Meter Prank Sets Off Parking Discussion in Small Town

In the tiny two-stoplight town of Winters, Calif., an April Fool’s Day trick has inspired public debate on the subject of parking. Some prankster put up a working parking meter in front of a local business, and a few residents paid into it. Rumor has it, city officials instigated the prank as a joke in response to complaints about inadequate parking in the city. The debate that followed shows that even in a town with a population of only 7,000, parking shortages are a subject of interest. There are those in Winters who see paid parking as a real option, and others who see free parking as the only option.

Store Manager Gino told FOX40 the prank was as much an April Fool’s joke as it was a jab at him personally. He claimed to have complained about the cramped parking situation downtown on multiple occasions.

“I don’t think we need meters, we need a parking lot. A free parking lot,” Gino said.

Neighbors agreed that even if the meter were real, people in Winters would opt out of paying for parking.

City officials are not taking down the meter or looking for the person who set it up. Instead, they’re taking the opportunity to make an impression on residents.

“In a small town you learn to have a sense of humor about everything. If we leave it out here for a week or so it will be the buzz of the town,” Donlevy said.

Read the rest of the article here.



Social Share Toolbar
Leave a comment

Parking Industry Exhibition 2015 – A Record Breaking Event

PIE 2015 is history. The first major parking event of the year broke all records for attendance and exhibit space. Over 1120 parking pros attended the four day event and over 100 exhibitors plied their wares in the exhibit hall.  “Awesome” was a comment heard over and over from those who braved 32 degree weather in Chicago this past week.

Sunday brought boot camp. “I don’t know why you call it boot camp,:” said one attendee. “I’ve been in the business nearly 30 years and am taking away a lot of good information I didn’t know.”

The first session was a traditional boot camp, which not only covered parking information but spent considerable time team building and bringing an understanding of parking operations that was previously unheard of.  The afternoon brought technology with cutting edge discussions stripping away much of the confusion new products bring to the industry.

Quiet piano music filled the background  Sunday Evening as more than 250 exhibitors and speakers flocked to the Parking Today sponsored reception where they had the opportunity to talk in an unstructured and relaxed atmosphere.

Monday brought warmer weather and the beginning of the seminars. One attended said that he came to PIE for “super seminars” covering everything from auditing to onstreet enforcement, from EMV chip card technology,. One of the featured sessions was a meeting of former 3M customers who were able to compare notes and discuss options after the closing of the industrial giant’s parking division late last year.

The exhibit hall opened with the raising of the parking gates as attendees flocked to see the new and not so new parking products and services.  Exhibitors seemed uniformly impressed with the quality and quantity of the attendees. A change in PIE’s policy this year which insisted that all attendees, including those just visiting the exhibit hall floor paid a fee not only did not reduce attendance, but also ensured that those signing up actually came.

PIE is known for its networking events and ‘speed networking’ was no exception. Over 100 attendees faced off across a table Monday Afternoon to quickly exchange contact information and begin discussion on needs and solutions. These were followed up Tuesday on the exhibit hall floor.

Networking continued in force Monday evening at the “Casino Night” party, with Las Vegas style ‘gambling’ filling the hall and hundreds of attendees enjoying themselves. “It was the best networking event evah” noted one exhibitor.  “We could talk, have some fun, and there wasn’t music blasting everywhere you had to scream over. PIE folks know how to put on an event>”

Tuesday brought temperatures in the 60s and more seminars and exhibits. With the exception of a slight hiccup in the food serving line, the seminars and exhibits flowed smoothly. “I really appreciate the fact that PIE doesn’t have seminars at the same time as the exhibits,” noted one exhibitor. “It means we have unfettered access to attendees. Its good for us and for them.”

Wednesday rounded out the event with a dozen seminars focused on technology. “Wow,” said one industry veteran.  “There was hundreds of people still here. At most shows, the last day is a ghost town.”

PIE 2015 was organized by Eric Abel supported by Marcy Sparrow, Kelley Havener, Joyce Newman, Astrid Ambroziak, Sandra Smith, and Francine Van Horn. The Parking Today staff took a week off from magazine publishing to support the Parking Industry Exhibition.

“I am extremely proud of my team,” said John Van Horn, PT Editor. “As usual they rose to the occasion and put on a grand event.”

PIE 2016 will travel to Las Vegas and be held at the Westgate (Formerly Hilton and LVH) hotel. The Westgate is the rebranded property located adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center.  The dates of the event are February 28-March 2, 2016. PIE selected Las Vegas as its next venue to celebrate Parking Today’s 20th anniversary.

