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Another “Urban Myth” Bites the Dust

We have all heard the harbingers of doom who predict the end of our industry as we know it. Why? Because millennials are all forsaking their lives in the burbs and moving to the big city. In doing so they aren’t buying cars (don’t need em, live near work) so they don’t need any place to park them. Yikes.

However my buddy Brandy in Las Vegas sent me an article in the New York Times that puts the lie to this myth. You can read it yourself here.

It seems that with the exception of about 10 urban areas, folks ARE NOT moving to the cities but to the contrary, are living in the burbs. Urban planners and prognosticators live in large cities and see anecdotal information so they start down the road of the self fulfilling prophesy. However, ask the post office who is getting all that mail, and they tell a different story.

The graphs in the article show that although New York, Chicago, and Seattle downtowns are becoming more dense, places like Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and Austin are not, and by quite a large margin. Folks in these cities and many more like them still need cars to get to work and yes, a place to park them.

When I least heard this myth it was being spread by a realtor in Chicago who said people and companies were abandoning those mid rise complexes around O’Hare and moving downtown.  So they could live work and play within walking distance.  The burbs were history.  And that was 10 years ago.

It may be true in Chicago, but it isn’t most everywhere else.

My sources tell me to ignore the doomsayers and believe the numbers. Might not be a bad idea.


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Should we Worry about “Self Driving Vehicles?” Not in your lifetime

The parking industry is in full crisis mode concerning “Autonomous Vehicles.”  OMG — they are going to destroy the industry  — no need to park them, they can zip by and pick you up and drop you off at work then go and pick someone else up, etc etc etc, cruising by tens of thousands of empty parking spaces.


To review this fallacy, one must first determine what an “autonomous” vehicle really is. In the above scenario, it is a vehicle that, like in the Jetsons (look it up youngsters), drives itself, has no steering wheel, and you sit in the back seat and read the paper — THERE IS NO DRIVER AND IT WILL NOT REQUIRE A DRIVER under any circumstances.

Cars that are designed to assist the driver, like having power steering, or cruise control, or even radar or proximity alarms, are different — If they require a driver, they are no different than UBER or Lyft today.

This is one of those situations where you have to know the answers before you ask the questions. Here are some answers:

  1. To drive at or near ‘freeway speeds’ all cars on the road must be “self driving, autonomous.”
  2. Driving in inclement weather is problematic.
  3. When Elon Musk says he will sell self driving cars in 2020, does he mean “Full on Jetson style” or something less?
  4. Do you know it took decades for safety features like anti lock breaks and electronic stability control to be in all vehicles, and these are the automotive equivalent of the wheel compared with full on autonomous vehicles.

Don’t believe any of these, and there are more, look them up. In future blogs I’ll give you a link for each on.

But you have to be clever. Articles about these and other autonomous features are self serving. The author or the company written about has a dog in the fight. If you persist, there will always be a disclaimer near the end something like:

Furthermore, will the vehicles be equipped with the technology that currently helps out human drivers? Anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control have served humans well, but some of necessary software may not yet be available for driverless cars as the tech is sometimes made by third-party suppliers. So, while self-driving car technology is getting better at handling snow, it’s clear that we are still a long way off. In other words, don’t expect a driverless car to drive you through a blizzard anytime soon. Link here.

Why am I concerned about all this — I’m in the message business. When we have headlines like “Autonomous Vehicles Means the End to Parking” or “Attend this seminar: Find out how Autonomous Vehicles may Mean An End to your Career” we are passing out the kool aid.  The message gets sent, the kool aid drunk, and full panic mode sets in.

In the upcoming months leading up to PIE, I will be publishing articles that I hope give a more even handed view of this “Autonomous Vehicle” dilemma.  Don’t put your retirement papers in yet.



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IPI is Taking the Big Easy by Storm

Kudos to the members and staff of the IPI.  The show this year is big, bold, and interesting.

I am most impressed with the amount of money the major parking manufacturing firms have invested in new booths, both in size and new representations.  You can get lost in some of the booths.  You need a GPS just to find your way around.

I am impressed too with the number of networking events  being held.  You can take tours of parking facilities in New Orleans or tour the spots that make the city famous (cemeteries, clubs and restaurants). PLUS the IPI has numerous in house events for networking.  Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.

All the best to Shawn, Bonnie and co.


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Stockton, Calif. Parking Meters Disappearing

In Stockton, Calif., almost 700 parking meters have gone missing in the last year. Recent video surveillance shows the thief rolling a stroller up to a meter and dismantling the meter head. He plops the meter head into the stroller and ambles away. Pictures of the theft are on nbcsandiego.com.

