Cooptition — Never Heard of it — You Will!!!

Every so often I come across a term of which I am unfamiliar. Typically I nod sagely and then run to Google to see what’s what. In this case its

Cooptition: Cooperative competition. Practice where competitors work with each other on project-to-project, joint venture, or co-marketing basis.

I was on the phone today with a Venture Capital Firm discussing money that has been flowing into the new start ups in the parking industry. Cooptition came up a number of times. My contact felt that tech start ups in the parking business needed to be deeply involved in cooperative competition to enable them to thrive and grow.

Venture Capitalists, it seems, are “rising tide raises all boats” folks. As one company thrives, others in the same genre will thrive. Working together will only make that happen faster.

He believed that the parking business needs to see customers not as just cogs in a wheel, but to strive to make parking easy and as importantly, pleasurable. He said we need to answer questions like:

  • How can I bring customers more services?
  • How can I partner with other companies to success
  • Just what is ‘parking’ and what could it be?

We seem to have accepted that parking is a necessary evil. Drivers hate it but must use our services. So why do we need to anything more than provide space for a price.

Tech companies that are being supported by venture capitalists are providing services that will, they hope, provide answers to the above questions and make parking a pleasurable experience.  If we give drivers parking choices, make their actual experience a good one, and perhaps provide other services that they may want at the same time (wash, oil change, dry cleaners, coffee bar, valet services) they may be willing to pay more for the service.

Some garages make a run at these services, but fall down when it comes to communication with parkers. Technology is on the cusp of enabling vehicles to be in contact with their destinations and enabling drivers to partake of services that will make their experience easier.

These money guys believe that the companies that connect parking locations, drivers, and services will carry the industry in the nest few years.  The parking ecosystem, if you will, will grow and the typical horrible parking experience will be a thing of the past, and parkers will line up to pay for the more pleasurable parking space.

Companies who ‘stay the course’ and don’t look for a new experience in parking do so at their peril. We shall see.  In the meantime, Cooptition is the word.

JVH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Good Article on Sensor and App Technology NOT!!!

When Astrid posted this article from “Cult of Mac” a Bay Area Blog on Parknews.biz I was excited.  Wow, something that worked and worked well.  The Title was catchy: “This app will guide you to parking, and may get you a ticket, too.” The article spoke highly of the creator of the new app and how it was going to make San Francisco a parking paradise.

Its neat. The App works like Garmin and tells you verbally how to get to a parking space you select, both on and off street. No need to look at your phone and run into the police car in front of you.

The article infers that the infrastructure behind the app was 8000 sensors located on- street in San Francisco. -  That the new sensors replaced the existing sensors installed as a part of SFPark that were turned off in 2013 and these new puppies were merrily sending data back to the app and letting people park easily and quickly in Baghdad by the Bay, saving according to the app creator, 3,000,000 driving minutes a day.

Anything smell a bit fishy?  Your intrepid blogger contacted the app’s creator, David Leboa at VoicePark and asked a few pertinent questions.

1. Did you use the sensors provided from Streetline and Streetsmart in San Francisco for your tests there.

A: Yes, but their data was not good enough for use to reliably provide information to the app users. The data was in the 70% range of accuracy and we needed something better, at least 95% or people won’t use the app.

2. So you didn’t really have a viable test of the app in San Francisco.

A.  If we had had good data, it would have worked perfectly.

3.  So what sensor do you use and did you deploy it in San Francisco>

A. We use a sensor from Smartparking. Its in use to great success in London. We have not deployed in San Francisco because there are some legal issues to be worked out.

3. So where have you deployed sensors.

A. Mumble, mumble, mumble

4. Where are you going to deploy?

A. Next Month in a small town in the wine country north of San Francisco.

5. So basically the article about deployment and success in San Francisco was bogus?

A.  Well, ahem, when you discuss software, hardware deployment, apps, and the like with reporters, sometimes the resulting article is jumbled.

“Jumbled” indeed.

JVH

 

 

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Vandals Take Over Parking Enforcement

Somebody with a can of spray paint is telling Queens-area parkers they’re doing a bad job. Critical comments were painted on two cars overnight, reports Newyork.cbslocal.com. One driver had profanity painted on her car for taking up more space than she needed – although she says there wasn’t room for another car either way. Residents are concerned about this escalation in an already tough parking scenario.

