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Every Day Above Ground is a Good Day! Let’s Focus on the Present

My friend Carla Green over at Clarity Designworks sent this thoughtful missif today. I felt it needed a wider view. Thanks Carla:

When I ask a certain friend of mine how he is, his response is often, “Every day above ground is a good day.” I always smile at his words, appreciating this most basic expression of gratitude.

Because no matter what we face at any given moment, on any given day, the fact that we are here to meet it, greet it, tackle it, embrace it, is a gift. Whether we are confronting difficulty or experiencing delight, we get to actively participate in this thing called life. And what’s not to be grateful about that?

My friend’s sentiment also reminds me to focus on the present, what’s in front of me right now. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and worrying about it won’t change anything. What happened yesterday doesn’t deserve much attention either, other than learning from mistakes and cherishing memories. This day is where I can make a difference. This day is what needs my energy. This day is why I’m here.

And what I want to do with this day is express my gratitude for every trial, tribulation and triumph that comes my way, and yours as well. These things most certainly prepare us for what comes next, but perhaps their greater value is in encouraging us to appreciate the here and now, to savor each moment, to simply be present.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, perhaps you will enjoy the words of that silly old bear, Winnie the Pooh, and Piglet too:

“What day is it?”

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

“My favorite day,” said Pooh.

I hope today is your favorite day too.

Who can top the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh.

Happy Thanksgiving


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Happy Thanksgiving

Its Thanksgiving and time to think about things we can be thankful for. One can quickly list friends, family, good health, and the ease of getting the very meal you are eating while chronicling all the good things that are in your life. But if you can’t, I have, with the help of Jim Geraghty over at National Review listed a few things that might not pop to mind between the turkey and the stuffing:

  • Drunk driving rates have hit an all-time low
  • Air travel is getting safer and cheaper
  • High school graduation rates are the highest level ever
  • Teen drug use is down dramatically
  • A third of all American adults have a four year college degree highest level ever
  • There are more job openings than unemployed workers
  • Military causalities in Iraq and Afghanistan are down dramatically in the past five years
  • HIV mortality rate is down in the US by more than 80 percent and the President’s emergency plan for AIDS relief in Africa has saved 14 million lives over the past 15 years
  • With Amazon we can buy most anything, a book movie DVD, toy and the like, and we don’t have to limit ourselves to what a bookstore can have on the shelf.
  • You can self publish a book on Amazon for a pittance.
  • There is a You Tube video that can tell you how to fix anything in your house.
  • Think about how many pictures you take now and don’t have to develop film.

I could go on but you get the drift. A cynic could easily list tons of disasters and problems, but why? You can’t do anything about them. Worry helps no one. But thinking about some of the good things that have been happening, particularly in the toxic political environment in which we find ourselves, can be cathartic.

Try it, you might like it.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from all of us here at Parking Today Media.


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Just what is a cultural driver?

The World Resource Institute is hawking a blog that is bemoaning the fact that urban sprawl exists and therefore an individual’s carbon footprint is larger since they have things like houses, gardens, and cars, plus have to drive further to get to work. The WRI posits that we should live cheek by jowl in cities to reduce that carbon footprint. From their blog:

What Are the Barriers to Compact Growth?

Millions of urban dwellers live in private houses with their own gardens and private cars. Millions more aspire to this type of lifestyle. This cultural norm is reinforced by economic drivers, such as the lower cost of land around the urban periphery and tax policies that favor single-family dwellings.

But once housing and infrastructure have been built, it is extremely difficult to change a city’s design. The infrastructure and urban planning decisions made today can lock cities in to carbon-intensive growth patterns.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to breaking these locks is mobilizing the huge investments required to build or change transport networks. Once a city has highways, it is cheaper to extend them than to replace them with trains, for example.

Cities in North America and Australia depend most heavily on private cars. People living in these cities consequently have very high carbon footprints.

So let’s see. Folks are immigrating to the US both legally and illegally to get out of those compact cities and into places where they can have a piece of dirt, a garden and a car. The Horror.

I’m sure there are plenty of folks living on the upper East Side in Manhattan or Downtown San Francisco or in Central DC who are quite happy with a small apartment, no car, and a quick walk to work. So be it.

