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Parking Garage Goes Haywire

In Princeton, New Jersey, residents and city leaders are moaning, groaning and griping about a parking garage that has been a complete failure. The entire garage has malfunctioned, says the headline on nj.com.That sounds pretty serious.

“There can’t be 20 days in the history of that garage that every piece of that equipment has worked,” departing administrator Bob Bruschi said. “It’s been a nightmare since the beginning. It’s been a constant fight between the software and equipment vendors.”

Princeton has a lemon of a parking garage on its hands. Those in charge have offered three possible solutions for the garage: implement a post-pay system; take out the gates and put in meters; or, install and man a booth at the entrance/exit.

City council members are still considering their options, although, it seems, anything would be better than the system in place now.

Read the entire article here.

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Two Reasons the NPA Show was “buzzing”

There seems to be no question that the NPA Convention and Trade event last week was a grand success. Numbers were up, exhibitors were smiling, and there was an ‘energy’ on the trade show floor.

“This is the best NPA Show ever” commented one wag.  “Its exciting, its bubbling, there is business going on.” OK, I felt it too. But why?

I won’t take away from Christine Banning and her NPA crew.  They did a fantastic job tweaking the event and making adjustments to help both exhibitors and attendees alike. They are to be commended.  But there was something else. Something I didn’t feel at the NPA in Chicago last year or at the IPI in Dallas in May.

There was excitement. There was vigor. People were engaged.

In addition to Christine’s magic, there were two driving forces at the NPA this year.

First, the parking business, that is the business of selling ‘stuff’ to parking owners and operators is booming. When I walked the floor last year and asked how business was going, I got a shrug or a “meh”.  “Its ok”  Its Fine.  This year I got . “Super.”  “Fantastic.”  “Best in years.”

The feeling is that parking is back.  We see it in our business. Vendors are investing in their companies because they are selling. That means the folks in the booths at the NPA weren’t just going through the paces. They were excited. They were making deals.

The Second reason is demographic. As I looked around the floor I saw a new generation staffing the exhibits. As I looked at the people in the booth next to us I noted to a colleague that the women seemed like they were 14 years old. She told them what I said and they laughed and said they were 24.

The influx of software and web based companies has brought an influx of youth. I would guess that at least a third and maybe more of the people in the exhibits were under 35. And many under 30. Youth brings energy, and energy brings excitement, and excitement brings sales.

As you walked around the hall, you saw these young entrepreneurs and their staffs literally bouncing on the balls of their feet.  Their enthusiasm was contagious.   More than once I had to tell someone to ‘slow down a bit’ so I could keep up.

Our industry is giving birth to a new generation, not only on the street but also in the board room. The baton hasn’t been passed, its been snatched out of our hands.

I’ll comment later on whether this is a good or a bad thing, but there is no question that it exists. You could feel it at the NPA Show. Do you know that there was a party that STARTED at 10 PM?

JVH

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Parking and the New Hampshire Supreme Court

In New Hampshire, Keene residents have formed a group they call Robin Hood of Keene, which roams the town feeding parking meters to save other residents from parking tickets. The group also carries out protests in close vicinity to parking enforcement officers and posts its activities on Youtube, sometimes including video footage of those enforcement officers. According to thenewspaper.com, city officials have taken the matter to the state’s supreme court, where they were not supported in the least.

“Does the behavior here violate any municipal ordinance or state law, in your view?” Justice James P. Bassett asked.

City leaders want the protesters to stay 50 feet or more away from parking officers, but the court responded negatively, saying protests of all kinds are usually carried out near city employees – namely police officers – and that restricting those protests is not legal.

“The peace of mind of PEOs, parking enforcement officers, is not a compelling interest,” Jon Meyer, lawyer for the Robin Hooders, said. “It does not justify restrictions on First Amendment rights.”

No doubt, some other approach can be taken to protect the feelings of the “meter maids,” as the article calls them, but, someday, the members of the Robin Hooders will be compelled to give up their cause without the passing of any new laws: they won’t have time to follow meter maids around town dropping coins into meters where they aren’t parked when they run out of money and are forced to find a paid occupation.

