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Disruption, Thought Leaders, In the end, its Personal

I have thought that a “thought leader” was an expert in some field and when they spoke, pearls of wisdom issued forth. Recently my cynicism has resurfaced and I have become a skeptic. Particularly after reading “How to become a thought leader” by John Rampton. He posits:

In this post I’ll teach you some of the ways I became a thought leader and how you can become a thought leader in your industry:

  1. Create your personal brand. …

  2. Develop and manage a blog. …

  3. Start niche. …

  4. Locate and work with influencers. …

  5. Build a network. …

  6. Go beyond your own blog. …

  7. Say something new and disrupt thinking.

In other words, how to sell yourself.

It helps if you have a pedigree, like working at Cisco, Google, Amazon, maybe a high government job, or a senior professor at an ivy league university. Then, when you talk, people listen. But what do they hear?

My take is that they hear what you say, and then an hour later do one of two things. First they forget it and tell all their friends what a great talk it was (can you say Ted Talks) or second they take it as gospel and become an acolyte

I would be suspect of either result. Most likely the thought leader has a dog in the fight somewhere and is pitching his point of view, no matter how it differs from reality. For instance:

I could become a great pitch man or thought leader for Tesla. I live on the westside in Los Angeles. There are five Teslas within a block of my home. So if I look around, and take my neighborhood as typical, I could say that Teslas were taking over the world. My neighbors love them, I hear no complaints, all is right with the world.

Reality is, however, that my neighborhood is not typical. I live in a hotbed of high tech (just a mile from “silicon beach”) and techies seem to lean toward tech marvels like Teslas. However if I travel to the inland empire or Bakersfield or Temecula, I might go weeks without seeing a Tesla and be led to believe that they are a myth.

Depending on my location, I could be a thought leader regarding Teslas, pro or con.

Of course if I was recently retired from Telsa, then my thought leadership might really be suspect.

Looking back at ”how to become…”, above, I then jump to number seven. “Say something new (in other words make something up) and disrupt thinking.”

“Latest reports say Tesla will outsell General Motors in 2020.” It is completely bogus, made up out of whole cloth, but certainly a ‘new idea’ and completely disruptive in the auto industry. Since I am a thought leader, and ‘thoughts’ begin with me, who can say I’m wrong.

I’m not saying “thought leaders” are all related to P. T. Barnum, and if they make you think about something, all the better. But do that. Think. Consider. And then make up your own mind.

BTW, the top 36 most viewed Ted Talks are mostly about personal improvement, ideas that are not basically new, and not having anything to do with disruption. So, are these thought leaders most popular because they aren’t trying to disrupt, or because they are telling people what they want, or need, to hear. Whatever it is, its personal. The hell with Teslas, tell me how a car, any car, is going to affect, for better or worse, my (and my family’s) life. In the end, its personal.










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Autonomous Vehicles – What am I Missing Here?

I read on Park News that “Experts” are telling us that autonomous vehicles, when they arrive on the scene, will constantly be in motion, moving and picking up and dropping off, maybe except for the night shift.

What am I missing? If someone takes an autonomous vehicle to work in the morning, the only difference from today is that they are self-driving. The vehicle will take them to work, drop them off, and then what? Just who are they going to cruise around and pick up for the next trip?

OK, sure, there will be Uber style trips, but the vast majority of trips will be from home to work. And assuming after they drop someone off, they will need a place to wait until quitting time, when they take that person back home. It’s called parking.

The prof at Stanford quoted in the article are probably talking ‘first mile, last mile’. The autonomous vehicles will take people the first mile where they will get the train into town, and then the last mile from the station to work. But still, there will be a mad rush at, dare I say it, rush hour in the morning and evening, but the rest of the time most people will be at their desks slaving for the man.

Assuming AVs make any sense at all, is it reasonable that they will be cruising around between rush hours, looking for nonexistent passengers, creating congestion and pollution (yes, even electric cars create pollution.) I really can’t see it.

