Parking Meter or Bike Rack?

In Los Angeles, it’s illegal to lock your bike to a parking meter. It’s probably illegal in a lot of places, because how do parkers use a meter if it’s covered with bikes? According to, meters in LA’s Westwood Village neighborhood are functioning as overflow for UCLA students who need a place to lock their bikes.

Westwood Village, a prime biking area, sees thousands of students and UCLA employees cycling through the neighborhood to campus every day. However, the commercial district adjacent to the university only has about 65 legal bike stand spaces.

I support the practice of making it easy for people to use a bikes as their primary transportation, so it seems like the university and the surrounding areas could install more bike racks. Make it more convenient to ride and maybe you could ease a little traffic congestion while you’re at it. Better still, implement a “bike valet” stand or reserved bike racks for a moderate price. But that’s not the route the city is going to take.

Now the city is weighing a plan to install small, circular hitches onto 150 parking meters in Westwood, which would make securing a bike both easier and legal.

It makes perfect sense for the bikes, who need a place to lock their bikes, and for the city, which needs a cheap solution, but how about the meter’s intended users? I’m not sure they are going to like clambering over two or three bikes to feed the meter. I think this is o ne of those solutions that’s going to create another problem.

Read the article here.


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Maybe we should get out more

I spent this morning with a major developer in Dallas. He supervised building projects across the south, but focused on Georgia and Texas. We were standing in a million square foot project he had just taken over and was ‘upgrading.’  The building was 30 years old.

They were in the process of adding a 1000 plus space underground garage in the surface lot adjacent to the building — it would have retail on the top floor (ground) level and the garage under ground, connected to the garage in the office tower.  He said that it would bring parking to 2 spaces for 1000 square feet, rather than the .8 that existed today.

He brushed this off as something his company does all the time. “It makes our buildings more attractive and easier to lease. ‘

I spend a lot of time talking to parking folks on the coasts, and also those who work for universities and municipalities. To a person, they talk of reducing parking, removing parking, setting parking maximums, and the evils of the demon car.

This developer was spending millions to make his facility more attractive to car owners, not fussing about how to set up ride sharing programs and make his building ‘transit friendly.’

I don’t think this is a unique case.  I”ll bet if we researched developers who played in “flyover country” we would find many like my friend in Dallas. Is he flying in the face of reality, or using experience to understand how to appeal to a broad sector of the public?

Granted Texas and Georgia and the south in general are culturally light years different from the upper east side or that tony area west of the 405 or around Menlo Park, but I find it refreshing that building owners can look to their customers and meet their needs, not the needs of planners, politicians, and university pundits.

In Texas they drive big vehicles.  Some of the pickups I saw in this fellow’s garage could barely get down the ramps.  They like their cars and like the freedom they bring.

I feel a bit sad for the young people in LA, New York, or Chicago who are ‘moving back down town’ so they can walk to everything they need in life. I think about the young folks in Texas and Georgia driving their muscle cars and hitting the open road. Which group will be the innovators and leaders of the next generation?

Consider this:  Developers like my Dallas friend don’t spend money lightly. They don’t upgrade or increase parking space just for the fun of it. They expect to get a substantial return on their investment.  The question is, “Do these chaps know something we smart educated guys on the coasts don’t know?”



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West Virginia Town Unveils Decorative Parking Meters

Just to be clear, the meters in a hip shopping area of Wheeling, West Virginia are decorative, but not only decorative. They still take money and keep time. According to, the city’s arts council challenged local artists to submit their ideas for painted meters and the selected entrants carried out their work this weekend. The Centre Market Meter Mural Project will offer prizes to the best meters.

“Oh, I love it. It’s an up and coming artsy place, now and it was just a wonderful project and I would like to see all of them be painted, it was awesome,” said Wheeling resident, Dina Carney.

At the risk of sounding like a humbug (or a hater, which ever word you like best), I’m not that sure parking meters need decorating. They are utilitarian in their design and function, and I think that means they should be nondescript. But the Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission has other ideas, and it’s their town, so why not?

To read the article and see a slide show of the painted meters, click here.


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The Martian

Ridley Scott has another triumph.  The Martian is a techno thriller on a grand scale. The 79 year old director/producer who brought everything from Alien, Blade Runner, and Thelma and Louise to American Gangster, Black Hawk Down and GI Jane, spins a tale of heroism, ingenuity, and honor. At a time when many see America in decline, this movie brings all the qualities that make this country great to light.

Matt Damon plays an astronaut that is left behind when a severe storm forces his crew mates to abandon a station on Mars. They thought he had died in the storm.

