Are Drones the New Parking Enforcers?

I find the possibility of drones enforcing parking regulations to be equally fascinating and frightening. According to, a Mr. Mohammed Darweesh has entered is parking enforcement drone prototype in the UAE Drones for Good Award event. Darweesh, an architect, designed the drone and says it will work with RIFD technology and will find its charging and grounding stations at the top of streetlight poles. The drone will take only seconds to to do the same work it takes a person to do in minutes.

“Dubai has a huge number of parking spaces and is being managed by over 900 inspectors, while drivers have to pay at the parking meters and put the parking receipt on prominent place like a dashboard to avoid fines. In the presence of this drone technology, there will be no need for drivers to find a parking meter and repeat the exercise. Just park the car and leave everything to the drone. The drone will come and read the Salik tag with the help of RIFD technology and charge the parking fee automatically,” Darweesh said.

It’s an amazing idea. I’m sure there are members of the parking industry more qualified to ask questions than I, but I have a few anyway:

1. What are the possible consequences of a malfunction?

2. How would individuals contest a ticket, if the drone made a mistake?

3. How will a hundred drones flying over a city checking meters improve ambiance?

4. What if the drones are hacked or shot down?

Now that I have shared my concerns, I’ll go back to thinking this is an amazing idea. I’d like to see it in action. Read the rest of the article here.

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Supply and Demand — the Rules Still Hold

We don’t often consider the ‘law’ of supply and demand when it comes to parking, but it fits in our business just as much as the selling of commodities, or widgets, or frankly anything else.

Consider: If the supply of parking spaces goes up,  and the demand remains steady, the price of a space tends to go down. On the other hand, if the demand for parking spaces increases, and the supply remains the same, the price tends to go up (Can you say Manhattan?)

I had a conversation the other day with a parking pro in Vancouver, BC. I had parked in a rather large structure near his office and noted that it was controlled by ‘pay by license plate’ equipment. I also noted that at noon on a business day, the garage was virtually empty.

“Yep” he said. “When the demand when south and the supply stayed the same, we had to do something. It meant reducing staff by automating and keeping our operational costs at a minimum.”

Seems that about four years ago the city opened a rapid transit system linking downtown to the Vancouver airport. In addition to helping travelers get from the airport to downtown more easily, it also reduced about 50,000 daily trips into the downtown area, and the resulting need for parking. Demand down, supply the same.

The parking industry in this city is flat, but not emotionally depressed. There are many office buildings under construction downtown and few if any have parking included in the design. In a few years, I’m told, as these new buildings fill, demand will rise, and with supply remaining the same, parking will be “back”in Hollywood North, as Vancouver, known in entertainment circles.

This cycle is being played out in other cities across North America as “progressive’ city councils look for ways to keep cars out of the central business districts and legislate autos and hence parking out of existence. More than three decades ago, Seattle approved Columbia Center, a 72 story skyscraper downtown. Virtually no parking was added to the facility. San Francisco completed Westfield Shopping Center in the trendy SOMA area  with no parking. Is the trend pervasive?  Yeah, kinda, sorta. Look around your city.

We are being told that the ‘young’ people today think less about cars than about their smart phones.  In ‘my day’ the first thing you did when you turned 16 was get a driver’s license. Now I try to bribe my granddaughter with a car, and she isn’t interested. Yikes.

Some tell us that the urbanization of youth is a passing trend and as soon as they marry and have families they will return to the ‘burbs’ and the lure of that quarter acre and white picket fence. I know that oldsters are moving downtown, living in lofts and walking to clubs, restaurants, shopping, and work. And apparently they love it.

Wanna go skiing, or a quick trip to Vegas, rent a car. Why have the expense of owning one and the hassle of PARKING?

What’s all this mean to our industry?  Operators I spoke to were cautiously optimistic. They felt that it meant that not just demand would affect bottom lines, but also the ‘way’ parking was run would be a major factor.

We have seen that automation and technology are making the way we park a different experience. Parking apps that connect what we are doing downtown with parking also are becoming more important as demand lessens.

My sources tell me that patience is needed. As central business districts become more crowded, as buildings are renovated, built, and filled with offices and living space, parking supply will remain the same and demand will increase.

If that occurs, smiles will again appear on operator’s faces. In the meantime, to survive, the will have to rethink their business model and affect how they handle and operate parking space supply.  They ignore change at their peril.


