“Something I Can’t Imagine Living Without!

Yikes – Mark quotes a survey in a recent PT article here, that 29% of those owning smart phones ‘can’t imagine living without it.” I understand his point, he is telling our industry to get with the program and get your m commerce pants on and be sure you can be found with an app on line. Fair Enough.

I’m concerned and a bit saddened by how that phrase means that technology has taken over our lives.

One of my colleagues in our building bought a shell of a 1974 International Harvester Scout. He then spent more than he would have on a new Ford fixing it up and making is like new. He added a few creature comforts like satellite radio and air conditioning, but basically its the car that he could have bought new 40 years ago. Why?

He told me that he wanted a vehicle he could fix himself. He waved his hand around at all the cars in the parking lot and noted that they were all basically computers with wheels and if a circuit board blew, there was nothing he could do. If a coil or belt or brake went out on his Scout, he could fix it.

My father and I took apart an old 1948 Ford. We ground the valves, replaced the master cylinder, adjusted the timing, cleaned the carburetor, changed the fan belts. In doing that, I learned how cars worked. At least I thought I did. Today if you lift the hood, you may find a gray plastic box covering the ‘works.’  And frankly with all the hoses and ‘stuff’ in there, I have no clue how it works anyway.

I think this is neither good nor bad, it just ‘is.’ As we enter more technical times, items as simple as a toaster or as complicated as a car become beyond our ability to understand. When we need them fixed, we call someone who knows how and that’s that. But I do still miss getting my hands dirty changing the oil or greasing that old Ford.

The people who rely on smart phones to the point of ‘not being able to live without it’ are placing themselves at the mercy of… everyone else.  They have forgotten, or never learned, how to look up something in an encyclopedia, how to do simple math, and now, I find, read cursive writing. Do they know that they can ‘pick up a phone and call?’ Maybe not, landlines are going away.

I confess I have  Kindle. I read a lot and we were reaching the point that books were taking over the house. Now I keep them in a cloud. But I have enough on hand so I can fall back to paper should the power go out.

Lets face it, I like all the ease and comforts technology brings. But, much to my wife’s dismay, I do from time to time like to take something apart to ‘fix’ it.  It is usually cheaper (five trips to Home Depot) and easier to call the repair man.  But once in a while I just want to be able to say that “I can.”

Those “I can’t live without it” folks would probably order a new one, have it delivered by drone, and have a better, cheaper one and the one I fixed, but there are two words they can’t say. “I can”



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Really!?!?!? I can’t remember 4 digits?

According to this article, one of the reasons credit card companies are going to chip and signature rather than chip and pin is that we lowly card holders just can’t remember a four digit number.  Really? We can’t remember the number.

Let’s see — we remember the number for our ATM Card, the number to log in to our smart phone, plus our zip code when we get gas, our debit card code for just about everything, and we can remember the code for our credit card?  Right.

If I remember correctly there is a vault-like app for your phone that can hold all your pin codes and if you forget, you can simply look it up. Plus…

Let’s face it. Many of us use the same code, or a derivative of it for most of our pins. Now, this is not the best security, and I don’t recommend it, but we do it. Don’t use your birth date, address, anniversary, or any number than can be human engineered by a thief.

I don’t know how many times a friend has given me his ATM card to get some money for him and the code is 1) written on the back 2) his birth year 3) his anniversary year or 4) the year he graduated from high school. Well, it was silly of him to trust me in the first place, but let’s face it, I’m probably not the person he should be worried about stealing his bank account.

Of course the bank card companies expect that you will have a ‘different’ code for every card and I guess they are concerned about how you will remember.  I doubt that will be a problem. Remember in the old days when they assigned you a pin code. Now many of them allow you to select your own. Its the only way we can keep sane.

I have six cards which could require pin codes in my wallet. Some I use very seldom, others I use daily. If I were to have six different codes, well — Maybe that fellow from the credit card company quoted above wasn’t that far off.

When I was in Australia my chip cards worked just fine.  I would insert them in the reader and in a few seconds a receipt would shoot out and I would sign it.  The card knew it was a chip and signature card and told the terminal to react accordingly. No sweatski.

Chip and pin will come. Depend on it. It will be just a bit further down the line. And we will somehow remember the number.