They will have to be parked, stored, or whatever one might call it.

Wait, you say, they can drive back to the burbs and take kids to school, parents on errands, and then return in the evening to bring the worker bees back. Oh please. Think about it. Now instead of two rush hours, we have four.

I”ll give Mark Lawrence at SpotHero his due. He was commenting on the fact that AVs will have to park but will need a predetermined place and also need to pay when they do. Technology will out and take care of that (Including Spot Hero’s). Parking isn’t going away, it just will be different.

The Stanford Prof is living in his Ivory Tower. He see’s AVs queueing like taxi ranks when not in use. However there will be tens of thousands of them and certainly no room for them to ‘rest’ at curbside waiting for a call. I guess there is no place off street for them to wait for the next call. Its almost like these professors have never commuted, driven in the city, or lived the life in the real world.

My wife, Robyn, who has a PhD in Microbiology, has told me many times that the three letters stand for “piled higher and deeper.”



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Surveys – Are they worth the Money?

From time to time I am approached by companies and asked to spend an hour or so on the phone answering questions about our industry. I’m happy to do so as I learn a considerable amount from the questions that are asked. Mostly about how naive surveyors are about the industries they are surveying.

The goal of the survey is to prepare a report that can be sold, at a pretty high price often in four figures, to those in the industry who are making decisions that will affect their companies for years to come.

My problem is that the surveys may fall short. When I read the ‘Executive Summary” and find a section that is obviously wrong, I then see the rest as suspect.

A year or so ago I got my hands on a report that was focused on PARCS companies. It listed 8 companies that it felt were the major players in the industry. Of the eight, three had been purchased by other companies and ceased to exist, two were small and inconsequential, and only three were large enough and still in existence so as to have any impact at all.  Off the top of my head I could list another 10 international firms that were making huge inroads into the market. I immediately discounted the rest of the report they were selling at $2500 a pop.

The well-known research firm that called me the other day gave me a list of half a dozen firms that provided on street enforcement, meters, and like services. Once again, two were already snapped up by competitors and a number of new entrants in the marketplace were disregarded. One company that had been split into three parts and sold off nearly a decade ago was listed as a major player. I tried to correct the list for them, but who knows just how successful I was. They seemed to be more concerned about ‘how long is a piece of string’ questions and less about the facts on the ground.

Purchasing surveys like this is a caveat emptor situation. Let the buyer beware.


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Disruption, Parking Style

My lunch on Friday with Don Shoup and Mike Manville at UCLA was entertaining and thought provoking. I told them about my discussion with Frost and Sullivan, the research company that sells reports to all sectors of industry.

They were bemused by the “how long is a piece of string” questions like “What percentage of the parking equipment supplier dollar is hardware, software, and service/maintenance?” Huh? How can anyone answer that question? It must, by definition, be different in every situation, every installation, every sale.

I was able to get my head around “what is the next big disruption?”

I told F and S that we were in the middle of a ‘disruption’ at this point, and that was the use of smart phones to do most tasks now handled by the ‘hardware/software’ legacy companies. Tasks like collecting money, making reservations, finding parking, and yes, even opening gates, validating your stay, and replacing credentials like access cards and AVI transponders.

Shoup and Manville agreed that smart phones are changing the face of parking but wondered if more was on the way.

I posited that parking meters, both single and multi space, were a bridge technology and that they would be replaced, within a decade or so, by a device in the vehicle, either built in or acquired, that used GPS to locate the vehicle, determine whether it was legal to park and how much was to be charged, compute the time parked, collect the fee, and if required, issue a citation. (Perhaps that device could also be a smart phone).

Shoup mused that GPS wasn’t accurate enough down to the couple of feet often needed to determine if a car was too close to a driveway or over a red zone or near a fire hydrant. Mike thought at it would be enough for the system to notify enforcement and have an officer dispatched to physically check for the citation and write it. Of course overstays could be simply mailed out to the vehicle owner. I noted that technology was moving so fast that GPS accuracy would reach that ‘one foot’ quickly.

