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Why a Private Lot may be Better

Over on Parknews Astrid has posted an article titled: Where to park at or near LAX at the holidays and why a private lot may be better. Frankly, I think a private lot is always better.

Depending on the lot, you can use their valet service, meaning you drop you car off in the arrival area and pick it up there when you return. You credit card is on file so you can just get in your car and leave.

If you park in the huge lots in the interior of the airport, you will pay more than you would pay off airport, often twice as much, and you have to walk from your car to the terminal. Off airport services drop you right in front of your terminal. Plus you have to deal with the traffic in the airport proper.

It is interesting that the local paper is publishing extensive information about parking at the airport. In addition to the major on and off airport locations, parking apps like Spot Hero and Airport Parking Reservations are listed to help you navigate the parking around the LAX area.

Frequent travelers, like moi, have pretty much figured out the parking at the airport, but those who only travel at the worst time of the year, the holidays, need some help.

I love some of the sub heads – For those with more money than time and For those with more time than money. Park in the airport if you have more money than time, and park off airport if you have more time than money. There you go.

It should be noted that so called “ride hailing services,” read that Uber and Lyft, are mentioned only in passing in the last paragraph. All the problems LAX has had with TNCs may just be scaring off customers.

This holiday season figures to be a good one for airport parking. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to them.


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Their Wounds May Not be Visible — Veterans Day 2019

Veteran’s day is a time to remember and say thank you. Current and former members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard have given in some cases literally everything to protect our country and our freedoms. These heroes ask very little. A simple acknowledgement will usually suffice.

It’s appropriate that the November issue of Parking Today (In the mail) should be edited and written by veterans who are also members of the parking industry. We are honored that they took the time and interest to share their experiences with us.

I was surprised to find, buried in his bio, that my friend Bob Harkins was a two time silver star winner and also received two purple hearts during his nearly three decades of service in the US Army. Bob has always been reserved when discussing his awards in the military, so I felt it time to bring his candle out from under the basket. The cover photo of Bob taken a couple of decades ago reminds us that in truth, the military is for the young.

In wartime, entire generations of young men and women go to fight. And many don’t return. Those who do often wish they could keep some memories and erase others. PTSD is not new. From Wikipedia:

Comedian George Carlin criticized the euphemism treadmill which led to progressive change of the way PTSD was referred to over the course of the 20th century, from “shell shock” in the First World War to the “battle fatigue” in the Second World War, to “operational exhaustion” in the Korean War, to the current “post-traumatic stress disorder”, coined during the Vietnam War, which “added a hyphen” and which, he commented, “completely burie[s] [the pain] under jargon“. He also stated that the name given to the condition has had a direct effect on the way veteran soldiers with PTSD were treated and perceived by civilian populations over time.

Writers throughout the ages have noted how those who go into battle return “changed.” It is impossible not to be affected by seeing people you loved destroyed before your eyes. The military builds lasting friendships quickly, battle can destroy them just as fast.

On Veteran’s day we must think about the missing members of families as well as the missing limbs. Modern medicine has saved many lives that would otherwise have been lost in battle, but the result often makes for a long road of recovery.

When we think of the world wars, Korea or Vietnam, we think of the draft. Today’s veterans are volunteers. They go of their own free will. Remember that when you thank them for their service. And remember too, their wounds may not be visible.


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The Parking Industry – A Paradigm Shift

A friend who attended the NPA event in Florida last week noted that the focus seemed to be on technology as it fits ‘frictionless’ parking and the ‘parking experience.’ A quarter of a century ago the focus was on revenue control and the use of technology to ensure that the money collected made it to the bank.

We had a column every month about revenue control, and survey after survey told us that our readers wanted information on this very topic. Now we have moved almost without discussion to a focus on the customer.

PT has been leading that charge. My take has been that as an industry we have given our customers the short shrift and to keep them in their cars and coming back, we needed to do a much better job of customer service. We needed to provide a parking experience that the parker enjoyed, not tolerated.

But in doing that, should we forget that we are running a business and must keep our eagle eye on the bottom line, on the commercial aspects of what we are doing. Dare we abandon the business of parking for the parking experience?

