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Suddenly we have a Unicorn – Now What? ParkJockey on the Rise

When one refers to a Unicorn today, its not a mythical horse, but a high tech startup that is now worth over a $billion. It seems we have one of these creatures in the parking industry.

Startup (well five year old) ParkJockey has wowed Japan’s Softbank and along with Mubadala Capital and has received funding of about $800 million. They have used the money to buy Impark and Citizens Parking thus bringing their value up to in excess of $1 billion. And a Unicorn is born.

I reached out to ParkJockey co founder Ari Ojalvo to talk about all this and he begged off, noting that he was uber busy right now and saying he would love to have an interview after the first of the year. I completely understand. If I got a Christmas present like that one, I would be a bit busy, too.

This is consolidation on a grand scale. Two major parking operators with a total of nearly 4500 locations being rolled together by a company that has technology that can, ostensibly, change the way garages are managed. ParkJockey not only has an app for parkers to use for reservations and to gain access to the garage, but also the software to enable garage management to reduce staff and provide data to bring a new look to garages nationwide. And they don’t have to convince an operator or owner to try their product, they can simply install it in their own locations and go from there.

I know I have greatly simplified this all in the last graph, and will learn more when I speak to Ari, but I think I’m close.

I have received a number of calls from operators across the fruited plain asking about ParkJockey. Who are they? What does their software do? Yikes, are we prey?

I hope to have some answers next month.

In the meantime, what does having a “unicorn” appear in our fantasy world mean? My best guess is that we will see more of this. We have already seen funds pour tens of millions into existing companies and those companies using that money to buy competitors and tangential businesses (can you say Passport, Parkwhiz, and T2).  Plus we have PaybyPhone and ParkMobile owned by major multi nationals. This isn’t your grandfather’s parking industry any more.

This means there is big money around. And when there is big money, it tends to be spent on acquisitions. That’s the way to grow quickly, and venture money thrives on quick growth.

I don’t know what kind of sounds Unicorns make, but I doubt it it’s a quiet ‘whinny.”

2019 will tell.


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That Nasty 30% Cruising for Parking – Now Harper’s Magazine is on the Case

I can’t seem to get away from this number: 30%. That’s what everyone thinks the number of people cruising for parking on any given moment in any given city. But where did that number come from – the answer of course is Don Shoup.

The good professor sort of referred to that number in his first book, “The High Cost of Free Parking” and it stuck. Cities far and wide have been using it to justify everything from increasing parking fees to hiring new enforcement officers. But is 30% the real number? What if its 40%? or 20%? or even 10%?  Would decisions made by parking planners differ depending on that number?  I would think so.

Don has been ignoring the controversy, but now it gets real. Harper’s magazine is publishing it as fact, quoting Don, in its “Harper’s Index” section which is basically a list of of pop culture numbers derived from everything from polling to the FBI to a group called “Knife Rights” to well, Don Shoup. Do you know that the portion of men in the US who don’t believe its important to change their underwear daily is 1/5. Do you care? That’s the kind of “click bait” Harper’s lists. But I digress.

Technically, Don never actually said that 30% was a hard and fast number. From his current book:

Six of the 16 studies estimated the share of traffic that was cruising for parking, and the average share was 30%. I carefully qualified the estimates in the table, and did not say that 30% of all traffic was cruising. Two of the estimates were above 30% and three were below.  Nevertheless, some readers seized on the 30% figure an easy way to suggest the problems caused by cruising for parking.

Unfortunately in the real world, its not what you actually say, its what people hear and then believe. I doubt if there are more than six people on the planet who, when asked the cruising number, won’t say 30% and most will say because Don Shoup says so.

In his new book  Parking and the City, Don spends a chapter attempting to unwind this 30% number with tech, documents, and graphs. His manuscript attempting to clarify the history of the number will be printed in the February issue of PT. What follows is the last paragraph of the manuscript:

As more cities install cameras to analyze traffic patterns, they should be able to make real-time estimates of the share of traffic that is cruising for parking. Until then, suppose you had to guess what share of the traffic on a congested downtown street with underpriced and overcrowded curb parking is cruising. About a third seems a reasonable guess.



