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VC Money Arrives in the Parking Industry

Over the past few years venture capital money has begun to flow into the Parking Industry. The funding does one of two things. It either allows a company to survive and grow, or it funds rapid growth through acquisition. We have seen both.

The recent purchase of ParkingSoft by T2 is the most obvious. In 2016, T2 was acquired by Thoma Bravo, a venture capital firm. The additional funding brought to T2 enabled it to purchase ParkingSoft, plus expand its existing operations.

But this isn’t all, companies like Spot Hero, Passport, Honk Mobile, Parkwhiz, Smarking, Parkme, ParkX, (now a part of Passport) just to name a few have received VC cash. Do you see anything similar about them. These are companies that are software based. They attract venture capital that is used to supplying money to Silicon Valley start ups.  They understand this type of company.

But in general, what does this mean to our industry. First of all, these money guys have considered that investment in parking isn’t a bad bet. These are companies that will grow in an industry that, although changing, will grow.

Is there disruption going on? You bet there is. Any one of these companies could cause large changes in our industry. T2 may become a force in all aspects of the industry, on and off street. Spot Hero, Canada’s Honk Mobile, Parkme (now a part of Inrix) and Parkwhiz could change the way people find and buy off street parking space. Passport is a leader in pay by cell technology. And now they have the money to continue to disrupt.

You might note that I haven’t listed a legacy revenue control company (although TIBA received a cash injection last year.) The VC money seeks out companies that are on the cutting edge not only of technology, but also how that technology is used. Who would have thought that we would be reserving parking spaces from our smart phones? Somebody with big bucks did.

If you remember a couple of decades ago, commercial banking organizations spent a lot of money on parking operators. Allright and Central in the US and NCP in the UK were the three largest who attracted monied buyers.  But in every case, the companies ended up being sold at fire sale prices. Is anything different happening now?

I think so.

With a couple of exceptions, the companies are not being purchased outright. Money is being invested, mentors are being placed on boards, and the companies are being allow to continue with the leadership basically intact. After the second or third round of funding, changes in management may occur. But by then the VC companies have been able to learn about the companies they have funded and know the direction they should be taking.

Another difference is age. The management of the parking operators was older, established, difficult to mold or change. These companies listed above have young gun founders. These are men and women from the trenches who actually write and debug code. They understand the benefits and limitations of their product, and believe in it.

In a very few years the way companies in the parking business are funded, started, and grow will continue to change. I asked the question five years ago where the VC money was for parking. It was waiting. The wait is now over.

JVH

 

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But I Love my Car

When an agenda underlies a major effort, sometimes its very deep and one must clean away a lot of clutter to find it. When the goal is to basically do away with privately owned vehicles and replace them with everything from feet to bicycles to autonomous vehicles to buses to rapid transit, one might begin to panic.

It may be true that the personal vehicle isn’t as cost effective as any of those methods of transportation noted above, but there is one factor, at least in the US: People love their cars.

I have a friend who just told me if he could get to work on public transport he would sell his car instantly and use alternate means of transport. Fair enough, but I don’t think that’s reality, in his case, or in most cases.

Over they past two weeks his car has been in the body shop. It was a minor fender bender. During that time he was driving a rental pickup (he hated it) and a medium level Toyota. He got his bright red BMW 3 series back Monday and I caught him in the parking lot dusting it off and muttering about dust and dirt. He loves that car.

And why not — its a beautiful machine. And its his.

But there are cars in my neighborhood that are 5 years old, not expensive, that are treated like children. Washed and waxed weekly, driven with care, and owned with pride. It may be difficult to own a house, but most everyone can own and love, a car.

A privately owned vehicle means freedom. It means coming and going when you want. It means that there is something substantial that is yours. And no one can take it away from you. Or can they?

JVH

 

 

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A Contrarian View: Autonomous Vehicles and Parking

First of all, assuming that every vehicle is autonomous, how many will there be. My guess is that there will have to be a lot of them if they are to respond with the same alacrity as one would experience if you had your own car. Plus, when they are empty, and not on a call, they have to be somewhere, if even for a few minutes. They aren’t going to just cruise around aimlessly waiting for someone to ask for them. They will need to park.