There are also those lugs who aspire to houses, gardens, and cars. It’s the cultural norm mentioned above. But I’m not sure that lower cost of land and tax policies are the drivers. Is it possible that it’s the human psyche that looks for a bit of freedom, personal ownership, the ability to actually see and touch the fruits of our labors?

To me this is not a bad thing, it is a ‘driver’ that lets people have a piece of the prosperity that they are creating. Somehow a 700 square foot apartment and a good pair of shoes just doesn’t cut i, at least for me.

The WRI would like to see us all stacked one on top of another in a compact, carless city so the our surroundings could be better controlled to fit into its vision of just how the world should work.

Somehow I still like the idea of having a choice. One size doesn’t not fit all.


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Mobility and the Resistance

I was surprised when the woman in charge of “Smart Cities” for Los Angeles told me that she couldn’t get the parking department to return her phone calls. What was that all about? Was the parking department in the nation’s second largest city not concerned with sharing data or technology? Or were they simply up to their collective necks in the problems of parking millions of vehicles a day.

When the lauded SF Park program in San Francisco came to an end, no one wanted to say that the 24 million dollar program failed, but it did. Was it because the underlying goal was not to park cars quickly and conveniently, but to do away with cars.

When Julie Dixon holds parking networking events across California and a hundred people from cities and universities show up at each, why is “mobility” never mentioned? These folks are struggling with the problems of parking cars and enforcing parking rules.

When the largest provider of parking control and enforcement hardware and software holds a training program for its customers, more than 400 show up from cities and universities to network and hone their parking skills.

I wonder if “Mobility” might be feeling a bit of push back from the parking professionals who have the boots on the ground and need to fight the daily battle enforcing regulations and ensuring the parking asset is protected.

Is the “resistance” behind the scenes and like the “deep state”,  “deep parking” is doing its job oblivious to the political pressures, or in spite of them?


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Mobility – Can Parking Survive without It

The term “Mobility” has suddenly become the buzzword of the day in our industry. One manager tells me that if she talks about “parking” eyes glaze over, but if she mentions “Mobility” the listeners are engaged. A major parking organization changes its name to add “Mobility” to its letterhead. “MaaS” (Mobility as a Service) is on every seminar list.

When I was having breakfast at the T2 Connect event last week and chatting with the folks at the table something obvious occurred to me. They were all from cities or universities. The organization names on their shirts included “Transportation.” Every one were members of a “Parking and Transportation” group at their city or school. Makes sense since they are T2’s primary customer base.

That is also true of name changing IPI, of the majority of members of local and regional associations, of the “Smart City” groups that talk of Mobility, and the vendors like pay by cell, sensor, and on street meter and enforcement companies. They all focus on municipal/university groups and hence, have concern about “Mobility” as well as Transportation, as well as Parking. Fair Enough.

But what about the tens of millions, or maybe hundreds of millions of parking spaces that aren’t controlled by cities or universities. What about parking at shopping centers, office buildings, hotels, apartments, venues, airports, hospitals, restaurants, myriad valet operations, strip malls, supermarkets, and theaters, places that are controlled, collect money, and provide jobs for hundreds of thousands of parking attendants, valets, managers, supervisors, operations vice presidents and CEO’s.

Do these parking professionals who work for organizations have “Mobility” on their minds when they go to work every morning. They probably have the opposite. How do they conveniently and quickly stop the “Mobility” of vehicles and place them where they can be conveniently and quickly retrieved when needed.

Parking and Transportation groups see their mandate to provide parking, but also to provide transportation (buses, bike lanes, scooters, curb controls, trolleys, rapid transit, and the like) in an effort to see to it that congestion is reduced, fewer and fewer actually drive single occupancy vehicles, and alternatives are created.

The mandate is laudable and necessary. The Public sector has a job to do and Mobility is part of that job.

But the private sector has a job to do too. For the 85% of the commuters that need a place to park at the end of their trip (A number that hasn’t changed in 60 years) the private operator and owner of parking spaces must continue to fulfill its mandate.

As an industry we must not be distracted by “Mobility” even though eyes glaze over and “Parking” isn’t a buzzword. In a politically driven world, like municipalities, “Mobility” is popular. But do away with parking and see what the Mayor or City Council have to say.