A note on a windshield is one thing, but neighbors said a spray-painted message reading, “Learn how to park S-bag,” is another.

I can relate to the frustration that arises when parking is tight and other parkers don’t park efficiently, but, obviously, I don’t support vandalizing their cars as a good outlet for that frustration.

What I do support is the leaders of this city recognizing that the local parking situation is nightmarish and it’s bringing out the worst in people. If finding parking is so stressful that individuals are pushed to more and more illegal and destructive behaviors, then city rules and regulations need to alleviate that stress. I don’t know how you find more parking in a place like Queens, but maybe the answer is fewer cars. Just a thought.

Read the article here.

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On the Green Level…

Sometime PT correspondent Jeff Pinyot wrote a blog for the IPI site which peaked by curiosity. He seems to relatively successfully hold both sides of a controversy. Here’s the blog in toto — and my comments following:

If you want good dinner conversation, place at least one liberal and one conservative together at a dinner table, insert a bottle of Pinot Grigio, a nice appetizer, and perhaps the suggestion of Global Warming as dinner conversation.

Being that the parking industry is so often referred to in discussions of the impact of environmental change, it seems that we have the right to have an opinion on the subject. When our company is asked what environmental impact our lights have on carbon emissions, we often equate it to X numbers of cars being taken off the road. For a company that does business with parking garage owners and operators, it actually seems a little stupid to tell Denison Parking that if they use our lights, it will be like taking 50 cars (paying customers) off the road. I know it really doesn’t impact the number of cars in actuality, but it does seem like a stupid analysis given the facts. Perhaps we should talk about the impact as X number of new trees planted.

So, I digress….Why is it that every celebrity believes that they are an authority on politics, global warming, hunger, health plans, etc. Is it because some of them have played Presidents, Senators, Scientists, Doctors, etc. on TV and the big screen? Could you imaging George Clooney saying this: “In Gravity, I played the role of an astronaut, which means that I would have probably gone to Purdue University, which means that I should probably be pretty smart, so, yes, I have no real reason to say this, but I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, Global Warming is for real…I think.”
In reality, here is exactly what he did say about Global Warming: “If you have 99 percent of doctors who tell you ‘you are sick’ and 1 percent that says ‘you’re fine,’ you probably want to hang out with, check it up with the 99. You know what I mean? (not really George) The idea that we ignore that we are in some way involved in climate change is ridiculous. What’s the worst thing that happens? We clean up the earth a little bit?”

While I have no idea what he is saying exactly, at the end, he does come back down to earth. George Clooney and I agree on his last statement, “What’s the worst thing that happens? We clean up the earth a little bit?” YES, let’s start with common ground! Who can argue that his statement is not true? The way I say it is similar… This is me talking… and I am quoting me… “Whether Global Warming is true or not doesn’t really matter, the bottom line is, we should leave the world in at least the same shape as we got it, no worse or preferably, better. We should try to get our Security Deposit back!”
Don’t hug a tree, climate!

Jeff Pinyot
jspinyot@ecoparkinglights.com

Let me say that I agree completely with Jeff’s last two sentences. We should leave the world in better shape than we got it.  But at the same time, I disagree with George Clooney when he says “What’s the worst than can happen.

Here’s the problem – We can do a lot of harm. Emerging countries where people are freezing in the dark want to give their citizens a fighting chance. But if everyone from the UN on down fights them as they try to develop, there is plenty of harm. Here at home,  people that get hurt aren’t the gazillionaires like Clooney, but the working poor, who pay more for electricity, for gasoline, for food, for clothing. All because the Clooneys of the planet stop development, not just clean development, but all development. They live in enclaves in the west side of LA, between San Francisco and San Jose, on the Upper East Side of New York or in the counties around DC and Boston. They have no feel for what it costs to live, since they have tons of disposable income.

I’m with you on the concept that we must be good stewards of our planet, and must clean up our environment. But a clean environment and a bustling economy must not be mutually exclusive. If all the effort put into stopping economic growth was put into clean water and electrification in emerging countries, how many more kids would grow up healthy, how many families would thrive.