Plus, what about at night, or midday, when most cars aren’t being used. They will need a place to sit and be serviced, washed, detailed, repaired, and maintained.

It seems that Google’s Waymo, the giant’s autonomous vehicle arm, has hired Avis to supply places to store and maintain the company’s cars.  But car rental companies usually don’t have the space, nor are they located in places where cars tend to be, like downtown.

But what is located downtown where cars could be stored and maintained? Can you say parking garages.

So parking garages could reach out to autonomous vehicle owners and offer these services to them. To Wit:

“Storage and maintenance will mostly like be best suited for parking structures/lots to accommodate self-driving car fleets,” write Ted & Alan Anglyn, of Parking Property Advisors. “While rental car agencies and other fleet management companies are natural matches, their properties are often not in great locations, which somewhat limits both the capacity and the ability to accommodate growth.

Gee, rather than just storing cars, parking operations could repair, maintain, fuel, clean, and provide a myriad of other money making services to the owners of autonomous vehicles.

The quote from Ted and Alan above is from an article you will find in September’s Parking Today. I’m not sure I buy all their comments, however, if, and its a big IF, autonomous vehicles become ubiquitous, someone has to provide the services mentioned. Who better…

JVH

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Well, Maybe not Everyone is opposed to Bridgeport Meters

I read Paul’s post below about new meters in Bridgeport with interest, and when written it was correct. It seems everyone in Bridgeport, CT was panning the new parking meters in the city. It seems that some of the merchants may be on the side of more consistent parking enforcement, read about it here.

These business people understand that fair, consistent parking enforcement means more spaces available for parkers, more customers, more business. Free parking means that employees take the spaces, people have no place to park, and less business.

But if there is any villain in this piece its the city government of Bridgeport, who sprung the meters on the unsuspecting citizens with little or no pre install publicity, no changes in the civic codes to meet the requirements of the new citation process, no support for a beleaguered sheriff whose job adjudicating protested citations went from 20 a month to 250, and most importantly, not getting the stakeholders (merchants, citizens, equipment suppliers) all on the same team.

Paul’s synopsis is a jewel:

My synopsis: city suggests meters; residents object. City installs meters; city forgets to educate residents and hire appeals staff. Sheriff takes heat for aggressive ticketing and slow appeals process; sheriff gets slammed by prominent resident; sheriff decides he’s not putting up with that crap anymore. City looks foolish. Mayor and city council members start to fear for their ratings; mayor and city council members start backpedaling.

The solution, if there is one, is for the city government to suck it up and start over. Place a six month moratorium on citations (give warnings) and begin the process over.  Pass the proper ordinances, hire support for the appeals process, begin an education program on how the systems works and why its good for everyone, hold meetings with all those for and against to clear the air, get ‘ambassadors’ on the street to explain the program, invest in signage that explains everything.  Then when the warnings drop to a manageable number, start giving citations.

But these folks are politicians. That’ll never happen. Look at how congress is attacking health care and tax reform. Too many agendas, too many up for reelection, too much politics.

Just Sayin

JVH

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Grand Rapids Lowers Fees for Parking App

It’s unusual for cities to lower prices for parking and services. I know those numbers have only gone up in my town. Parking meter fees have tripled, and prices for city classes and amenities have increased by 30 percent. So it’s heartwarming to read about a city that shares savings with its residents.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, fox17online.com reports that convenience fees for Parkmobile app users will go down by 20 cents. That’s a good amount of money considering meter prices in the city range from one dollar to $1.75 per hour.

Parkmobile and the City of Grand Rapids created a new contract that will cut the convenience fee by approximately 43 percent, reducing the price from 35 cents to 15 cents.

It would be pretty easy for Grand Rapids to renegotiate a lower convenience fee and keep the difference – residents aren’t going to know anything’s changed unless you tell them. And people who like the ease of parking by smart phone applications don’t usually object to convenience fees.

Maybe Grand Rapids is hoping lower fees will attract more users, but regardless of the reason, it’s good karma to share the joy of lower prices with everyone.

Read the article here.

