, says Suzannah, you take Uber two ways — suddenly its $75, or $100 bucks.

Take a look at Suzannah’s article. The numbers are shocking, shocking I say.

JVH

 

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Parking Official Gives Himself a Ticket

In Groveland, Florida, Police Chief Melvin Tennyson is out $45, but he has saved himself piles and piles of trouble. According to orlandosentinel.com, Tennyson parked illegally, his car blocking a sidewalk near city hall. A member of his department pointed out the infraction, so he wrote himself a ticket and paid the fine the next day.

“The sergeant brought it to my attention and I paid it.  It was the right thing to do,” Tennyson said Wednesday. “How can I have my officers write tickets and completely dismiss it?”

A resident took a photo of the chief’s vehicle parked illegally and it was circulated widely on Facebook in the hours after, though Tennyson says he was not aware of the buzz on social media until after he’d paid his fine.

Whether he knew about the attention his parking was getting online or not, Tennyson’s payment of the fine saved him a firestorm of bad publicity. People hate it when municipal officials break laws and get away with it. Tennyson was headed for a public relations mess, that he avoided by using a really smart tactic: honesty.

By honesty, I mean, he took responsibility for his actions and paid the consequences. I’d like to think the ticket and quick resolution of the fine were not a pre-emptive move by the police chief. I want to believe that he truly understands that he deserves a ticket just as much as anybody else who parks illegally. And I want to believe that he means what he says about doing the right thing.

Read the article here.

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Smart Cities — A Mystery to City Dwellers

Every time we turn around we in the biz are bombarded by the term “Smart City.” I discussed it in an earlier post. Clearly its not a difficult concept to grasp — Using technology, cities will provide their populations with better life through upgraded delivery of services including water, electricity, garbage collection, crime prevention, and yes, parking. Many of our ‘start up’ companies are high tech — Smarking, SpotHero, Inrex, Paybyphone, Passport, Parkwhiz, Parkonect, MobileNow, and the rest see their future in the Smart City Genre.

But according to an article in the UK’s electronic Weekly –see parknews.biz trending   – only about a fifth of the population could describe what a “Smart City” was or how it was something they could or should embrace. Many thought it was a city that had a university.

What is happening here?  Are our “betters” developing things that will affect our lives, but not really keeping us in the loop. It seems like this is happening more and more around the world. If the street department in Los Angeles can’t keep one neighborhood updated on when the streets will be torn up, when parking enforcement will be lessened, or when the street will be resurfaced, how can something as far reaching as “Smart City” be communicated to the great unwashed.

Or for that matter, should it.

Well, I for one think it should. If a city wants a program as comlex and expensive as “Smart Cities” to be a success, the population needs to be kept up to speed on what is happening. Planning such a program behind closed doors (or at a community meeting held at 2 PM on Thursday attended by policy wonks and no one else) is fraught with disaster.

Some say that this is too complex for the average citizen. This is an average citizen who uses technology daily simply to survive (pump gas, send letters, read books, watch TV, do their banking, keep their house warm or cool, go shopping, drive their cars, and the rest). I don’t think that exposing the average Joe or Josephine to an interconnected city is beyond their reach (Can you  say ‘internet’)

The question is how to do it. Maybe I’m a tad backward, but I didn’t know that they were putting in an on line device when they replaced my water meter the other day that would keep central informed of my water usage. That’s part of “Smart City” folks. And its in my front yard.

Remember “SFPark” = Its was a “Smart City” program for on and off street parking in San Francisco. You can argue about how successful the program was, but you can’t argue about the success of the public relations program that promoted it.  I would be surprised if there was anyone in Baghdad by the Bay that hadn’t heard of SF Park and knew a little about what it was doing.

It would seem to me that the first step in moving down a Smart City path would be to involve the citizenry in the process.  Reach out to the local communities, attend Farmer’s Markets, go to PTA and Rotary meetings. Tell the world what is going on. Ask for input.

William F. Buckley once said that he would rather be governed by the first 500 people in the Boston phone directory than by the elected officials in Washington DC. Not to stress his point too much, but perhaps input from the average citizen would be helpful.

Who knows?

JVH

 

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Planning and Public Transportation 20/20 Hindsight

I know, I know, I’m an expert in 20/20 hindsight.  But planning isn’t my job.  I would have thought that the planners who designed the light rail systems in cities like Los Angeles that are spread over a gazillion square miles might have realized that there would be parking problems around the stations. See parknews.biz for the story (Scroll down or search for Azusa)

Here’s the deal – They extended the rail line out the San Gabriel Valley and the areas around the stations are jammed with cars. Local merchants are having folks towed, neighborhoods are up in arms. Gee, who would have predicted that?

