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Perseverance, It’s All There Is.

The IPMI’s Shawn Conrad is a reader. Looking for inspiration in our time of trouble, he picked up David McCollough’s book, 1776. Shawn writes:

I find inspiration in many different ways, and this book reminded me that while 2020 was a year like no other for all of us, others in our country’s history have experienced terrible turmoil and triumphed. The American War of Independence pitted an untrained, undisciplined army of colonists against the world’s most powerful army and naval force. The war with the British military lasted from 1775 to 1783 and gave us numerous inspirational leaders: Washington, Green, Knox, Hamilton, Adams, and Hancock among many others. Every time I read McCullough’s detailed retelling of the trials and tribulations that occurred during the pivotal year of 1776, I am reminded of the luck and good fortune the Continental Army experienced when all odds were against them and their fate was dire and uncertain.

General George Washington stressed the need for perseverance; for perseverance and spirit, for patience and perseverance, for unremitting courage and perseverance, and finally for unrelenting perseverance.

Shawn is so right. Never, ever give up. Keep you eye on the goal and keep moving. It’s a great lesson and inspiration for all  of us. Thanks Shawn.

JVH

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Nostradamus – Right or Wrong?

Yes, we hear about the French sage Nostradamus and revel in the ‘predictions’ of virtually everything from the world wars, bombing of Hiroshima, the destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, to plagues, the destruction of London by Fire, the rise of Hitler and so on.

The fact that he didn’t mention any of these occurrences specifically and even stated that his predictions were meant to cover only Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor doesn’t slow down his supporters a bit. Nostradamus was famous for his ability to ‘predict’ in such vague generalities that his work could apply to almost anything.

What the hell does this have to do with parking?

I receive almost daily news releases from ‘thought leaders’ telling us about everything that is going to happen in the next month, year, or decade. The problem is that it seldom does work out that way, and by the time we realize that the predictions were false, we have already redesigned our businesses to fit them. Yikes!

We have worked hard, built our companies, survived a rough patch here and there, but yet seem to be unable to rely on our own good common sense. We read something or hear something and after all, it came from the New York Times, CNN or was on the Internet, or a Ted talk, so it must be true.

The big one I hear lately is “Micro mobility.” This is the coming thing where there will be scooters or bicycles everywhere and you and I will simply pick one up, hop on and be off about our business. Cities are seeing this as the end of the personal vehicle and the beginning of a more “livable” community. Right.

For some reason, I just can’t see it. Yes, kids (under 25) going to college or visiting friends with everything they own in a backpack might be hot for a micro scooter or bike, but what about folks in business attire, or who need to stop off at the store on the way home for a couple of sacks of groceries, or a pick up or drop off at the dry cleaners. Somehow it doesn’t seem ‘spot on’ to me.

And how does it work in inclement weather. Sure the Dutch seem to survive quite well in cold and rain, but they are a hearty folk. I just don’t see our snowflake generation surviving a Chicago winter or the heat in Phoenix.

Plus, have you simply looked outside to see if we are being overwhelmed, or even just whelmed, by micro mobility? LA is a hotbed of this kind of change and the special bike lanes built at a cost of millions sit empty. Those ‘nests’ of “birds” that found their way to my front yard are gone. And a three hour drive around the city yesterday unearthed one, count em ONE scooter and two bicycles.

There are a couple of other things to consider. When was the last time you heard about self-driving cars? That ‘just around the corner’ seems to have gone pretty quiet. How about the popularity of working from home and ‘zoom’ meetings? Even Microsoft. Apple  and Amazon are continuing renting office space like it’s going out of style. Remember just a few short years ago when cities were touting rapid transit as the ‘thing’ of the future. Now we find that folks are buying cars like mad.

Nostradamus hit a few out of the park, but only when his translators ‘adjusted’ the center field fence. I say believe your gut. When you see that neighbor across the street on a bike or scooter, it might be time to scratch your chin and reconsider. Until then…

JVH

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Cars are Freedom, How Can We Help?

There are two articles over on Parknews.biz that caught my eye this morning. One has to do with “Parking Hunger Games,” the difficulty of finding on street parking in New York City, and the other commenting on how people are buying cars like mad so they will have a way to get back the freedom that has been taken away from us by our government. If I can’t safely ride a bus or subway, if I can’t go to the mall or movies, if I can’t go out to dinner, at least I can hop in my car and get away from the lock down at home.