Social Share Toolbar
Leave a comment

The Show is Going On

Parking Today’s talented team is toiling away today at Day 3 of the Parking Industry Exhibition. While not everybody could make it to the trade show, including myself, there are ways to access the helpful information PIE presenters are sharing. Visit the PIE site, and click on the “educational seminars” link on the left column. There you will find a complete list of the seminars going on at the show, and a number of links to download the presentations.

One seminar, offered by Dennis Cunning from DLC Consulting, covers revenue control, auditing and contracts.

Regardless of the internal corporate controls, the simple fact remains that the operation of technology and equipment in the field still requires manual human input that requires continuing audit controls at the field level.

It’s just one sentence of the presentation, but it answers a lot of questions. Mainly, yes, technology is a huge factor in the industry, and, yes, people are still vital to the process of selling parking.

There are industries that can be completely automated, but parking is not one of them. There might be fewer people on the ground, but they are still needed behind the scenes. As long as cars move and parking lots dot the earth, people will be needed to manage them. There is no way to make transportation completely digital.

The PIE show is in Las Vegas next year. If you didn’t make it to the show this year, start saving up now.

Social Share Toolbar
1 Comment

Customize Parking Options Whenever Possible

A parking plan for two cities in coastal England is drawing mixed reviews. According to, leaders in Brighton and Hove are considering reducing parking prices on rainy days in hopes that the discount will draw more visitors. So far, the intention is to research how similar programs have worked in other cities and the capabilities of technology to carry out the plan.

Councillors in Brighton and Hove are suggesting they charge motorists “significantly less” for street parking on rainy summer days. The scheme, which would be unique in Britain, is modeled on flexible parking charges used in San Francisco and Madrid.

Critics say the plan will cause confusion and be impossible to implement. Leadership says discounts will be based on weather predictions, not real-time weather.

“It wouldn’t be a case of someone sat there saying ‘It’s just started showering, lets reduce prices’. If you know on the Friday that it’s going to pour on Sunday, then you could cut them.”

I don’t have any money or other interest invested in this development, so my opinion is based on the hypothetical. It seems completely logical to use technology to customize parking options. Rainy and snowy cities can adjust parking requirements during inclement weather. Holidays and high-traffic days can be addressed with higher prices.

Every city has different parking needs and different parking patterns. Parking prices, enforcement and perks can all be arranged to fit the locale.

Read the rest of the article here.

Social Share Toolbar
1 Comment

Meters and Cars and Bikes, Oh My

Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh has just announced a plan to make his city’s streets friendlier, reports The announcement outlined a detailed approach to making transportation and parking easier for everybody.

Part 1. A section of Commonwealth Avenue will be the first major testing ground for the goal of accommodating multiple modes of transportation, as the city plans to install 6-foot-6-inch protected bike lanes. A

Part 2. Coin-fed meters will soon be quaint relics in Boston. The city aims to replace them with smart meters that accept credit cards and smartphone payments.

Part 3. Absent-minded drivers will no longer find their cars missing if they forget to move for street cleaning day—at least in one neighborhood.

Part 4. The mayor announced Boston will adopt the Vision Zero Initiative, a comprehensive way of thinking about road safety pioneered in Sweden and adopted by other U.S. cities like New York and Chicago. The goal is to completely eliminate traffic deaths.

It’s natural to zero in on the news of parking from a big city like Boston, but I read the article and thought about how much simpler this plan would be to implement in a small city – with much the same effect. Keep cyclists safe, make meter use easy, forgive the forgetful and emphasize safety. More bikes on the road makes parking less complicated. Smarter parking meters save time, money and encourage turnover. And those are just two parts of the plan.

It’s great to see a huge city like Boston coming up with a transportation plan that completely addresses the human element.

Read the rest of the article here.

Social Share Toolbar
Leave a comment

Can I park at a broken meter?

Most of my individual parking issues are caused by a lack of information. Sure, I got my driver’s license all those years ago and proved I could make left turns, park and decipher the color codes on the curb, but nobody every taught me the more detailed regulations of parking. And anyway, everywhere I go has different laws, rules and payment strategies.

For instance, I headed out to a local shopping area last week. It was packed with people and parking was tight. In what seemed a stroke of good luck, I found a spot right in front of the store I needed to visit. When I got out to pay, there was the hitch: a small note inside the meter saying it was broken.

I think that note is the reason the spot was empty, but I had a strong feeling, reinforced by a pressing need to park, that it is legal to park at a broken meter. Nobody’s making money off that space, but the space is still up for grabs, right?

I weighed my options, and considering what I know of parking enforcement in the area, decided to risk it. I was in and out of the store and drove off without a ticket. I still don’t know if that was legal or not, but I guess I got away with it. What I’d like is a cheat sheet, easy to read and easy to find, that will answer this question, and several others.

