Why is there so much Tech News?

I was discussing Parknews.biz with editor Astrid the other day and was wondering why there was so much news about the new Tech companies in the parking business. She laughed and said “that’s where all the news is happening. There simply is very little about the legacy companies.” I wonder?

The tech companies, the app companies, the pay by cell companies, they all seem to have news releases almost daily. They send us information, they have stories about themselves in local papers (we find that), they are everywhere. They seem to know how to create buzz about themselves.  What happened to the legacy majors — the mainline revenue control companies, the gate companies, even many meter companies, I know they are still out there.

They have marketing departments. They have people who are assigned the task of promoting the companies. But the amount of information that comes from them is about a 10th of that from the new startups, the tech guys, the pay by cell folks.

The tech companies thrive on media. They grew up with it. They know that when something happens in their company, a new hire, a new installation, a bit of news about a new product, an injection of cash it is a vehicle to get their name in front of their potential customers. They know about impressions. They know that even in our rather niche market, impressions make a difference. I know that if I see Charlie and Bobby’s mugs or the name of their company (Passport) one more time I may scream, but I also know that they are working hard to keep their name out there.

Charlie and Khristian blog almost every day – the topics aren’t necessarily about their company but about things that might interest their customers. They are active on Twitter and Facebook. And so are Cherie, Wen, Mike, and Mark at Park Mobile, Smarking, SMC and Spot Hero just to name a few. They send out news releases when anything happens, of interest or not. They are on a first name basis with the editors of outlets like Parknews, ParkingNetwork, and the like.

It is not possible that legacy companies with 350 employees, major manufacturing operations, dozens of outlets across the country, and hundreds of installations, don’t have enough information to spread around the parking media. But getting it is like pulling teeth.

We are there, its free. So why not take a few minutes and tell us what’s going on in your organization. You don’t even have to be a manufacturer. You could be a city, a university, a hospital, a shopping center, a business complex. Tell the world what you are all about. If you need help we can help you.

By neglecting the media you are neglecting yourself. 20 years ago someone told me that there simply wasn’t enough parking news to fill a magazine every month. We are finding that there is enough to fill Parknews daily. More than a dozen stories every day. We have a lot of bandwidth. Help us fill it. You neglect self promotion at your peril.

JVH

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You have to LIE to succeed

At least according to this guy. Mr Crichton seems to think that unless you have a talent for the long con, no one will invest and no one will work for you. VC and employees, he says, are getting smarter and if you can’t pull off some overwhelming sales job, based on simply convincing, you will never make it.

He says that employees have been burned so many times in Silicon Valley with unkept promises that they are gun shy. You have to sell them on the company and you have to lie lie lie. If anyone knew the real financial backing or the true forward looking numbers, you would be sitting in your bedroom with your dog. And it would be eying the door.

I know he’s talking about well intentioned lies, lies that aren’t really meant to mislead but to embellish. Lies that will get you the engineer you need, or the $40mil that will carry you to the ‘next level.’ After all, without that engineer or that money, there is no hope of success.

I know I’m not the best person to be talking about business models, but I have always wondered about a company or individual that starts up and on day one has an ‘exit strategy.’ I wonder if Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or the guys at Google or Facebook had an exit strategy.  Maybe they did, but I doubt if they were serious.

It seems to me that if you want to hire good people, you need a commitment, a kickass idea, and a way to make it happen. You need the perseverance to see it through — your money, your mortgage, your life. 20 hour days of work, fresh thought, and I will say it again, perseverance.

If you go into some project with the upfront idea on how you are going to get out, then that commitment isn’t there and you probably do need to lie to get employees or capital.

I always wonder at companies that take the VC bucks and immediately move into better digs, buy top of the line office furniture, increase everyone’s salary, line the parking lot with something from Stuttgart or Munich, and then think, now what.

They speak of burn rate. How long can we survive on the money we have? Shouldn’t they have worried about that in the beginning? Maybe if they had they wouldn’t have to embellish, or to put it another way, lie.

If you find an investor that wants good return, a solid investment, and who trusts you with their money, then you will grow to the next step. Investors that don’t care about anything except owning the next Twitter or Uber may be ok for some, but will they care at all about your product, your idea, your imagination? I doubt it, no matter how well you lie.