As I have noted here before, people are buying cars like mad. Car ownership is up 30 to 50% in New York and those cars have to go somewhere. Parking reservation firms like SpotHero are seeing 100% increases in their traffic and according to the article in the New York Times, people are spending hours looking for places to park, and often ending up in fisticuffs over a space.

It seems that in addition to looking for a way to get around rather than taking a bus, train, or Uber, folks are simply looking for changes that they formerly found in nearby clubs, theaters and restaurants. Hop in the car and get the feel of the open road. Visit a park. Go on a picnic. Just go.

The City Dads and Moms in the Big Apple, in their finite wisdom, seem to have decided to do nothing. After all, their goal is to get cars out of the city and if there is no place to park them, that is all the better. Their constituents, however, see it differently. The city is becoming uninhabitable, and they are looking for the freedom offered by a personally owned vehicle. The irresistible force has met the immovable object and something is going to give.

Whereas many cities actually protect that resource called “parking”, New York has decided to do little about the problem. Residential permit programs, routine in most cities, are basically nonexistent there. Instead of looking for ways to provide more parking, the city is removing on street ‘free’ parking with bike lanes, reserved spaces for car sharing, and even street closures to make an area more ‘pedestrian friendly.’

A small $30 monthly fee to park in the city’s 3 million on street spaces would generate over a billion dollars a year. Think what that kind of money could do in helping alleviate parking issues. Don Shoup call your office.

In many cities the private and public sector work together to find ways of solving this car storage problem. However the car has become anathema to governments in cities like New York, San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles and others.

Trying to get people out of their cars doesn’t seem to be working, in fact, the contrary seems to be taking hold. All the hubbub about getting cars out of cities to make them more ‘livable’ doesn’t seem to be actually having any affect in the neighborhoods where people live.

Maybe its time we ask a few hard questions:

As an industry, just what are we doing to help alleviate this problem?

Is it not time to offer different and thoughtful solutions rather than simply opening our garages and hoping for the best?

Is climbing on the ‘mobility’ bandwagon really helping?

Since parking space isn’t often available within walking distance of a residence, are we looking to offer last mile alternatives that work for families with kids, shoppers with groceries, and in inclement weather?

People are willing to buy cars to provide themselves the freedom that is being taken away by government edict, are we, as an industry, moving in to provide the parking tools needed?

Think about it.

JVH

H/T Astrid at parknews and John Hammerschlag

 

 

 

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Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

As we contemplate the New Year, today’s quotation over on Parknews.biz is most appropriate. Of course it comes from that wondrous quote monger, Sir Winston himself: “All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”

I could spend paragraphs holding forth on those six words, but there is no need. We all know what they mean.

We cannot change the past, but we can affect the future. May each of these concepts surround and protect you in 2021. Freedom, Justice, Honor, Duty, Mercy, Hope. We can pray for no more.

Happy New Year from all of us here at Parking Today.

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Its Christmas Eve – Time to Dump Everything on your Desk on Someone Else

A few decades ago when I was working in the trenches the company for which I worked was holding our annual Christmas party on Christmas Eve afternoon. It was 2 PM and everyone was having a gay old time when the phone rang and a customer began berating our service department. Our owner got on the phone and noted that the ‘problem’ under discussion was an ongoing issue for nearly a year, had no bearing on the workings of the subject garage, and would be addressed after the holiday. He also noted that the garage was closed and would not be opened until after the New Year.

The customer was incensed and continued a profanity filled diatribe. My boss gently but firmly hung up the phone. He called this the “Friday Syndrome.”

The Friday Syndrome in effect takes all the problems on my desk and shoves them on your desk, just a couple of hours before the weekend begins. That means I don’t have to worry about them and your weekend is destroyed. Your choices are worry about them until Monday or spend the weekend solving all the problems, I should have solved the previous week.

I had a customer, one of PT’s first and most loyal, who would call about some issue or another and tell me that his goal was to ‘get it off his desk.’ In other words, dump the problem on me. He could go home feeling he had a ‘job well done’ when in fact all he had done was shove the issue off on someone else. Great work if you can get it.

I noticed someone doing this in our office today. I intervened and said that the task could be accomplished after the holiday, gave them instructions to get a summary of what was needed to me, and said I didn’t think it was right to give someone a new job on Christmas eve. I noted that I would read the summary next week and act upon it then.

I know someone who fired a colleague on Christmas eve. When I asked him why he couldn’t wait a few days, he said he had a choice, he would be miserable until he fired the guy, or the guy would be miserable after he was fired. He couldn’t see why he should be miserable, so he acted.

