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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?



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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?




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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.




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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.


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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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Parking laws apply to superstars, too

Maybe she has too much money, too many fans, too much fame or spent too many years living in England, but it appears Madonna thinks she can make up her own parking laws. She didn’t want anybody parking in front of her New York City townhouse, so she posted signs and painted the curb – to be clear, she didn’t do it herself, she hired out the job.

New York City authorities foiled her plan and required her to remove the signs and the paint.

She got herself into hot water last month with neighbors and city officials after she posted signs in front of her townhouse that read: “Tenant parking only … unauthorized vehicles will be towed away at vehicle owner’s expense.” In addition, the words “No Parking” had been embossed in cement on the sidewalk, and the nearby curb had been painted yellow.

It’s not clear whether Madonna had her curb painted yellow because she wanted the area to be a designated loading/drop off zone or she just liked the color. She did take a parting shot at the city for the ugly color of its concrete-colored curbs, maybe not fully understanding the meaning of the specific colors of painted curbs.

We all want our own private parking spots – for some of us, they’re called driveways, for others, they’re fake handicapped parking tags. Some people try the paper bag over a parking meter trick, others throw out a lawn chair and invoke the rule of “savesies.” Everybody’s got an angle on claiming parking – but few are as audacious about it as Madonna.

Read the article here.

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Lunch with The Donald — No Not That One – The Hutongs of Beijing

“Actually I learn more from you than you learn from me” he says as we part after lunch at the UCLA Faculty Center. I smile and nod. He is most gracious.

Don Shoup in retirement is the same Don Shoup when he was teaching. He still has an office at UCLA and he still is on speed dial with CNN and Fox News. When every they have a parking story, he’s worth a pithy quote.

He loves to talk about how the difficult part of making changes in parking policy is political, not technical. His lead story this lunch was about Beijing. During a recent visit, he was given a tour of the ancient alleyways, Hutongs,  near the Forbidden City. They are a mixture of poor dwellings and compounds where more well to do live. These houses and compounds have one thing in common, they do not have toilets. Residents use common facilities located down the block. And according to tour guides, these are some of the least hygienic in Asia. In addition, cars were parked everywhere.


Don wondered whether a residential parking program would generate enough money to clean up the local privies. Some graduate research discovered that it would cost $65,000 to upgrade the facilities in each Hutong.  The parking program and maintenance on the restrooms would cost $25,000 a year but would generate $50,000 in revenue. In a little over two years the program would pay for itself and begin to generate funds that could be used for other programs.

He published a paper on the subject and even before it was translated into Chinese it raised substantial interest in the Capital.  The government liked the idea that the more well to do (those owning cars) would be paying and the less fortunate would benefit from the resulting maintenance program. Wealth redistributed. A Communist dream. It’s being tested in a number of Hutongs today.

In a presentation to the Manhattan Institute, Don wondered why this type of program wouldn’t work in New York City.  There are no residential permit programs in the city, and car owners spend many hours searching for and keeping parking spaces. “Wouldn’t someone on the Upper East Side pay a lot to have a reserved parking space near their apartment home?” he said. Plus, wouldn’t someone in a less wealthy area like to participate in the program, too.   If the city were to auction the spaces on the Upper East Side, they could go for a substantial amount. Probably much more than the spaces would go for in less affluent areas.

upper east side (2)

In those areas a reverse auction could be held. If there were 1000 spaces available, residents could bid on the spaces, and the 1000 highest bids would be selected, however each would pay the lowest amount bid. The bids might range from $1000 to $100, but everyone bidding would pay $100. This program is being used with great success to allocate permits in some lots at Chapman University in Southern California.

The additional monies generated in the affluent areas could be used to supplement costs in the poorer sections of the city.

The problem is that New York has opposite side of the street parking bans where weekly you must move your car so the streets can be swept. How could I have a reserved space if I had to move my car twice a week? The streets still have to be swept.

