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Trigger Warning == Read at your own risk

The previous blog’s headline has created more discussion than any 10 blogs about on and off street parking. I have been lambasted for my crudeness and congratulated on the wisdom of the blog. What to do.

The tendency when these things happen is to do nothing, as whatever you do you simply draw attention to the gaff, assuming its a gaff. Thinking on it in 2020 hindsight, using that headline probably wasn’t in the best of taste. However it also shows that some of our readers have a sensitive streak that I seem to have found. To those who found the headline offensive, mea culpa.
For the others out there that wrote in expressing the wisdom of the blog in toto, thanks.

Sometimes in an effort to be cute or catch an eye, we go around the bend a bit. Stuff happens.

I think that we have moved into a time in our society when virtually everything, in any context, can be taken as offensive to some. We are beaten to death by those who feel offended by almost any slight. Our college students live in fear of hearing a word or seeing a bit of graffiti that might offend them to the point of tears. Who are we raising, a bunch of wimps. They are actually creating ‘safe zones’ where kids can go so they won’t have to listen to speech that offends. Good Grief.

Comedians can’t tell jokes any more. They will be pilloried. Don’t compliment a woman, she may take offense. And for God’s sake don’t use the term “niggardly” (from middle English, nigon) when you describe Shylock, an entire race or maybe two, will feel slighted.

Have we reached the point where our sensitivity scale overwhelms common sense? When I came home in tears because some bully called me a name, my mother told me to get over it. “For goodness sake,”she told me as she dried my tears, “worry about something that is important.”

Thanks Mom – Nuff Said


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Does Size Matter? Intertraffic and Amsterdam

No I’m not talking about THAT.  All men know that size does not matter.  I’m talking about Trade Shows.  I have just returned from Intertraffic in Amsterdam, arguably the largest trade event for Parking and Traffic anywhere.

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The IPI may argue that their event is larger but I defy anyone to spend a few days in Amsterdam and not be wowed by an event that is held in six huge halls, has over 800 exhibits, and more than 30,000 people who pass through the doors.

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However, when its soo big, it can be overwhelming. One visitors came into our booth and sat down shaking his head.  “I’m overwhelmed. It will take three days just to see the parking portion.  Some of the booths are larger than my house.”

There must have been 100 people in the Scheidt and Bachmann booth. OK 50

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There were work stations, displays of equipment, and folks ready to help.  Assuming you could squeeze your way into the booth. Don’t single out S and B. The same was true of Skidata, Hub, Parkeon, Designa and the rest.  S and B had a theater that sat 50 people where they could give presentations.  Virtually all the major booths had bars (yes beer and wine), food service (Hub imported their chef from Bologna), plus private meeting rooms.

Amsterdam is a wild place. Las Vegas is almost prudish in comparison.  One booth had a woman wearing only a bikini bottom covered in body paint rollerskating the hall passing out cards welcome folks to their display.  She only lasted one day after an Iranian visitor complained and the local PC police shut her down. What a waste.

Don’t get me wrong — I love Intertraffic.  Its big, its bold, it has everything. Its well worth the trip. But just how much solid information do you get? How many close contacts do you make?  The exhibitors spends tens if not hundreds of thousands to display their wares. You really need a filter to ensure you get the information you want.

As an exhibitor how do you know who is a suspect, a prospect, or a lookie loo.  Its almost impossible to tell. Plus add the tower of babel language issues and who knows.

A number of American companies were there simply to walk the floor and get a ‘feel’ for the place. They asked me if they should exhibit.  I asked if they were opening and office in Europe.  If so, yes. If not, no. I don’t think you make sales at Intertraffic.  You set the process in motion. Then you follow up.

They announce huge deals signed at the show. But these had been in the works for months. No one walked into a stand for the first time and signed a purchase order.

I suggest you go to Amsterdam and intertraffic to see Anne Frank’s house, the Riksmuseum, Rembrandt and the rest. The tulips are just blooming, the food is fantastic, and canals, the best. Spend a couple of days at the show and see what’s coming down the pike parking wise — the Europeans seem to lead the way. Take in the atmosphere of one of the worlds great exhibitions and great cities.

Then come to PIE  and the NPA and talk turkey about your needs.


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Turning Parking into Housing

It’s all a matter of perspective. A vacant parking garage is a failed venture to some, and a structure of enormous potential to others. Architect Alfredo Brillembourg has an interesting plan for unused parking structures in Europe: turn them into housing. According to curbed.com, Brillembourg noticed under-used parking structures throughout his travels in Europe and surrounding areas. While the structures were under-used for their original purpose, they had found new life as restaurants, unofficial homeless shelters, and unfortunately, havens for drug use.