They guy who called on Christmas Eve raising hell accomplished nothing except ensure that my company was going to go into slow motion on his problem. The fellow who ‘got it off his desk’ accomplished nothing but a clean desk and the fellow who fired someone on Christmas Eve still felt miserable and made another miserable too. When you dump your problems on someone else, what you are doing is telling the world that you have failed in your timing and attempting to solve the problem by shoving it on a colleague.

Think about it.

JVH

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FAAC Buys TIBA

Word is out that Italian based FAAC has purchased TIBA. FAAC is the owner of Hub Parking Technologies, Datapark, and Zeag. You can read the entire news release here.

Here’s the gist:

An acquisition of 135 million dollars for 60 million dollars in turnover and 130 employees, the largest in the history of the Italian multinational from a financial point of view. With this transaction, FAAC strengthens its position in the parking management systems segment, achieving leadership in the largest market in the world, North America, and placing itself among the top players at a global level.

Just what this means to the parking marketplace remains to be seen. It will obviously move FAAC into the role of a senior major player in the PARCS systems suppliers. Stay Tuned.

JVH

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High Tech Questions…

The following blog asks at least 16 questions. Can you answer all of them? Or even one of them.

When you purchase technology for your parking operation, do you have any clue what that technology is going to do for you? Have you thought through your business needs? In fact do you really know what your business is doing and how this tech or any tech for that matter is going to help? Do you even know what business you are in?

I know this sounds impertinent, but…A few decades ago a major bank, one of the largest, had a problem. It was getting further and further behind in its daily clearings. IBM, who was the computer provider at that time, sent in a senior vice president to address the senior management of the company. He told them that his company could fix their problems, and through a fantastic powerpoint and multi media presentation showed the board just how they were going to do that.

When the IBM exec left, the CEO turned to his assembled management team and said, in essence, you have two years to solve our problems, and to get IBM out of here. He knew that by turning over his back shop to a tech company, he was admitting his company did not know how to run its business. He could not allow that to happen.

When you buy technology, are you basically turning your company over to the supplier? Do you have the personnel on board to properly use the tech and ensure that it is doing what you want, what you need? Do you actually KNOW what you need? Have you even thought about it?

After all, at the end of the month there is more money I the bank than there was at the beginning of the month. That’s a good thing, right? Something must be going OK.

Don’t feel bad. If one of the largest banks could have this problem with technology, why couldn’t you?

A solution? I wish I knew. The first might be to look at what your core business is. You are renting space to people to park their cars. What do you know about the rental business? Your inventory changes minute by minute. How do you know how many spaces you have and for how long. Do you make more money on hourly rentals, weekly rentals or monthly rentals? Would you be better off to charge different rates depending on when people agreed to rent the space? Someone once told me that auto rental companies have thousands of different rates for the same car depending on when and where the deal was made. Should you?

That last paragraph addresses only one aspect of your business. Once you have sorted through it, how do you decide that the tech you purchase will help you specifically in solving all those problems?

Think about it.

JVH

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In Hoc Anno Domini

The phrase In Hoc Anno Domini refers to the conversion of St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Every year, on Christmas Eve, the Wall Street Journal reprints an editorial under that title written for its pages in 1949 by Vermont Royster. It doesn’t mention Christmas per se, but is perhaps the most striking Christmas message of all. I commend it to you here.

It tells the story of Saul of Tarsus and his experiences on the road to Damascus.  It reminds us that at that time the entire known world was at peace, but at what cost. There were no wars, the legions were in place to keep order. There was stability, the long arm of Rome and its enforcers ensured that. Sure there was oppression, but you could be spared that if you were friends of Caesar. But the entire world was enslaved. As Royster put it: “What was a man but to serve Caesar.”

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Sound familiar? Tyrants have through the ages impressing their will on people everywhere. But something was different during the reign of Tiberius Caesar. A presence from Galilee, who preached to his followers for only about three years. A presence that struck so much fear in Rome that the word came out that he must be silenced. And so he was.

But Paul of Tarsus heard his words on that dusty road to Damascus and he was frightened. He knew the power of the dark forces that ruled the land. He feared the return of those forces…

Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter’s star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

All of us here at Parking Today wish all of you the most Merry of Christmases.

JVH

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Giving Offense

Why are we so afraid of giving offense? When we do so, who is harmed? We start a phrase “No offense” but…  And the recipient says, “None taken” virtually every time. We have entire seasons based on giving no offense.