When a idea, a crusade, a cause takes on a religious zeal, and dissenters are silenced, then one can be certain there is hubris. There are laws of unintended consequences. We double the price of gasoline, but offer no transportation alternatives. We stop building new housing, but offer no replacement, thus sending the cost of housing sky high, we halt the building of any type of energy facility (nuclear, natural gas, coal) and stop manufacturing in its tracks, costing millions of jobs.

When the people of India, China, Central Africa reach the point that every waking moment isn’t spent searching for food, clothing, and shelter, and they have some time to enjoy their lives, they will begin to think about cleaner air, unpolluted water, and white sandy beaches. They will realize they don’t need 15 children for the family to survive. They will, just as have Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, North America, and western Europe begin to clean their environment, too.

Environmental cleanliness must make economic sense, too. And it can. Just as Jeff sees creating light in parking garages using less electricity, buildings can be constructed so they use the space around them more effectively, food can be grown less expensively, but the land preserved. Forests can be replaced, fuel can be produced without destroying the earth, power can be created without destroying the air. And it can be done economically, if we allow it.

JVH

 

 

 

 

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The parking attendant stole my money…

…except he wasn’t the parking attendant.

In Denver, a parking lot employee poseur has been taking money from parking patrons, even though the signs state clearly for them to “pay machine only.” According to denver.cbslocal.com:

“Police hope to catch the man before he strikes again.”

I hope they catch him before he strikes again, too. But I’m also going to have a little laugh at the folks who feel for his ruse. You don’t just hand over your money to anyone who asks for it. You don’t just pull into a parking lot without making yourself aware of the pay system. Or do you? We all give our keys and cars to the valet and we all pass bills to the guy sitting in the pay booth, but we don’t have any real assurance that these are actual parking lot employees. They don’t all have badges or uniforms or a certificate tied around their necks. And there’s no time to run a background check. All it takes is one trickster in a white shirt, black pants and industrial-strength black shoes and any of us could be short a vehicle.

“Definitely he is roaming the area looking for any extra cash he can get,” said Town Park Manager Tanner Rogers. “If somebody asks you for cash, be wary.”

Sound advice, I say. Be wary.

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Venue needed for Shakespeare in the Parking Lot

Shakespeare said “All the world is a stage” and he was right, thoughI’m not sure he was thinking of parking lots. Some 20 years ago a group of would-be thespians put together Shakespeare in the Parking Lot in New York City to bring the classics to the masses. Today they face the end of their endeavors as a newly-invoked department of transportation fee and the forthcoming demolition of the parking lot where they perform loom darkly.

I love to see an empty parking lot put to good use, not that I’d ever be in a play on stage or in a parking lot myself – no talent. These parking lot performers must be very devoted to their work, though sadly unable to find work in an actual theater, so it makes the world feel like a friendlier place to think of them finding an outlet for their artistry. They call the threats to their work an inevitable consequence of the city’s progress, but it seems like a step backwards to me.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

For years, Artistic Director Hamilton Clancy said his dealings with the city have been cordial. “There had been a very New York understanding,” he said, describing the DOT response as: “If you don’t cause any trouble, we’re glad you’re making people happy.”

And that’s a terrific approach, if you ask me. Let’s hope the Shakespeare in the Parking Lot and the Drilling Company, it’s producer, can find another venue. They’re looking, and not opposed to performing outside of parking lots, regardless of their name.

“The fact that we have a brand name is not going to weigh us down,” Clancy said. “We are going to bring Shakespeare to the people.”

Read the article here.

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Hallelujah for Free Sunday Parking!

The end of Sunday parking fees is here. After a year or so of charging for Sunday meter parking, San Francisco is repenting its policy. Mayor Ed Lee has seen the light and cancelled the Sunday paid parking program to make it more affordable for locals and visitors to spend time in city parks and shops.

Only a few locations will still cost parkers. According to the article in sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com:

The SFMTA will still operate meters in the city on Sundays in some areas, including those under the jurisdiction of the Port of San Francisco and at Fisherman’s Wharf as well as parking lots at Eighth and Ninth avenues at Clement Street, Geary Boulevard at 18th and 21st avenues, Eighth Avenue at Irving Street, the Pierce Street Garage near Lombard Street and Felton Street at San Bruno Avenue.