Social Share Toolbar
Leave a comment

Lowell Harwood, RIP

I received word that Lowell Harwood, a legend in the parking industry, passed away yesterday. I didn’t know Lowell, but knew his family and respected their work, not only in parking but also in development and charitable causes. Here is his obituary that ran in the local New Jersey press:

Lowell Harwood, Square Industries and
Harwood Properties Chairman
Lowell Harwood, a longstanding member of the Jersey City business community who grew his family’s parking company into a $100 million venture, died March 18. Harwood, a Short Hills, NJ, resident and former Kean University trustee, was 85.
Born in Newark and raised in Jersey City, Harwood returned to Hudson County after graduating from Kent State University and serving in the United States Army during the Korean War to work in the family parking business that began in 1920.
Harwood built and grew the business, breaking into the competitive New York market with a shrewd business model of choosing the right locations and charging reasonable prices. The company went public in 1969, with Harwood becoming chair of Square Industries, Inc., headquartered at 921 Bergen Ave. in Jersey City where Harwood was raised.
By the time the company was sold in 1997, the family operation had grown to a $100 million business with 135 locations across the United States. During Harwood’s leadership of Square Industries, the company managed parking at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., one of Harwood’s proudest achievements.
After selling the company, Harwood continued running Harwood Properties LLC, a private parking and property management company that continues to be managed by the Harwood family in Jersey City.
He served on the board of the Jersey City Chamber of Commerce, and served as the chamber’s president in 1958. In 1997, the Harwood family purchased the site of the former State Theater and created the first, new residential development in Journal Square in more than 50 years.
Harwood was also involved in numerous parking business associations, serving on the Board of Directors for the National Parking Association, the Metropolitan Parking Association and the New York Parking Association.
A philanthropist in Jersey City and throughout his home state, Harwood was a dedicated supporter of Christ Hospital serving on the board of trustees, the executive board and the Christ Hospital Foundation board for 40 years. While serving on the Foundation Board, Harwood donated funds to establish the Harwood Heart Center, a state-of-the-art coronary-care unit, which continues to bear Lowell’s name.
Harwood’s philanthropy included more than 10 years of service as a Kean University Trustee and Trustee Emeritus. Harwood implemented numerous campus improvement projects and donated a stained-glass window that remains the centerpiece of the Kean Hall Conference Center.
Harwood also founded the Kean University Gala event in 1997, which raised more than $1.4 million over seven years for the school’s scholarship fund, a cause for which Lowell was very passionate.
In recognition of his dedicated service to Kean, he was named the university’s ‘Man of the Year’ at its sixth annual gala in 2003. The Harwood Arena at Kean University is named after the former Jersey City businessman in honor of his leadership and generosity to the university.
His family belonged Temple Beth El in Jersey City for more than 50 years, and Harwood was a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Harwood is survived by his wife, Toby; his brother, Sanford; his children, Leslie and Craig; his grandchildren, Jonathan, David and Laura Ehrlich; and his nephews Brett and Scott Harwood.

Social Share Toolbar
Leave a comment

Should Cities, Universities, or Hospitals use Public Funds to Join the IPI or NPA?

I haven’t the slightest idea. However this seems to have become a substantial controversy in the UK.  They published a story about it in the local parking mag and when I was in the UK last week I talked about it to the fellow who wrote the story, Parking Review Editor Mark Moran and former British Parking Association Head Keith Branbury.

There is a group in the UK called NoToMob who believe that aggressively enforcing parking rules is contra to the good nature of English Life. They have had an ongoing campaign to disrupt ticket writing on the Sceptered Isle. The ride around on motorcycles wearing masks and generally make pests of themselves.  They look like this15737-m  :

Those masks rather look like the ‘Occupy’ folks here in the US but in the UK they are known as “Guy Fawkes” masks.  OK Fair Enough.

The MoToMob folks discovered that the BPA had a major training program for traffic wardens (who write tickets in the UK) and that cities who were members send their staffs to these training programs. End result — better enforcement, more money collected.

They also discovered that about 245 cities were members of the BPA and supported the organization through their dues.

Horror of horrors. Can’t have that. So they are lobbying the cities to drop the BPA. I guess they feel that if the cities don’t have good training program and networking in their parking organizations, they won’t write as many tickets. or something.

They are morally outraged that taxpayer money is supporting the BPA, some of whose members are actually private firms that enforce on and off street parking regulations.

If that’s not enough, the BPA sponsors a ‘Park Mark” program where parking garages, that join the program, are rated for safety, cleanliness, lighting, and the like. If they pass, they get a “Park Mark” and I suppose people would prefer to park there rather than a run of the mill garage down the street. There are 5000 garages in the UK with a “Park Mark”.

