Off the Record

As I mentioned before, I spoke to someone at VISA who actually was clear and concise about what the upcoming migration to chip cards (EMV) means to the parking industry, both to the vendors and to the organizations that actually accept credit cards. He also told me that he couldn’t speak ‘on the record’.  I figured that since he didn’t mince words, told the truth, and was clear.  Almost exactly the opposite of those who CAN speak ‘on the record.’ He promised to get me the name of someone who could.

I think that this all goes back to our litigious society.  VISA is afraid of being sued, so they limit the amount of information available to the public. After it has been cleansed, edited, approved by legal, the release is basically useless.  VISA isn’t alone.  Fear is rampant in boardrooms across the fruited plain.  A slip of the tongue and millions in liability money could change hands. Quotes also have political ramifications.

Wherever I go, I get it. “Is this off the record?”  Last Friday I had some adult beverages with a group of friends from the industry. I asked a question. The first words were “is this off the record.” Sigh –

I was interviewing the parking manager for a medium size city a couple of years ago.  I asked him whether the policy of the city in setting rates and enforcement rules was based on protecting the parking resource or to generate money. He said “On the record or off the record?”

I said on the record:  He said – “Of course we set policy to protect the resource, to have as many spaces available to the public and to support our merchants. Parking is extremely important not only to individual drivers, but also to business in our community. I can’t say enough about how the mayor and the city council have been working to make our city ‘parking centric.”

I then said “off the record:”  “Are you nuts, of course we set policy to maximize revenue. We are constantly looking for money for the general fund and parking is a cash cow.”

Hmmmm   Interesting different approach, on or off the record. Which one do you think was the truth and not BS.

Unfortunately journalists need to keep the faith. If we didn’t, no one would talk to us more than once.


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EMV Info Featured in Parking Technology Today

I am up to my ears in Parking Technology Today, PT’s all technology sister. It will be coming out in July.  I have reached out to a number of my tech friends and have gotten a list of topics for the mag.

Topping the list are EMV and PCI. If you don’t know what they are, you have been living on another planet for the last year.  But I will expound.

EMV stands for Europay Mastercard VISA and is the international standard for credit cards and their usage. What it means to you is that in the very near future all the cards in your wallet will be exchanged to ones that not only have a mag stripe on the back, but also a computer chip. Thrilling so far.

I just got off the phone with VISA and got all the cool information about the migration from mag stripe to chip cards. It was in a language that I could understand, and so could you. There is a problem…It was off the record — the fellow I spoke to was not authorized to speak to the press.  However he is sending me the name of someone who can. In the meantime I can say only one thing — taken from the Hitchhikers guide — Mostly Harmless.

PCI is the security protocol that anyone taking credit cards (that probably means you) must follow.  Its complex, difficult, and expensive. There has been PCI2.0, PCI2.0 and now here comes PCI3.0.   I have spoken to numerous folks about this and frankly eyes tend to glaze over after the first sentence.  However it is important. I can say this: Disregard at your peril.

PTT is coming and will have the definitive information. I will also blog here as soon as I get the facts. If possible.


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Perfect Parking Doesn’t Exist

I don’t know if it’s an American thing or not, but I’d be willing to bet it is: we expect perfection a lot more often than it’s realistically possible. Let’s just say we expect it for two hours a day, when 5 minutes is about all that we’re ever going to get. I know the perfection of a day at the beach or a hike in the mountains, but I don’t know the perfection of a car that never breaks down or weather that never spoils my plans. Parkers, in particular, expect their experiences to be perfect, despite the fact that they involve other human beings, complicated infrastructure, and developing technology.

In Miami, a robotic garage in a condominium is delivering a much less than perfect experience for residents, reports People who live at Brickell House say the $16 million robotic parking system is making them wait for up to an hour on busy weekday mornings.

“I’ve already been late to several, important board meetings at work,” said Beatriz Guerrero, a marketing executive who moved into the tower at 1300 Brickell Bay Drive two months ago. “I’m worried about losing my job.”

