Are Parking Meters the Next Buggy Whip?

I was interviewed today by the Kiplinger Group. They are doing some research on the next 10 things that are going the way of the dodo. They wanted to talk to me about Parking Meters.

They are located in DC and Pay by Cell has been very successful there. They noticed that single space meters were being replaced by meters with credit card readers and multispace pay and display machines.  So, they asked:  Are parking meters on the way out, and within the next 10 years will they be gone, like the fabled buggy whip?

I told them that as technology has inundated the parking industry, many devices have been shown the door.  When was the last time you saw a time clock in a parking booth, or an honor box, or for that matter a parking booth, or an insert card reader. What about hand written parking tickets, or for that matter, meters that require you to turn a crank to post the time. What about parking lots covered with dirt, or concrete barrels used in place of a “Denver Boot.”

Wait!!! We see all those things still alive and well, probably in more than half of our parking operations. Many have been replaced, but many have been simply upgraded and the operation carries on. So maybe we aren’t becoming techno wizards quite as quickly as we think.

I know that IPS has hedged its bets by expanding its smart parking meter line to include Pay and Display/Space.

So what did I tell Kiplinger?

Its simple — technology moves on — We don’t fly around the US in DC3s, nor do we talk on cell phones the size of Max Smart’s loafer. I don’t think you can buy a ‘standard’ TV at Best Buy or Costco, they are all flat screen. The parking industry is similar.

There are many changes going on, and many new technologies being brought to bear on parking. However the basic things are still there and will be for some time. Pay by Cell will not replace some type of meter for many years. “Connected” cars won’t replace pay by cell for what, a decade.

But I know that all these technologies are bridge technologies.  They are getting us across a canyon and filling in until the next technology comes along.

What will it be?  Here’s my best guess:  One day, all cars will have an internal gizmo that identifies the car and its location (can you say GPS) to a satellite monitoring such things. When the car parks, whether in a structure, lot, or on street, the “system” will know all about that spot.  Whether its legal to park there, how much to charge, and how long you can park. You will be notified by your onboard display as to all this information. When you leave, your account will be charged for the parking. If you overstayed or parked too near a fire hydrant, you will be mailed a citation, your account already having been charged for the infraction. Bern Grush call your office.

Of course that assumes transporters haven’t been invented yet.


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Drive Up Donations

Just when you start to think the world is a dirty, ugly, awful place, you read about parking meter donations raising $8,500 for the homeless. In San Luis Obispo, reports, special parking meters places throughout the city give residents and visitors a chance to help those in need by simply donating while they pay for their parking.

The meters are part of a pilot program called Change for Change that goes through April 2016.

The meters are also meant to help discourage people from donating directly to panhandlers: they are printed with the slogan “Change for Change – Handouts Don’t Help.”

The money collected was recently presented to the Friends of Prado Day Center by the City of San Luis Obispo, the Downtown Association and United Way.

Read the article here.

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Mea Culpa

Editor’s note: Sometime-PT Correspondent Jeff Pinyot, President of Eco Parking Lights, posted a commentary on the IPI website (Parking Matters: The Blog) that piqued my curiosity. He seems to, relatively successfully, hold both sides of a controversy. Here’s his blog posting without IPI editing, followed by my comments. JVH

In the September issue of Parking Today, I reprinted a commentary by Jeff Pinyot with notes (above) that some may have considered a negative bend towards the editorial process of the IPI. I in no way intended it to be received in that manner.  I simply reprinted Jeff’s original editorial as it was originally written before editing by the IPI as I felt it gave me more material to comment on in its longer version and if compared with the original blog readers would understand that I was working off an original version supplied by Jeff.

I am sorry if any of the IPI management, board, editors, or membership felt put upon by my comments above. Mea Culpa


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Is All Parking Local?

The late great Tip O’Neill, political powerhouse from Massachusetts, claimed that all politics were local. He had a point. people tend to vote their pocketbooks and there is nothing more local than your bank account.

I attended a local parking event here in LA last night. It was a ‘mixer,’ sponsored by a local parking equipment dealer, Sentry Control Systems, and put on by their Marketing Manager, Whitney Taylor, a dynamic powerhouse of the “rising tide raises all boats’ mode.

Anyone in the parking business was invited and about 60 showed up. The adult beverages were consumed, h’ors oeuvres were eaten, and conversation flowed. There was no real selling, just an opportunity for people who were competitors during the day, to put aside differences and chat and gossip. Whitney does this quarterly.

