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Windshield Barnacle Gets Trial Run

It’s possible that a tool for windshield obstruction will be just as effective at capturing parking scofflaws as the boot. The Barnacle is a flat, plastic device that attaches to and obscures visibility through car windshields. I’ve written about it before, but the Barnacle is starting to get more use. In Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, it has a 60-day trial period to prove its value, reports newyorkpost.com. The Barnacle is placed on windshields with suction cups that deliver 750 pounds of force, so no one but the Hulk and parking enforcement officers with a special release code can remove it.

The tech-savvy device is also sensitive to movement and will sound an alarm if it detects that a car is in use while it’s attached.

According to the article, the Barnacle’s makers say it’s cheaper, lighter, more efficient and safer for parking enforcers. It weighs 20 pounds and folds in half for storage. Officers using the device can attach it to a vehicle from the sidewalk. There is some question about how it will perform in winter conditions.

It is the procedure for removing and returning the Barnacle that puzzles me. Motorists who find their windshields infiltrated by Barnacles call a toll-free number for the code to remove the device and then receive an address and deadline for returning the Barnacle.

What’s to stop these drivers, who’ve already shown their disregard for parking laws, from tossing the Barnacle in the nearest trash can? Will there be Barnacle-recovery regulations and punishments to enforce on top of parking fines?

The Barnacle is made by Barnacle Parking Enforcement.

Read the article here.

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Scofflaws Get Towed in Kittery, Maine

In Kittery, Maine, city officials are enforcing the city’s parking regulations with gusto. According to seacoastonline.com, drivers with five or more unpaid parking tickets will have their vehicles towed and will not be able to collect their vehicles until they have paid their fines. Kittery Police Chief James Soucy says many of the scofflaws are workers from the nearby Portsmouth Naval Shipyard who do not live locally, but park off the base to avoid traffic.

Kittery leaders aren’t just delivering punishment, they also have plans to improve parking options in the city.

Interim Town Manager Carol Granfield has been working with business owners and other town officials to figure out ways to utilize more parking in the area and inform visitors where that parking is located.

I like to see a city apply its laws and do so in a way that is just and sensible. Anybody with more than five unpaid parking tickets needs to experience consequences. If there were no parking on the base, I’d have some compassion for shipyard workers who have no choice but to park illegally in order to get to work, but I doubt that’s the case.

What I’d like to see even more is someone make an income off this scenario. Shipyard workers need offsite parking at reasonable daily, weekly or monthly parking – and maybe a shuttle. Would that be so difficult?

Read the article here.

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No News is Not an Option

We used to call the way a news story played out a “spin.” The word refers to the way the news writers contextualize information so that readers absorb the details and the meta messages – meta messages being underlying themes that are implied and inferred, but not shared explicitly. I think the days of the spin are over and we’ve reached anew stage in news gathering and dissemination: the spin has turned into a tornado.

There are so many online “news” sources providing so much “news” to the public that a spin is no longer enough to attract readers. Media outlets are forced to provide quadruple the content of 15 years ago with a fraction of the contributors. Competition is heavy and the best way to attract readers is to take the news and embellish. Unnamed sources, opinion pieces dotted with facts, and outright fabrication are all tools for the masses of online news publications.

For example, Teresa Keegan, a columnist at the Denver Post, recently wrote about parking problems in the city. She says there is an “affordable parking crisis” in downtown Denver.

Since parking lots are in short supply, then why not use parking meters?  Good luck finding one.  Prospective parkers are often confronted with entire city blocks of parking meters covered with red bags, meaning all parking, including loading and unloading, is prohibited.  Even if an open meter can be located, a variety of restrictions ensure that it is really only available on alternate Tuesdays between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. Defy those restrictions and your car will be towed.

I can’t tell you one way or another whether Keegan’s impression of parking in Denver is accurate, but she’s written about it and it has been published in a reputable newspaper online and probably in print. Her opinion has been countered by another columnist, Davis Sachs from denver.streetsblog.org, who writes:

In fairness to Keegan, who works for the Denver courts system, she’s probably not the only person who thinks that Denver needs more free parking. It’s really the Post’s fault for publishing drivel and trying to pass it off as informed opinion. More to the point, downtown parking shouldn’t be cheap, because it’s expensive to build and maintain and takes up a lot of scarce space. If the people who use parking don’t pay for its full costs, then everyone else will end up paying instead.