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Municipal Parking Meter Drama Plays Out Politely

One of my hobbies is to read news articles other people write and wonder what the sources didn’t share. Municipal leaders and staff are careful what they say to reporters, because a slip of the tongue can cost them their jobs and/or their reputations. When they talk to a reporter they are as diplomatic and noncommittal as they can be – I don’t blame them. But I entertain myself thinking about the details they aren’t sharing.

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, ctpost.com reports that new camera-equipped parking meters have created a logjam of parking appeals that the local sheriff can’t process unless he stops doing everything else in his job description. The sheriff is not pleased.

Michael Moretti, the elected sheriff appointed by Mayor Joseph Ganim as a hearing officer, denied he quit. “I haven’t decided that yet,” Moretti said. He does want help.

Moretti has been handling appeals on a voluntary basis and he’s taken some hard hits for his efforts. The article suggests the uptick in appeals might have been inspired by a community activist and retired superior court judge named Carmen Lopez. Lopez appealed a ticket earlier this year and while attracting publicity for her cause stated that Moretti had not been appointed properly.

Nobody has been happy with the meters. They have met with resistance every step of the way. Bridgeport leaders have already decreased meter fines from $40 to $20, as well as offering free Saturdays and longer grace periods, in response to criticism.

The mayor’s office has announced appeals hearings will start up again in August and there are discussions about appointing more hearing officers. As city council members talk about going back to old-school parking enforcement, the city is on the defensive to such a degree that they are already adding up the costs of scrapping the meters entirely: $457,000 a year.

My synopsis: city suggests meters; residents object. City installs meters; city forgets to educate residents and hire appeals staff. Sheriff takes heat for aggressive ticketing and slow appeals process; sheriff gets slammed by prominent resident; sheriff decides he’s not putting up with that crap anymore. City looks foolish. Mayor and city council members start to fear for their ratings; mayor and city council members start backpedaling.

That’s just me reading between the lines, though.

Read the article here.

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What’s Under Parking Today Media’s Hat?

The NPA Conference and Expo in Palm Springs – October 2-5

Drop by booth 225  and meet with JVH, Eric, Astrid, and Marcy

We will talk parking!!! For more info Click Here

The August issue of Parking Today

Smart Parking, Smart Cities, How is Ohio State doing after privatization,

Plus parking wisdom from Peter, Jeff, Kathleen, Melissa, and JVH

PIE 2018 is Open for Business

The exhibit Hall floor is half sold — Click here

PIE 2018 is the Premiere Parking Event of 2018

Don’t miss out

Parknews.biz is better than Ever

Check out what’s happening in Parking with the Number One

Aggregator site on the web. www.parknews.biz

 

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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Smart Cities

I was most impressed with one story I heard at the Smart Cities Connect confab in Austin. It brought to mind Walt Disney’s Fantasia and Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. For those of you who remember the cute little rodent who worked for the Sorcerer. The boss left him in charge, and who could resist putting on that pointy hat and picking up the magic wand.

Mickey was supposed to carry water but he found that with a few ‘waves’ of the wand, he could get the broom to carry the water without him having to break into a sweat. Of course all hell breaks loose as the brooms bring more and more water and begin to flood the castle. Mickey can’t stop the onslaught, and is swept up in the tsunami. The Sorcerer arrives in the nick of time and saves the day and a chastened mouse goes back to what he does best.

Oh yes, the story. It seems that an electricity supplier for a major city in the Northeast had a data collection operation going on. When it began a couple of decades ago, they were collecting a gigabyte of data a year. Time passed and they began to install sensors throughout their network. Today they collect a gigabyte every thirty minutes.

Is it possible to be able to actually use that nearly 18 terabytes of raw data? Who is the sorcerer and what kind of magic wand is going to be used?  And keep in mind that the data equaling 18 terabytes was from the electric company alone. What happens when you add in streets, trash collection, lights, traffic signals, police, fire, CCTV cameras, and the rest.

It seems to me that the collection of the data is the easy part. The big job is the processing of the data into something usable.  To do that you first have to know what your goal is, and how the data will help you reach it. Then you can perhaps process the data in such a way that it makes sense.