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Parking Industry Expo Slates Unique Changes to Expo Floor

What follows is a shameless plug for PIE — Read it, there’s some good stuff there.


Los Angeles, CA – December 11, 2018 – The premiere parking event of 2019 finds itself even more attractive with the exhibit hall floor becoming a place where attendees can network, easily find the information they seek, and feel comfortable in the frenetic atmosphere found in exhibitions.

The Parking Industry Expo 2019 (PIE) will see knowledgeable “PIE Guides” located on the floor to answer questions and help attendees find the information they seek. “These are real people who will assist those needing it with directions and sometimes just a friendly greeting,” says Expo Manager, Eric Abel. “When the hall is closed, they will be located throughout the venue to provide information and assistance as to schedules, locations, and other pertinent information.”

“We are actively working with exhibitors to help them make their booths and displays more welcoming. The days of an exhibitor sitting in their booth reading the paper are over. We expect the exhibitors to provide an environment where attendees, who often are reluctant to enter the sales environment, will be comfortable and relaxed.”

In addition, attendees will be motivated to connect with each other and exhibitors on the exhibit hall floor and throughout the venue with cash and technology prizes being awarded to those who seek out and meet their colleagues in the industry. “The concept is a way to motivate connection and individual discussions throughout the four-day event.”

The exhibit hall schedule is also unique. Limited to two days, it does away with the ‘last day emptiness’ found so often in such events. Unlike other such meetings, PIE never schedules seminars or other events during exhibit hall hours. The attendees are never conflicted as to whether to visit an exhibit or a seminar.

The exhibit hall is within a few booths of being sold out 90 days before the show opens. Potential exhibitors should visit the PIE web site to see what is left.

The Parking Industry Expo is being held March 11-14, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare adjacent to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Find it on line at pieshow.parkingtoday.com. Contact: Eric Abel, eric@parkingtoday.com or +1 310 390 5277 ext 1

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A City in the Sand

I spent last week traveling to Dubai to speak at Gulf Traffic, a trade event covering parking and traffic and focused on the Middle East, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia markets.

This is not a particularly large event, with NPA, IPMI, and PIE events having more exhibits and attendees, however it does bring a focus to traffic and parking to this vibrant and emerging region.

Dubai can best be described as an uber-modern city that has grown out of the sand. It has the best that money can buy with high rises soaring, some to incredible heights. Architecture is stunning, and hotels and recreation areas rival any on the planet.

And with all this growth, parking and transportation have become major headaches for the city’s government and planners. This is also true in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Riyadh, Bahrain, Medina, Kuwait, Cairo, and other major cities in the area.

Gulf Traffic offers these communities the opportunity to see the most up to date technology and also hear discussions about how their parking and transportation issues are being attacked in other area around the world. Speakers from Europe, Asia, the US, and Canada as well as from local municipalities held forth on different aspects of the parking and mobility industries.

It was an honor to be asked to speak to this group. I hope my bon mots on MaaS and how it can grow into a program to cover both parking and transportation was of some interest to those assembled.


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Paul didn’t realize it, but he wanted an event that stressed WIIFM, that’s “What’s In It For Me.” He wanted an event tailor made for him. He wanted to share his problems with someone who would listen, and maybe listen to others. He wanted to connect in an atmosphere designed for connection, not just sales and promotion.

He wanted the opportunity to have dinner with a small group of peers, in a nice restaurant, and be able to really talk. He wanted real, human help when he needed it but he didn’t want it in his face. Sure, he could run an app, but having someone at hand to give directions was good too.

He wanted enough time to meet companies on the exhibit hall floor and have and opportunity to ask questions and get solid answers. He wanted the exhibits to be small enough that he could walk in and not feel intimidated by 40 sales staff and huge pieces of equipment. He knew he would spend more time on the exhibit hall floor if he felt comfortable there.

Vendor parties were great, but did he really feel that drinking free booze made a difference as to what problem he was going to solve with the information he gained on the exhibit hall floor.