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City is Honest About Parking Meter Problems

Reporters in Huntington, West Virginia recently took it upon themselves to conduct an in-depth analysis of parking meter use in their town, and the results were surprisingly informative and impartial. Both disgruntled residents and hardworking city officials were represented, and the facts were laid out clearly. According to the crew at crew, people around town don’t like the old-fashioned meters that are always falling apart – victims of the weather and frequent vandalism.

Huntington Parking Board Director Mike Wilson says about half of the city’s 1350 meters are still mechanical rather than digital. Wilson compared the meters to older vending machines.  He said that the machines are subject to weather and other conditions that cause them to break. Wilson said he gets up to ten broken meter reports a day.

Huntington parkers prefer the digital meters that work reliably and keep time accurately. The older meters, according to the article, time out within 4o to 15 minutes before they should, resulting in invalid citations.

Wilson says those meters and parking tickets get fixed and dismissed after the customer files a broken meter report.

Wilson added, “We would hope you would call us if you feel you got a citation in error. I have a certified meter technician we can send out.”

It sounds like everybody in town is in agreement that the older meters are an issue, and the city tries its best to accommodate the problem. Besides a whole new installation of sparkling digital meters, that’s the best anybody can expect.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Baby, it’s still cold out there

With severe winter storms still rolling in and out of the Eastern states, weather continues to be a major item in parking news. In Providence, RI, and many other places, expected snowfall has created the need for school closures and parking bans, reports School children rejoice, but anybody over 20 and employed knows the inconvenience will be serious and expensive.

A citywide parking ban will go into effect at 2 a.m. on Monday, and remain in effect until further notice. Residents with overnight parking passes are advised that they cannot park on the street during the duration of the citywide parking ban. All vehicles parked on the street in violation of the citywide parking ban will be ticketed and towed to ensure that roadways can be plowed.

As someone who has lived most of his life in milder climates, it can be a stretch to understand how humans actually survive in places where it gets so cold. It’s not hard to say they are probably just stronger people than I am. Adversity is a part of life, but I’ll take mine in forms that don’t have to do with the weather.

“We expect heavy snowfall, high winds and other conditions that will significantly impact both the morning and evening commutes on Monday,” Mayor Jorge Elorza said. “I urge residents to comply with the citywide parking ban, exercise caution and prepare for rapidly changing travel conditions throughout the day. If you see a person or a family in need, please do what you can to either lend a helping hand or notify the City. When we all pull together, we are capable of overcoming any challenge.”

It’s a nice, positive spin Providence’s mayor provides. Residents might get through the storm more easily if they see themselves as a team united against the weather.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Ahhhh The Super Bowl

I now its heresy, but I”m not really enthralled with the Super Bowl, or frankly professional football.  I have no real skin in the game…I’m not in a pool, don’t have a favorite team, and find the entire concept distracting.

All that having been said, now that I know there is a Valet Parking Company owner playing for the Seattle Seahawks, maybe I should take a closer look. I understand that the Seahawks are playing the Boston Patriots and that the Patriots have survived “Deflategate”.  (As an aside, its seems that if you inflate a football in the locker room to 12.5PSI and then check its pressure halftime on the field where the temperature is say 40 degrees, the reading at that time will be 11.5PSI.  Physics you are a heartless bitch.)

It also seems the game will be played in Phoenix, just down the street from the home of our advertising director, Marcy Sparrow. I understand there is a big party at her house but you will have to contact her to get an invite.

AND Pete Carrol, coach of the Seahawks, is former coach at USC.  Although we UCLA types don’t really see that as an advantage. Oh and some guy named Tom Brady seems to be quarterback of the Patriots.

Now you have it, 100% of JVH’s knowledge about the Super Bowl. Well there is one more thing.

TV commercials for the broadcast are going for $4.5 million for 30 seconds. That’s up $500,000 from last year.  And they are sold out.

I have a friend who reads a book during the game, and only looks up when the commercials come on. Hmmmm  not such a bad idea.  I love Clydesdales as much as the next guy.

My prediction — the Seahawks by one touchdown.  Those valet guys are tough.



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Super Bowl — Super Valet

Parking seems to raise its head in every pop culture event know to man. This time is a player, Landon Cohen, was picked up by the Seahawks last week to play in the super bowl. He had to make a choice, play in the hottest football game of the year, or keep valeting cars in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  You can read his story here.