What a waste, says MoToMob. they are lobbying cities to opt out of the program, as well as dumping the BPA altogether.

The BPA counters that they are a professional organization that provides support to parking groups across the country and frankly, they don’t think that MoToMob is much of a threat. The problem is that the decision in the end lies with politicians and noone lost an election when they were against parking tickets. The jury is still out.

This is a lesson for our organizations and parking departments as well. People don’t think that parking should be paid. It should be free, and there should always be a space 10 feet from where I’m going. So when you do anything to change those notions, you become the enemy. It takes patience, PR, understanding, and a lot of discussions to make this issue go away, and sometimes it never will.

My experience has been that its not the parking fee, its the ticket that has been written in error that causes all the pain. Rules are so set in stone that line staff members can’t make quick and reasonable decisions. Reversing a poorly written ticket takes an act of congress and then the problems escalate to the front page or the nightly news. We all look like ninnies.

Keith tells me that is seldom a week that goes by that there isn’t an article in one of the national newspapers in the UK about a pensioner being gives a ticket when he was sitting in his car, or an ambulance, or a priest while giving last rites.

We do bring this on ourselves.




Social Share Toolbar
Leave a comment

British Parking Awards

I was honored to be invited to the British Parking Awards. They are given annually by an independent group, headed by Parking Review Magazine. (Not affiliated with the British Parking Association.)

The event was held at the Lancaster Gate Hotel in central London. It opened with a reception and then continued with a luncheon and the awards presentations. To quote the Parking Review:

The British Parking Awards gala lunch is the premier social event in the UK parking calendar. The 2015 ceremony, which took place in the 4-star surroundings of the Lancaster London hotel, was hosted by television presenter and Paralympic wheelchair basketball player Ade Adepitan.

Having survived polio as a youngster, Ade Adepitan has gone on to compete as a wheelchair basketball player on an international level and has since built up a wealth of broadcasting experience.

An instantly recognisable face, Ade traverses the world for BBC World’s The Travel Show and is a reporter on Channel 4’s foreign affairs series Unreported World, which has seen him report from Honduras and Cuba. Other documentary work includes Ade Adepitan: Journey of my Lifetime, which saw him return to his birthplace Nigeria to explore why polio remains endemic there.


Here’s a shot of Ade and the winners of the “Best new Car Park” Award.

I was hosted by our European correspondent, Peter Guest, and was fortunate to sit between Parking Review Editor Mark Moran and British Parking Association”s Keith Barnbury. Keith is the former CEO of the BPA and sits on their council.

I had a great discussion with Mark on how he puts the award program together (Peter is one of their judges) and with Keith on the attack against the BPA by a citizens group that seems to have an aversion to parking fees. See my comments on the next blog.

I found it interesting that although the BPA is not a part of the British Parking Awards or connected with Parking Review, they work closely together to promote parking in the UK. The BPA has a magazine, but it focuses on its members. This is much the same relationship that Parking Today has with the National Parking Association. NPA President Christine Banning and I believe that a rising tide raises all boats.

I will always wonder why the ‘other’ parking association in the US doesn’t seem to want to be involved with the two of us. Oh well….


Social Share Toolbar
Leave a comment

People Parking Badly

Nobody took more than their share of a lane; nobody drove off the deck of the parking garage, but people in Goodwood, Australia, are such bad parkers they earned themselves the right to pay for parking.

According to, Goodwood bigwigs offered residents three hours of free parking at a local garage. Users didn’t have to pay to park, but they did have to obtain and display and parking ticket to show their time of entry. Some of them didn’t display their tickets for free parking, overstayed their welcome and received a fine. Goodwoodians found this process too confusing and complained to the powers that be.

Those in charge decided the time limit would be more easily enforced if a fee was involved in the transaction.

Cr John Koumi said the introduction of the $1 fee would allow the council to better enforce traffic controls and minimise the number of fines contested.

“We want to be able to enforce the restrictions because that was the whole intent of why we started the trial — we wanted to encourage parking turnover,” Cr Koumi said.

If there were some kind of Darwin Award for the parking industry, I think it should go  to Goodwood. Now that the fee has been imposed, they’re still stumped.

Endota Spa manager Alyce Dick said customers would boycott the carpark entirely if fees were introduced.

“It’s been so confusing already with the three-hour printing of the tickets and throwing something else in there will confuse it even more,” Miss Dick said.

Sometimes the mechanics of paying for parking can be confusing (where’s the machine? how does it work? how much do I pay?), but the concept is pretty straightforward.

Read the article here.

Social Share Toolbar
Leave a comment