I just assumed that we would add “the Parking Experience” to our list of priorities and not replace the “business of parking” with it.

I have been reviewing the columns in PT about revenue control and management from ten plus years ago and even with the advent of super technology, most all the issues we discussed over 90 editions of our “PT the Auditor” columns still exist today. Human nature hasn’t changed.

So beginning next month, I’m going to reprise some of the columns that are of interest in our modern high tech world. Let me know if they find their way into your wheelhouse.

Remember — Disney, Nordstroms and Westfield focus on their customers, but they also collect the fee.


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Can you Handle the Truth?

The Big Trade Show Season (in parking) is over and its time to look forward to 2020. The Premiere (read that first) event of national prominence is the Parking Industry Exhibition held this coming March in San Diego.

We have been finalizing the program and once again I am singularly impressed with the variety and quality of the seminars offered. I won’t list them all here (you can go online to see the details) but I will whet the appetite a bit.

Our Keynote Speaker, David Zipper, caught our eye with his piece on FOMO, that is the “Fear of Missing Out.” When we spoke to him there was no question his energy and knowledge of a wide range of topics made him a shoo in to kick off our three day event. I think you will find having lunch with David a memorable experience.

Our colleague Julie Dixon brings her unique outlook on all things dealing with municipal parking hosting her parking ‘open house’ where vendors, users, and hangers on get to talk about the parking issues that plague our cities. She will also host a panel of chief’s of police that will give you an insight into parking enforcement from those who carry the responsibility. Finally, she will bring a panel from a California City that went from free parking to pay parking without any blood being spilt.

We have a panel of ‘amateur parkers’ who will tell you of their experiences, good and bad, in dealing with our industry. In keep with our military theme and honoring veterans with the USS Midway, the Movie Top Gun and Jack Nicholson’s iconic line in “A Few Good Men”   Can you handle what your customers have to say?

Of course technology will be rampant both on the largest trade show floor PIE has even seen with over 175 exhibitors and in presentations where vendors and end users alike describe how technology can be properly used to enhance the Parking Experience. You just might hear some talk about too much tech, not enough people.

We end the event with a symposium featuring half a dozen speakers who blend technology with the experience that your customers have in using it. Yes, apps are here to stay, but just how well do they make parking better for those who use them.

Oh yes, we have networking to die for — Speed Networking will give you a chance to meet your peers in a fun, adult beverage environment. The “Top Gun” themed party will knock your socks off. Remember, the release of the movie “Top Gun Maverick” is just around the corner and these folks will do almost anything to promote their latest flick. We are honored to host veterans from the USS Midway at this event.

Check out the web site, pieshow.parkingtoday.com and see PIE 2020 come to life. We don’t do anything half way.


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To Tech or not to Tech

I have been in a quandry these past few weeks. My car has turned 15 and has 170K on the clock. Traditionally its well past its shelf life and its time to look for a replacement. I have been extremely happy with the car – it’s a Lexus IS 300. I have had virtually no problems with it. I have done all the scheduled maintenance, replaced a bit here and a bob there as needed, and quite simply have loved the car.

So why not replace it with new IS. I went to the Lexus dealer and drove the supposed equivalent. It was “OK” but I didn’t feel the ‘buzz’ you are supposed to feel when you buy a new car.

The kid who road with me on the test drive told me that all the technology was actually built for drivers his age. Frankly I’m not sure I would use all the tech nor did I care about it. The screen the size of a TV was fine for the on board GPS mapping, but frankly my phone seems to work just fine.

As I was sitting in the dealership waiting for credit reports and the ‘closer’ to arrive I wasn’t comfortable. The price wasn’t as much an issue as the fact that I really didn’t like the car that much more than the one I was driving.

When the ‘closer’ came back he knocked a few bucks off the msrp and then added back twice that with extended warranty and maintenance programs. I asked why I needed the extended warranty since I had had such good luck with the car I was driving.

I was told that new cars have so much on board computing and technology that something was always going wrong and it was important to have the extended warranty. Huh? If that was true, then why get the new car anyway.