To give you a taste of this young man:

Cohen has learned to try to keep his emotions grounded. This is what happens when you get drafted out of Ohio (University, not State) in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions in 2008 and go through your rookie season on the first 0-16 team in NFL history. Or when you get signed and released by eight different teams in seven years – a career that has included stops with both the New England Patriots (2010 and 2011) and Seahawks (2011 and now). Or when you live your mornings in the YMCA, alternating between weight training and yoga and boxing.

And after all that? Then you spend the larger part of the past three years parking cars. That’s what makes Cohen a fun NFL story this week: His existence on a Super Bowl roster is more a matter of sheer determination rather than blessed talent. Ask any NFL player, and they will say this is the truly admirable grind – having the mental strength to see a roster need and fill it. Maybe only for a week, or a month … or, if fortune smiles on you, an entire season. And when it ends? You work a normal job, like running a valet service.

He seems well grounded, smart, and frankly he can park my car anytime.


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WOW!!! PIE 2015 Poised to Break all Attendance Records

With less than eight weeks to the opening day, the Parking Industry Exhibition 2015 is running well ahead of registration and booth sales compared with the same date last year. Registrations are up 10% and booth sales are 15% ahead of 2014.

I spoke with Eric yesterday and he told me that no only are registrations outstripping 2014 but they are full registrations, not simply ‘exhibits only.”  What this means is that the folks attending PIE 2015 are not only numerous, but also focused on parking technology, issues, and networking. They are looking to do business.

Marcy tells me that there is no question the exhibit floor will be sold out, ensuring that attendees will have a broad spectrum of suppliers to meet and explore.

Be sure to check out the Exhibition’s web site, review the seminars and networking activities, and sign up now.  You will be glad you did


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A Penny for Your Thoughts

Technology is a demanding entity. I have an iPhone G4 that works just fine, but is considered an actual relic in some circles. I went to MacMall to buy a new case for it, and the saleswoman scoffed, rolled her eyes and laughed hysterically until I walked out the door. (Just the first two things are true). They had absolutely nothing for a phone as old as mine – no chargers or accessories, just an attitude. My iPad is showing a similar lack of longevity. After only two years it inexplicably won’t connect to my Wi-fi and the battery is shot, so it needs a trip to the iPad service unit for some rewiring and a massage.

On the other end of the high-tech spectrum are the penny parking meters in Sycamore, Illinois. These meters are old in a way an iPhone can never be. The reports that the meters are so out of date the city can’t find parts to repair them. Nobody makes penny meters anymore. That’s no surprise. The real question is why Sycamore is spending time and money keeping up meters that can’t possibly pay for themselves.

“No one has the timers that we need,” said Giovanni Serra, parking enforcement officer who also repairs the meters. “As far as screws and stuff go, we got all that. As far as timers go, we have a big problem.”

He said the city hasn’t had to replace a timer in at least eight years, when they were about $30. The city would even accept entire penny parking meters to harvest working timers, Serra said. During comprehensive planning last year, community members rallied behind keeping the old-school penny parking meters instead of modern digital parking meters – and the penny parking meters stayed.

“What we heard from the community is they appreciate that the penny parking meters add to the quaint, small downtown feel,” City Manager Brian Gregory said.

It’s pure sentimentality that’s keeping penny meters on the streets of Sycamore when half the people in our country think pennies should be eliminated from our list of coin and currency. I can respect that. I don’t know where the town is going to get the parts it needs, but I have a jar full of pennies on my desk that could pay for parking in Sycamore for about 100 years.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Politically Incorrect — Bully for Bullies

Don’t get me wrong, bullying is not the most pleasant part of growing up. I”m just not sure what you are supposed to do about it.

I received an article today about the topic. Here are the recommendations as to what to do:

• No one should make excuses for bullies.
• Parents should monitor their children’s cell phone and Internet use.
• Schools must be at the forefront of the battle.
• But the problem goes beyond the schoolhouse doors.

OK Fine. But did you notice that there not one word about what parents should tell their children as to how to react to Bullies.   It would seem to me that that should be the first line of defense.

I know you might find this impossible to believe, but I was a 90 pound geek in high school. Although I kept to myself, there was a group of malcontents who did harass and bully me. My father wasn’t a violent man but told me that the only way to stop it was to stop it. I had to face up to them.

So in my senior year I had had it.  I picked my time. The lead bully came up to me and started is shtick. I grabbed his arm, twisted it behind him and surprised the hell out of myself when he ended up on the ground with my on his back. He screamed and yelled but I just sat there.  Seems I didn’t know what to do next.  You can’t plan for every eventuality.