The condo’s ownership is planning to shut down the system down over Memorial Day to make improvements that will address the logjam.

“The way I see it is no different from when the first iPhone came out,” said Harvey Hernandez, the building’s developer. “How many updates did you have to do to fix every little issue? It was brand new technology. So is this.”

“The issues are not a surprise to us because we knew that once the occupancy of the building increased there were going to be things we needed to adjust,” Hernandez continued. “We’re learning the parking behavior of the residents.”

But people don’t like to be guinea pigs. If you promise them a robotic parking garage that delivers their car in 10 minutes, that’s what the expect, and you can’t really blame them. It will be better for their blood pressure if they learn to live with imperfection, and wait for all the kinks to be worked out, but that’s asking a lot when what they’d rather do is sue you.

The New Jersey-based company called Boomerang Systems that built the system at Brickell House has already been sued for a garage system that didn’t meet the expectations of its owners. Adapting a robotic garage to the needs of its users while they are using it seems like a reasonable plan through the eyes of the developer, but for the user, it’s a broken promise.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Parking’s Rising Stars Can Bring Notice to the Indusrty

Parking is evolving every day, and it’s got some new super stars. Serge Gojkovich CEO of CurbStand was just included as a featured guest on Business Rockstars at One of the exciting aspects of this media attention is that notice it can bring to the parking industry.

Curbstand is an… iOS app that allows users to seamlessly locate, pay and tip for valet parking from their mobile devices.

Gojkovich has lived, worked and studied in Boston, Minneapolis and Los Angeles, where he is currently based. He regularly appears on industry panel discussions regarding application marketing, niche marketing, social networking apps, parking and travel.

Goijkovich has work within the industry for several years at ParkMe, but has also done marketing work for mobile apps in other industries. Still, as CEO of a parking app, his success could be a boon for all of parking. Each parking niche can, in some way, support the progress of the other, because they all serve different needs.

The trick is to make sure these rising parking figures feel they are a part of the industry, that they join parking organizations, are willing to represent parking as a whole and use their influence for its good.

Read the article here.

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Parking isn’t Going Away

A new app-driven driver service promises users they will never have to park again. According to, Zirx provides personal valet parking services. Users summon a valet who takes their car to the nearest Zirx parking lot and returns with it when requested. It’s not a car-sharing system, it’s a delegate-your-parking issues system. Zirx just started operating in San Diego. It already works in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

In San Diego, the average price to park is just under $10 an hour, and $19 a day. Comparing these rates to the app, Zirx starts at $15 a day, and you can add extras. For instance: Agents can top off your gas tank or get a car wash. “Details, tire rotated… anything you might need.”

Services like Zirx make the parking industry nervous, but they’re not really doing away with parking lots or the need to park. They’re saving people the trouble of parking their cars themselves. But parking is still a requirement. Somebody has to help Zirx meet the needs of its customers by providing the infrastructure for its valet parking services. Parking isn’t going away.

Read the rest of the article here.

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What if they Price Parking Spaces like Airline Seats

I had a broad ranging discussion the other night with SMC’s Mike Harley and his charming wife (and PTT Cover Girl) Mayra. Mike’s history is in the airline and auto rental business. He was musing as to why one couldn’t price parking space like you price rental cars, airline seats or hotel rooms.

He said that when he ran a rental car company, he had literally thousands of rates depending on the date, time, and most importantly the supply of cars available and the demand. He noted that here in LA on that evening, standard cars were going for $129 a day, while eight passenger vans were going at $29 a day. It was simple, they had only a few standard cars available, but a ton of vans.

Airline seats are priced the same way. I have noticed that prices vary depending on how long before the flight you book. If you book six months out it can be one price, but as time nears the price can go down, but if you wait too long it skyrockets. The airlines are experts at this. They factor in many things, but most have to do with how many seats are available and how many people want them.