For the rest of the article, click here.

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NPA Las Vegas 2014 – They hit the Jackpot

Wow!  Christine Banning and her team have done it again. The NPA Convention this week at Caesars in Las Vegas is a thundering success. Over 1100 parking pros on site and 120 exhibitors.  The NPA has hit the jackpot here in sin city.

Incoming board chair Mark Muglich addressed the opening luncheon and welcomed the assembled throngs. Various seminars and training session filled the four days during times when the exhibition hall was not open.

JVH

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Clarification, HUB and Advanced Access Controls

In October’s Issue of Parking Technology Today, we printed a news release that said that Advanced Access Controls in Southern California had become a part of the HUB network of companies. I am told by someone who should know at HUB  that they have NOT purchased Advanced but are working closely with them.

JVH

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Does anybody like parallel parking?

A survey conducted for a group called Easytrip in Ireland has revealed that 45 percent of Irish drivers will pass up a parking spot if it requires them to parallel park. Breakingnews.ie reports the statistic, that isn’t so much surprising as it is pathetic. Parallel parking seems like a skill that symbolizes competence and maturity, like being able to tie your shoes or bake a cake.

The article further reports that:

74% of us prefer reversing or driving forward into a perpendicular parking space over parking beside a kerb.

Of course, it’s natural to prefer the easier parking method over the more challenging option, so this statistic is easier to accept. My argument is that parallel parking has more than a few advantages to perpendicular. First, you don’t have anybody parked next to you dinging your doors. As long as it can be done without denting your bumpers, you spare yourself some body damage. Second, it’s easier to get in and out of your car with all that room on the sides. And, third, being a proficient parallel parker gives you a wonderful, though superficial, sense of accomplishment that can be hard to come by.

For the rest of the article, click here.

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Parking Meters Not a Good Fit in Every Town

So much of parking news is about new policies, new meters, new applications and the forward motion of the industry. So, I was intrigued by a headline I just read on parknews.biz:

Carmichaels to remove parking meters

Who takes out their parking meters? Who puts them in, decides they are not working, and has them removed? Charmichaels, Pennsylvania, according to The Observer-Reporter, is getting rid of its parking meters. It seems that since their installation, the meters have been ignored, and vandalized, and are now considered a safety hazard.

The borough (Charmichaels) has not issued tickets for meter violations for several years, police Chief Mike Gyurke said. The last time the borough collected money from the meters it took in only about $15. Most people in the community know the borough doesn’t enforce for meter violations, and so they don’t bother putting money in the meters when they park, councilwoman Marianne Gideon said.

So the city installs parking meters, doesn’t enforce them and people get completely used to not paying for parking, even though the meters are right there. Soon, even law enforcement and city officials give up on the meters. Then, the meters become so obsolete and unimportant that they are actually stolen from the sidewalk – cut off right at the base.

I’m glad Charmichaels has decided to remove it’s meters – I can only wonder why they installed them in the first place.

Read the article here.

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Parking Structure Attacks Lead to Increased Security

Thinking about the worst is the worst, but somebody’s got to do it. After two attacks on women at a downtown Minneapolis parking structure, local officials have increased police patrols and undercover presence in parking areas.

According to myfoxtwincities.com, the attacker approached one woman and asked for money and then tried to force her down between two cars. He was scared off when another parking structure customer exited a nearby elevator. Not 3 hours later, the same individual pushed a second woman into her car and attempted to sexually assault her. She fought him and screamed loudly enough to attract attention, and the assailant ran away.

The suspect fled the area and was chased by several bystanders who lost track of him near Pizza Luce. Police believe the same suspect was involved in both cases.

It’s an awful story that could have been much worse. It’s reassuring to read that bystander involvement was a factor – people are not standing around, but acting to help someone in distress. It’s also a positive that Minneapolis police leadership have recognized the need to secure the area where the attacks occurred.

