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Organizational Goals – A Carrot and a Stick

I had a nice chat yesterday with David Straus, Executive Director of ACT, the Association for Commuter Transportation. According to its web site its an organization that works with the government to make commuter transportation less focused on single occupancy vehicles through Transportation Demand Management. Fair Enough.

Reading through their web site I was struck by their focus on statistics, organization, lobbying, and in the end, to make the world a ‘greener’ place. Here is a quote from the Federal Highway Administration, which seems to be their definition of Transportation Demand Management:

 “a set of strategies aimed at reducing the demand for roadway travel, particularly in single occupancy vehicles. These strategies address a wide range of externalities associated with driving, including congestion, poor air quality, less livable communities, reduced public health, dependence on oil, reduced environmental health, and climate change and GHG emissions. Some TDM strategies are designed to reduce total travel demand, while others are designed to reduce peak period demand, which may disproportionately contribute to these externalities.”

I want to go on record that I have no problem with all this, but I wonder at the way we as a country are attempting to install TDM. We seem to be mandating ways to “reduce, change, and alter” personal activity to reach laudable goals.

In my experience personal activity is changed when the individual can see that THEY are positively affected by the change. Unfortunately most of us are self-serving (not a bad thing) and even when we wrap ourselves in wonderful goals, in the end we look inward.

Take my neighbor down the street – he and his family own a Tesla and a Mercedes Hybrid. They collect rainwater, have xeriscaped their garden, have a solar array on their roof, and live I’m sure, a green life. However they also own the biggest, gas guzzling GMC Monster SUV known to man. What about my friends down the street who own a Tesla and a Porsche Panamera.  They told me that they wanted to be sure they could get around if the electric grid went down. I think both families are reasonable. And not the slightest bit hypocritical. But they are self-serving. I will sacrifice to save the planet but only so far.

What if we approached TDM not from a “stick” approach but from a “carrot” direction. How does riding a bus or carpooling or taking the train or walking make my life easier and better as an individual. Are we focusing on better service, better and cleaner buses and trains, on the camaraderie we might have if we rode to work each day with a friend? Or are we focusing on forcing people into a one size fits all result.

When in its infinite wisdom the city of LA changed Venice Boulevard outside my home from three lanes to two and installed protected bike lanes and half a dozen additional traffic lights over the objection of residents and merchants, chaos ensued. Traffic is slowed at peak hours, the people who want to park on street and visit the merchants go elsewhere, the few bicyclists are happy, but they are in the minority. Traffic has been forced off the main thoroughfare into surrounding neighborhoods rendering them congested and unsafe. The list goes on.

If the city had begun the project from a consumer point of view, providing a better experience for all on the area rather than focusing on their goal of removing cars from the streets, is is just possible that more would have participated in the project, the merchants and residents would have participated and been happy and maybe, just maybe, the long-term goals would have been in sight. Now there is a recall underway, people are fighting, and my guess is that soon the street will be returned to its original state. Money spent, no result.

People are individuals, not sheep. They will bend so far but still want their individual comfort and what they feel as personal benefits. Change needs to come from the bottom up, not the top down.

To be successful, I think, TDM needs to begin to meet the needs of the individual commuter, make their world a better place, find out what they need and then fulfill it. Remember Westfield Century City and their parking program. They understood that one size doesn’t fit all and set up a parking program to fit the needs of every parker. Pull a ticket, fine, get and app, fine, use LPR, fine, want valet, fine, reserve a space, fine. It’s all available.

What will most likely happen is all those pull a ticket folks will see just how much better it is signing up for LPR and many will. Our industry is an example of how the use of technology, apps, and good management can make life better for our customers AND do a better job at what we do.

I wonder what would happen if the city spent some of that billion dollars a mile they are wasting on an underground that fewer and fewer are riding on a carpooling app and advertising campaign to get people to easily find new friends to ride with to work. Show them how much better it is to ride together rather than alone. If only 10 or 20% did it there would be no traffic, freeways would be running at max speeds and TDM goals would be closer and closer.

The carrot typically works better than the stick.

JVH

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Its Summertime, and the living is……..

Its Summer, and the mind turns to vacation. Heading out on the open road, seeing new sights, living the good life, letting the kids experience new things, meet new people, share new ideas. Or not. Will you be taking a vacation or a staycation?

I just got back from Orlando and the UK and the summer travel season hit me right between the eyes. Traffic, Airports, Hotels, Theme parks. They are jammed.

Americans are noted for not travelling outside our country. Brits, Europeans, Canadians and those from Oz and Middle Earth all take long trips to fairer climes and love to sit on beaches and swill drinks filled with umbrellas and fruit. They look askance at those of us who stay within our borders but admit that we have a lot to offer within driving distance.

