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Recent Posts

Necessity is the mother of invention

From Genetec:

They say necessity is the mother of all inventions and this announcement is a perfect example of that. A few days ago, McCormick Place, the largest convention center in the US, reached out to Genetec with an idea: they wanted to be able to use their existing Access Control system data to help identify if any employees or badged visitors had been in close physical contact with someone who had recently reported a positive diagnosis for a contagious disease, so they could be informed and take the necessary steps. Genetec was able to quickly develop a “Contagion/Contaminant Proximity Report” for Synergis, its access control system, and the company is now making it available to all its customers, free of charge. www.genetec.com

JVH

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The Urban Forest, Part Deux

So we hardened up the kitchen, and closed off the dog door at night – to keep out the raccoon who was foraging in the cat food.  But that also locked in the dog, who we discovered went out at night to visit the facilities (Her age seems to affect her bladder the same as with humans). She decided that the TV room was as good as the back lawn, but that’s another story.

So we moved the cat food out of reach of the raccoon…and reopened the dog door. But the little critter is persistent. He (she?) came in last night and was able to figure out how to open the drawer where the dog food is kept and had at it, washing it in the dog’s water dish.

Tomorrow will find the drawers protected with chairs in front of them.

This is a welcome reminder that in spite of pandemics, life in the Urban Forest, crazy as it is, goes on.

JVH

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In times of crisis – Innovation thrives

I received this note from Spot Parking’s CEO Elizabeth Zealand. If you have any innovation that has emerged during this crisis let me know…JVH

Code the curb company Spot Parking knows what it’s like to adapt. As a scale-up operating across the US and Australia, Spot feels fortunate to be an agile, tech-based company who can effectively work with customers remotely and give something back, no matter how small, in these difficult times.

To help support local businesses who can now only provide takeaway services, Spot partnered with a large Australian city to provide a COVID-19 interactive map, where the city can show the community new curbside restrictions to support pick-ups rather than parking, and local restaurants and pharmacies can communicate their new operating hours and offers to the local community.

Businesses that are still operating within the restricted guidelines need the ability for their customers to receive quick and safe curbside pick-up. Retailers such as supermarkets have introduced special trading hours for the elderly or vulnerable to be given priority service, and there was a need to communicate this along with the curbside restrictions.

“As a tech company, the ability to work on this with a city to help their citizens at this time has been an amazing experience, said Spot CEO Elizabeth Zealand. “It was the City’s innovative suggestion to adapt our current digital curbside and campus platform to allow for real time input from affected local businesses”

Drawing on Spot’s digital curbside mapping and visualization technology for cities, coupled with real time notifications of parking changes built for Ohio State University, the team were able to design and build the site within days.

“The Spot team are very used to working remotely as we are located across the US and Australia, but this was a new way of working for our city client, Elizabeth added.

“With so much of our industry in deep pain right now, this was a welcome innovation and our chance to play a small part in helping cities keep their local economy going whilst keeping citizens safe.”

JVH

 

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Hiatus

A temporary gap, pause, break, or absence can be called a hiatus. When your favorite TV show is on hiatus, that means there are no new episodes — not forever, just for a little while. … If someone has to leave her job for a time, she’s going on hiatus.

Rather than look at the upcoming month or two as the complete destruction of our industry, perhaps we could look at it as a hiatus. A temporary pause. A forced one granted, but a temporary one nevertheless.

Only the most pessimistic among us would believe that this interruption in our business is permanent. Painful, yes. In some cases it means laying off staff members, in others a deep reduction in whatever resources that had been put aside for emergencies. Well, this is an emergency.

I doubt if this hiatus will be long term. My prediction is that it will be weeks rather than months. It will not end as it began, like the flipping of a switch. We were told that we must ‘social distance’ and in a very few days our industry was brought to a screeching halt. There were no cars to park, no drivers to charge to park, no cars to valet, nothing, zero, zip. The tens of thousands of employees had literally nothing to do. There was not money to pay them. They, too, were forced into hiatus.