The parking folks know about what they need for parking, the water and power folks know what they need, as to the street, police, fire, and trash departments. Who knows enough to pull all that data together and make sense from it?

I”m not saying it can’t be done. I just think that this is where the focus needs to be.

JVH

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Will we be Carless in a “Smart City?”

A week or so ago I had the privilege of attending the “Smart Cities Connect” event in Austin, TX. After spending a couple of days with the movers and shakers of “Smart Cities”, I realized that I’m not sure what to think.

First of all, I’m in the parking business.  At this event, attended by a large number of cities focused on “Smart,” some of which actually took exhibitor space to promote their “Smartness,” there was no mention of “Parking.”  Well, that’s not quite true, in the program, there were directions as to where to park at the Austin Convention Center.

I did attend one session on “mobility” where two of the panelists were from parking vendors, ParkiFi and Cale.  They were the only parking related companies at the entire event.  At this session I created a furor when I asked “Why parking isn’t a topic for discussion in the “Smart Cities” genre.  I was told on no uncertain terms that they “Loved Parking, ” that “Parking was sexy,” and the like. I told the moderator that there was no need to be defensive, but that I thought that since virtually everyone living in a city had parking on their agenda, it would seem logical that a so called “Smart City” would have it on its agenda too.

I walked into the city of Portland’s booth and asked about their “Smart Parking” component and was told in no uncertain terms that parking wasn’t in their wheel house since the goal was to remove cars, and hence parking, from the city.Move along please, there is nothing to see here.

I began thinking about agendas, and just what the long term agenda of cities trying to become smart actually was. Was it to make the city more livable? Was it to enable the city government to save money by using data to run their operation more effectively? Or was it to redesign the city in the vision of those who had such a vision?

I then read an article by Astrid that we will print in the August Edition of Parking Today where she posits that perhaps rather than focusing on the technology portion of “Smart Cities” that perhaps we should deal in the residents of cities and become “conscious” rather than ‘Smart”.  Her summary:

Perhaps it is time for us to all pause and put people first and technology that serves them second.  In parking, transit, urban planning, it is time for us to look within, engage and listen, thus creating conscious, emotionally intelligent cities and not just cold mechanical smart cities.

I got the feeling at the “Smart Cities Connect” conference, that everyone had an agenda, and few were actually listening to the people in the city. The Exhibitors want to sell gizmos that would find and collect data, the consultants wanted to help cities select the ‘right’ gizmo, and the cities wanted to show off their ‘smartness.’

Let’s face it, delivering electricity and water and lighting services along with more efficient trash collection isn’t really going to make a heck of a lot of difference to me as a resident. I get lights now, I will have lights later. What will make a difference is how I can streamline the parking of my car.

The smart city crowd wants to do away with my car. But have they asked me what I want to do with it?  Probably not.

JVH

 

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July 4, 1776

Thomas Jefferson wrote these words nearly two and a half centuries ago.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

If you like, you can see each sentence explained here.

The words seem to me to be self evident. Jefferson, like the other signers of the Declaration, were wealthy, landed, comfortable men. But they came together to pledge their “Lives, Fortunes, and Sacred Honor,” to risk everything, to begin an experiment that has lasted until today.

Perfect? No. No more perfect than the humans that created it. But it seems that its the best there is. When we pledge ourselves and fight and die, we are sometimes right, and sometimes wrong. But as General Mark Clark said at Normandy after WWII:

IF EVER PROOF WERE NEEDED THAT WE FOUGHT FOR A CAUSE AND NOT FOR CONQUEST, IT COULD BE FOUND IN THESE CEMETERIES. HERE WAS OUR ONLY CONQUEST: ALL WE ASKED … WAS ENOUGH … SOIL IN WHICH TO BURY OUR GALLANT DEAD.

Jefferson et al had no idea what they were starting. But I think they would be proud of what, warts and all, has remained today. They created a crucible where great ideas could be forged, where morals and leadership could grow, where anyone, yes anyone, if they work hard and persevere can prosper and find that happiness.

Happy Birthday America — Many happy returns.

JVH

 

 

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