The upcoming holidays are a case in point. We have twisted ourselves into pretzels not to give ‘offense.’ We have removed the word Christmas from the celebration of Christmas. Who are we afraid of offending?  Jews? Muslims? Those who celebrate Kwanzaa? The Buddhists? How about Wiccans?

I see signs throughout the city celebrating Chanukah. Am I supposed to be offended that my Jewish friends puts a Menorah in their window and lights a candle each day of Chanukah?  The color of that season is blue. Am I supposed to take offense at blue lights during the holidays?

Frankly I find the traditions that differ from mine to be wonderful. It’s a learning experience. It means that people can have different beliefs, but still live side by side, be friends, and respect each other. When I wish a Jewish friend Merry Christmas, I’m not attempting to place my beliefs on her, I’m communicating two millennia of tradition to her, just as her “Happy Chanukah” directs three millennia of tradition towards me. No Offense, None Taken.

If we are concerned about spending taxpayer money on decorations, why not invite different groups in a city to place their messages in places of honor. A creche for the Christians, a Menorah for the Jews, and so forth. If they can’t get it together to do so, so be it.

Like it or not, this is primarily the Christmas Season here in the US. If I were in Israel, I might find the celebrations having a slightly different bent. Certainly a few months down the road we will celebrate the Chinese New year. There will be parades with dragons, fireworks, and Gung Hei Fat Choi, which doesn’t, by the way, mean “Happy New Year” but is closer to wishing prosperity.

The Muslims will enter Ramadan in early May, at the crescent moon. They will fast and pray and celebrate a number of different events during the 28 or 29 days. Those who celebrate Kwanzaa look to harvests and feasts and the traditions of the tribes in Africa.

One might say that Christmas is pervasive here in the US, and that’s true. However, were I in Saudi Arabia, I would expect that Ramadan would be on everyone’s lips. Sort of how tradition works.

So it seems to me that if one wants to wish someone “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Chanukah,” or Gung Hei Fat Choi, it is a sign of respect not an offense. If you are offended, maybe this is an excellent time to rethink your approach to life.

Merry Christmas

 

JVH

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It’s Never Too Early to Think about Christmas

I looked at the days my staff has off between now and the New Year and added in the days we are working from home and frankly, we are shut down. Its rather lonely in the office. But its lonely at home too.

My sister in law isn’t coming for Christmas, she’s trapped in Canada. She always brightens up the house. Our menagerie has moved on to that great walking park in the sky. The kids and grand kids cannot come to celebrate. We have talked to the family and decided that gifts were just too complicated this year. There was one place I drew the line.

We are putting up a tree. Robyn says maybe only with lights. I think that once we get moving we can have the place decorated like last year before she notices. And as for Christmas dinner for two, I demanded her signature dish, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. It’s the only time I will eat gravy, or ‘sauce’ as I call it.

Perhaps a calmer holiday will give us the opportunity to consider just what this season is all about. The religious among us complain that we commercialize the holidays just too much. I’m not sure that’s completely valid. Sure we shop for presents, trying to find just the right one for those on our list. It’s really kinda fun. All the people, jostling and singing. The rushing around and wrapping presents. It gives the season the ‘feeling’ that is Christmas. But not this year.

Shopping is ‘online.’ All the interaction is with FedEx, UPS, and Amazon. No it’s not the same.

Maybe a calmer holiday will give us the opportunity to consider just what this season is all about. When I write about the season, I talk of ‘magic.’  In its truest sense, magic is slight of hand, or misdirection, or trickery. Certainly, the true meaning of Christmas is more than that.

But then so is magic. When you see a performance, you want to believe. You know it’s a ‘trick’ but you want it to be real. And just for a minute, just for a brief though, you think it might just be so. And at the moment, the wonder, the magic comes alive.

Little kids believe in Santa, until they are what, 7 or 8, then they doubt and by the time they are 9 or 10 they are too sophisticated to believe. But if you catch them at a guarded moment you can see them glance at the tree, or Santa in the mall, and just for a second wonder… what if?

As we consider this season, the timeless story of the child in the manger, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, and then dismiss it as a legend, or an impossibility. Just for a moment, consider ‘what if.’

The message this child, and his adult being brings is one that we cannot over state. It’s a message of peace, joy, and love. It’s a message of freedom, of sacrifice, and of belief in something larger than ourselves.

Not a bad thing to consider over the next week or so. Be it different, be it smaller, be it not quite as bright, it will still be a Merry Christmas.

JVH

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