Brillembourg says that empty parking structures are already being converted for other uses – just not intentionally or intelligently. He says they could be purposefully reimagined and revised to function in ways that are more relevant. Parking is still relevant everywhere, but in some places, public transit has overtaken driving, and in others, parking is been more than adequately provided leaving some parking structures vacant. Brillembourg sees these buildings being transformed to spaces for refugees, the homeless and even modelled into low-cost public housing.

A parking garage is an open building, and Brillembourg and his team see specific advantages to that. Open buildings both adapt more readily to a user’s needs and encourage that user’s participation, which is particularly important when it comes to public housing.

Parking structures provide an eminently adaptable existing infrastructure. They are central and sturdy. Internal reconfiguration wouldn’t need to consider supporting walls, and a structure’s open sides would provide ventilation and natural light. They’re also modular: “You can rent a parking space, you can rent two or three. Depending on your expandability, you can expand and improve,” says Brillembourg.

Many won’t see a parking structure as the ideal home, but those with no other option might be more than grateful. In places like Dallas, where there is a known surplus of parking, this could be something to consider. There would ne many obstacles to a transformation of this type, especially in the United States, but regardless of actual feasibility, it’s fascinating to hear such an original idea.

Read the article here.

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Parking for the Rich and Famous

You think you’ve heard of every possible parking configuration possible. You think you’ve heard of every extreme parking scenario ever formed. But then you read something on nypost.com that opens your eyes a little. A high-end apartment complex in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. offers buyers parking right off their units – two spots for each of the 132 homes. And for the owner of the 4-story penthouse, a special spot for a car collection.

What sets the penthouse apart, however, is that its deep-pocketed buyer will also receive a separate 57th-floor “car gallery” — a roughly 3,000-square-foot space that can accommodate up to seven additional cars, The Post can reveal.

Only six of the tower’s units are still available – including the penthouse. The sky rise, built by developer Gil Dezer is called the Porsche Design Tower. The building has a car lift that delivers vehicles to their owners’ apartments. The car is definitely a main theme.

Anybody interested can make a bid for the $32 million penthouse. The car gallery can be customized with rooms, pool tables, bars and any old thing – or left open for car storage.

I don’t want to own this place, but I’d really like to see it in person.

Read the article here.

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Philly Resident Creates Map of City Parking Rules

A Philadelphia woman has turned her parking obsession into a comprehensive and interactive map of parking regulations on the city’s streets. According to citylab.com, Lauren Ancona was curious about parking rules in Philadelphia, and when she couldn’t find posted signs or even documents outlining those rules, she began to search for them. Her search led her to create a map of the city and its parking laws. That map has gone from an incomplete blue print version to a digital and highly accessible resource for residents.

We don’t all have parking obsessions, so most people aren’t going to need to know the parking laws for their entire city, like Ancona, but plenty of people could use street-by-street data for parking rules in their city and the cities they visit. “Know before you go” is practically a mantra for Millenials and the rest of us who tinker with our smart phones day and night. The map can be found at http://parkadelphia.com/#12/39.9540/-75.1751/9.2

On the map, you can select any or all of these layers of data from the sidebar on the left, and click on a street you’re curious about. The map will then pull up the parking rules.

It’s fascinating how this parking map came about – the tools, the demand and the creator all finally appeared at once. This is something every city could use – and it’s something a city should probably provide its residents, not the other way around.

Read the article and see the map here.

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Airport Parking Needs a Lift

From my experience, choices for airport parking are average, below-average and bad. What motivation does an airport parking provider have to offer amazing customer service and attractive perks to its customers when none of them really has the option to skip airport parking. If they had a ride or access to convenient public transport, they wouldn’t be leaving their car at the airport. After that, it’s a done deal.

I’m not saying all my airport parking experiences are bad, but they definitely aren’t anything memorable.

A recent study of airport customer service in Australia conducted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) examined parking at the Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth airports. Findings showed that Melbourne had the worst parking customer service as well as the highest revenue for parking.

“I think the disappointment there is we’ve seen quite a large increase in the revenue per passenger that the airports make and yet service levels over time, have been going backwards,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

Read the article here.

Parking providers in Melbourne should consider what’s going on at Bob Hope Airport where increased competition from car services like Uber and Lyft are cutting in to profits. Bob Hope Airport officials are talking about introducing new rates – some lower and some higher – to attract customers.