JVH

 

 

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A New Twist on Valet Parking

We are all used to driving to a valet, but what if he came to us? That’s the premise of an enterprise called Luxe. In New York City, where Luxe has just begun offering service, car owners drive to their destination and call a valet to meet them there. The customers go on with their plans; the valets park their vehicles for the duration and return them when called.

I’ve been to New York, and I stuck with the subway. I can’t imagine owning a car there because the idea of driving a car there is intimidating, if not terrifying.

According to crainsnewyork.com, the traveling valet service has been born out of necessity. Parking is increasingly scarce in Manhattan, and car owners want options – besides giving up their vehicles.

Luxe, which recently launched its service in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, joins two other valet startups on a mission to make life with a car in overcrowded New York a manageable affair. They also offer a solution to the biggest challenge facing many local car owners: finding an affordable place to keep the vehicle off the street.

All three companies feature a long-term parking option at a significant discount to what New Yorkers typically pay, with valets delivering the cars and taking them back at no additional cost. They pull off this feat by renting habitually underused spaces, often in out-of-the-way places, from garages around the city.

Luxe leadership says car owners want to drive more, but can’t because of parking limitations. Now they can drive all they want, but don’t have to park. Luxe valets ride skateboards and scooters to clients’ locations and keep their wheels with them while they park. The company charges $7 per hour and up to $30 for the day – including valet service and the parking spot.

Read the article here.

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This Twitter Thing Really Works

I have had two twitter events this morning. First of all, a woman that I follow, Kathleen Laney @laneysolutions, posted a piece about finding leaders — they are neither born nor taught, but found. I retweeted and told her I liked it. She responded that she would be glad to help find a leader or two for companies in the parking industry. I told her I had a friend who was desperate for senior people and put them together. Within five minutes they were emailing and the rest is history.

I also got involved in a ‘twitter conversation’ between Manny Resoures @mrparking in the UK and Conrad Lumm @myparkingsign. Conrad posited that 90% of the cars may be gone off the street and what were we going to do with all the leftover parking space. Manny noted that wasn’t going to happen soon, and I jumped in with my usual schtick. I said that it could either happen or not…Conrad came back with if we were going to talk philosophy, try Wittgenstien.  I said there was always Schroddinger’s Cat (google it).

It was fun and amazingly enough, a bit thought provoking.

Today on twitter I learned about Mcity, range anxiety in the UK, parking woes in Paris, inground sensors in Sydney, plus tons of information on parking rate adjustments nationwide, the usage of pay by cell phone in a dozen cities. And that’s only in the first four hours of the day.

These are short tidbits, but if they catch your eye, then you can follow the link to the story and who knows?

You only need to invest five or ten minutes two or three times a day and you will be surprised what you might trip over.

JVH

Join nearly 1600 others following us  @jvhpt or @parkingtoday

 

 

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Mcity – What’s it all about

A group of transportation companies have designed and built a technology based ‘city’ north of Ann Arbor MI. The goal is to have a testing ground for driverless and connected cars. The sponsors include: Ford, GM, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Delphi, Denso, Bosch, Xerox, Verizon and Qualcomm. Plus the University of Michigan. We have the story ‘trending’ at parknews.biz. Go there for the details.

The site includes just about everything possible a vehicle might run into in an urban or suburban environment including railroad crossings, tons of street signs, crosswalks, parking spaces on and off street, parallel and angle, alleys, traffic lights and signs, tunnels, bridges, and the rest. Many of the buildings are like movie sets, but it serves its purpose.

Its interesting that anti trust laws prevented this type of teamwork. Auto executives were even afraid to play golf together.  The department of justice kept an evil eye on such meetings. Its a relief that the concerns seem to have lifted and now these companies can work together as is necessary if any of this technology is to work.

This project is a big deal if you are interested in smart city, connected cars, self drive vehicles, and the like. We need to track this to see what comes of it.

JVH

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New Orleans Parking Officers Busy Drinking Coffee

It’s reported that some New Orleans parking enforcement officers are in a world of trouble. They are suspected of wasting time sitting around coffee shops and retaliating against a business that pointed out their bad behavior, reports www.abc.go.com.

Those were two of the problems outlined in a report issued Wednesday by the city’s Inspector General, who also said some parking officials made themselves look busy by ticketing cars parked near federal buildings and City Hall. The problem: the cars were unmarked law enforcement vehicles with placards on the dashboard indicating that the drivers were on duty.

The investigation of the issue, conducted by Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux, was hindered by additional noncompliance from city officers.