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New Uses for Old Technology

In West Lafayette, Indiana, parking enforcers have a new tool at their disposal: cameras. In the areas around Purdue University, tight parking has brought about heavy competition and squatters. People park for weeks and months and do not move their cars because they do not want to lose their spaces, reports jconline.com. Parking enforcement has been using chalk to address the problem, and not having much success.

“We’ve migrated from the old method of physically monitoring time and chalking to where it’s computer-based,” said Rick Walker, code enforcement supervisor for the city’s neighborhood resource team. The technology uses cameras mounted on a police vehicle to capture images of license plates, storing the resulting data in the cloud to track how long a vehicle has been parked in a city spot.

Chalk sounds about as efficient as square wheels right about now – a lot of completely manual solutions do. Using cameras speeds up the process and improves enforcement. They are not a cumbersome or risky solution. It seems like a good idea all around. West Lafayette signed a 3-year contract with NuPark for this system, which also includes a pay-by-phone parking app.

Read the article here.

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Parking in Australia Smart and Secure

Secure Parking is a major operator here in Australia. I sat in on their presentation at the Parking Australia Outlook Conference yesterday and was blown technically away.

The have developed a parking reservation and loyalty program that as far as I can tell outshines anything on the open market. It allows customers to select and reserve parking, select rates, pay on line, and enter their parking garage (carpark in Aussie) without taking a ticket.

Most impressive was that they developed it in house.  OK they hired outside tech guys, but the design, the implementation, and the internal management was all theirs. Its probably why it fits so well into their operation. It was designed by an operator who knew what it wanted to accomplish and then did.

As Secure’s Marketing Manager Andrew Sapir took us through the many levels of the program, I began to get an understanding of just what the company was trying to accomplish. It was more than parking reservations, it was a loyalty program that was bringing customers back, time after time.

They promote the program with every method possible including social media, mail, personal contact, and email blasts. They offer ‘specials’ when there is an event happening around their locations, and reach out to tell about them.

I asked him about dynamic pricing, and he said it was in its infancy, but they did have an internal pricing structure based on selling so many spaces in location at a certain price, and when that was full, raising the price to a next tier. He noted that they would be expanding this pricing model as they acquired more information about their locations, occupancy, and so forth.

Most impressive was the database they have developed. They have over half a million names, addresses, emails and so forth that they can slice and dice to fit each marketing effort. Specials for an event, super pricing for a location that is near an area with clubs and restaurants, it all happens daily at Secure Parking

An impressive company led by impressive people. Check it out at Secure Parking.


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Parking in OZ

Parking Australia, the professional organization for parking pros here in OZ, really has its act together. Beside picking me to speak before their “outlook” conference this week, they put on a hell of an event.  More than 160 people attended the two day affair, with networking, speakers, lunches, awards dinner, all done professionally and well. Kudos to CEO Lorraine Duffy, President Christina Lynn and their staff.

I was impressed by the quality of the speakers, with sometimes technical, sometimes self serving but always interesting talks about what is happening in parking in the land of Kangaroos and Koalas.

It appears that this is a go to place when you want to discuss technology. In the awards ceremony, there were one or two participants in the ‘new garage’ category or the ‘pr and media’ list, but seven in the technology category.

I guess it comes from being far, far away, but it seems to me that people here invent their own solutions, rather than buying one from someone else. Cities, Universities, Shopping centers, and operators all have designed tech solutions from scratch to solve unique problems. And the solutions seem to be well thought out and working.

It seems they identify a problem, put together a team to work out solutions, then hire the technology they need. The turn around time is light speed when considering what most public sponsored projects take. In a year or so a local university completely revamped its permit program and found many empty parking spaces and greatly improved their relationship with students and staff. A city worked out a program to combine a number of disparate programs under one overall service and maintenance program that saves time, money, and gets the job done quickly.

A local shopping center ‘reinvented’ parking and is building brand and loyalty with parking guidance and ticketless parking.  Most impressive was an operator that developed its own reservation system.  Its complex, its easy for the parker, and seemingly extremely successful — I’ll report separately about it.

For a small country, population wise, Australia seems to lead the pack in technology both in innovation and independence. Plus is a great place to visit.

Hat tip to old friends Glen Holdsworth, retired and now looking to get back into the game, Leyon Parker, Retired but still with a toe in the Parking Australia pond, consultant Christina Lynn, who tells me that parking business here is booming, and from Perth, Larry Schneider, recent President of Parking Australia and someone who is in the middle of most things parking down under. Great to see you all again.