When I went out to pick up my car from the valet the dispatcher asked me if I wanted to sell it to him. He said that it was of an age where cars were really great and he had been looking for a good one. The valet asked me the same question.

I think I will correct a few cosmetic things, perhaps add a new radio with a back up camera included, and keep my old faithful a few more years. If the dealership doesn’t have confidence in the tech added to these new cars, should I?


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And so it Begins….

I have been musing on the issue of charging stations and how parking space owners are controlling their use. Salt Lake City is reaching out to discover how other municipalities are monitoring the use of on street (and off street) charging stations. Apparently, it’s not that easy.

There are issues. The type of charger (power) denotes the amount of electricity fed into the car’s battery. The car itself makes a difference, as does temperature, and other factors. Most cars, according to a chart I found, get about 20 miles of power for each hour of charging. A Telsa with a supercharging station may get 50 miles per hour, while a Chrysler Pacifica may get less than half that with a lower powered charging station.

The question is just how much power does a city wish to provide. And how long does it wish to allow a car to be parked at the curb. I guess the other question is does a city wish to provide this service for free? If I drive a Belchfire V12 I have to go to the filling station and pay $1.50 a gallon more than anywhere else in the country (I live in California, don’t ask) to fill my tank. However if I paid $100K for a Tesla, can I go to a curbside charging station and get my electron fix for free?

I understand that our betters are promoting the use of electric vehicles and giving away electricity is a way to do that, just as letting them drive in car pool lanes with only the driver is another, but I digress.

If you limit the time one can charge, you are putting a limit on the range of the EV. Let’s say it takes four hours to ‘top up’ an EV, and you limit the amount of time one can charge curbside, to say 2 hours, then you are limiting whether a person can get home or not. These seem like policy issues that need to be addressed.

The problem with letting the private sector solve this problem is that unlike filling stations, where you go and spend five minutes filling up your car, an EV charging station can take a tad longer. Just what are you going to do while your car is charging? That hour or two can take a lot out of your day. Of course if there is a charger in every garage or parking lot, then you can plug in and go to the office, or go shopping and come back in a couple of hours and move your car.

If the charging station charges for the electricity and charges a nominal fee for the first time period ( or 2 hours, say) and then adds a surcharge after that, EV drivers will be motivated to move their car after the first period. My suggestion is that you can’t charge without using a credit card (like at a parking meter) and it will be charged depending on the amount of time you stay. If you stay past the ‘first’ period, the charge could go up exponentially, to $50 or $100. After all, you are taking a space from other EV drivers.

Let’s face it. We have to charge for the use of charging stations. It’s inappropriate to give away free electricity, after all, we all know it isn’t free. That electrical infrastructure will cost big bucks. We are only scratching the surface today. In the future when the EV market share is what, 25% (its less than 2% now) will we be able to afford the luxury of free or subsidized charging?

These are questions that cities like Salt Lake City need to consider. Limiting the time one can use a charger and enforcing it seems like child’s play.

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No, I’m not at the NPA Show      

I made the decision last weekend not to attend the NPA event this week in Orlando. I’ll miss seeing old friends and making new ones, but I think its best for all concerned. I have a world class cold and spreading it around the industry was not the best thing to do.

In addition, Robyn had a knee replaced a week ago and although she said “go” I felt it was better to stay close to home. A little moral support at times like this is a good thing, right.

Besides, I have the best team on the ground in Orlando with Marcy and Astrid meeting, greeting, and representing Parking Today. Please take a few minutes and chat with them.

I know that Christine Banning and her crew are doing a great job and the event is stellar. All the best to all of you there.




No, I’m not at the NPA Show

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The Buried Lede

We have finalized the November issue of Parking Today. It’s the Veterans in Parking issue. Todd Tucker has edited the articles and all but four are written by veterans who work in the parking industry.

I am impressed with the content of the articles, both the stories the authors tell about their time in service and the information they give to help you do a better job in your day to day operations in the parking industry. Its amazing how easily management techniques translate from the military to civilian life.

It is simply wonderful how humble these heroes are as they tell their stories as if they were simple daily activities. Most saw combat and survived some of the most arduous experiences imaginable.