We all like to walk around this world like we are safe, but sometimes we are not safe, and it’s up to us, to parking providers and enforcement officers to recognize danger and address that danger with an appropriate response.

For the rest of the article, click here.

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Technology tackles handicapped parking fraud

Technology and parking have a complicated relationship. In some areas, technology is embraced; in other areas, it is reviled. Sometimes, technology is used in ways that undermine parking regulations; and sometimes it is used to support them.

Lately, a Folsom, California technology company is creating technology to enforce handicapped-placard parking laws. Handicapped parking fraud is an area where the only solution so far has been physical enforcement. Now, technology has entered the scene. According to the Sacramento Business Journal:

Pondera Solutions develops waste detection and fraud detection technologies using Google analytical tools. The company can use those techniques to detect illegal use of placards by quickly sifting through huge datasets to alert agencies to which cases merit further investigation.

The technology monitors the doctors who issue handicapped placards by verifying they are actual doctors and it tracks Department of Motor Vehicles data to check up on users who renew placards frequently.

It is reported that one in 10 California drivers has a handicapped parking placard – an astounding number.

Pondera CEO Jon Coss said in a news release. “Misuse is not good for businesses, it is not good for governments and it is not good for the disabled who actually need to use these spaces.”

Here’s a place where technology, although complicated, creates a simple solution for a major parking problem.

Read the entire article here.

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Parking, Magic or Reality

My morning email brought two subjects to the fore.  One, by Colleen Niese spoke about the need for having the right title for the position you are trying to fill and the other by Jeff Petry comparing parking to the magic of Harry Potter.  Why would  I compare and contrast these two topics.

Colleen argues, and I think successfully, that you need to strive to give positions in your company names that honestly and correctly describe the position. For instance, if you call a position a ‘sales director’ when it is actually a ‘sales manager’, you set expectations to the person seeking the position that the salary level and responsibilities are higher and more complex than  reality, and in doing so, you waste considerable HR time weeding out those who may be overqualified or looking for something different than you have to offer. In other words, how about some honesty and reality here.

Jeff compares the parking industry to Harry Potter’s learning experience at Hogwarts’s and how a boy grew into a man able to use his wizardlike powers for good through leadership of a mentor, in this case, Dumbledore. He posits that much of the problem parking has particularly in the municipal setting is that it doesn’t have a mentor to lead the poor parking folks out of the forest and into the position of strength and leadership they deserve. We deserve a seat at the leadership table, and with some mentoring and legerdemain, we will have it.

Whereas Colleen is focused like a laser beam on a particular issue and offering specific solutions to specific problems, Jeff is using metaphor and perhaps an allegory to describe general solutions to broad problems.

I”m in the Colleen camp. The first thing you need to do to solve problems is describe them, break them down into solvable pieces, and then specifically attack each of those with rifle shot solutions. Generalities and broad brush comparisons are great when you are running for office, but they seldom make a bit of difference when it comes to actually doing anything.

The city of Los Angeles has described in its infinite wisdom six levels of condition for its streets. “A” being perfect and “F” being the most difficult to fix. I live on an “F” street. For 20 years we have been striving to get our streets fixed. We have worked with our politicians and they have talked about the greater good, and money being spent to repair other areas and the like. For two decades we have heard platitudes about working and striving to fix our vast problems.

We don’t have a vast problem. We have a specific problem with “F” Streets what one city councilman told me meant that we were “F***ed.” (He didn’t use asterisks.)  We have reached the point where the only solution is to take a laser like approach, find the bureaucrat in city hall that assigned the classification, and get that “F” changed to a “D”. Sweep away all the generalities and fix the problem.

If you look at the successful parking programs, you will find that the folks have gone after the issues that affect parking in their organizations and determined solutions and then solved them. I’m sure the successes Jeff at the city of Eugene or Brandy Stanley in Las Vegas or Peter Lange at Texas A and M and leaders of other successful parking programs came more from solving specific problems than from a rod of wood embedded with magical substance.

JVH

 

 

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