A botanist, Damon uses the resources at his disposal to grow food, and extend his life on the red planet while a rescue effort can be mounted. His radio destroyed, he locates a 20 year old mars lander and uses it to communicate with earth. He finds out that they already know he’s alive but have decided not to tell the crew that abandoned him.

This is an ‘if anything can go wrong it will’ movie.  The plot stresses everyone involved including the wizards at JPL, NASA, and even the Chinese Space Agency that steps in to help save the day. One of the best lines in the movie is when the Chinese decide to offer help. “This must be scientist to scientist.” The inference that politicians everywhere ruin everything is quite strong.

The film has comic relief – it has to or your psyche couldn’t stand the stress. Damon’s character embodies everything that makes our space effort great. He’s smart, wise, and filled with good humor. He doesn’t give up in the face of incredible odds.

His crew mates, upon finding he’s still alive. elect to spend an additional year in space to mount a rescue effort in the face of direct orders not to do so.

Ridley Scott has made a movie that is everything a movie should be. It reminds us that Hollywood can make a thriller with a good story, three denominational characters you actually care about, and can do so without the blood and gore we see almost daily. OK, Damon does favor the “F” word, but frankly you would too in his position.

The support cast including Jeff Daniels as the NASA director, Jessica Chastain as the leader of the Mars Mission, and Sean Bean as the Flight Director turn in excellent performances. Benedict Wong as the nearly overwhelmed JPL team leader and Chiwetel Ejiofor as the manager in charge of the Mars Mission round out a steller cast, many who had worked with Scott in the past.

This is an excellent movie. See it.


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There must be more to this story

Bacon IssueJeff Wolfe ‘adjusted’ PT’s October Cover. Jeff Pinyot sent the new cover to me without out much comment. Somewhere this is a story about Jeff W, Jeff P, and Bacon.


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What is a ‘Temecula Group’

One of the attendees at this year’s Temecula Parking Group noted that he had been in a number of industries and this meeting was the most unique he had ever seen. Competitors sitting side by side and talking openly about issues and problems, with no real set goal except discussion, information and perhaps a publication or two.

Its a small group, about a dozen souls. They argue, they laugh, they agree and disagree. But they seem to be honorable conversations. No one is trying to grandstand or tell the others that he ‘knows it all.’ Just good information.

We meet formally for eight hours over two days, but much of the conversation is had during off hours, at the bar, during the formal and informal dinners, while standing under the huge sycamores of the Temecula Creek Inn, or during cross country bike rides, golf games, or while on a wine country tour. Those informal talks are often brought back to the group for discussion, or sometimes not.

Over the next few weeks there will be articles here on the blog, and in Parking Today, that resulted from those conversations. When you read them remember that around the table were seven CEOs, a senior VP, and three vice presidents. Some ran companies that grossed a million, others that grossed 100 million. These are in some cases entrepreneurial app designers, in other cases bricks and mortar legacy manufacturers. There were companies that were two years old, and others that have been around for decades. Each member of the Temecula Group benefited by the wisdom of the others.

The best part of all this is that I get to be King. At least I select the members. Usually its based on my feeling that they will ‘fit’ the group.  They don’t have to agree, they only have to understand, and have the persistence and ethics to have made it this far in life.

Just to get things rolling, I picked six topics that I thought would be good for discussion. We started on Friday with a general discussion, and before it ended, without any direction, four of the topics I picked had been touched. We pretty well know what the hot spots are in this industry.

You are welcome to ask to attend, but there are few seats left at the table.



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Parking App Soothes Angst in New York City

If you’ve been to New York City, you’ve seen the traffic. It is, indeed, terrible. I’ve been there and the last thing I want to do is drive its streets. I love the taxis, I love the buses, I love the Subway, and I love the walking. With so many options, why would I get in car and suffer? But some people want to keep their options open, and I can respect that. Technology is helping them. On, a recent article offered news about Parkwhiz, a parking app that tells drivers where they can park. The article outlines the app’s process and offers an entertaining info-graphic on the challenges and realities of driving and parking in Manhattan.

The fact of the matter is that most New Yorkers don’t even have cars because of how terrible the parking situation is here.

It’s true. And there are adults who don’t even know how to drive because they don’t see the need. One suggestion on the info-graphic tells drivers to “stay calm” even though the honking will be constant. I like the creative approach of the app and the app’s PR.

Even in a city like New York, there is room for innovation in parking. The streets are packed and parking is at a premium, but that’s no reason new ideas can’t be implemented successfully.

Read the article here.

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Paris Goes Car-Free for a Day

This Sunday, the city of Paris will institute a car-free policy between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., reports The article doesn’t specify how a car-free day will apply to parking, but I am guessing there a few ramifications. It makes sense to assume no driving means no parking, but I am curious about how they will address cars already parked. The article states that residents will be able to walk the streets safely from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Bastille. I admit this is a sight I’d like to see for myself.