“It’s a way to entice passengers to park here,” said Lucy Burghdorf, an airport spokeswoman. Burghdorf added that the proposed system, which would be implemented as a one-year trial should it be approved by the airport authority board, would give the airfield the ability to raise and lower rates to “find a happy medium” between giving passengers a good deal and turning a profit.

The moral of the story is that while airport parking has long enjoyed a captive consumer base, competition is now increasing. It’s already time for airport parking providers to address their approaches to pricing, customer service and customer loyalty.

Read the article here.

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Just how much technology do you need?

I had a conversation with a parking technology expert the other day and she reminded me how Smart Cities will begin to change the face of parking as devices (sensors, meters, etc) begin to provide information about available space.  She said that programs like the now defunct SF Park and LA’s Express Park were leading the way to a Smart Parking in a Smart City program.

This reminded me of a conversation I had when SF Park was in its infancy. I was in the ‘City by the bay’ visiting their coin counting operation and was introduced to the head of their meter shop.  I asked him if he was excited about all the information they were going to get from SF Park and how they could use it to provide dynamic pricing for the city.

He rolled his eyes and said “I can give you that information now.”

It seems that he has been tracking meter income, and by looking at that information, he could tell which areas were full, which areas had available parking and then predict what the change in pricing up or down would mean to occupancy.

He noted that he really didn’t have to go to the meter level, that the information by block face was adequate and that he and his staff could show through a revenue study just how onstreet parking flowed in the city.

I asked him why he didn’t supply that data to SF Park. “No one asked.” he said.

I have thought a lot about that conversation over the years. San Francisco spent upwards of $27 million in federal funds and adjusted some pricing in some meters. I’m not sure we have ever seen just how well the project worked. But that is typical of what I think happens when technology begins to rule common sense.

If you remember the program was to use in street sensors to provide app users real time parking availability and at the same time enable the city to adjust rates quickly to ensure on street parking availability. As you know, the sensor program never really worked and the on line app program was abandoned early on.

It might be interesting to compare the information garnered on excel spread sheets in the meter shop with information used by SF Park to see if the city already had enough data to make the pricing changes.

A tremendous amount of technology was brought to bear on this project. Was it necessary? Did the data pretty much already exist? Was technology used for technology’s sake?

To be fair my tech expert told she doubted that many cities had collected the data the way the fellow in San Francisco did. I wonder if she ever asked.


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Smart Cities — A Good Idea or Boondoggle

Smart Cities…what are they?  What will they be?  Who is driving this philosophy? Is “Smart Cities” a term in search of a definition?

From what I can glean from the “Internet of Things”, a “Smart City” is one that uses on line sensors and devices to collect vast amounts of data about what is happening in a city (everything from trash collection, water delivery, electric services, to policing, parking and traffic) and then is able to use that data to better serve its residents. That data can also be used to help with master planning, policy decisions, and the like.

The above was my definition. Being rather simplistic, I look to simple descriptions. However a simple description does not make a simple solution. The creation of a “Smart City” is not simple. Its easy to say “collect vast amounts of data” and “use that data to better serve” but the key is not in the definition, its in the execution.

If you Google “Smart City” you will find a company called “Smart City.”  It is a communications company that provides such services to large venues (like Disneyland), hotels, and yes, cities. It seems to understand that the key to a smart city is “Communications.”  This month in my favorite magazine, Stephanie Simmons of IPS describes a very small issue in dealing with communications and smart devices. Do you want all decisions made in the so called “cloud?”  Probably not, she says, as communications will be cluttered with “is there a car in this space” decisions, decisions that could and should be made locally. These kind of design alterations are underway.

There are millions of decisions like this that have to be made daily in a major city, and are made today. Without them traffic lights wouldn’t work, water wouldn’t flow, parking meters wouldn’t collect, sewage would back up, wayfinding wouldn’t find the empty space. Most of them are made without being thought of as “Smart”.

So are our cities already halfway to “Smart?”  Probably. What about the rest, “The collection of data and then being able to use it to provide policy and master planning.”

Now we get to the heart of the matter.  When it becomes time to replace my water meter, or the city’s parking meters,  the new one has a device that communicates with something, either the next meter or the DWP car that drives down the street or parking central, and provides information about the device.  The cost of that ability is built into the new meter. But what about the cost of huge databases, data collection, and dare I say it, the smarts to be able to ‘slice and dice’ all that data to make it not a bunch of pretty graphs, but information that we can use.