I noticed the football coach heading our way. I was sure he was going to give me detention but I just held on. He was walking very slowly. He stopped to chat with some students, and again at a drinking fountain to take a very long drink. He then walked over  and said in a very calm voice “having a problem Van Horn.”  “No” I said. He then walked away. I thought I detected a smile on his face.  Teacher know who the bullies are.

Sitting on your nemesis’ back can be boring so I let him up and he ran away. My fellow classmates were congratulating me and patting me on the back. I thought it was a big win.

The next week was the senior ditch day at Disneyland. If you don’t know what that is, ask your kids.  The word got back to me that my bully and his friends were going to ‘get’ me at the magic kingdom.  What to do?

I decided to go.  What the hell can they do at Disneyland (except maybe give you the measles). As I got on the bus, the bully group saw me and started trash talk. I wasn’t happy. My anti bully routine was a one shot deal.

Then the strangest thing happened.  The quarterback on the football team and his wide receiver sat with me on the bus.  I really didn’t know these guys well.  I was in the band, they were on the field.

When we arrived the QB said :  ” Stick with us. Our girlfriends are meeting us and they have some friends you might like to meet.”  Strangely I had no problems with bullies for the rest of my High School career.

I always wondered what would have happened if I had twisted that arm three years earlier.

I am a proponent of fighting in the sand lot? Do I believe that violence solves all problems. Of course not. But bullies aren’t typical of most violent issues.  They are cowards and work well only in groups. If you push back, often they move on to someone who is less trouble.

Don’t get me wrong. You have to pick the right time and place. Its helpful if your friends are around and its in the middle of school and not down a dark street at midnight. I’m not crazy.

Bu sometimes, and maybe most times, when you push back you find out who your friends really are. Sure I could have ended up with a bloody nose or a black eye. But the lesson learned would have been worth it.

Sure I was a wimp. And it took four years to work up the courage to take action. But I did. And although he never said a word, I knew my dad was very proud.

I wonder if the four suggestions above would have as much effect as a good arm twist applied at the right moment?

Who knows?






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Throw out the Baby with the Bathwater

We did a cover story last year on Monkey Parking and its clones like Haystack. The article was written by a parking authority head how basically said that entire concept was bad and frankly, using the city’s assets for private gain.

Many major cities including Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Monica have banned the concept, with the city attorney in San Francisco commenting,  after Monkey Parking stated that the fee was simply for information, not for the space, that the idea was like saying that a prostitute was charging for her advertising and not for the “product” she provided.

ICYMI, the idea behind these and similar apps is that a person parking on street in a city can, when they are about to leave, go on line and notify folks cruising in the area that they are leaving and the spot is now available.  The parker then waits for the cruiser to show up and the space is exchanged.  The parker gets a couple of bucks from the cruiser for his trouble, and the app takes a cut.

The major objections were that folks could go into business, and auction off spaces to the highest bidder, plus could make it a regular habit, moving from space to space, holding spaces for app users.  Fair Enough.

This morning in the Wall Street Journal, Christopher Mims has a column on the controversy, and held forth with some thoughts many of us had missed.

One of the concerns was that the apps were using public property for private gain, singling out individuals for charges that weren’t borne by the community as a whole. Mims noted that cities do this all the time with congestion pricing, They reduce availability of on street parking with higher pricing, and by renting spaces to car sharing companies like Zip Car.

Cities try virtually anything to make parking either more or less available and spend millions on apps, in street sensors, fancy on line meters, and the like to ‘help’ parkers find spaces, usually to no particular avail.  But when the private sector comes along and provides a service that attempts to do the same thing, at no charge to the city, all hell breaks loose.

The two major objections, the auction and individuals making this a full time business could easily be controlled by the software company providing the app. In fact in many cases, Haystack has already done this.

Mims quotes George Mason University researcher Christopher Koopman as follows

We should be allowing people to innovate and enter into transactions and then adjust to the margins as issues actually arise….

In the case of Haystack, Mims notes, regulators took a different approach — imagine the worst-case scenario and move to block it before there’s any evidence it will come to pass.

Rather than working with the app provider to adjust the system to fit the requirements of the local municipality, they simply banned it out of hand.  This approach crushed innovation and limits creativity.

In an attempt to ‘protect’ the city and its revenue, they threw the baby out with the bathwater.




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