We shouldn’t forget that operators aren’t the only ones affected by the hiatus. Vendors, suppliers, consultants, all have their work slowed, and thus their income. There are no tickets to spit, few citations to write, no meetings to attend, (remember that pesky social distancing), and because of the ‘SD’, extreme difficulty in making presentations about new products and services. We may think we can proceed without interruption digitally, but there is no replacement for face to face discussions.

When the virus withdraws, and it will, life will return to normal. But it will do so slowly, perhaps over a period of weeks, if not a few months. We won’t get an ‘all clear’ and head off to a bar or restaurant to celebrate the end of the pandemic. This may not be a bad thing. We will have the opportunity to end the hiatus in such a way that will remove the pain, not increase it.

If you look at the definition of hiatus above, the key word is temporary. This is temporary. It is also an opportunity. We are being forced to take a look at our organizations, our people, and our industry and rethink just how we are approaching our business.

When we come back, we will be smarter, stronger, and better. It may seem cliché as we take our dog for the fourth walk of the day, but when it is over, we will be gifted with a new beginning. Not a completely bad thing.

Make good use of this hiatus.

JVH

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The Urban Forest

We noticed the other day that the cat was eating a lot more than usual. We feed him on the counter next to the sink so the dog won’t eat the cat food.

This morning, as we rounded the corner into the kitchen, we saw a tail with a number of rings heading out through the dog/cat door. Yes, a racoon has been coming into the kitchen and eating the cat’s food.

In addition, we noticed some garbage in the bubbling fountain next to the cat food. The critter was washing the food in the fountain. He must have thought it was very convenient.

We will keep the dog door closed at night – and we won’t set up a racoon feeder on the back porch. Its isn’t a good idea to help them with their forage for food. If they begin to rely on humans and for whatever reason we leave, they are in trouble. There is plenty of fruit, veggies, and garbage for them in the neighborhood.

Dontcha just love the Urban Forest.

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I can only imagine…

We must stay positive in difficult times, but its difficult in the face of a Tsunami of news that even the most ‘glass if half full’ optimist has to look at with askance.

The most difficult part of all this, aside from those who have contracted the virus,  is how it is affecting our industry. I had word yesterday from Ace Parking’s Keith Jones that he was forced to lay off 80% of his staff.  That’s over 4,000 people that don’t have a source of income any longer. Keith told me that he simply had no choice. His revenue was down 95%. There was no money left and he had to protect his company so he would be there when things turned around and he could hire back his staff.

I can only imagine how those laid off are dealing with the financial and emotional issues and I can only imagine how Keith felt when he had to tell his staff, many of them friends, that they no longer had jobs.

Its easy to say that we will come out of this better, stronger, and positioned to face the future, but while we are in it, little looks great.

Let’s face it, we won’t be back to ‘normal’, whatever that is, until people are back to work in their offices, until restaurants and clubs are opening and functioning, and shops and malls are open and people are feeling confident in using them. I’m afraid it won’t be a flip of a switch. It will get better on a day by day basis.

I have already had reports that folks are a little ‘squirrely’ staying at home and dealing with each other. And its only been, what, a week. What happens when it’s a month. My guess is that folks will be itching to get back out there and interact with the world.

The worst part is the great unknown. How long will it be? If we get moving again, how long til I get my job back? Since I have no time frame, how can I plan?

I have no solution except to point out that this will probably be weeks and not months. We are a resilient people. We don’t take these things lying down. We fight back and are fighting back now. There are glimmers of hope in spite of the doomsayers. Washington State is seeing a dropping off in number of cases. The use of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for treatments is showing some positive benefits. Testing in the US is increasing every day.

Americans are not losers. If we can get by the “if it bleeds, it leads” media, we can beat this thing. Social distance, wash your hands, look out the window and laugh and enjoy at all the people walking their dogs.

JVH

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Some Small Reason for Optimism

I had an interesting discussion with a neighbor during my ‘Suki Walk” (dog walk) yesterday. She is an RN at a local 480 bed hospital. I asked her how things were going. Her comment was “strange.”

It seems that their ER was empty. She said that the ‘normal’ cases they received at the emergency room had dwindled to nearly zero. Automobile accidents, normal on the job injuries, bar fights, drive by shootings had all simply gone away. See what social distancing can do.