Next year, the Parking Australia meeting will be in Perth, which for your geographically challenged readers is on the west coast. Australia is about the same size of the continental US with most of  its 23 million population living within 50 miles of the coast in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and Perth.

Its a super place to visit, the folks are friendly, the weather temperate (but don’t forget that the seasons are opposite here, its cold and rainy now, winter) and covered with bold vistas and wonderful beaches.

Grueling plane ride but worth it.


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Tucson meters too high for handicapped

In Tucson, Ariz., a resident has filed a complaint against the city for installing its meters too high. At first glance, it seems hard to imagine any adult too short to reach your average parking meter, but Jim Diller, the man who filed the complaint, regardless of his height, uses a wheelchair to get around. According to Tucson.com, nearly 1,500 new meters might be violating ADA regulations.

Diller said Americans with Disabilities Act standards say the “operable parts” of a parking meter must be no higher than 48 inches from the ground. He said he has seen some keypads on Tucson meters as high as 56 inches.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, while I fully support laws that make parking and other amenities accessible to the handicapped, it doesn’t seem necessary for 1,500 meters to be ADA compliant. City leaders were already aware of the situation and working to correct the problem.

Park Tucson administrator Donovan Durband said the city is working on a response to the complaint and was working to address the problem even before Diller’s complaint was filed.

The city lowered the height of the poles for meters at some designated handicapped parking spaces, he said, because staff members thought only designated spaces needed to meet the ADA standards.

Of course, meters at handicapped spaces need to be compliant, but do all the meters need to be lowered? I fully expect the answer to be “yes,” and won’t argue, but it seems extreme. According to the article, Mr. Diller has filed complaints like this before, and he says the city should not try to avoid this issue, because it will end up paying to settle a lawsuit and fix all the meters.

Read the article here.

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I have to do WHAT to get that ticket reversed

There’s construction going on in my neighborhood. They are replacing curbs and gutters, and soon a water main and then the streets.  Chaos reins.

The city in its wisdom has told us in writing that there would be no tickets issued for minor parking infractions (wrong side of the street on street cleaning day, etc).  They would still ticket for parking in red zones, blocking fire hydrants, etc. Fair enough.  This was to continue until October.

We came home the other day to find all the cars on one side of the streets issued tickets for blocking the street sweeper. My neighbor accosted the enforcement officer and she told him she had a list of streets where restrictions were lifted and we weren’t on it. She showed him the list, and gave him the ticket.  She was right.

However, the city bureaucrat who  made the list was wrong.

After a bevy of emails to local authorities, an apology came down from the city, and also a recommendation that each of us so ticketed ‘fight’ it and show the judge the letter from the city.

Huh?  I have to pay the ticket, then go to a hearing and spend half a day to get my day in court, then show the judge the letter, get the ticket waved, and then wait for my money to be refunded. And think about the folks who just automatically paid the ticket. We all get caught sometime.

And you wonder why parking enforcement is hated.

Why the hell can’t the city just find the tickets that were written on my street improperly and void them. Probably take a clerk somewhere an hour to do so. Might even drop a note apologizing for the error, and make some good PR.

Never would have thought of that.

Isn’t there a movie title that fits here, oh yeah — Dirty Rotten Bas…..


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12 Ways to….5 ways to…101 ways to…

Everywhere you turn these days there is a list of things to make you life, business, health, or even parking better. On twitter today I got the following:

  • 9 ways to keep prospects interested
  • 5 important metrics every blogger should…
  • 5 strategies for staying relevant
  • 16 best new tools
  • 7 steps to get your…
  • 14 amazing blogs

And of course at the bottom of every web page:

  • 15 most beautiful women
  • 5 exercises you should avoid
  • 10 ways to lose those wrinkles
  • 15 stars you didn’t know were gay (number 5 will shock you)

I have looked at a lot of these and have never been shocked by number 5. I really think that there are not 9 ways but really 10, and those 16 new tools, well some are not relevant.

You know what would really catch my eye?

  • One way to lose weight
  • One exercise that will make you happy
  • One way to keep prospects interested
  • The one most beautiful woman
  • One way to lose.