Seminars are great, but let’s face it, he was going to find solutions from people he met, and on the exhibit hall floor. Technology was moving at light speed. On that floor, he will be able to slow it down a tad and understand just what he needs and doesn’t’ need.

He wanted to bring solutions to his boss, not only to make her happy, but also to make his job easier and therefore him more successful. If he could unwind some of the snafus that hit daily, could he not reduce the stress and perhaps not take so much home at night.


To be continued…



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The Search for Perfection

What Paul needed was a trade show where he could meet people like him and talk about the problems he was facing. It needed to be diverse enough to cover all aspects of his professions, not just focused on cities, or airports, or shopping centers. As he thought through his problems, he realized that universities, airports, business complexes, cities, all had similar problems, and perhaps different solutions that he might be able to use.

But Paul wasn’t the easiest person to get to know. He didn’t feel comfortable walking up and introducing himself. In fact, just the opposite. How the hell was he supposed to “Connect” if he was tongue tied saying hello. He wasn’t good at finding his own way in social situations. He wasn’t the type to go over and sit down next to someone and introduce himself. He needed a wingman. And that wasn’t going to happen.

As he sat in the bar that evening, he began to describe to himself the perfect trade event for him.

There would be people in vests that were in the lobby of the hotel to direct him to the check in area, and then to the registration desk for the event. When he got there, more guides would show him where to sign up, and where the seminar and exhibits were being held. He wanted to see a real person, not just a sign or app on his phone.

Once on the exhibit hall floor, he would find more of these friendly guides to help him find specific vendors or give directions as to where the food, drink, water and particularly rest rooms were located.

Would there be events where he could meet people kinda like speed dating, limited to attendees and excluding vendors. He wondered if he could have an upscale dinner and maybe be seated with others from the event. Its easier to meet people over an entrée than in a hallway.

Would the parties be a tad more low key, so he could, if he dared, actually talk to someone and be heard? Would the exhibit hall be open hours that don’t conflict with seminars and speakers, so he could feel comfortable going to the exhibits and not miss a seminar he wanted to attend?

Would the seminars be limited in scope but diverse enough, so he didn’t feel he had to choose one over another? Would they be simply “pitches” from vendors or actual learning sessions on success and failures in his industry?

He guessed he wanted a user-friendly event where he could feel comfortable in an environment where he could meet and truly “connect.”

As he left the bar, he realized he hadn’t drunk as much that night. The next day he began his search for the perfect trade show.

To be continued…

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There Wasn’t Enough Aspirin on the Planet

As Paul thought about the trade events the next day, he realized that what he really liked about the shows was the exhibit hall. It was diverse. There were people there whose job it was to talk to you. He could pick and choose what he wanted to learn. And get different opinions on new technology and old faithful solutions.

But still, the shows can be intimidating. He had been to events that were so big he couldn’t see everything in a month, halfway a couple of days. Vendors spent big bucks to outdo their competitors in their presentations but seem to forget why they were there. It seemed like their exhibits were supposed to sell their products without interacting with him. They reminded him of his boss. She talked at Paul, not to him.

He had specific work problems that added stress that spilled over into his homelife. He was a good husband and father, but this job was really getting to him. He sort of knew what the solutions to his work problems were, but he needed to talk about them with someone who had the same problems. He needed to “connect.”

What is the old saying, a problem shared is a problem halved. He can’t talk to his boss, she doesn’t have time for problems, only solutions. His wife listens, but really doesn’t have anything to add.

The time at the bar was getting longer, and sometimes there wasn’t enough aspirin on the planet for that morning headache.

To Be Continued

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He Wanted Solutions

The stop for a drink last night was eye opening, but it also added one more problem to his life. A blazing headache.

The hour he spent in the bar reminded him of his last trade show. Alone, leery, perhaps just a bit confused. What was he there for? Why was he going to all these seminars? Did he really learn anything?

He fought his way through airports, couldn’t find the place to register for the show when he arrived, the hotel lost his room, the trade show floor, which he normally enjoyed, was big and confusing.  He worked for a city, he was interested in on street. How could he find companies that would give him the information he needed?