Who’s right? Are either of these writers experts on Denver area parking? My point is, that these are both opinion pieces and not news. Keegan and Sachs have space to fill and a word count to meet and that is their primary objective – find something to write about and make it sound interesting and credible whether it is or not.

A blog, even this one, shouldn’t ever be mistaken for news – it’s primarily a one-sided discussion of current events. It can provide insight and accurate information, but that’s not its true function. Its true function is to draw readers and encourage conversation.

We are all inundated with information on TV, on the internet, on our phones and through social media, but it’s up to us to separate the news, which consists of true and verified facts from knowledgeable sources, from the spin.


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Summit needs more parking; Uber to the rescue

I was muttering a few months ago about not worrying about UBER, but joining forces. Astrid is back at the helm of Parknews.biz (thank heaven) after a short vacation and posted  this story about Summit , NJ, and its agreement with Uber.

It seems the local train station parking was over crowded and the city was on the verge of building a $10MM parking structure. Enter Uber.  The ride share company will take folks to and from the station for ‘free’ or for a very low charge (the same as if they had parked.) Summit picks up the difference.

It will cost the city about $167,000 a year, a heck of a lot less than the cost of the new  structure.

Parkers that want to park get a place to park, those that can’t or don’t wish to drive get to the station, the taxpayers of Summit save millions. This seems like a win, win, win to me.

Instead of stewing over the influx of Uber, someone in Summit decided to use them to the benefit of everyone in the city, 30 miles for NYC.   Congratulations to Summit and its far thinking city dads and moms.


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PARCS don’t help if you don’t turn them on

After my talk at the SWPTA in Las Vegas, a bright young parking manager came up to me with a story — It seems he ran a garage for a major complex in downtown Las Vegas. He had been on his senior management to install a PARCS system because he knew that he had no control over the monies flowing into the garage without it.

Finally they acquiesced, and a full blown system was purchased and installed.  The income immediately jumped nearly 100%, yes doubled. and was continuing to increase. Although pleased, his management asked why they hadn’t installed the system sooner. He responded with a folder full of requests he had made going back three years, from the time he took the job.

The conversation got me to wondering about the garage where I had parked. It had a PARCS system installed, but the gates were open.  I was handed a ticket that had been stamped with  hand time clock. When I returned, I was to give the ticket to the attendant, who then computed the fee in their head, and collected the money — Somewhere between $10 and 20.  The ticket was not numbered in any way.

My friend laughed and said that was the system in the garage he took over. When the garage I parked in saw that his garage was installing a PARCS system they decided to do the same. However when they heard how much money had been lost at his garage before PARCS, the management was afraid to turn it on.

They were concerned, he told me, that they would not be able to justify the losses.  It would cost them their jobs.  So they left the gates up, didn’t turn on the system, and hoped to just muddle on through.

My friend noted that he would have been in the same position if he had not starting writing (Documenting) the situation when he came on board.

The Moral of the Story: Get in front of problems. Talk to your supervisors and document problems. When changes are made, you won’t have to be looking over your shoulder, unless, of course, you are the one with your hand in the till.



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UK Parking Dispute Goes R-Rated

It shouldn’t surprise me how far people are willing to go to address their parking issues. It shouldn’t, but it often does. There are the people who make fake handicapped placards, people who create fake parking spots, people who “lose” parking garage tickets in hopes of a free exit, and even people who claim public parking spots for private use (with the help of traffic cones, custom-painted sidewalks, and official-looking signage). According to plymouthherald.co.uk, the latest in creative, but evil parking behavior, has taken an off-color turn.

Somebody in Penryn, UK, got so fed up with parking congestion at a free lot near his/her house that he/she supplied a sign imposing a parking ban in the area. The offending party piled insult onto injury by including an info number on the sign that connects callers to a phone sex line.

But when confused drivers called to check why the sudden ban had been introduced – they were shocked when a kinky voice answered the phone.