I think that we can get overwhelmed by lists and numbers. If I could get just one good idea a day, or one bit of information that really helped, or one way to keep a prospect that worked, then I would be happy.  Lists are for making, not for doing. They are for shopping, for cooking, not for changing.

At the top of my twitter feed right now is “30 great Marketing ideas for small business owners to increase sales.”  The chances of more than one of them being put into effect are, I think, nil.  Would Larry Kim have done better to have selected the 1 best idea, and expanded on it.  And maybe the next best tomorrow. I know I would have more interest.

I just retweeted Larry’s tweet.  Go to@jvhpt and scroll down a bit. I think you will see what I mean.


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Alma Mater — Not enough Parking Spaces

I graduated from UCLA, its also home to parking guru Don Shoup. However according to a story snagged by Astrid at parknews.biz, over 1000 students have been placed on a waiting list, some of them seniors. Seems that there are so many staff and faculty (priority) and so many events, and other activities on campus, that there isn’t enough room for the students.

There are over 45,000 students at UCLA — a tad over 30,000 staff and faculty. That’s a staff member for every 1.5 students.  Wow!  Just what has happened at my school. Are there so many staff that there isn’t room for the students?  It would seem to be true.

Students are put at the end of the list for parking, with janitors, cooks, and gardeners higher on the list. Naturally faculty are higher, too. And administrators.

Has the home of the UCLA Bruins considered a parking system that charges based on usage, and not simply awarding a space and giving the owner a license to hunt?

A university in Australia has set up a system whereby students pay (by cell) only when they are on campus. This motivates them to drive only when necessary and to move their vehicles as soon as practical. The end result was finding that there were plenty of spaces, and every student, teacher, and staff member had a place to park, when they needed it.

Oh, and the income actually went up.

The UCLA parking department told one of the students on the waiting list that a computer ‘algorithm’ was in error, and a number of lower division students (first and second year) were given spaces ahead of Seniors. I thought UCLA was one of the places that invented the internet, and they can’t figure out how to pass out parking passes.

I hope that someone is embarrassed. I wonder if someone at one of the world’s great universities is rethinking the staff/student ratio. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but what do I know, I’m just a lowly graduate.


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Further to Duncan and CivicSmart

News Release from Duncan/CivicSmart

Duncan Solutions, Inc. today announced the divestiture of its US-based equipment business, Duncan Parking Technologies, Inc., which provides parking meter and handheld enforcement equipment, to CivicSmart, Inc. Under the terms of the sale agreement, which was finalized on July 30, 2015, Duncan Solutions’ US and Australia-based business operations will continue to work closely with CivicSmart in the delivery and support of existing client equipment installations.

The sale to CivicSmart includes all US-based handheld enforcement hardware and applications, single-space and multi-space parking meter equipment and software, vehicle sensors, and related management systems.
“This transaction is a ‘win-win-win’ for Duncan, for CivicSmart, and for our clients,” stated Duncan Solutions President and CEO Michael Flaherty. “Our focus will remain on providing our clients with the quality services they have come to expect from Duncan, and I have confidence CivicSmart has the vision and capabilities to move the industry to the next generation of parking solutions.”
The sale will allow Duncan Solutions to concentrate on its core violation processing and collections solutions for both the parking and transportation industries in the United States and its parking services in Australia.

“CivicSmart is grateful for the opportunity to continue the nearly 80-year Duncan tradition of delivering innovative, reliable equipment and systems to the parking industry,” stated CivicSmart Founder Balu Subramanya. “We are excited to share our next-generation technology and vision with our clients.”
With the acquisition, CivicSmart becomes a leading provider of parking meter technologies in the US and globally, extending its existing vehicle sensing and systems integration capabilities.

About Duncan Solutions
Duncan Solutions, Inc. is a parking management company and a leading provider of parking and transportation management products and services to municipal and commercial clients worldwide, including citation processing, customer service, debt collections, and integrated on-street parking management services. More information about Duncan Solutions is available at DuncanSolutions.com.

About CivicSmart
CivicSmart, Inc., is a technology services and engineering company specializing in developing and delivering innovative parking and transportation offerings. CivicSmart solutions have been deployed globally and, with the acquisition of Duncan Parking Technologies, CivicSmart serves nearly 2,000 clients. More information about CivicSmart is available at CivicSmart.com

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