Winter Parking Wars

It can be hard for the people who live in moderate climates to understand how snow changes the parking scene. I’ve lived in snowy places in the past, and I’m happy as can be now living in a place that doesn’t get that cold.

The whole idea of saving parking in front of your house is unfamiliar, though, because I my experience in the Rockies was short-lived. There was never so much snow that I couldn’t find parking, and winter lasted only a forgivable four months.

I read about people saving their spots with garden furniture and I think ‘how desperate must they be?’

There’s a humorous synopsis of the “save your spot” culture in Philadelphia at that helps someone like me understand the phenomenon better. It might be a good read for the parking authorities dealing with way winter weather turns parking into war. The author defines “savies,” “movesies,” and local perspectives on other winter parking practices.

Say what you will about this city and its inequalities, but at least one thing has been made clear: We are all circling this godforsaken block together.

Very true. Read the article here.

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Happy Thanksgiving???

How can we possibly have a happy Thanksgiving.

The world is aflame — Ebola is still killing in Africa, the murders in the Middle east don’t stop, China is on the move, Russia is invading, Europe is an economic basket case, then there’s Ferguson plus scandals at the IRS, Secret Service, GSA, NASA, pick an alphabet agency. Our immigration policy is in shambles, no one is happy with it. 3M has closed its parking division, and to top it all off, the streets in my neighborhood still haven’t been repaved.

We are bombarded daily with ‘if it bleeds it leads’ headlines. One disaster after another. Hurricane here, earthquake there, poverty and hunger everywhere. Everything is dysfunctional, whether its the President, Congress, the Judiciary, your local school system or even the pipes that bring water to us in LA (They keep breaking and flooding neighborhoods). There’s global warming, or is it global cooling or is it climate change, or is it simply the weather. Even the climatistas can’t make up their mind. What’s a poor stupid voter to do?

Yet, in spite of all that, life expectancy gets longer every year, even those who live on the most modest incomes and in the most modest homes live better than the so called ‘landed gentry’ of a century and a half ago, and the price of gasoline is under $3 a gallon.

We live in a country of abundance — Just walk down the aisles of any grocery store, shopping center, or Costco. You can find anything at almost any price you want. This is not true in most of the world. Airlines take you wherever you want to go and at arguably the lowest price evah.

I don’t even have to mention technology. Virtually everyone has a smart phone and is in constant contact with friends world wide (I’m not so sure this is a benefit, but that’s for another column.) Automobiles last longer than ever before and cost less per mile to drive and maintain.

The great plains and California’s central valley produce food in such abundance we not only feed our citizens, but much of the rest of the world.

Even with all their problems our universities are second to none and are flooded with students from across the planet who beg, borrow, or steal to come here to learn.

My suggestion is that you consider the last few graphs, turn off the TV news, use your newspapers to line your bird cages before you read them, and give thanks for all the goodness, wonder, bounty and freedom we enjoy. And why not — there’s nothing much you can do about the rest anyway.

A most Happy and Grateful Thanksgiving to your and yours from the entire Parking Today, PIE, and Bricepac family.





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The 3M conundrum – Why?

I have been receiving input from across the globe concerning 3M’s decision to close its parking division after only about 18 months in the business. The comments go from :

3M never wanted the parking business in the first place, it ‘came along’ when they bought FS Tech and its toll road and lpr businesses.  It’s like you bought a new suit and the store threw in a tie. You didn’t want the tie, but it was part of the deal. The tie wasn’t your taste but you took it home, hung in the the closet for a few months, then threw it out.


There are discrete but effective barriers to entry for new entrants to the parking industry. The barriers come in various forms but one of the key barriers for new entrants is the challenges around overcoming long standing relationships, entrenched work practices and small appetites for risk. “Risk” can also be characterized as “change”. These attributes in tandem with long gestation periods for decision making and even longer tender preparation, processing and evaluation time lines results in lengthy time lapses between investments. The sector is characterized by multiple vendors most of whom are small to medium business enterprises operating in niche market segments and within select geographical boundaries.