But how has the ubiquitous smart phone actually disrupted our industry? In one way, it is forcing legacy companies to rethink how they market they products and services. In the F and S “piece of string” question, the companies will shift from hardware pricing to software pricing, as ticket machines, refrigerator sized pay on foot, and the like will go away and be replaced by behind the scenes software and servers. The concept of charging hundreds of thousands for software and support will not be foreign to parking.

This approach will also mean fewer staff will be required to run garages and operators will have to rethink their services. Rather than supply accounting and personnel to take money perhaps they will supply new and creative ways to market parking space and assist drivers in a concierge style operation.

Shoup and Manville, who by the way is a major contributor to Shoup’s new book, Parking and the City, promised to give my disruption ideas some thought. A new book, perhaps. Its been almost 15 years since Shoup’s last book. In the next decade and a half, and many lunches, perhaps we will know whether I’m right, not so right or have ‘adjusted’ my forecasts to fit the world as it turns.


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Parking and the City

“Many people think parking is like sex, if you have to pay for it it’s just not right.” This quote from Donald Shoup’s new book, Parking and the City, didn’t come from the hit HBO series of a similar name, Sex and the City, but it might have.

I’m having lunch with the parking rock star today at UCLA and I’ll ask him about the title. Is he try to titillate or be serious?  I think I know the answer. I have completed my read and review of the book. It will be published in the August PT. Here are a few tidbits:

Parking, which should be a policy discussion, quickly becomes an emotional one, turning, he says, “staunch conservatives into ardent communists.” “Thinking about parking,” he continues, “takes place in the reptilian cortex, the most primitive part of the brain.” The part of the brain that controls the fight or flight issue, that helps us decide how to eat dinner, and not be dinner.

Shoup’s style is easy to read and filled with his often-self-deprecating humor. When he speaks about Parking Requirements being a kluge, that is an awkward but temporarily effective solution to a problem, he adds the line “Microsoft users will easily understand this concept.”

“Parking Requirements may look scientific,” he continues, “but compared with the current science behind parking requirements, Scientology is a science and the Wizard of Oz is a scientist. Parking Requirements are a step up from astrology, but several steps short of the Farmer’s Almanac. They give pseudoscience a bad name.”

In his Epilogue, Shoup quotes Abraham Lincoln “As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew” and Dwight Eisenhower, “We – you and I – and our government -must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow.”

“Planning Professors,” Shoup continues, “rarely end a book or lecture with quotes from two Republican presidents, but I hope most people will agree their advice applies to the need for parking reforms.”

“Trying to reform you own city’s parking policies may feel like paddling a canoe to tow an aircraft carrier but if enough people paddle, the ship will move. I hope Parking and the City will encourage planners, politicians, and citizens to begin paddling. Reform depends on leadership from all of you.”

Lunch with Shoup is like a reverse interview. He’s more interested in what I have to say than vice versa. He says it’s how he learns what’s happening in the parking industry.  I’ll try to give him the straight poop.


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May the Fourth be With You

OK, its an old joke, but if we think about what ObiWan and Co believed about the Force and just what Independence Day means to each of us here in the US we might see some similarities.

With all the people having breakdowns over practically everything one might say that the true meaning of the Fourth is lost. But is it?

With all the words being spoken and demonstrations taking place, one would think that this is a horrible place to live. However, the wisdom of the Declaration of Independence signed on the Fourth of July in 1776 and the Constitution the followed in 1787 provides the protections for those speakers and demonstrators so they can do and say pretty much as they will. As long as they respect the property of others.

When Vice President Elect Pence attended the hit Broadway Play Hamilton with his daughter and her cousins and were greeted with a few boos and cheers, he leaned down to her and said “that’s what freedom sounds like.”