While there I ran into Julie Dixon of Dixon Resources Unlimited. She told me about a seminar she held in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. It was about parking meters. She invited the local cities to send whomever they wanted and expected about a dozen attendees. Over 50 turned up.

A friend of mine in the business was at Whitney’s event last night and said — “Wow, this is great, the local LA Parking association should be doing this.”  I smiled. I knew why this was successful.

Whitney. She doesn’t have an organization, a membership, a group, an agenda (well maybe a little one). She knows that if she can get 60 or 80 people together to talk for a few hours in an evening, she is successful. And if she meets someone that perhaps could buy her product, so much the better.

Most of the work done in organizations like the IPI, NPA, CPPA, MAPA, and the rest is done by very few people. There aren’t a lot with the energy and focus of a Whitney Taylor.

Another reason for Whitney’s and Julie’s success — it was local. These are events for people in LA or San Francisco. They aren’t sponsored by an organization in DC, or a Magazine a thousand miles away.  They were local, and the people with their boots on the ground could attend.

More power to Julie and Whitney and others who sponsor these types of local events. They make a difference. Tip O’Neill knew that. For all its grand organizations, all his huge companies, all its high tech service, in the end parking, too, is local.






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University Parking Often Scores Low

It wouldn’t be college without some parking issues – learning to deal with adversity is an important part of being an adult. Students at Missouri State University are having a hard time finding parking, in part because of the loss of 500 spaces to construction projects, reports the university’s newspaper The Standard.

University parking authorities say there is plenty of parking in two outlying lots, but acknowledge those lots are not the most desirable.

“There’s parking, but not as much convenient parking,” Parking-transit supervisor Earl Wall said.

Who are we kidding? These are college students – they’re not exactly showing up early for class. When I was in college, the only time I tried to drive onto campus was when I knew I’d never make the walk fast enough to be on time to class.

I think a lot of universities would save themselves a lot of trouble by putting all of their parking in outlying areas. This way, nobody has any illusion they might find a spot any closer than a 10 to 15 minute walk. It would save a lot of driving around make the permit schedule much simpler.

For the rest of the article, click here.

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Fine with fines

I don’t know what’s crazier: municipalities forcing people to pay for messed up parking tickets, or people spending huge amounts of time and energy to fight a messed up parking ticket, most especially when the ticket was only for $65.

Here’s how it went: A woman parks on a New York City street to pick up her husband from the hospital. She misses all the signs that say she needs to pay to park, including the signs and the meters themselves. She helps her husband, who’s suffering from cancer, to the car and finds two tickets on her windshield. Both tickets are for parking illegally, but one is for parking illegally on a street she isn’t actually parked on. She is more than willing to pay the fine for parking illegally, but only wants to pay the fine for parking illegally on the street where she parked illegally. She doesn’t think it’s right that she’s asked to pay a fine for parking illegally on a street where she didn’t park.

She appeals the ticket and even goes so far as to ask the hospital for video footage showing she was in the hospital collecting her husband during the time she was fined for parking illegally nowhere near the hospital. Her appeal is denied. She contacts’s Bamboozled columnist and asks for help. Bamboozled is unable to contact anyone at the city offices who can address the problem. The woman then gives up and pays the fine so she can drive in to New York without the threat of a warrant for her arrest.

Though we can all understand the principle of the thing, I think there’s something to be said for considering the cost of living within the system and leaving it at that. Mistakes will be made and sometimes they will not be made in our favor. There’s not much intelligence in a system that allows for this much error, but there is intelligence in weighing the cost against your time and your peace of mind.

Read the article here.

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Machines don’t run without people

There was a time when people speculated that machines would eventually rule the world, but I think it’s been pretty well established that machines need people. We might all become slaves to our automated infrastructure, but we will still rule the world. Case in point, two parking meters in the city of Hudson, NY, broke down earlier this year and nobody fixed them. According to the Register-Star, the result was huge revenue loss.

While receipts at the Front Street lot, $92,145, are at 58 percent of what was budgeted for this year, $160,000, City Treasurer Heather Campbell said, they are only at 42 percent of what was budgeted for 2013, $217,279, and she assumes the lower number is because of the machines.

Initially, there was some indecision about who would fix the machines and where the money would come from to fix them. That delay left the meters broken long enough to cost the city some serious cash. The machines have been repaired now. It was reported that one needed a new motherboard and both needed new modems. The repair cost was $3,000.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Dennis Quinn

We have received word that Dennis Quinn, longtime parking fixture in the Chicago area, passed away on August 16 after a long illness.  He was a senior member of the management team at System Parking, and became a VP at ABM when it purchased system.