They are right. Talk about broad vistas, wonderful beaches, a terrific wine country, cities filled with jazz and great food, places to visit Mickey and have a great time, we have them all. Plus they are fairly easy to get to. But is there a down side?

Air Travel:  Airports are jammed with people unclear on the concept. Road Warriors know how to pack, how to deal with the TSA, how not to set off that metal detector, how to have the ID and boarding pass in their hands when they meet the officer, not to begin the search when he asked for them. Plus a family of five doesn’t move through and airport at the speed of light. Airplanes are jammed. That extra seat next to you is filled with a 10 year old who loves to bounce around while playing video games. And don’t get me started on the airline’s inability to have a flight crew arrive before the time your plane is scheduled to leave.

The Weather: You leave Minneapolis with its high temperatures killer humidity and head to Orlando, or New Orleans, or Houston, or Miami, or Chicago, or Phoenix or New York or DC, all with their high temperatures and killer humidity.

Cars: Gas prices seems to jump automatically by about a buck between June 1 and Labor Day. Plus the local state highway department brings out the construction crews and close lanes across the fruited plane. This minor inconvenience plus the extra 10 million folks on the highway makes for traffic only a statistician could love.

Did they forget to tell you there are thunderstorms in the summer almost everywhere? Those things spawn Tornados. Hotels that told you one thing on Expedia tell you another in real life. Did you know that tickets for Disneyland for a family of four for two days cost $1600?

I know I sound a bit grumpy, but is exposing oneself to the living hell of summer vacations really worth it?  That staycation is looking better and better.

JVH

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Party Party Party

Networking was the name of the game as Southland Printing sponsored music and cocktails for more than 500 attendees at the IPI show Tuesday evening. The timing of the event was perfect as it wound down in time for people to meet with old and new friends for dinner.

The Catahoula Blues Band added live music and four bars provided libations. According to Southland CEO John Manno invitations were sent out a month in advance and social media follow up ensured that the Courtyard area of the Gaylord Palms was full and a good time was had by all. His wife Lynne was hostess for the event.

One of the things that made the event such a success was the large number of attendees I didn’t recognize. It provided the opportunity to meet new parking pros and renew old friendships.

Thanks to Southland for putting on such a “yuge” event.

JVH

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Something Special at the IPI

I have been to two parking trade events so far this year, the IPI and PIE. I’ll tell you about the IPI in a minute, but first I want to comment on a feeling that seems to be in the air.

I felt it first at PIE. There was an indescribable buzz that permeated the event. People seemed up and engaged. They were excited about their industry. Change is in the air in parking. And people know it.

The IPI Expo this year is huge. Not that there are many more companies exhibiting, but the exhibits themselves are larger, and innovative. Booths that are 20 feet wide and sixty, eighty or one hundred feet long cover the floor.

The influx of venture capital has been felt in the way products and services are presented. There were cocktail bars in booths. Equipment seems shinier, colors brighter, one booth even has a second story. This place has a European/Intertraffic feel.

Shawn, Bonnie and Co. at the IPI deserve the congratulations they will receive. The parking industry trade show business in the US has come of age.

But more important than the exhibit hall and the technology spread around was the excitement generated by the young people in attendance. And they were everywhere. I don’t know the average age, but I’m guessing its definitely under 40, and may be nearing 30. These are hard charging people, party til 2 AM, on the go the next morning.

They are bright, innovative and engaged. They are full of new ideas, and not afraid to tell you about them. But…

Do they think through their bright ideas? Do they have the wisdom that failure brings? Will they be around next year? Time will tell.

The excitement and optimism of youth is rolling over us like a tsunami. We can only pray that some of those who have dozens of trade shows under their belts temper that youthful vigor with wisdom.

Let’s just hope that these young startups are in it for the long haul, and have not worked out their exit strategies and sale to Google.

JVH

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I was Wrong!

Trade events bring together people from across the industry. Its a time to learn and acquire information. Today we met our friends at Parking Network and discovered we have given out some erroneous information about their company.

Jorrit, the CEO of PN wrote a clarification when I posted a blog about the parking industry hiding its light under a bushel. In one sentence I noted that it cost money to place your news releases on PN. I was wrong. I received Jorrit’s message only today. I can only assume it was lost in cyberspace.

My sincere apologies to Parking Network

Visit them here, and find out about the great job they do.

JVH

John,

I am afraid you have your information wrong. At Parking Network, we publish interesting and relevant news about the parking industry for free. Our content management team evaluates the relevance and quality of press releases, news and blogs and publishes solely with this criteria. We have 50,000 visits each month and we work hard to provide all the readers the  most releva

At the end of the day, each person chooses their own news source based on their personal preferences. We thank all our visitors and readers for choosing Parking Network and, if anyone has a story they would like to share, please send it to editor@parking-net.com so our content management team can review it. This costs nothing and can make the difference!