Our fearless parking rock star proposes boutique street cleaning. City workers using high tech vacuums would walk the streets and clean around the parked cars. It would cost more, but the monies generated from the parking program could pay for it. “Think of the pressure removed from drivers in Manhattan. They wouldn’t be playing parking roulette twice a week. How much is that worth to them?”

Would this sell in the Big Apple. The current administration is ‘progressive.’ Don thinks it would. The program redistributes wealth by taking higher parking fees in some areas and using them to supplement lower fees in others.  It would also allow the city to hire more workers (street cleaners) and reduce some unemployment.

From the back alleys of Beijing to the streets of the Upper East Side. Who would have thunk it.


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Who Framed Roger Rabbit — What Happened to Neighborhoods in Los Angeles

Gerhart Mayer, an architect, planner, and futurist in Los Angeles, has written a piece on how parking affects the ‘design’ of areas in the city. We have posted it on Park News trending.  You can read his piece here.

He is saying that all the surface parking is taking space that could be used for quaint villages surrounding metro rail stations. He longs for cities that look like Zurich or Amsterdam, not high rises like Manhattan and Century City. He calls these vertical gated communities.

An example of his ideal is Third street in Santa Monica, where he says that the city planned garages surrounding the promenade.  Well, not really.

Third street in Santa Monica has gone through many changes over the past half century. The parking structures were built to support the commercial activity on Third street. Then a shopping center was built at one end. Then the street was turned into a promenade. Then it was ‘revitalized.’  The shopping center basically torn down and rebuilt. The parking has existed through all this activity.  Now it will be the terminus of the expo line of the metro.

Amsterdam, Zurich, Bologna, Saltsberg, even San Francisco, and myriads of other quaint, walkable cities, are also old cities.  They were built before trains and buses. The rapid transit was added later.  In Amsterdam, for instance, the very efficient tram system was build to fit narrow streets and hundreds of bridges over canals. The neighborhoods came first, the transit followed.

Mayer posits that we should mandate such neighborhoods and assist in their creation by:

  • Eliminating parking minimums
  • Eliminating long-term parking above grade
  • Eliminating parking in the vicinity of a transit station
  • Allowing conventional parking below the public right of way (e.g., under streets)
  • Creating automated parking
  • Creating automated parking below the public right of way (e.g., under streets)
  • Managing parking as a public utility

The problem with all this is that quaint little neighborhoods are expensive to build. Revitalizing the century old buildings as they did in Santa Monica is one thing, to build them from scratch is quite another. Mayer disparages ready built neighborhoods like Americana in Glendale or the Grove in Los Angeles, which are basically shopping centers build to look like neighborhoods. He considers them fake and ‘bubbly’.

But the thing that makes neighborhoods in Amsterdam, or Paris, or London what they are isn’t the quaint buildings or the cobblestone streets, its the history that underlies the area. If you want a quaint walkable area in Santa Monica, go to Main Street. or Abbott Kinney. The shops, clubs and restaurants there have a history. The construction goes back what, 100 years. The Promenade in Santa Monica is in reality a long shopping center with upscale stores and readymade theme restaurants. Its The Americana or the Grove laid out in a straight line over four blocks.

Quaint walkable neighborhoods create themselves over time. Unique shops locate there because of the lower rent, people go there because of the shops.  I agree with Mayer that getting the government out of the business of requiring parking is a good first step. However changing zoning laws to enable a restaurant to go where a hardware store once was is also a beginning.

I admire his desire to have it all, a quaint walkable area with parking underground so it doesn’t show.  Suddenly those inexpensive shops and clubs become rent prohibitive. The most expensive construction you can have is underground.

My solution — let it evolve over time. Follow Houston’s lead and do way with zoning. Let entrepreneurs open their stores and get the regulation out of the way. Instead of light rail, why not put trams on the streets. Make it convenient for people to hop on and hop off.

You know, like they had in Los Angeles in 1920.  The finest most complete transit system on the planet. But then politics and greed destroyed all that. Rent ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit.’ As Mayer points out, it tells the whole story.




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