Motorists are confused and police are frustrated.

“We don’t understand why they’re down here because they’re not making that much money,” Stockton police Officer Joe Silva said.

I have to disagree with Officer Silva. Stockton police say almost 700 meters have been stolen and, according to the video, it takes the thief a few minutes to do his dirty work. Let’s say the stolen meters each have about $15 in change inside – and I’m estimating low – then the thief has made about $10,500 in the last year. Divide $10,500 by the amount of time he’s spent cutting the heads off parking meters – we’ll go with 5 minutes a piece – and that’s 3,500 minutes, or 58 hours. This guy is making $180 per hour stealing parking meters.

The risk he takes is high, but so is his profit. His overhead is a stroller and a few tools, which he’s possibly also stolen. He might have to give a percentage to Coinstar for counting his change, but it’s a small amount. No doubt his other job(s) involve taking things that aren’t his. I’m not saying $10,500 a year is enough to live the high life, but it’s a pretty good return on his time commitment, expenditures and effort.

I think it’s time to stop being shocked that these meters are being stolen and start making it harder to steal them.

Watch the video here.

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Women in Parking and Parking Today

Back in 2011 I had the honor of providing a room for the organizational meeting of Women in Parking. It was during the IPI show in Denver. My wife told me that I should simply supply the room, let them know where it was, and leave. That I did (with some assistance from a couple of those present). Since then the organization, under the watchful eye of Ruth Beaman, has grown and prospered.

Being a lazy sort and looking for others to do my work, I came up with the idea of having WIP, as its known, provide all the content for an edition of Parking Today. Colleen Niese provides the editing skills (and does a great job) and it becomes one of the best read and best written of our annual set of magazines.

This year is no different and the July issue will be focused on the women in our fine industry. I commend the advertising section to you vendors out there as we donate a percentage of the revenue to WIP. Jump on board and support this most worthy group.

Contact Marcy at marcy@parkingtoday.com. She will send you all the info.




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New Themes for No Parking

Just another reason to distrust millennials – they don’t want cars. Maybe they’re trying to be environmentally friendly and financially responsible, but I think it’s something else. I think it’s because they don’t want to grow up. According to thenewstribune.com, in Washington state, two apartment buildings currently under construction in Tacoma will not offer parking for residents.

One of the buildings is owned by Koz Development. Its 104 units will include apartments  from 250 to 400 square feet in size. Maybe it’s better for residents to own as little as possible – who knows if there will be room for car keys in an apartment that tiny.

One Tacoma community leader says the apartments will be attractive to millennials who are just starting their careers and don’t want to own a car. The apartments are near a train station, an Amtrak stop, a bus hub and a Link Light Rail station.

“We have always located our projects in transit-oriented neighborhoods and near amenities with the intent of supporting an affordable, car-free, minimalist lifestyle,” said Koz Development president and CEO Cathy Reines via email.

Eric Huseby is the city’s parking coordinator. He says residents with cars can rent spaces throughout the downtown area. After the apartments are finished and lived in, the city will study how parking is affected.

I find the stereotypical millennial to be annoying. It’s the passive, indifferent attitude they live by that gets on my nerves – mostly because I don’t see how any of them survive with such limited incentive. But they will survive, and their approach to life and the practical matters of adulthood will serve them as it alters our culture. Parking-free apartment buildings are a huge indication that the millennial mentality is having an impact.

Read the article here.

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Parking Today Media in NOLA

Three members of the PTMedia staff will be in New Orleans next week to celebrate parking with the IPI.  We will have a booth at the event (404) and look forward to seeing you.  Marcy, Astrid and I will be staffing the booth. We will have copies of my new book, “Death by Parking” plus full information about PT Media, the Parking Industry Exhibition and neat places to visit in NOLA.


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Autonomous Vehicles and Unintended Consequences

Our betters have been telling us that living in cities is a better way to live and that we need to be ready for the move to 700 square foot apartments and a lifestyle filled with urban parks, walking to work and school, and the hustle and bustle and stress of city life.

However some have mused that self driving cars (which would change the face of the parking industry and the way people get from place to place) might just change that urban utopia.

It seems that people would move to the city because living in the burbs and working in the city is difficult and therefore folks would move to those high rise apartments and love it. But what about the contrarian point of view.

What if autonomous vehicles made the trip back and forth so easy (no rushing to the train or bus, no schedule to keep, no hike from the station to the job) that people would find living in the burbs actually preferable to living in the city. The reduced traffic on the freeway would mean the trip to work would be a half hour rather than and hour and a half. You could sleep, catch up on email, or plan your day rather than fight traffic and crowds. Not a bad way to start (or end) the day.