If you have more information on Dennis’ life, please let me know


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Back-in Parking too Tough for Some

In Paw Paw, Mich. residents are not completely sure the city’s new “back-on” policy is so simple. Fox News reports Paw Paw’s downtown is plagued with speed issues, congestion issues, and pedestrian and cyclist safety issues. They are trying to address the problems with a slew of new ordinances and infrastructure changes.

Village Manager Larry Nielsen told FOX 17 that by decreasing Michigan Avenue traffic lanes down to two, then adding a bicycle lane and angled parking, officials hope to draw more people to the area and safely, to make the village “a place where people drive to rather than drive through.”

The emphasis on back-in parking is meant to protect cyclists in the bicycle lane between the parking spots and the road. But a vocal number of residents say back-in parking doesn’t work because other drivers don’t understand what the back-in parker is trying to do. They ignore the blinker and crowd the driver attempting to park and then the whole thing falls apart.

“That is the stupidest road I’ve ever seen,” said John Fouth, Paw Paw resident. “I’ve traveled this country, all 48 states, Canada, Mexico, and I have never seen a fiasco like what you’ve got going on downtown. Strictly stupid, dumb, period.”

If only Mr. Fouth could be more specific about his opinions.

The program has been in place for just a week now and city leaders hope the entire project will be completed next year.

Read the article here.

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JerkTech — What’s that all about?

Tech Crunch coined a new term, JerkTech. according to them:

“All of these apps are essentially tools for scalping a public good or open resource. They don’t deserve to take something that’s supposed to be free and first come, first serve so they can sell it.”

Politicians have picked it up. They are running after Monkey Parking and Haystack certain that the two apps and others like it will end civilization as we know it. In some cases, like the app Uber which is going  eye to eye with the taxi industry or Airbnb which is taking hotels by storm they have become multi billion dollar industries.

In the case of Uber, you use your smart phone to get a clean cheap ride in a ‘private’ car. Taxi’s hate it because their monopoly is gone. Tens of thousands of car owners, mostly young, are working part time giving people a lift. Uber says they are all insured, and all the financial details are handled on line.  You just ride in comfort. So if taxis are to survive, they will have to change the way they operate. Doesn’t seem like a bad thing.

Airbnb is turning the travel industry on its ear. If you have an apartment or house somewhere and aren’t going to be using it, list on Airbnb and most likely someone will sigh up to take it off your hands for a few days. Its self policing and if your place turns out to be a dump, you will never get another visit. I’ve used it three times and found it just what I needed.

But, what about Haystack. Its an app that allows you to notify other members of Haystack when you are about to leave an onstreet parking spot and sell that information to someone who want’s a spot in that neighborhood. You wait until the other person shows up, pull out and they pull in.  I’m assuming that the money clears through the app. Neat and Clean.

Not so, says San Francisco and Boston. In Beantown the mayor said :

“Here we have a company that wants to come in here, create an industry, and profit from it,” Walsh told the Boston Business Journal.

O good heavens, the humanity… The mayor goes on:

“They’re basically squatting in publicly owned spots and selling those spots. You’re selling something that’s not yours… It’s just not fair.”

He sounds like a three year old in a sand box.

But hold on. How is this app affecting the city. They are getting full revenue from the parking spots. No one is taking anything away. If they are so concerned about driver A giving driver B the rest of the time on the meter, get with the program and reset the meter when driver A leaves.  I’m not in favor of that, but you could do it.

Pass an ordinance and tax Haystack, so much a transaction, or a percentage of the take.

Everyone is threatening law suits, but I can’t figure out who is harmed here.  This month in PT we had a cover story about Monkey Parking by Lenny Bier, lawyer, executive director to the New Jersey Parking Institute and all round good parking guy.  He comes down pretty hard on the app, basically saying that it will cause congestion and cause a ripple in the force of dynamic parking. Don Shoup call your office.

It seems to me that Lenny’s concern about taxi drivers making this a second business is a stretch since they will have to pay to park at the meter and it takes them out of circulation.  If they get only about $3 to 5 bucks a go but end up paying the same amount to park, it seems to me that those shrewd cabbies will learn quickly there is no money in this.

As for getting cars off the street quickly, if someone snags a space on main street through Haystack and has to be there in 3 minutes or it is gone, it seems like we are getting cars off the street pretty quickly. But what do I know.

I do know that the city could make more money by taxing these apps than complaining about them.

Taxis are going to have to clean up their act because of Uber, maybe on street parking will have to do the same because of Haystack.

Who knows.

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