Its within this context that 3M confronted its challenges. 3M has a well- earned reputation across the world as an innovator. It’s innovative culture has enabled the company to feed a plethora of new innovation through its global channels to markets as efficiently and as effectively as any company in the world. Its traditional modus operandi is to sell its products through wholesalers and retailers and agitate consumer demand through marketing and advertising directly to the consumer. It derives high margins in part through global volume and in part because it generates demand for new products in market sectors where there is little or no competition. 3M have generally been very well rewarded for its “first to market” initiatives.

I suspect 3M’s decision to exit the sector was driven by the realization that whilst innovation is regarded within the parking industry, there are insufficient rewards and incentives to apply the full force of the “3M innovation machine” to the dis-aggregated parking industry.

I believe reality is somewhere in between. I have no idea how decisions are made in companies the size of 3M but my guess is that considerable study goes into the process. This takes time. Even if they didn’t want the parking division in the beginning, companies like 3M don’t just make quick decisions.  They study, they review, they attempt, and then they close.

If one looks back with 20/20 hindsight, you can see that their marketing wasn’t focused on parking, but on 3M. They featured ‘bar codes’ and the 89,000 people who work at 3M. Yes, we use bar codes in parking, but we use a lot more, too. It looks like 3M didn’t really talk to the industry, or if they did, they didn’t appear to be listening.

When I toured their facility in San Antonio and compared it was what I saw at Amano/McGann, Scheidt and Bachmann, Designa, TIBA, Hub, and Skidata, I should have realized that they weren’t in this for the long haul. They took a large room, sat some parking equipment in various stages of completion, and talked about the “3M way”, six sigma, and how they were converting everything to the 3M manufacturing process. That may be unfair, particularly since they had just moved the plant from Illinois, but still…

Frankly I thought they would raise the prices considerably and be able to maintain a higher pricing level since they were “3M” and would provide world class training and support to the systems they sold.

Their dealers, who had ridden the Federal APD airplane nearly into the ground, were ecstatic. 3M did what they do best.  They showed them their huge facility in Minneapolis, toured them in G5s and then brought in the heavy guns when they toured San Antonio. Whereas all the companies I mentioned above welcomed pictures and provided meetings with CEOs and plant managers, the leaders at the 3M meetings were high level VP’s who had flown in from Minneapolis. My camera was required to be left in the car.

Looking back today, it seems that all the activity was not done in depth. There was excellent PR, beautiful two story booths at trade shows, concerned managers who promised fixes to FAPD traditional problems, but did the fixes really ever come?  You will have to ask a member of the Parc Group about that.

3M did what was necessary but at the same time kept an eye on the bottom line. They didn’t really want the parking division but took it anyway. Then they kept a close eye on it. When it didn’t perform as well as other divisions, they make the only decision a company like 3M can make.

In the short term, this will be difficult for dealers and end users. In the long term, maybe not so much. The companies I listed above provide quality products and have been for decades. They are committed to the market and to their customers. It will be short term pain for long term gain.



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Accountability Counts

The average U.S. citizen has serious doubts about the effectiveness and honesty of government. When we think about it rationally, we know there’s no perfect system or perfect public official. Mistakes are going to be made. From my point of view, it’s the lack of accountability that is the most offensive. If you collect money, you must be accountable for the way that money is used. If you make a mistake, you must be accountable for that mistake. There are days when it seems our government spends much of its time wasting money and then lying about wasting money.

In San Diego, a recent audit of parking meter collections has revealed a serious flaw in the system. There is no process in place for tracking the use of meter revenue. That’s $10 million collected last year and spent on what no one actually knows.

According to a new report from City Auditor Eduardo Luna, the city provides no formal accounting of the meter revenue, which is supposed to pay for parking improvements in high-traffic areas.

Maybe the current administration fell into a faulty system put in place by their predecessors – there’s no use pointing fingers.But now that the city is aware of the glitch, it is taking steps to address it. The lack of accountability for the meter funds is a great shame, but taking accountability for the problem is a step in the right direction.