Jorrit Weerman
CEO

Parking Network

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Our Bags are Packed, We’re Ready to Go……

The largest media company in parking is heading out to the largest trade show in parking. It gives us the opportunity to see people face to face that we talk to all year. I’m looking forward to it.

To meet and talk with some of the companies that have come to us as startups a few years ago and now are leaders in the industry is thrilling. Having been a part of their success is important to us. Plus to have been able to continue to support the largest players in parking is an honor.

Communication and connection is what business is all about. Our goal has been to provide a media for that connection. The content that we produce makes the magazine and web sites attractive and gives a place where businesses can place their messages and reach out to other businesses who use their products and services.

As we look around a giant exhibit hall, we see more than 200 companies that not only do business with the members of the founding organization, but also with each other. I’ve been told that often more business is done between exhibitors than with attendees.

We are proud that our size enables us to create and impact that carries our customer’s messages to the industry and hope that in some small way we have helped to guide the success of many companies.

If you are in Orlando next week, we look forward to seeing you. If not, follow the excitement here on the blog, on parknews.biz, and on our twitter feed. Parking Today Media is there for you.

JVH

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The Big Apple Takes Parking and Gives it to Zip Car

According to an article in the New York Times, the Big Apple is taking on street parking spaces from local residents and giving them to companies like zip car. Of course the city wraps itself in its green credentials and its goal of providing transportation for all. Read the article on parknews.biz.

In midtown and downtown areas of Manhattan, the companies rent space from parking operators for their vehicles. Uptown, where lower income folks live, and there are fewer parking facilities, the city is taking on street parking space from the residents and giving it to zip car and co.

It seems to me that this is a classic case where the parking industry and transportation could work together to solve a transportation issue, and the city could stay out of the mix.

Its hard for me to believe that there are not 250 off street spaces uptown that could be used for this purpose rather than taking space from people who already have difficulty making ends meet and forcing them to pay for parking. The article notes that parking in NYC is a ‘blood sport’ and that the residents are grabbing pitchforks and torches in areas where the zip car program is taking on street space.

(Remember, service and customer support isn’t the goal here. The goal is to get people to give up their cars. And of course, the first group to be hit will be those who can least afford it.)

Although this is a small example, it’s a case where parking and transportation meet and where some thought and planning could make the process better for both. We can’t forget that our goal is to serve our customers (read that parkers) and make their lives better, not cause problems and create anger.

Of course, its not our industry that’s causing this problem, its the nincompoops in the city government.

Just sayin

JVH

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Parking and Transportation – Blend Seamlessly or Afterthought

I was wandering around my local metro stop taking pictures for the cover of the upcoming issue of PT and was struck by how important it is that parking blend seamlessly into rapid transit. Cars are as much a part of the transit infrastructure as are trains, buses, scooters, Uber, bicycles, and feet. We are just ignored. And its time something was done about it.

The July issue of PT is our “Transportation” issue. In researching this topic I have attended events in Amsterdam, the UK, Las Vegas and Atlanta, one focusing the collection and transfer of money, another about Mobility as a Service (MaaS and two more with speakers who think they know about transportation.  In all cases Parking was greatly underrepresented.

However if you go to Rapid Transit stops in suburbia, and even some in downtown areas, there will be considerable parking. The goal, it would seem, should be to make the parking part of the commute as seamless as the train, bus, or uber part so commuters are attracted to rapid transit and out of their cars for the long haul. It may be difficult to get them out of their cars for the 20 minute drive to the station, but perhaps easy to entice them onto the train.

To do that, you need to work with the parking industry to create an environment where drivers want to park and ride. Which brings me to the topic of this blog:

As they said in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, “Don’t Panic.” PT is not dropping our main topic, that is parking. What I hope to do is place parking where it belongs, as a part of the transportation infrastructure. Whether its technology, operations, or the planning that must go into parking as a part of transportation, its time we moved from an afterthought to a headline.

Some think we know a bit about parking here at PT, but what do we know about transportation and how it relates? Well, not a hell of a lot, but we are learning fast. We are attending trade events, listening to presentations, asking for content, and hopefully beginning to understand just why we are outsiders, and how to get inside.

July will be our first attempt – Let me know what you think. Is this a good idea? Or should we dump it on the scrap heap of history and like the wise shoemaker,  “Stick to our Last.”

JVH

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Three Tips To Engage Employees When It Comes to Technology

I noticed that Colleen over at the Marlyn Group quoted one of my off the wall comments. I told Colleen that doing that runs the risk that I may quote her. As usual, she is very quotable. Here goes:

JVH

#JohnVanHorn from #ParkingToday asked me to present at last month’s 2018 #PIE Conference on how to engage employees when it comes to implementing technology-based solutions. As he put it, “To be blunt, it’s still pretty common in our world to work with front-line managers who couldn’t build an Excel spreadsheet if their lives depended on it.”