The founding documents, the Declaration and the Constitution, are imperfect. They were designed with checks and balances in mind. If a president oversteps his mandate, then congress is a check on him or her. The courts check the congress. If we don’t like a part of the constitution, we can amend it. It’s a difficult task, but it can be done, and has been done 27 times.

President Obama said that elections have consequences. If you don’t like the outcome of an election, then win the next one. The pendulum that is politics in America has been swinging back and forth for the past two and a half centuries. And as much as half the country make not like it, it will swing again.

Those of us who have been around through a number of those swings know this is true. Those that think this decision or that is the “end of the world as we know it” don’t read their history well.

This Fourth of July, take a deep breath, let the good food, drink, fireworks, and friendship permeate and wash over the concerns we hear daily.

When you hear the jabber jabber from all sides, and you will, just remember, we are hearing the sound of freedom.

May the Fourth be with you, always.


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Musings leading up to July 4

World Cup

I’m not following it but catch a bit every morning at the café when I have breakfast. Today the place was jammed by Mexico fans as the Brazilians took out the folks from south of the border 2 zip.

I know very little about football as its played in the world cup, but listening to the fans, it seems like a game of disappointment. Here was an entire game by leading players, and only two goals were scored. There were many attempts on both sides, but most resulting in failure. Often a pass from one player to another was cut off by the opposition. Both these events led to moans and groans from the fans around me.

US Football has its ups and downs, too. However, if a pass is dropped. 30 seconds later another could be caught. Even when the defense holds, and the offence has to kick, there is a potential for yardage gain and a reason the cheer the kicker. There just seems to be more cheering and less moaning.

But then since I know nothing about world cup football, disregard this after reading.

The Weather

I tell this story every few years. The weather on the Fourth of July will tell the tale as to whether the parking facilities at the beach in Santa Monica and the cities lining the LA coast will make any money.

I can hear the fog horn at Marina Del Rey from my house, and if I hear it on the Fourth, its bad news for parking revenue at the beach. Seems folks don’t flock to a beach covered with May Grey, or June Gloom, or even July Cloudy Sky.

I’ll be listening.  Its been cloudy here every day in June and July so far, clearing about noon. We shall see.


Hummingbird Report

The Hummingbird nest outside our back door is full of life. Momma and two babies are inhabiting the nest. And we have made provisions to prevent Brack the cat from getting too friendly with the new family. Momma comes and goes and when she returns the little ones go nuts waiting for a beak full of dinner.

Hummingbird moms are real workers having to collect enough nectar and insects to not only keep the little ones fed, but to keep themselves alive. Dad doesn’t seem to be around. Nothing unusual there.

Word (Wikipedia) has it that the chicks will leave the nest about 18 days after hatching. We have about five days to go.


Parking at LAX and the Fourth

As I look out my window, the lots around LAX seem to be filling fast. Wallypark’s roof is full, the overflow lots are filling rapidly, and advisories are going out about the upcoming holiday.

I wonder if dynamic pricing has kicked in and parking operators are counting the coin as the what, five day weekend nears. My guess is that people who are flying out on the 3rd won’t be returning much before the 8th filling five days with celebration.



Illegal fireworks have already begun in our neighborhood. The fire department and ambulances are working overtime to care for the idiots who start fires and wound themselves and others just so they can show off their – as David Niven put it when a man streaked the Oscars – shortcomings.

This is a rough time for animals. Dogs are very sensitive to loud noises and Suki is no exception. Last night she moved from her normal spot on the foot of the bed to next to my pillow. We have some calming drugs we will rub on her gums when it gets really bad tomorrow.

Unfortunately, we just have to put up with it. All will be back to normal Thursday.

More about the Fourth tomorrow.





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Does the Author have a dog in the fight? Driverless Vehicles VS Congestion, Parking, and Left Turns

This week the Wall Street Journal published a special eight page report on the “Future of Cities.” The lead article was about driverless cars the wonders they will bring to cities. The graphic showed central operating systems for all vehicles (including private cars), Cameras, Parking garages turned into commercial space, stop lights that talk to driverless cars, narrower streets and space for people, buses talking to taxis, self driving shuttles, and special pickup zones at office towers.