Quatrevaux also asserted that Public Works Department officials dragged their feet in supplying documents for his report.

Some of us have jobs where no one will notice if we slack off once in awhile. It’s human nature to approach work with the hope that the least possible amount of effort will be enough – but some of us address this instinct better than others.

What’s sad is that a few lazy enforcement officers are going to give the rest of them a bad name. Only celebrities get more notice for their work than public servants and officials. Everybody’s got to be on their best behavior.

Read the article here.

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Has the Parking Business Changed in the last 5 Decades? Not Much!

For a moment, let’s talk off street. What do we do? We rent a parking space to a driver for a short period of time, and charge based on the time used. When the driver comes in we don’t know how long they will stay, and in most cases charge based on entry time and exit time. In 1960 we stamped a ticket and handed it to the driver, and on exit we stamped it again, looked at the two times, computed a fee, collected the money and opened the gate with a push button if there was a gate.

Today its more automated, but the overall concept isn’t much different, is it.

I just read an article about a shopping center in Australia that has no gates and uses license plate recognition to log the people in, and the driver pays at a kiosk by entering their plate number. Fair enough —  so far not much different that in 1960.

However there is a twist — In this case the shoppers are asked to sign up on line, put in their credit card, and when they do, they drive in and out of the garage without stopping, and without having to pay on site.  Their credit card is charged for the time used.

In addition, the shopping center has a lot of information about its customers, plus it can push text messages and information to them as they arrive. The parking experience becomes a part of the shopping experience.

The difference?  No gates, no spitters, no ticket acceptors. Only cameras and a pay on foot.  Oh, over 14,000 signed up to pay on line in the first month.

The concept is moving from a straight line parking transaction to an e commerce transaction. Now that’s the beginning of change.

There are a couple of questions I have about this, but I will be in Sydney next month and go take a look at the center.

Another change we will be seeing is dynamic pricing.  Just like the airlines and hotels do.

If you make a reservation to park in a certain garage, the rate is fixed and you pay what the garage told you when you reserved.  However if you just drive up, you pay what the variable message sign says the price was at the moment you arrived. It could be really high, or really low, depending on the number of cars in the garage at that time, the number expected in the near future, and other variables like holidays, weather, and local road construction.

This is not earth shattering new, as I know an expert who stands in front of his lot across from Staples Center here in LA and adjusts the prepay price depending on who the Lakers are playing, how long til tip off, and how many cars are in his lot and how many are lined up before the stop light just up the street. The price can change by $5 or $10 of $25 as the situation dictates.

The difference is that he has a lifetime of knowledge and can make on the spot decisions.  Data collection and the proper algorithm will set the price on that airport garage today. Parkers will learn to reserve their spaces early to get a lower rate (perhaps).

So we do away with gates and etc, plus we add dynamic pricing. Not really a huge change in the business for decades ago. It might be easier and quicker, but the business hasn’t changed.

But it will. Pressure from Uber and Lyft will begin to chip away at the business. Rapid transit, ride sharing, high gas prices, and parking taxes will take their toll. Smart, technohip bright young people will see ways to alter the business in ways we haven’t thought.

We have been looking at ways to make the business we know run faster, better, more customer centric. But what about the business we haven’t thought about yet? Ignore the future at your peril.

JVH

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Free Parking Raises its Ugly Head

Manny Rasores deToro, Mr. Parking is tweeting madly about local authorities in the UK that are considering ‘Free Parking” to help central city merchants increase their sales. Check Manny out at @mrparking on Twitter.

He refers to this article. The local Business District head says it won’t help, the Chamber of Commerce says it will, the politicians are firmly on the fence.

They currently give a half hour free and merchants want to expand that. The questions is, what will happen when free parking is instituted. My guess is that the first thing that will happen is that the folks working in the stores will park on the streets and take all the spaces that were meant for shoppers. Customers will go somewhere else, and there will be British tumbleweeds in the streets.

They should read their own history. The National Health Service had free parking and so many people from the local high street (shopping area) were parking at the hospitals that ambulances couldn’t get through. When they instituted parking charges, the problem mysteriously disappeared.

For those who couldn’t afford parking at the hospitals, a system of validations was begun. Problem solved.

If the merchants feel strongly about the issue, why not give their customers a coin or two to cover the parking fees. It would appear to be “free” to the parker, and all would be right with the world. I can just hear the merchants scream that if a parker went to store A and received reimbursement for their parking, and then went to store B, B would be getting a free ride.