And the seminars – please. He was on the front lines. He knew what his problems were. He wanted solutions. Not descriptions of technotoys that cost a fortune and didn’t really fit in his wheelhouse.

Paul’s city could only afford to send one person to a trade show.  There are three big ones each year, plus numerous local events. Which one to choose?  Who should go?

Would going to the show simply add more pressure to his already full and complex life?

Maybe the best solution was another drink and aspirin for the headache.

To be continued

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Are You Calling Me Stupid?

This little story is from Julianne over at Flowbird. It can happen to all of us, and perhaps her response to the attendant could go into all our list of ‘perfect’ responses. JVH

This past summer I had my favorite little brother come visit me in my now hometown of St. Petersburg, FL. I put together a grand itinerary of all the fun things we could do while he was here including the #1 on his list; a half-day chartered fishing trip. When the day came, we woke up at an ungodly hour to drive over to the marina and board before sunrise. The Marina is in a famous little outdoor tourist shopping attraction called John’s Pass Boardwalk in Madeira Beach, Fl. I knew parking might be tricky so I opted to park in the parking garage.

After 4 hours of doing the samba with a fishing rod, 12 squeals while digging around the bait bucket, and infinite calls of, ‘don’t let that thing touch me,’ we were finally heading back to the car with our winnings. We loaded up and I headed to the exit where a parking attendant was stationed and asked for my ticket. It took a minute for me to bring my brain back to that foggy early morning and when I even pressed the button to get a ticket upon entry.  I looked on my dashboard, in my cup holders and in my pockets. I started to do that frantic panic thing. I made the boys check their pockets, hats and wallets. I ripped my purse apart, the fishing bucket….nothing.

I looked at her sheepishly, “Um….I think….I think I lost it while fishing.”

She (the parking attendant) glared back at me. “What do you mean you don’t have it? You’re supposed to leave it in your car.”

Me – the parking pro – immediately went on the defense, “How was I supposed to know that?! There are no signs!”

“It’s common SENSE!” She yelled back at me.

Oh and that did it. She lit the fire. I went from frantic to furious. I looked at my little brother and my brother-in-law sitting next to me. They didn’t have to say anything. I read the look in their eyes, “You? Of all people? Messing up parking?”

I was about to lay into this woman. She had no idea who I was. I WORK in the parking industry and she has the AUDACITY to say it’s common sense?! Does she have any idea how many different ways the parking in this facility could actually work? Maybe I WAS supposed to bring it in to be validated by the marina…and get a discount on parking! OR, maybe there was a validation code on the back of my fishing receipt. OR, there was an LPR vehicle roaming around and knew exactly how long I was here and how much I owed. The list was ENDLESS!

I was about to prepare my “I know more than you” speech with all its parking facts and realities…but then I stopped. I thought, “No. Don’t do it, Julianne. Just..take..the high road.”

So, I looked up at her and with my mother’s same sweet yet stinging vernacular I said, “Ma’am, are you calling me stupid?”

She lifted the gate and let me out.

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The Pressure Was Intense

Paul awoke worrying about everything, his job, his family, his income, his life in general. OMG the pressure was intense. His boss was looking over his shoulder, his employees were looking for leadership, his wife really wanted that new car. Now what.

He saw the ad in Parking Today about the “arena”, but now was not the time to take a risk, and he wasn’t a risk taker, anyway. Sure Teddy Roosevelt could talk about getting bloody and failing, but he had kids in school and needed a regular income. The arena, bah.

As he opened his browser in preparation for his work day, he noticed an ad for a trade event happening in Chicago in March. The tag line was “Connect.”

But connect with what. These events were typically a bunch of vendors hawking their wares and a bunch of parties where you could go and drink and have your ears blown off with unintelligible music. What does that have to do with ‘connect.’

He was up to his neck in ‘connections.’ He had his staff, his boss, his family, his friends. He had enough connections. Besides how was a connection at some trade show supposed to take the pressure off at work, or at home. Best just lie low and maybe it will all blow over.

Perhaps a stop at the Scotch and Sirloin on the way home would blow off some of the pressure.

To be continued…..

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