Oklahoma City is the largest (in square miles) city in the US. Its outgoing mayor has been thinking about this issue as his city is the poster child of suburban sprawl.  He wonders if it gets easier to get to work and live in the burbs, why wouldn’t people do just that. After all, particularly if you have a family, having a few square feet where the kids can safely play and neighborhoods filled with trees and lawns might not be so bad afterall, particularly when your commute to work just got easier. PLUS autonomous vehicles would make carpools really easy.

In places like Oak City and my home here in LA where the size of the place has made public transportation difficult, self driving cars solve a lot of problems. However, in doing so, they may also mean that people can remain in the burbs and still work comfortably in the city.

The Law of Unintended Consequences has not been repealed.


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Death by Parking, the Published Book…

We have taken three of the episodes of my parking mystery story, “Death by Parking” and turned them into book form. It turns out that if you know what you are doing, this is not such a difficult process.  I don’t know what I’m doing, but Carla Green at Clarity Design Works does.

After her kind prodding and editing and fixing, she assisted in getting the book published on Amazon, and VOILA, we have Death by Parking Book One including the first episode, “The Laundry,” a middle episode “The Phantom” and the last episode (So far) “The Rendezvous.”

I am amazed at how time flies — I wrote the first words of “Death” in 2004:

A ringing in the distance stirred me from a deep sleep. It took a moment before I could determine whether it was the phone or the door. It was the phone. It was still ringing after I checked the time, 7 AM and I padded to the kitchen to silence it. ‘Manning’ I muttered. I don’t do very well before my first cup of coffee…

If you want more, its available on Amazon, in both print and kindle versions. You can find it here. Based on the number of sales to date, “Death” is number 388,821 on Amazon’s list. No where to go but up.

It was a serial in Parking Today, but I find it makes a tad more sense if you read it in book form. The need for reminders as to who is who and where we were a month ago is gone. I corrected a couple of egregious errors ( little things like the murderer couldn’t have possibly done it) and smoothed out some rough spots.

As Astrid was kind enough to write in her review in June’s Parking Today:

Its a journey that just like the protagonist’s and author’s beloved scotch from the Isle of Islay,  will taste tough, rough, peaty with just a touch of the sea, and most of all, will taste like a good time.”


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The Future of Parking

This seminar at PIE 2017 had standing room only.  People were queuing in the hallway trying to get in.  I didn’t go. But I was struck with the interest.

Why were literally hundreds of attendees at a trade exhibition so concerned about what the future had to offer. I noticed that most were under 50. Why?

I’m told that we go through three phases in our working lives. First, we are indestructible. We start out and if a job doesn’t work out, there’s always time.  Then we are focused. We have families and bills to pay, so we settle in and work. Then we are in the home stretch. We see the finish line. So we coast.

I’m sure you know someone in each of these phases.  Why were those under 50 so concerned about the future of parking? They weren’t coasting, they are still working and concerned. Maybe they should be.

I spoke with someone this week who told me that he felt that parking operators were becoming obsolete, that with automation, use of credit cards, LPR, AVI, parking reservations, and the like, the need for traditional parking management in garages was becoming less and less.  The concept of allowing parkers to communicate with a central office, and have all aspects of the garage monitored off site meant fewer and fewer staff on site.

But as I looked around the exhibit hall, I began to wonder if operators were the only ones that could be experiencing a change. Were the dozen or so PARCS manufacturers, the half dozen ticket printers, the gate manufacturers…where they set to become the buggy whip makers of our generation.

What will the parking facility of a decade from now look like? Will there be refrigerator sized pay on foot machines, ticket spitters, card readers, gates, and the rest? Or with parking reservations, prepayment, credit cards, license plate recognition, and the like, will there be a need to collect cash, issue a ticket, and have gates to control access?

Will the changes come quickly?  I asked my friend how long it had been since he started receiving ‘chip’ cards to replace his mag stripe cards. Less than two years.  And now, how many places can you go (except filling stations) where mag stripe cards are even accepted. Change is coming at light speed.

If the parking reservation companies have their way, I will make a reservation to park my car and pay in advance. My license plate will be scanned on entry and exit. There will be no need for any expensive hardware in the lanes. Fantasy? I’m not so sure.

Are those people crowding into the “Future of Parking” seminar worried about their future, curious, or simply hedging their bets. Its probably a combination of all three.

Now is not the time to run for the bunkers, but it might be time to rethink our business models. Perhaps operators could look more to marketing, providing concierge services, and space management, maybe equipment providers need to rethink their business models and sell information and services, rather than hardware.

My crystal ball is still hazy, but it clears a bit as each day goes by. And what is see is change.


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