The city will inform parkers of the Sunday paid policy only where it will continue to be applied. In all other areas, the public will read the joyful news from the meters themselves.

 

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I’ll Bet they don’t ask me back….

My presentation before the World Parking Symposium last week in Tel Aviv went well.  So well, there were no questions.  I guess I just did a super job.  I also did something that most likely ‘isn’t done’ in these circles…I found the way some of my fellow speakers presented their subjects objectionable.

With one or two exceptions, a theme throughout this symposium was sustainability. I think that’s great.  We must be good stewards of our planet and if spending more money than we can afford to make garages, cities, and whatnot more environmentally pure, I’m all for it. However, in pitching your sustainable requirements, don’t lie to me.

In a couple of the PowerPoint presentations there were pictures of polar bears slipping off ice flows to their certain demise, satellite shots of hurricanes, garages filled with water, and the like.  All adding to the urgent need to make things sustainable, and save a doomed planet.

I’m all for using all the tools at your disposal to sell your agenda, but don’t lie to me. We all know that polar bears are currently thriving in larger numbers than any time in the past what, 75 years, that we have had a lull in hurricanes for the past decade that is unprecedented, and I’ve been in that garage that was filled with water and know that one of the major reasons was that the garage was built below sea level.

So after my main presentation was over, I popped off about my concerns about the way the presentations were couched, and how if you are going to pitch an idea, just be sure that the backup you use is true.

A few years ago we had an environmentalist speak at PIE. He had all the credentials. He was from Washington state. He worked for the state department of the environment. He loved trees. He also said that much of the ‘sustainable’ activity taken by governments was bunk.  Mayors, Senators, Presidents would start down a ‘sustainable’ road with great fanfare and then simply let the programs peter out. He gave example after example of programs that began much promise, only to simply drift away. Lack of money, lack of interest, lack of …..

I believe that rich countries like the US, and most of those represented at the World Parking Symposium, have a tendency to spend money like we had it, to make the world more sustainable.  But, by doing so, who do we hurt?  We hurt the least among us.  As we drive the price of gas north of $8 a gallon (as in the EU) who really is harmed.  The poor folks that need their cars to drive to work, or sometimes just to work. Remember that half or more of that $8 is tax, not the cost of the gas.

When we sit in our air conditioned homes in clean beautiful university towns and decry the use of carbon based fuels in India, Africa, or China, we simply damn the poor in those countries to lives of quiet desperation. Sure we can afford to spend fortunes to make our lives sustainable, but can they.

150 years ago our cities were horrible: filled with garbage, air unbreathable, disease was rampant. Today we have solved most of those problems or are in the process of doing so. We reached a point where most people have some discretionary income to spend on things other than food, clothing and shelter. As societies become richer, the lives they lead become cleaner, healthier, more sustainable.  Coal fired plants are replaced by windmills, gas guzzling cars with electric Priuses and Leafs.  Our family size reduces as children no longer are seen as needed for survival.

The WPS presentation made by a UN based group on parking issues in Latin America pointed out how the governments there realize that they can’t just wave their magic wands and make automobiles go away. They have to provide rapid transit systems, they must rethink their broad avenues, they must begin to plan where their housing is built. They were also realists and understood that changing a culture is difficult and can’t be done overnight. That, in this case parking, was there to say and simply decreeing that there would be no more parking ( like in Seattle) wasn’t going to work. The process was a long one, and even projects as seemingly as simple as putting in parking meters could be a long haul. Enforcement, a major issue, but a real struggle..

We are fortunate to be able to have events like the World Parking Symposium where we can argue over the design of new parking facilities, talk about moving everyone back in the cities, finding generations that no longer want to live in the ‘burbs but want to work, play and live all within walking distance.

But the UN group’s presentation brought us back to reality. Mexico City is parking disaster, India is a traffic jam of steroids, China has to figure out how to feed its billions, without suffocating them first.  These kids from the UN did the numbers, we have to fix the problems or we will all simply die.