“Parisians will be able to take back their daily living space and experience the city in a different way,” said Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who would have liked to make the entire city off-limits to vehicles on Sunday.

Even the president of the French drivers’ association was on board.

“I rarely agree with the mayor of Paris, but this time I am on her side. Closing off a few streets on a Sunday once a year is not a bad idea. It’s a symbolic gesture that allows people to rediscover certain streets,” the group’s president Pierre Chasseray said.

Although the novelty of the experience was part of the inspiration behind the vehicle ban, recent increases in pollution around the city had an influence. According to, the Eiffel Tower was hidden by smog earlier this year and officials began to discuss serious measures to decrease pollution including a partial driving  ban and free public transportation. Again, the ramifications for parking are not mentioned in the article, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Pop Up Ads — Do they Work?

I have no clue. But I will tell you one thing, they have trained me to close them immediately without even looking at them. Often they have moved the “close” little “X” that is usually in the upper right hand corner. Now it could be anywhere.  And even disguised as a “No” or “Not now” or ‘check with me later”.

Ad agencies have to become more cleaver. Remember “Burma Shave” signs along side the road (of course you don’t).  You actually looked forward to them. They told a little story, kinda like a tweet.  OMG did I really say that.

You message needs to be attractive enough to get your attention. Remember the dark ad with the Buick SUV driving through the streets of New Orleans. There was no question is was about Dracula and blood and murder. When the car stopped and the window rolled down, Tiger Woods said “Who were you expecting.”  Well OK, that was back when Tiger could putt.

You got a good view of a sexy car, but the message grabbed you and held you.

Delta and Virgin have great safety videos.  They are smart, funny and keep your attention.  You look forward to them instead of tuning them out.

Pop up ads simply distract. And tend to make you mad. Get with it internet people. You have a good thing going here, don’t ruin it.


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Marketing Results – How do you Measure?

You run an ad — you want to know if it works.  Back in the day you counted bingo cards to see how many people actually responded to the ad. Bingo cards have gone the way of the Dodo. (Many of you have no idea what I’m talking about. Google it)   Today you count click thrus. That’s the number of times someone happens on your message on the ‘net and clicks on it. They they go to your site or page and hopefully react positively to the message.

About three decades ago, I had a conversation with the head of an ad agency who operated in the parking sphere.  She was ruminating about the fact that bingo cards were going away. She told me that she counseled her clients to work out a marketing plan for a half year or for a year.  Stick with the plan, and then look at their results for that period. If the results were up, it was a success, if not, fire her and find another agency. Tough words. But in reality is there another way?

Counting click thrus is important.  You know immediately if your message is creating action.  Are people actually interested?  But you must do more than just put your logo on a banner ad. You must have interesting content.  A logo that says “Dirt Altering Labs” doesn’t do a lot. However a banner that says “Turn Dirt into Gold” will attract interest.

In our industry, the Logo “Apex Parking Systems” is like “so what.” But “Double your lot revenue in one day”  might just attract the attention you want. How could you not click on that. Get it, its not the media, its the message. Eat your heart out Marshall Mcluhan.

So you put your message out, count the results and if its not working, change the message.  We are fortunate that unlike three decades ago, we can get a feel for the results of our message withing a few weeks. Then it took months and even then we weren’t sure.

But what if tons of people click thru, but no one buys. Is it the media, the message or the product?  Then it might be time to rethink your solution.

Marketing is everything you do. Its sales, its PR, but its also design, customer service, and what your product actually does.  Hula hoops are crazy, they are fun, they are cheap, they make us laugh.  Chia Pets, not so much.

Lean marketing means having an idea, creating the product, getting it to market, measuring the results, and then learning from the measurement and adjusting (or abandoning) the product and pressing on. It is a circle that is fast, lean, and endless.

You must count.  You must measure. The metric, what you count, depends on the product, the media, the message, and the audience. Mass marketing depends mostly on ‘impressions.”  How many people actually saw the message.  A million bucks a minute for an ad on the Super Bowl might be cheap, if 100,000,000 people saw it and reacted to it.

In niche businesses its more difficult.  You put out a banner and get 50 click thrus, and assumed you failed. However if your product costs $100K, and you got two sales from those 50 click thrus, maybe your message is spot on.

Its not “if you count” its “what and how you count.”   And then, after you count and analyze, do you discuss the results with your ad agency, PR agency, and the media you use.  Then do you adjust using all this input?

Whether you are a Coke or Nike, or a garage start up, the process is the same, the scale is different.


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