The problem is, of course, that there is no way for folks to get to the stations except drive. So they drive and search for places to park.

The planners say that the real solution is to entice (force) people to live near the stations so they can walk to the trains. That’s fine if your city is vertical like New York or Chicago. But what about horizontal cities like LA where people like to live on their own 10,000 square feet of dirt and drive their Belchfire 800s.

Planners need to get out of their ivory towers and take a look at successful transit systems. Amsterdam, San Francisco, Boston, are good examples of cities that combine light rail with bus and trolly feeders. The trolleys run down the major boulevards and people simply walk out to stops a few blocks from their homes, hop on the car, and ride either to their work or to a station where they can take light rail to their eventual destination.

Why is this so difficult to do?  The street systems are much less expensive than light rail so they can be located in more areas.  If you don’t want to install rail, what about electric buses. String some wire and paint a few stations, and you are in business. OK, its not that simple, but its certainly easier than the construction of a billion dollar a mile subway or surface light rail.

The Azusa (Gold) line in Los Angeles worked too well. When it opened riders flocked to the stations, but they drove. If you want folks to use an alternative, you need to give them an alternative.

Planners seem to work from a blank slate.  Isn’t it time we took into consideration what currently exists and work with it?

JVH

 

 

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The Power of Parking

Oakland A’s fans are angry because their regular “Free Parking Tuesday” game isn’t going to come with free parking after all. According to ktvu.com, the free parking promotion won’t be honored this Tuesday because of the NBA playoff game going on at the nearby Oracle Arena. But not only is parking not free, it’s also not the regular $20 – this Tuesday it’s $40.

“Because of the dual event with the Warriors postseason game, parking is $40, the cost of parking for the arena event. This is standard procedure and occurs for all arena events. We found out about the dual event on Friday evening when the second round of the NBA playoffs was determined. We alerted fans at that time and throughout the weekend via dedicated emails, media press releases, social media and during our broadcasts,” A’s Director of Corporate Communications Catherine Aker said in a statement to KTVU.

What I found interesting about this scenario is that there are A’s fans who attend games on Tuesdays specifically because the parking is free. The parking perk makes their decision for them. It shows the power of parking when people make their plans around its cost and availability. Despite the efforts of the team’s communications group to publicize the change in a timely way, fans are voicing their displeasure at the abrupt cancellation of this promotion.

“Little bit like a bait and switch,” said lifelong A’s fan Gary Silverman of Concord. He said he couldn’t believe it when he found out that the Tuesday free parking was suddenly cancelled. “We actually purchased tickets for Tuesday knowing that it was free parking and then a couple days before hand.to take that away, not very fair,” Silverman said.

There was probably some fine print somewhere that could have given A’s fans an idea their free parking Tuesdays were not guaranteed, but who reads the fine print when football and free parking come up in the same sentence?

Read the article here.

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Who You Gonna Call?

PARCS Systems are complex. Depending on the size of your project, they could have as many as 20 or 30 individual high tech pieces (Gates, dispensers, Pay on foot Machines) all of which are computers and all of which we ask to run in on of the most challenging environments on earth, a parking garage. They process tens of thousands of transactions each day, flawlessly.

And these complex monsters have to work, and work every time.

The manufacturers ship equipment that works on the factory floor.  Some even hook everything up together and make sure it runs as a complete system. But what happens when it arrives at the job site.

Cable has to be pulled through metal conduit. Concrete islands have to be poured. Walls have to be cut and Pay on Foot Machines mounted. Its a complex, dirty, complicated job and typically your local electrical contractor is not the one called to do the install. Its a specialist company, a group of installers and technicians who know how to make parking systems work.

Typically electrical contractors have no skin in the game.  They bid low, install quickly, and are on their way.  Parking Dealers want the installation to go well. They know that they are in this for the long haul. If something goes wrong, you call them and expect fast, competent service.  After all, when those gates are locked open, your revenue is at risk.

After the install is complete, the Dealer is the one that stands between you and the manufacturer.  They speak two languages, one to the customer, a completely different one to the manufacturer.  They know how to ask the right questions and get results. After all, they sell 20, 30, 40 systems a year. The manufacturer is going to listen to them.