Wow! What wonders these critters bring?

I think most people will look at the graphic and that will be it. I read the article. Buried 12 paragraphs after the jump was the comment that these AVs could lead to greater congestion downtown. But, I thought they were supposed to lower congestion. There was also the part of the piece that noted that AVs wouldn’t park downtown but would park outside the city.

Hold the phone. If the AV takes me downtown and then returns outside the city to wait for its next instruction, doesn’t that increase traffic. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to park it downtown (where the people are) and let it wait there. Wouldn’t that save tons of gasoline, electricity, and pollution. Plus can you say four rush hours instead of two?

Also it was noted much later in the article that a mother with three children going to three different events after school would probably place them in three different AVs plus have a fourth for her errands thus using four vehicles where today she would have used one.

I then got to the author bio and found he lived in San Francisco and realized that most of the input was from Silicon Valley. Naturally his bias was promoting AVs and not leading with the problems they may cause.

The goal of the media, the government (cities) and of course companies that make and support AVs is to show all the wonders of the new technology and downplay the problems. Shouldn’t we be doing the opposite. That is discussing the problems and solving them before going headlong into the project.

Oh yes, also buried in the article was this tidbit: Did you know that developers of AVs have a severe problem when they attempt a left turn against traffic. Seems that’s difficult for sensors and computers. You know, that turn you make a dozen times a day. Oh well…


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The Man in the Arena

In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt spoke on “Citizenship in a Republic” to the Sorbonne, in Paris. This is an excerpt from that speech:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Teddy seems pretty clear and my normal parsing is redundant. I might comment that it might be difficult for some to see the arena. Is it simply taking a risk? We do that when we get out of bed every day. Is it standing up for what we believe? Is it putting it on the line and then rolling the dice?

It may be all those things, but something more. I think it is stepping forward. Entering the arena and letting the world know what you are about. It could be something as simple as defending an idea, or as complex as promoting your business or future. But in any case, we need an arena, with people actually watching.

Over the next few months Parking Today Media is going to be experimenting with the idea of offering ourselves as that arena. Use us as you will. Step up, let people know what you are about. Learn what it is like to taste victory and defeat. Use the largest and definitive media outlet for our industry, reach out to your peers and tell your story.

One last thing. Yes Teddy used the term “MAN.” I offer no apology for it. If you know anything about TR, you know that he meant all mankind. Theodore Roosevelt was one of the leading proponents for women’s rights and suffrage in his time. His campaigning brought the vote to women and support to those who worked in the sweatshops in his native New York City. He fought for women and won.

He lived what he described in his speech. He strove, erred, came up short, spent himself on worthy causes, and knew both the triumph of high achievement and also failure. But he failed while daring greatly.

In the next few months, you will be seeing more about the arena here in Parking Today and just what you might do to experience that thrill of victory, and also maybe agony of defeat. There are no guarantees. How can you know what it is to succeed until you have failed?


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Next Week – Its the Fourth

Independence Day falls on Wednesday next week. It’s a day when all the dogs go crazy, the citizens of our fair land celebrate with parades, music, fireworks, and food meant to be burnt and eaten outside washed down with adult beverages.

Many look on it as a day off from work. And since it falls on Wednesday, a large number will take either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday off, giving them a five-day weekend. In any case, the week will not be filled with commercial activity.

We are taking the opportunity to give our news aggregator, Parknews.biz, a few days off and although we will be posting parking news articles, (Jordan and I are stepping into the breach as Astrid visits her parents. She has expressed some concern over the potential quality of such stories – casting dispersion on my abilities – and she is probably right) we will have no parknews email newsletters on the week that surrounds the Fourth.

I will comment on the essence of the Fourth of July, Independence Day, as the time draws near. But for now, as you consider how you will adjust your work schedule next week, all the best


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