As I prepared for the presentation, I found some super interesting stats:

  • 75% of corporate leaders had low confidence in their own IT project success; citing a lack of alignment and key stakeholder involvement along with “fuzzy” business objectives.
  • 73% of respondents to one survey admitted they believed their technology project was doomed from the start.
  • In another study, it was determined that 17% of IT projects failed so badly they threatened the future of the respective organization.

It dawned on me that in my own professional career, I bore witness to more than a few projects that in the aggregate amounted to a couple million dollars of spend that resulted in failure. Woof.

One of the key drivers to this painful landing spot is the lack of employee engagement from the project kick off and all the way through adoption. To increase the chances that the bright, shiny, new toy your organization may be preparing to launch is greeted with cheers, give any of the following tips a shot:

Who’s on my team? Understandably so, project teams focus on understanding what the board, the c-suite and/or customers expect from any given solution. Ironically, those who actually have to use the new tool to meet those expectations aren’t at the table when the development begins. When contemplating the employee representative to have a role in the project, consider…

  • Who has to routinely use it?
  • Who stands to gain (or to lose) from it?
  • Who has influence over her/his peers?
  • Who can solve problems? Who can find them?

…while being mindful of not selecting the “go-to” guy/gal everyone leans on for any given project. You know, that one employee everyone immediately thinks of, regardless of the situation, who just gets plugged in because she/he is so good at everything. The team really wants to overlay the specifics of the tool in terms of functionality and output on top of the potential employees to identify the ideal fit.

Did We Pay For That? When developing either internally or with a third party partner, too often the training support and programs are an afterthought and the bright light for this need gets flipped on the days leading up to go-live. This is not the point in time you want to skim the vendor contract to see if training was included as part of the fee schedule. In my experience, #T2Systems (www.t2systems.com) has set the bar when it comes to customer training and support. Check out the “National Connect” and “Regional Connect” forums they have established for their user community along with recently launching their “T2 Online Community” with over 4,000 customers virtually chatting with each other and T2 professionals about functional questions, knowledge sharing and general support. Brilliant.

Make Your Solution Invisible. I was once asked to join an AP team whose internal slogan at launch was, “We’re Going to Make AP Exciting Again!” Until the utilities invoices stopped getting paid and the organization asked us to change the slogan to “Please Make Paying Bills Boring Again.” The ultimate success of a technology based solution is that it becomes so embedded within any given operational model, employees refer to it in the same tones as they would say, sending an email, attending a meeting, etc. A very effective key to making your solution invisible, is managing the change from concept through adoption by communicating constantly it’s progress and ultimate value and ensuring a c-suite executive is an energized champion for the team – who is relentless with sharing the good word why the solution is needed through the lens of organizational sustained success. That may sound like it’s asking a lot from the executive, but the messaging should be inherently clear within the solution itself.

If you’d like to read some more on how to best leverage parking technology, check out these other Marlyn Group Blogs:

Evaluating Technology Talent In the Parking Industry

Make Facility Equipment Training Easy For Employees and For You

Parking Apps Are Great, But Don’t Forget About Revenue Control

Do you need help with implementing your technology solution?  Drop us a line at letsconnect@marlyngroupllc.com to have a chat!

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But I thought that…

Technology can solve a lot of problems. It can certainly help in ensuring that revenue is properly calculated and collected in parking facilities.

Case in point:  The surface lot at my doctors’ office. It is a combination daily and monthly lot. The daily rate gets to $10 in a little over an hour. It supports an active hospital and two 5 story medical office buildings. One in, one out.

It had a ticket dispenser, cashier terminal, and card in/out system. Then one day about 18 months ago, the TD failed. They put a sign on it saying “pull ahead, cashier will give you a ticket (and push a button to open the gate.) Since the barcode dispenser no longer dispensed, the cashier terminal could no longer compute the fee so it, too, was replaced with a push button. I figured it would be repaired in a few days, at best.

Now, 18 months later, it still is a push button operation, reminiscent of those days when the cashier used a time clock and a cigar box. This place is run by a parking operator.

There is absolutely no way to audit the facility (seems the monthlies are let in and out by showing their hospital ID badge). Assuming the average ticket is an hour ($6) and there are say 300 customers each day, that means that about $1800 in cash is collected. It also means that the potential for loss is great.

Let’s assume a quarter of the tickets somehow find their way outside the normal process. That’s a loss of $450 a day or $9000 a month, or dare we say it, about $100,000 a year from a surface lot.

How long would it take to pay for a new PARCS system for that lot? Four months, Six months, certainly less than a year.

Oh well, how hard can it be to run a parking lot. I saw a bright red Lexus LS parked next to the attendant booth. I wonder who owns it?

Parking Technology is super — but it has to work.

JVH

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