My arrogant solution:  Help the emerging countries to grow. Get their economies on track. Make it so their people are wealthy enough to want to sit on the clean beach, or breath clean air. They will solve their environmental problems, just as we have come a long way to solve ours.

We want to believe that top down directives can solve problems that affect individuals in cities, in neighborhoods. We cannot fix everything, but we can help others to fix their problems.  Give a man a fish, your feed him for a day, teach a man to fish…

You get the idea.  My speaking agenda is open  — any takers?

JVH

 

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World Parking Symposium Underway in Tel Aviv

The World Parking Symposium, Canada’s semi annual fete to the scholarly side of parking, got under way yesterday at Herod’s Hotel on Tel Aviv’s beautiful 14 km long beach. We were welcomed by the assistant mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo and received a virtual tour of this vibrant and beautiful city of nearly half a million people. The metro area hjolds over 1.5 million.

The event got underway this morning with a presentation on sustainability and a piece on the monetary value of our profession. We then had some PR from the IPI, and a bit on the future of information communication technology.

The afternoon papers were on residential parking schemes in Stuttgart, Solving a parking capacity problem using (dare I say it) common sense, a rather complex presentation on vehicle to vehicle communication, and a bit on smart parking revolution (read that pay by cell.)

The big surprise of the day was the panel on parking tax. I found out five minutes before the panel that I was on it.  Boy did they get their money’s worth. Lorne Persiko from the city of Toronto took the side for the tax and yours truly against, at least to the point that the discussion was mute anyway because politicians are going to tax us not matter what we say. Australia’s George Brown moderated and kept blows to a minimum.

I ducked out at noon and ran up to Jerusalem and had lunch with architect Maurice Segal and his lovely wife Bonnie. We met at the famous Jerusalem Theater and then dined at the original train station that was the terminus of the line from Cairo, built in the 1890s.  The capitol city is about 45 minutes inland from Tel Aviv but has a feeling centuries older. It’s also 2500 feet above sea level and a whole heck of a lot less humid.

Tonight its dinner with my buddy Amit Kadem, CEO of Tel Aviv’s Central Park. He is helping me celebrate my birthday (its one of those innocuous in etween ones of which you don’t care to know the number) at a restaurant designed by his architect brother.

Tomorrow the group, small, around 40 in attendance including 20 speakers, is going to learn everything I know about Public Private Partnerships. I have stolen all the info from Stephanie Farmer of Roosevelt University in Chicago about the Chicago fiasco, and about the successes at Ohio State from Sarah Blouch and Indianapolis from Xerox’s  Matthew  Darst so I have at least a bit of credibility.

Tel Aviv is a wonderful city.   Vibrant and full of life.  The majority of people here are under 40 and they are loving it. I dined last night with Meta Rothenberg, Marketing VP for HTS at a wonderful restaurant on  Tel Aviv’s ‘new’ harbor.  The old one, Jaffa, is the oldest working harbor anywhere, going back thousands of years.  They say that Jaffa was where Jonah set off on his ill fated bout with that whale.

I will just about close the symposium tomorrow, then head out to Ben Gurion Airport and the flight back to LA. Only two full days here in Israel. Next time more.  This place is just super.

JVH

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The Dead Park for Free

There’s always a lot to say about the abuse of disabled parking placards, and usually, it’s about the low-down, rotten people cheating the system. This article gives adequate attention to the cheaters, but makes a good point that the system is quite an enabler.

According to the article on SFgate.com, California, disabled parking placards are automatically renewed whether their intended uses are alive or not. People die and the placards keep showing up in the mail year after year. One woman says she tried to do the right thing and still kept receiving a placard for her dead mother.

“I cut up her disabled parking permit, wrote a letter reporting her death and mailed it to the DMV,” she wrote. “The spring of 2011 I received another permit for her. I was so annoyed. Then two years later I received another one. I will let you know if I receive one in 2015.”

Another person who tried the honest route found the red tape to cancel a disabled parking placard was too thick to negotiate and just throws the placards in the trash. But not everybody is so honest.

Sometimes people cheat the system, sometimes the system cheats the people. The system needs to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

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