I’m sure you have heard of the concept of “burying the lede.” The ‘lede’ is the major thrust of a story and if you bury it, you hide that information well down in the article. As I was reading one of the vet’s articles, I found that the author was a true hero.

He was the recipient of two, count em two silver stars and two purple hearts. He served in both Vietnam and the Gulf War and left the army as a full colonel. The silver star is the third highest award given in the military and is given for gallantry in action.

We were casting about for a picture to use on the cover, and when I discovered this ‘buried lede’ I knew that his picture would be perfect for the pront page of Parking Today November. I would tell you his name, but I think the cover shot will do just as well.

The pictures in November’s issue may be a tad fuzzy and a bit strange, as they depict these vets as they were when they were in the military. Thinking about it, I don’t think any of us were ever so young.

Here’s the picture we are using on the cover of Parking Today for November. If you don’t recognize him, take a look at page 38.



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The Chicago Way

Chicago is considering slapping a “congestion charge” on Uber and Lyft. You can read all about it over at Parknews.biz.

Cities in Europe, London particularly, have used the congestion charge to help reduce traffic in certain congested areas of the city. And in many cases, it has worked, moving people out of private vehicles and into public transportation.

Chicago doesn’t seem to be concerned about congestion but is using the tax as a way to collect and additional 40 million a year to help fill a budget shortfall. I doubt if a couple of bucks additional on a Uber or Lyft ride will make much difference in whether folks take the TNC or move over to the metro. And since the tax doesn’t apply to private vehicles, those drivers will be unaffected.

There is no question that congestion charges are difficult to get through in any political environment and most likely extremely difficult in Chicago. However taxing TNCs is relatively easy and calling it a ‘congestion charge’ makes it easier for the Windy City to swallow.

Oh, well…another way to collect revenue and little or no result to show for it.


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My favorite Law is Raising its Head Again…

I live in the belly of the beast. LAX is a traffic disaster and although the airport is working to alleviate the problem, it will be a few years before  change will be felt. I’m sure that by the mid 2020s, much of the issue will go away with people movers, off airport auto rental centers, and passenger drop off facilities combined with new metro lines making it easy and convenient for passengers outside the airport proper.

In the meantime, the planners have come up with a scheme to take between 500 and 1000, Taxi, Uber and Lyft cars an hour out of the ‘horseshoe’ and move them to a near by parking lot. To reach it, you can walk – not far from one terminal, quite a hike from others – or take a dedicated shuttle. The airport says that you can be on your way in less than half an hour, less than the sometimes hour it takes now.

Uber says that the plan will cause more congestion around the new pick up point and other unintended consequences. Fair enough.

I sympathize with the airport. They are trying to do something.

The question is: “Why do I take a taxi, or TNC in the first place?” For me the answer is convenience.

I have just arrived off a six hour flight – I have walked from my plane to the street. In some cases I have stopped in the baggage claim area to pick up my suitcase. Frankly, I want to meet my driver, have him/her help me with my bag, and sit in the back of the car until I get home when I will walk a few more feet to my living room and a glass of adult beverage.

What I do not want is to schlep my bags on to a shuttle, ride for 10 minutes, then climb off the shuttle, walk across a waiting area, try to find my tax/uber/lyft driver, then head off home. If I wanted to do that, I could have driven my car to the airport.

Most of the off airport locations have valet services that bring my car to the off airport shuttle stop, take care of the charges in advance, and hand me a water to drink on my drive home.

This extra step has taken away the reason why I took Uber in the first place.

I understand the issue as far as the airport is concerned, but have they really looked at their traffic. Removing cars is going to help, but frankly the traffic appears, at least to me, to be buses, vans and shuttles with privately owned vehicles lost in the milieu.

So not only are the arriving passengers being inconvenienced, but the airport is ADDING shuttle traffic to the mix.

I realize that I know nothing, but the law of unintended consequences is going to kick in and its just possible that this will be a boon to off airport parking operations. If they can keep their service bar set high, my guess is that their vans will be full again, and the TNC business will drop.


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