It is projected that by 2025 the annual spend for “Smart Cities” worldwide will be over $400 Billion This is a lot of gravy. Who is jumping on the train?  You know the names – IBM, Xerox, Siemens, Microsoft, Google, and the rest. Spending $20 million on a database will be small potatoes. These companies are looking to their future.

A friend in Australia tells me that every major city in the country now has a “Chief Digital Officer” to drive the “Smart City“ phenomena. (He says these folks make upwards of $250,000 per year.) There is a “Smart City” expo looming this year in Melbourne. He posits that companies who don’t embrace an entire suite of services for “Smart Cities” will be left to populate a second tier of suppliers, providing bits and pieces as subcontractors to the major players.

Will “Smart Cities” be simply a buzz word that politicians use to bolster their bona fides? Will they spend millions to create something that will fizzle out after a few years? How many “sustainability” projects have we seen begun and then drop from sight when the next bright idea comes along?

We need to give this a hard look. Most of the “Smart City” functions won’t directly touch city residents. Parking does. I can see the city fathers and mothers using our fair industry as an example of how they are going to put their city on the “Smart City” map. We have seen the first steps with SF Park and  LA ExpressPark that have taken small steps to providing information to drivers. The private sector with app driven information is pushing hard in this area.

But it can be only the beginning. Most of it, like pay by cell or the location of open parking space is hap hazard. But if a city, through a so called ‘major player’ decides to combine all parking information and services under one umbrella, the scenario mentioned above, where most of the suppliers become second tier and end up providing commodity like products and services, will come to pass. Then we ignore all this at our peril.

If parking leads instead of follows, venture capital may begin to flow more freely into our industry. Then who knows. Maybe it will be a smart move to properly embrace a “Smart City.”


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Chicago Valet Operations Fined for Podium Placement

Chicago enforcement has taken a swing at valet parking. It handed out more citations during one month in 2016 than it did during the last two years, reports chicagobusiness.com. The citations were for violations of the placement of podiums and key boxes.

Valet companies received 76 citations for the “storage of goods on public ways” between Feb. 8 and March 10, up from 30 in all of 2015 and 42 in 2014, according to city data provided to Crain’s under an open-records request.

Valet operators are at a loss as to where to move the podiums and how to attract customers without visual cues and a secure place to lock keys. They say the flurry of ticketing was a complete shock.

“I’ve been doing valet for 30 years, and we’ve never been cited for having a podium or a key box in the sidewalk. Never,” says Carlos Vargas, owner of Valet Parking Authority, which runs valet operations at 34 locations in River North, Lincoln Park and the Loop. “All of a sudden, at the end of February, without a warning or a heads up or anything, they just show up and start giving us citations.”

If a municipality makes a law but doesn’t enforce it, people learn to ignore the law. When the municipality, one day, decides to enforce the law, without warning, that is perceived as antagonistic and unfair.

However, a spokeswoman for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said the ticketing was part of regular enforcement activity.

A meeting between city leaders and hospitality association representatives led to an agreement that the podiums and lock boxes can be used as long as they are not blocking pedestrian traffic.

Read the article here.

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Police Take Heat for Ticketing Honolulu Residents

In Honolulu, residents of Village Park recently experienced an unpleasant surprise in the form of police sweeping the area and handing out 150 parking tickets, reports khon2.com. Parking is always tight in the neighborhood and complaints about illegal parking reached the police department, leading to the ticketing spree. The article reports that most of the tickets were given to cars parked on the sidewalk.

It sounds like people run out of places to park and many in the neighborhood have adopted a “park anywhere” policy. They were unhappy to be ticketed and feel they were treated unfairly. In an interesting twist, the initial complaint reached Councilmember Ron Menor’s office and he passed it on to the police, but took no responsibility for the ticketing sweep. Mayor Menor went so far as to condemn the police department’s response to the complaint.

“I had no idea,” he replied. “I think the actions taken by HPD were unfortunate and unacceptable.” Menor says he received a complaint from a resident, and standard procedure is forwarding the complaint to police.

“I’ve been assured by the major overseeing Village Park that they’re not going to do this again, that they will look into policies and procedures in which they will be dealing with and addressing parking concerns throughout not just my district, but the island,” he said.

What’s confusing to me, as an outsider, is why people who park illegally get angry and blame enforcement. Of course, a “ticketing sweep” is definitely not a good move from a public relations standpoint – consistent enforcement would be much more effective and acceptable to residents. What’s even more confusing is a mayor throwing his police department under the bus, so to speak, for upholding the law.

Read the rest of the article here.

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