Paying for parking seems to be a much bigger deal in small UK country towns, than in major cities.  You assume you are going to be ripped off in London or Birmingham,  but never in Lower Piddlington.

I don’t worry too much about this, Manny. The merchants will learn. Remember when they tested parking meters in Oklahoma City nearly three quarters of a century ago. They tried them on one side of a street and almost before the first parking ticket was written, the merchants on the other side demanded that they be installed there, too.  They understood quickly that charging for parking means that parking will be available.

Tally Ho

JVH

 

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Automated Customer Service

Over at the “Parking Matters Blog” Frank Giles does an admirable job of giving ideas on how to make customer service in a fully automated garage friendly, warm, and cuddly. If I was forced to have a Automated Customer Service operation, I would want Frank to design it.

I wrote earlier of Uber and Lyft and their potential impact on parking. I said that we need to think outside the box to fight off the end of parking as we know it. One idea is to make the parking experience the best possible. I know that automating garages is de rigueur these days basically to save money and increase efficiency. Fair Enough.

But I’m not sure, about automated customer service.  When you automate a garage, you remove cashiers, a manager, assistant manager, and all sorts of other staff. Is there any way to keep just one person on site to interact with your customers?

Hire personality. Have someone there who can make the customer feel welcome, solve problems, give information, and be the face of your company. Surely you could figure out a way that this person could increase revenue enough to pay their salary – If your garage has a $20 max, you would need only about 10 additional cars a day to cover the cost.

There is no way that machines, phones, central control rooms, even video, can replace an actual person who is trained (Disney style) to be there to help. Wells Fargo Bank knows this, so they are requiring their branch managers to stand in the lobby and assist their customers. Not some clerk, but the managers. Think how much they learn about their operation by getting out from behind a desk and talking to people.

Frank will make his Automated Customer Service the best it can be, but he won’t be able to make it better than a real live person standing in front of you, ready to help.

JVH

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Uber and Lyft — Great idea or end of parking as we know it

There are over 180,000 Uber drivers in the US. Plus a huge number of Lyft, Sidecar, and the rest. These companies aren’t just taking business from taxis, but they are also reducing the number of trips driven by average citizens who now find it easy and ‘hip’ to take Uber. Each one of those is a car that didn’t park in a parking lot at the end of its trip. (Uber sold $10 BILLION worth of trips last year.)

Business travelers who normally rent a car at the airport may find it easier to take Uber than pick up a car or take a taxi. More and more airports are allowing Uber and their ilk to pick up on the airport. Certainly it may be easier and cheaper to take Uber — the cost is less than a taxi, there is no gas to cover, and no parking fees to pay every time you go to a meeting.

There is a great article in the New York Times about ‘ubering” in Los Angeles. (Read it, you won’t see me put “Great” and “New York Times” often in the same sentence.) Many are forsaking cars and using Uber. Read about it here.

Yikes — what is happening. Is the parking industry going the way of the dodo and buggy whip.

It seems we are attacked from every side. Environmentalists want to do away with cars, period. Every government agency is trying to discover a way to reduce trips into the central city, without of course supplying an alternative. Cities are raising on and off street parking pricing, and increasing taxes on private parking facilities –  not a good way to entice folks to drive downtown. Now its Uber and Lyft. What next  – teleportation — “Scotty beam me to Third and Fairfax.”

I think we need to be concerned but not panicked. One of the benefits of Uber is that drivers can now drink without fear of a DUI or worse. How can the parking industry help that?  Ever consider supplying a driver for the return trip? I want to take my car and drive my friends, also have a few pops.  How much would I pay for that privilege. Partner with Uber — drive one way, uber back? I think its time we started thinking outside the box, or parking space.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to drive if someone can pick me up at my house five minutes after I called (texted) and drop me off at my destination for less than the cost of gas and parking. And vice versa.

How can we make parking so attractive that people will drive just to be able to park? They say no one goes somewhere for the parking.. Why not?  Ever thought about it from that point of view?

Of course not, we would rather grouse and complain about the inevitable. Companies that are nimble, think outside the box, see possibilities, use every bit of bandwidth and media available, will survive and thrive.  The others will not, at their peril.

Hire someone under 30, make them your VP of Innovation, and then listen to them. It won’t be long til the rest of us are too old to drive anyway.

JVH

Follow me on twitter @jvhpt

 

 

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