I’ll admit, this story gave me a good laugh, even though I know it was probably not at all funny to the parkers who got an earful of pillow talk – or worse. It just goes to show that people go crazy about parking. Penryn leadership have released a warning that the number on the sign is falsified, and definitely not toll free.

The Facebook post says: “Please be advised that a sign purporting to be from the ‘Penryn Car Parking Association’ forbidding parking which is posted on a garden fence which borders Permarin car park has not been authorised by either Penryn Town Council nor Cornwall Council.

I can’t imagine why a warning needed to be issued if the sign was going to be removed immediately, but the article does not clarify on that count.

Click here to read the article.

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The Best Prospect for a Parking Job — Clerk in a Dentist Office

I was honored to be asked to speak at the Southwest Parking and Transportation Association a couple of weeks ago in Las Vegas. Their incoming President Julie Dixon said she wanted an ‘interactive’ presentation. So I decided to interview the audience.

I went armed with questions and after five minutes of self serving promotion about Parking Today I began.

“How many parking citations that could be written, aren’t?”  That is, what percentage of drivers that break parking laws get away with it. The responses covered the gamut from 10 to 90 percent. Of course we don’t know the exact number, but most enforcement officers agree that 90 percent of tickets never get written for a number of reasons.

This began a free flowing discussion of whether or not we SHOULD write 100 percent.  We could — it would take an investment in staff and equipment but we could. The consensus was that we shouldn’t. That parking citations aren’t meant to be punitive, but are a tool to be used to alter parker’s behavior. Fair enough.

Other questions had to do with technology. Do we need a professionally trained IT person on our staff?  Most agreed we did, however, some commented that it was difficult because many organizations (cities, Universities, hospitals, etc) have IT departments and that senior management often says “use what we already have.”  This is difficult since most parking people don’t speak in “IT” and getting things done can be problematic at best. It was suggested that someone schooled in IT be hired, but that perhaps their position could be “technology coordinator” or the like. They could act as a translator between parking speak and ‘geek’ speak.

The most interesting discussion came when I asked what ‘kind’ of background each had before they were in parking.  The answers ranged from park ranger to dental office manager or restaurant manager, from police to managing the environmental issues in the city (trash collection.)

They told me that they like to hire people who had experience in serving the public. Facetiously I commented that they would then hire a front line server from MacDonald’s.  I was immediately told that I was right. People who had to deal with the public, take abuse, make quick decision, and keep a smile on their faces where perfect candidates. One woman said that she would hire a clerk from a dentist office. “After all,” she said, “you are facing someone who has cotton stuffed in their mouth, perhaps a little blood on their lip, and half their face paralyzed with Novocaine, and your job is to collect the fee before their leave.”  That comment brought down the house.

Its good to get out of our ivory towers and talk to the folks in the real parking world. They are tough, funny, and really smart. They know their jobs and have a wisdom that is beyond many professions.

These folks at the SWPTA are focused, engaged, and tell it like it is. My hat is off to them.


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Why do we go to Trade Shows, Anyway?

We just returned from the NPA Annual Convention in Atlanta. My any measure it was a successful event. There were lots of attendees and lots of exhibitors.  There were interesting sessions and beaucoup after parties. Why do we go?

If we have been to three or four events in a year, we have seen all the equipment. We have met the people. We have head the presentations. Parties — we can go to them without spending big bucks to get there. Why?

I asked my staff that question this morning and got different answers from each one.

One represented the exhibitors — They go to sell, to meet new customers. They spend money to make money.  I asked one exhibitor why she was there — she told me she went to see existing customers and cement relationships with them. She could see a bunch of people all in one place at one time, it was a very cheap sales call.

Another exhibitor told me that they use the trade event as a marker in time. It is when they launch new products and so they have deadlines created by trade show organizers. That seems reasonable.  We would never publish Parking Today if we didn’t have a deadline.

Another PT Staffer said that she went to meet people. Not just our customers, but people from across the industry. She told me that it gave her an insight into parking that she couldn’t get anywhere else. People who attend shows, she said, have more than a passing interest in their profession. They are engaged. Those are the people she wanted to meet. The parties were good for that. People relax a bit and maybe a bit of the real person comes out.