She also noted that typical flu and ‘bad cold’ cases were diminishing also. Most likely for the same reasons.

She commented that they hadn’t seen an influx of Coronavirus cases but were preparing for it and frankly the reduction in ‘normal’ cases was providing room if and when it happened.

Understand this is a completely non scientific ‘model’ and is nothing more than a couple of neighbors gossiping. (I note she stayed the requisite six feet from us.)

Granted we are in LA and the number of cases has not ‘peaked’ but perhaps this is some reason for optimism.

JVH

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Walker Consultants Offers Guidelines to CV-19 Testing in Garages

Mary Smith over at Walker Consultants has let me know that they have posted a white paper on their web sites with guidelines for garages located at Hospitals and frankly anywhere to use them as drive thru testing centers for the Covid-19 virus. You can read it here.

Just one more case where the parking industry is on the front lines. Thanks Mary

JVH

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Dispersion – What will it mean to Parking

So, our betters have been telling us for years that living in cities, in small apartments cheek by jowl, is best. It means we don’t have to destroy the planet with automobiles, we can walk to work and play, and all will be right with the world.

Suddenly we are attacked by a pandemic and find that our most densely populated city is struck with the most severe course of the disease. Cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans and the like are seeing the virus attacking at will. Smaller cities and rural areas not so much.

Astrid has posted a long piece on Park News called “The Coming Age of Dispersion” which posits that perhaps we are better off living in small cities spread throughout the country rather than in mega cities along the coastline. I strongly recommend you take a few minutes and read the article.

I live in Los Angeles, but am fortunate to live in a ‘neighborhood.’ It is middle class, however the housing prices would bely that.  There are many families with kids of all ages. They play in the streets and run from house to house collecting their friends and seem to be having a wonderful time. We are within walking distance of restaurants and bodegas, and most of the kids walk to school, most often connected to a parent. It is like the small town I grew up in half a century ago. LA is like a bunch of small towns that have grown together into a mega city. The density isn’t like a New York or London.

But we are seeing that many people are moving even from my neighborhood to more rural environments. Many smaller cities like San Antonio, Austin, Salt Lake City, and Grand Rapids are attracting the brain trust from Silicon Valley and the like much faster than San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Washington DC.

Frankly, its safer, even in times of no pandemic, to drive in your personal vehicle by yourself or your family, than take a subway or a bus. Are we seeing a paradigm shift in how we will be living in the future, away from megacities to country? And If so, what will that mean to parking?

Its certainly something to consider. Do we focus on the vagaries of on street parking as determined by city governments? Are shopping complexes in more rural areas going to require parking structures, and if so, will they be as large and complex as those in New York or LA?

How will we as an industry have to adjust to these changes, if they happen at all?

Something to think about as we social distance…

JVH

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A Bit of Blue Sky

Companies that serve the populace are hiring, in the face of the pandemic. Do they know something we don’t? We have had a number of ‘help wanted’ ads come in and they are posted on line. Some companies in our industry are preparing now for the recovery. Parking Today has hired two people in the last week. We see this as a time to train, prepare, and look for new and ‘outside the box’ ideas.

The next few months will be challenging. The “same old, same old” probably won’t cut it. Now is a great time to consider new approaches, to reach out to your employees, vendors, and customers and renew acquaintances you have let lie fallow. Now is the perfect time to talk to your staff on a daily basis and support them in their daily activities.

I have been around this bend a number of times and although it is cliché, this too will pass. The companies that will come out of this better and stronger are those that work through it. The ones that move forward, even if with baby steps.

This crisis has come on us very quickly. Less than six weeks ago, it didn’t exist. My guess is that it will leave just as quickly. Yes, there will be damage in its wake, but remember, things are never as good nor as bad as we predict.

Of one thing you can be sure, Parking Today is here, we are publishing both in print and on line, and we are a vehicle you can use to reach your vendors, staff and customers. Feel free to contact me with any ideas you have to help spread the word about you, your organization, and your industry.

Astrid is working feverishly to publish news releases on parknews.biz about what you are doing, your successes, and innovations. Just let us know.

Be safe out there

JVH

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