What if a parking operator or an airport didn’t have a set price for parking spaces, but changed them based on availability and demand. I noted that a friend of mine who owns a lot across for Staples Center changes the price minute by minute on the nights that the Lakers Play.  As the tip off gets closer, he looks at his lot and the traffic and raiser the price based on his experience and ‘gut’ feel.  Sometimes the first spaces go for $20 and the last ones for $50.

Exactly, says Mike. If you reserve space in advance, you can secure a particular price, but if you drive up to the gate, the price might be considerably different, higher or lower. I noted the problem of communicating the price to the driver who ‘just drove up” and Mike and Mayra looked at each other and she said “variable signs.” The price could change hour by hour, minute by minute.  Mike laughed. “If you don’t reserve in advance, you could be hit with some world class sticker shock.”

He noted that it may take parking operators in downtown areas a while to get on board with this idea, but that airport operations (both on and off) are looking at it with considerable interest. Mike predicts that airport parking operations could greatly increase their revenue by using this demand based pricing…without increasing the supply at all.

Parkwhiz is already testing this with their parking facility owner partners in Chicago. If you book a parking space in advance the prices are $5 for the first hour, and max out at $15 for up to 12 hours. The rates can be as high as $25 or $30 or more. This benefits the parker, and also the parking garage, as they can predict their occupancies in advance adjust their non reserved spaces accordingly.

If you think this is the future, consider that the future just might be here and Mike and Mayra and their super software to help you drive it could be already in place.


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Lunch with Shoup — Always A Good Story or Two

When you dine with Don Shoup you can expect some great stories and our lunch this week was no exception. As you know, the Shoup Dogg is by profession an Urban Planner. His takedown of Los Angeles goes like this:

The city hired a world class Urban Planner to help guide it through its growth spurts and clean up some of the more dodgy areas in the “City of Angeles.”  As you know, LA is surrounded (or completely surrounds) other cities like West Hollywood, Culver City, Santa Monica, Manhattan and Redondo Beach, Glendale, Burbank, Beverly Hills and many more.  Often you can’t tell where one city stops and another begins.

The new planning boss asked to be given a tour of the city so she could get a feel for what was happening, design wise and planning wise in this world class metropolis. As the car turned a corner, she spotted a fine example of multiuse design. When she pointed out to her guide, she was told to disregard it because that area was Santa Monica, not LA.

They drove up Culver Boulevard having just turned off Sepulveda and she spotted another prime example of an urban area that had reinvented itself into a center for dining, clubs, and shopping.  The design was perfect for people watching and walking.  “Look the other way,” she was told. “That wasn’t LA, it was Culver City.”

As they drove down Santa Monica Boulevard her eye was caught by the beautiful designs in the median.  “Forget it, We are in West Hollywood.”

Shoup thought the story was humorous but also sad. Why could smaller communities be able to attract seemingly excellence in design, but the City of LA could not. I noted that perhaps it was a matter of scale. Culver City or West Hollywood or Santa Monica could afford to focus on esoterics, while LA had bigger problems. Perhaps the city could be broken up into ‘urban planning’ areas of say less than 100,000 people, and then that ‘inner planner’ could come out.

He was doubtful. The valley tried to secede a few years ago and was soundly rebuked by the powers that be in downtown LA.  They wanted control (and money).

Now I understood. It was politics. The bureaucracy needed to continue down a path that meant that 3000 miles of streets and 10,000 miles of pipes could not be repaired. Down a path that meant that neighborhoods could be ignored for years before any minor changes could be made.

Oh well, at least I’m getting my streets fixed.  Oh yeah, not this year…



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They Paved the Streets — What’s the next thing to happen

When we moved into our neighborhood about 30 years ago, the first thing that happened was that they repaved the streets.  We thought “wow”  the city is making our neighborhood perfect.  The next thing that happened, two months later, was that the street was torn up for a 48 inch gas pipeline to be buried 20 feet under the beautiful new pavement.