San Diego has plans in place to use its meter revenue wisely and account for how it’s spent. I hope its leaders are vocal about how well their plans progress.

Read the rest of the article here.

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3M Shutters Parking Division – What Was Federal APD is no more.

3M announced today that it has made the decision to close its parking manufacturing operation. The company said that it would ship product to its Value Added Resellers (Dealers) through approximately the first three months of 2015 and would honor all current contracts and warranties.

The company sent me the following:

  •  3M has announced that it will transition out of its global Parking Access and Revenue Control business (formerly known as Federal APD).
  • This decision is a result of 3M’s ongoing strategic portfolio management.
    3M’s Traffic Safety business, which offers a wide range of high-quality solutions to customers worldwide, will focus investments in its more differentiated core product lines and will exit the Parking business, which has not met 3M’s overall business expectations.
  • The company is committed to fulfilling all existing contractual obligations and product warranties for its Parking products and to assisting customers and VARs (Value Added Resellers) in the upcoming transition.
  • This decision does not impact any of 3M’s other product lines.

Aaron Mills with the Parking Division marketing department told me that every effort was being made to work with their customers to affect a smooth transition.  He said that all existing contracts would be honored and that warranties would be supported for two years.

The decision was made because the parking business was not meeting the overall expectation 3M had when it acquired Federal APD in September of 2012. 3M has ongoing portfolio management evaluations and has just completed the evaluation of its parking business.   Mills said that new orders will  be taken into the first quarter and there is not a hard and fast cut off date at this time. He stressed the company would be working closely with the VARs to assist them in the transition.

The PIPs and Sirit units that were purchased with Federal APD are not affected by this decision as they have been wholly integrated into 3M.

Those people employed in the Parking Division who will be without jobs after the first of the year will be offered opportunities to ‘transition’ into other 3M divisions. “This happens all the time,” said Nan Farnsworth, Communications Manager 3M Traffic Safety and Security Division. “In a company this size there are many opportunities.”

As an aside, in 2012 I wrote the following in this blog under the heading “3M buys Federal APD”

Its not quite that simple.  3M has purchased the Federal Signal Technologies Group (FSTech) from Federal Signal Corporation. Federal APD is the parking arm of FSTech. I have pasted the news release from 3M below.  I hope the fact that 3M’s John Houle (vice president and general manager, 3M Traffic Safety Systems Division) neglected to single out Federal APD in his quote isn’t a harbinger of things to come for the parking division.

You can read the entire blog post here.

Its a sad day for Federal APD’s dealers and customers. But a pretty good day for a number of revenue control manufacturers.


H/T: Dan Kupferman


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I’d Buy That App

There are a lot of dodgy smartphone apps for parking out there. Some sell you space that isn’t actually privately owned; others let you hold a space hostage until the ransom shows up. According to, the city of Syracuse, NY, has just begun offering an app called Whoosh! that lets users pay for parking with their smartphone. I’m not crazy about exclamation points in business titles, but I definitely like the way this app works.

The Whoosh! system can be used by any motorist who downloads the free app to their phone and registers their vehicle license plate and a credit card to which the payments will be charged. Each transaction includes a 35 cent convenience fee.

It’s an easy process to download the app and use it to streamline meter transactions. I think the 35-cent fee is high, considering some parkers might only be spending 50 cents to park. I don’t live in a place that freezes in the winter, but I imagine there are plenty of folks in Syracuse who’ll be glad to pay 35 cents to get out of the cold a lot faster.

So many apps leave me puzzled. This one makes sense.

Read the rest of the article here.

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University Parking Raises High Dollars

At the University of Memphis, reports, parking enforcement officers have brought in more than $2 million during the last 6 years. The ticket fines range in price from $10 to $200 for infractions including not displaying a permit correctly and parking in a handicapped spot without a placard.

The university’s Parking and Transportation Services enforces parking regulations on the campus but the university itself enforces the collection of parking ticket fines. According to the article:

Students who do not pay their parking tickets are not allowed to register for classes. The University will even prevent students from accessing their grades and records unless parking citations are paid.