Dealers are unsung heroes. They make the system work. They customize to fit the varied needs of their customers. Without them, who are you gonna call when things don’t go quite right.

Next time you see your installing dealer, shake his or her hand and say thank you.  They deserve it.

JVH

 

 

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But Advertising Doesn’t Pay

Our advertising director Marcy Sparrow penned the piece below to send to our customers. I though it should reach a wider audience. JVH

A man wakes up after sleeping under an advertised blanket on an advertised mattress pulls off advertised pajamas, bathes in an advertised shower, shaves with an advertised razor, brushes his teeth with advertised toothpaste, washes with advertised soap, puts on advertised clothes, drinks a cup of advertised coffee and drives to work in an advertised car and then…

He refuses to advertise believing it doesn’t pay.  Later if business is poor, he advertises it for sale!!!!

Advertising is not just putting an ad in a magazine or on line and waiting for the phone to ring.  The ad content has a lot to do with what you get out of your ad.  The first question you must ask yourself is who am I targeting?  Who is my audience?  Who am I trying to reach?  What does my audience know and what do they not know and how can I educate them?  What is their pain/problem?  Can I fix that problem?  And most importantly, do they know they have this problem?  Once these questions have been answered, you can then move on to creating the ad and its content.

There are many types of ads but for our purpose I have broken it down into three types; Qualification Ads, Product Ads and Branding ads.

Qualification ads are very specific ads like RFP’s, RFQ’s or job placement ads.  Theses ads have a lot of detail in them and are meant to inform a specific audience.  There is a call to ,action clearly stated.  By this I mean. what is it you want the reader to do after seeing your ad?  For example, send resume, send proposal etc…  These ads are changed often as the subject changes.

Product ads are meant to sell a particular product.  The call to action here is to call you or visit your website.  So it is very important for that information be clearly communicated in the ad.  Also, the ad should highlight what your product does above and beyond your competitors.  Don’t just state what it does, inform the readers of what it does better!!!

Branding ads are meant to take your company name and log it into the brains of your readers.  Branding helps get your name recognized from all of your competitors.  Nike is my favorite example of branding.  They print a swoosh and people know who they are and what they sell.   Granted, billions of dollars have been spent to get that type of reaction from an ad, but branding is just as important on a smaller scale.  Loyalty is another component of this type of ad.  It lets your customers know you are still out there.  It allows your employees to see you marketing your company.  Branding is a very beneficial part of advertising.

You can combine these ideas into one ad.  But the key component here is to know who you are targeting, what they need and what is the best way to communicate that.  Don’t assume that people know what you do.  The ad should be clear, concise and always have a call to action.

Take a look at your ad and see if it falls short in any area.

Good advice from Marcy – you can reach her at marcy@parkingtoday.com.

JVH

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Some Women Can’t Drive

Sometimes you can ignore your own complacency and sometimes your complacency earns you a kick in the head. I’m well versed in the parking culture in the United States, and use this forum regularly to share my opinions, but read an article today that defined the narrowness of my experience.

I read this article on arabnews.com and faced the reality that parking in the U.S. is literally and figuratively worlds apart from parking in other countries. According to the article, most women in Saudi Arabia do not drive – they are not allowed. Some have a driver, but others end up driving illegally. Some have licenses, but, reportedly, drive badly. Few, like the woman described by the author of this article, drive well and even know how to parallel park.

At that very moment I saw a young Saudi lady who parked her older model car, which apparently had no reverse guiding camera sensor or sound alarm, but she parked her car as if parking cars was her full-time job. In short, it was clear that she was a much better driver than me.

Of course, I know this is not big news or story, but let’s be honest and frank that talking about women driving in Saudi Arabia is always big news. As a matter of fact, many occasions it is international news. There are parts of the Kingdom where women can drive — one of them is the premise of Saudi Aramco.

The writer, Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, states that laws against women driving in Saudi Arabia are based on culture, not religion. The author reports that the country has the highest number of highway fatalities in the world – because of the recklessness of male drivers. The author suggests that putting more women in the road will, initially, make driving even more dangerous, but that it is a change that has to be made.

It is painful to see sexism and discrimination applied so perniciously. Here is a country that does not allow its women to drive. They are not allowed to learn to drive, and they are prevented from driving, in part, because they are expected to be bad drivers. Which came first? Neither. What came first was a belief that women are less than men.

Our country has a full set of issues based on racism, sexism and all kinds of isms, but we are 100 years ahead of a country that does not allow women to drive.

Read the article here.

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