One of our managers who had been attending shows for decades said that the shows were a magnet for people, but that a lot of the business, the business of commerce and the business of meeting, was done away from the trade show floor. She said that PIE attendees told her they liked our show because it was smaller, more intimate, and that it was all located in one compact hotel in Chicago. It was easy to find people, easy to sit with them and just talk. Some shows, she told me, are so big and spread out one on one conversations require an appointment weeks in advance.

In all the cases above, the common denominator is meeting people. There may be different reasons — sell, learn, gossip, make friends, solidify relationships, buy – but the key is meeting.

You don’t go to a football game to meet people. There are plenty of people there, but truthfully, too many people. If you go to a dinner party in a private home, you meet people, but not very many. You need to go to an event that is large enough to attract the people you need, but small enough not go gobble you up. You also need to go to an event that has ‘new’ people. Seeing the same folks year after year may be fun, but few of the reasons above revolve around ‘fun.’

I think many attendees, and vendors, go to the event and just let it wash over them. They attend parties, drink a bit too much, sleep late, attend some sessions, and walk through the exhibit hall. They then head for the airport and when home, tell the boss it was the “same old, same old.”

I wonder how many plan what they are going to do before they go to the show. I had one main goal at the NPA event and I nailed it. I wanted to meet one person and set up a dialogue. It didn’t just happen, I caused it to happen.

I think that people who attend these events and don’t have a plan of attack are wasting both their time and the time of those around them at the show. There’s the vendor who sits in his booth playing with his smart phone, while 500 people walk by, and then complains he got no business.  There’s the attendee from a city’s enforcement operation who attended the Skidata party because it was at a fancy nightclub, but missed the T2 and Nupark events which were at the same time and just down the hall.

These conferences are big business.  They cost a fortune to put on and a fortune to attend. If you attend, remember that it is business, and figure out why you are going. Then go and profit from the time invested.



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Boise Gives Up on Ticket Collection, Justice

In Boise, Idaho, a huge backlog of unpaid parking tickets has cost the city almost a million dollars. An article on americancityandcountry.com reports that Boise officials have just written off 47,000 tickets that haven’t been paid and can’t be enforced. According to the article, the city can tow and send collection notices for unpaid parking tickets, but it can’t take the issue any further. City leaders have an interesting way of making up for the loss of income: selling items seized by police that have not been picked up by their owners.

Many items that were auctioned were stolen items that the original owners never claimed, according to Boise Weekly. Local law enforcement requires that owners claim items of theirs that have gone missing within 90 days, until the objects are turned over to an Idaho auctioneer.

The auction, held in August, included tools, guns, jewelry, motorcycles, automobiles, electronics, recreational vehicles and bicycles. The profits go to the general funds of Boise and Ada County.

At the risk of sounding like a 5th grader, I say that’s not fair!

Don’t get me wrong, I know the city can’t store these items forever, and in many cases, the owners are definitely never coming back. But for quite a few people, it might be that they just don’t know their belongings have been recovered. Why do people who break the law by parking illegally find such easy forgiveness, but people whose cars and jewelry and firearms are stolen have no choice but to make those items a donation to the city’s budget?

Probably, the abandonment of efforts to collect parking tickets and the choice to sell unclaimed items were separate decisions, but when you consider them together, it looks bad. The punishment for being the victim of a crime appears to be worse than the punishment for commiting one.

Read the article here.

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NPA Conference and Expo off to Fast Start

The National Parking Association is holding its annual convention in Atlanta this week.  It started last night with a parking star studded event on the 70 plus story roof of the Downtown Westin.  I spent a few minutes there but my acrophobia kicked in and I huddled in a hallway and friends brought adult beverages.  They didn’t help but I was able to escape down an interior elevator.

My spies tell me that the event was first rate, with everyone who is anyone in the industry in attendance. Names like Lazowski, Skillette, Israel, Carter, Holleran,  Harwood, Pinyot, Beaman, Young, Manno, Walker, McLaurin, Pratt, Wolfe, Oglesvy, Jones, and of course Banning were seen among the 500 or so who attended the event.

Tuesday breakfast brought the keynote session with Bryan Mistele of INRIX providing food for thought on how connected and self driving vehicles may change the parking landscape. The rest of the day will bring breakout sessions, plus the opening of the trade show. The convention runs through Thursday.

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