Fast forward 30 years. Our streets are crumbling. Its so bad that when their repair the potholes, the repair patches run together.  I will say, however, that the asphalt the gas company put over their pipeline is holding up super. Its perfect — there’s not a pothole, crack, or crevice. Now why can’t the city mix macadam like that.

What brought all this to mind is that they repaved the streets outside PTs offices here near LAX.  They needed it. We are in an industrial area and simis beat the pavement to death. The job was finished about three months ago.

Sure enough, day before yesterday a crew showed up and began cutting the street. They are from the Department of Water and Power. Seems a new water main was planned for the area. Today ten trucks and 20 workers are digging and cutting.

I guess there is no real mystery here. Who would expect the city to actually coordinate between departments so resurfacing could be timed AFTER the digging? Want to know where the next pipeline is going in. Find the street that has just been resurfaced.



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Cincinnati Mayor Vetos Residential Parking Plan

In a growing destination neighborhood called Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati, city leaders and residents have reached an impasse over parking. According to, the city has poured money into the OTR district and had success in creating a desirable retail and entertainment area. Residents in that neighborhood have benefited from improvements to streets and infrastructure, as well as tax abatements for housing.

Now that the area has become so popular, residents want permitted parking. They say they cannot even find parking in front of their own homes. Mayor John Cranley feels so badly for these people he’s accompanying their complaints with the worlds tiniest violin. And he has vetoed the residential parking permit plan, saying that people throughout the city have funded improvements to the OTR neighborhood, and they should all be allowed to park there. Cranley says:

This investment, combined with over a billion dollars in private investment, primarily by 3CDC, has created an exciting urban neighborhood that is a destination for visitors from across the region and beyond. People drive to OTR to enjoy its amenities. They need parking and are willing to pay for that parking.

The taxpayers made this happen. The taxpayers deserve a return on this investment. These are public streets and the people who paid for them should be able to use them.

It’s one thing to choose to live in a bustling downtown area, but it’s another to  have one created around you. It might be that the residents of OTR did not anticipate the drawbacks to making their neighborhood a destination. Maybe they didn’t like the plan in the first place, but now they need to decide if the parking challenges are worth the great ambiance and awesome restaurants. I know I’d choose boredom over traffic and congested parking any day of the week.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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Parking Lot Crashes Up in Vancouver

In Vancouver, CTV Vancouver reports that the annual number of auto collisions has increased slightly in the last 13 years, but the percentage of auto collisions that occur in parking lots has increased greatly. Between 1996 and 2013, the number of cars damaged in parking lots grew by 32 percent. The reason, according to the article, is bigger cars and  shrinking parking lots. The size of the parking stalls, despite suspicions, has not decreased.

Further study, as reported by the article, revealed that  stall sizes have not changed by more than 2 inches, but the lots themselves are on the smaller side.

Several cities contacted by CTV News confirmed that the minimum size of a parking stall hasn’t changed in decades. But the cost of land has gone up, which is a major incentive for developers that might have built larger lots to only build the minimum.

It’s true, cars are just getting bigger and bigger, and getting in and out of parking spots gets harder and harder. Sometimes it feels like backing up isn’t an act of calculating speed and space, but an act of faith. I don’t just close my eyes and hit the pedal, but I see other people do it. My tactic is to inch out very slowly, checking in each direction at each increment. Between the cars packed in so tightly and the pedestrians who forget there are cars in motion in the vicinity, it’s somewhat nerve-wracking.

I don’t have any solutions. I bought the smallest “big” car I could and park carefully. But cars aren’t going to get smaller – at least for the time being – and parking spots aren’t going to get larger. Maybe the future will bring smaller cars for everyone, or self driving cars that don’t need parking, or class action lawsuits against retailers that don’t provide safe parking. You never know. But, just to be clear, I’m on the side of personal responsibility all the way.

Click here for the rest of the article.

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