For faculty and staff, ticket money is automatically taken out of their paychecks if they don’t pay the ticket in a timely fashion.

That’s quite a set up. I can’t help but feel sorry for the students whose dollars make up that $2 million. I remember how exciting college was, but also how overwhelming it felt to be turned loose, required to work and study, maintain my grades and pay for my food and apartment. The last thing I ever needed was a parking ticket. Still, it’s reality on a campus and off a campus: you’ve got to obey parking laws or pay the price.

I’d feel a whole lot better if the University of Memphis Parking and Transportation Services funded a scholarship with some of that money. It seems like the right way to use some of that money and could give everybody a much better feeling about paying those parking fines.

Read the article here.

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T2 Puts on 4 Day Affair for 400

I was in Indianapolis Today and dropped by the T2 System’s “Connect 2014″ annual four day extravaganza and as usual, I was impressed. The company invites its customers to come to the event to receive training and to join in discussions on the specifics of their jobs and how they relate to T2 products.

I sat in on a few of the sessions and was impressed how open the discussions were.  Some of the attendees told of ‘work arounds’ so they could perform needed tasks not included in theT2 software. The T2 crew were in every session and taking notes.

I spoke with Peter Lange, head of parking and transportation at Texas A and M University. He told me that the attraction of the event is that even though attendees may be at different levels in organizations, or in different types, including Universities, Municipalities, Private Operators they are all connected by a common threat, the T2 Flex software.  “Sure we bring up things we do that aren’t included in Flex, but often, a year or so later, we find that they have listened and included the new ideas in their product.”

I only stayed a few hours, but sincere thanks to my hosts Mike Simmons, Blake Lauffer, and Irena Goloshocken. They put on a great event, which included about 20 or so sponsor exhibitors.  PIE, NPA, and the IPI better watch out, T2 is coming on strong.


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Free Parking Has Enemies

There are a lot of opinions out there and most of them are junk. I’m willing to include some of mine in the junk pile, but will continue to share the ones I’m really attached to. I read this one and liked the way it sounded. The ran an opinion piece by a Saratoga Springs resident who’s furious at the way city leaders are planning to use the last of its undeveloped downtown property for a parking structure.

Mr. Ian Klepetar says the city’s “free parking” program has created a dependence on the car and a lack of public transit. He urges the city to promote healthier transportation models and a more honest approach to parking.

Shame on Saratoga Springs for trying to confront this “parking problem” with the kind of “solutions” that created it in the first place. Shame on our downtown business sector for supporting and funding this precedent and shame on us, again, for believing that parking was ever “free” in the first place.

The writer feels strongly about, and writes convincingly about, the need for low-emission transportation choices and the reality of the true cost of parking – two subjects of great importance to the parking industry. Worth reading, in my opinion.

For the entire article, click here.

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Trick or Ticket

It’s Halloween and there’s no pretending this is an ordinary day. Children across the country are out of their minds with joy, and their parents preparing for the inevitable dental bills.

Still, parking is the topic, and there’s some tricky business going on down in New Zealand where researchers are asking people about their approach to parking fender benders. A study conducted by AA Insurance and reported on by shows that while it’s a known fact most fender bumpers don’t leave a note at the scene of the crime, most individuals lie and say they would.

”While the reality is that most people don’t leave a note, only one person in five was prepared to admit that they would not,” Amelia Macandrew, customer relations manager at AA Insurance said.

“There seems to be a huge disconnect between what people say they’ll do and what they actually do.

We’ve all been there. You accidentally bump another car on your way into or out of a parking spot and your first thought is to look around and see if anybody noticed. Your second thought is to get out of your car and check your own bumper. Finally, you survey the victim’s car for damages. Here’s where the disappearing act comes in.

If I damaged someone’s car, I’d be sure to leave a note. The note might say “Ooops, sorry, I dinged your door,” but an apology is good for something, right?

For the rest of the article, click here.



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