Universities and Cities must keep the buses running, and bike lanes, scooters, and trolleys are important, too. “Mobility” has its place.

But at the same time, those hundreds of millions of cars need to find a place to conveniently and quickly park daily. The private sector is doing that in spades every day. And that isn’t going away soon.


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Parking Organizations are Critical to our Industry

Like leaves turning color, parking organizations meet during Autumn. Parking Today has attended a number of these events and will continue to do so. We are learning just how critical these groups are to our industry. The IPMI and NPA are important, but frankly if you add up all the people who attend regional parking associations, they outnumber both the IPMI and NPA combined.

These groups attract vendors that help sponsor the events and show their wares. Its a relatively inexpensive way to meet those pros with boots on the ground that do the work that makes an industry. Let’s face it, its the senior managers who got to the NPA, IPMI and PIE. Fair enough. But the line troops who make the everyday decisions that affect parking and the people who actually park cars are the ones that attend the regional events.

This is where they can network with their peers and learn about solving problems they meet every day.

In addition to attending the NPA convention in Las Vegas and the Park Australia in the country’s Gold Coast, PT has attended the

  • Southwestern Parking and Transportation Convention in Las Vegas (Astrid)
  • The Middle Atlantic Parking Association in Baltimore  (JVH)
  • The California Public Parking Association in Los Angeles  (Astrid and Eric)
  • T2’s Connect in Orlando (JVH)
  • And will be attending the Florida Parking Association in Ponte Vedra (Marcy) and
  • Gulf Traffic in Dubai (JVH)

Plus we will be covering parking events in person throughout 2019. Check our calendar here to be sure you are listed. If you aren’t, contact Astrid at astrid@parkingtoday.com. We will be there.


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How do These Stories Affect Me?

I was chatting with a friend the other day and commented that Parking Today was attempting to bring more international stories about parking to its readers. She surprised me by saying “I’m sure the stories are interesting, but how do they affect me?”

I was stunned into silence. Are Americans really so parochial? Is there nothing to learn from other societies or cultures? Is this the only place one parks cars? Could we help others with our experience? Could a tech company want to know about emerging markets in Africa or Asia?

I glanced through the October issue and found the following:

  •             Peter Guest from the UK talked about electric cars and how the British government was dealing with charging stations. It seems there was a lot to be learned from their problems in that area.
  •             There was an article on exterior screens that added security and beauty to parking garages in Adelaide, Australia. The company was bringing their product to the US.
  •             The article on parking in India by Paul Barter points out how the country is going from virtually no parking management to some of the most complex, including dynamic pricing. It shows some of the pitfalls using such policies have. Those pitfalls could also occur here.
  •             PT’s African Correspondent Shem Oirere reported on the University of Cape Town and its struggle with limited funds for new parking structures and its rather primitive approach to the use of permits. I wondered how many consulting firms and tech companies might want to call on the University and others like it to offer help. They need it. And may be willing to pay for it.
  •             The UK’s Helen Dolphin wrote about using 3D pavement marking for crosswalks. Seems they are really ‘neat’ but might create more problems than they fix. Food for thought for street managers in US cities.

In one issue, there are five different stories that could bring fresh looks at parking issues here in the US. Why try things here when they have been tried other places and their success or failure have been so well documented.

Are you a vendor of parking tech. Would it be nice to know that schools in emerging countries have real issues that you could fix? Would it be nice to know that countries like India and Kenya have major parking activity going on right now in which you could become involved?

I talk about being in the arena. Is it just possible the arena is larger than our own block, neighborhood, city, state, or yes, even country? This month Peter brings more insight into all things parking in the UK, Astrid reports on how the Australians approach parking at their bi annual parking convention (maybe some technology we haven’t seen yet here in the US), Shem reports on the fact that the Kenyan Rail Corporation is going out to bid on parking management and controls at 33 stations between Mombasa and  Nairobi. That might be something our PARCS and operators might wish to track.

Yes, the articles are interesting, but they also bring new ideas and possibilities to readers who find that being in the arena is rewarding and just a bit exciting. Yes, these stories can affect you, if you let them.


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The Speed of our Lives, Taking Offense, and Fake News

I read recently that the Feds are considering dropping the requirement that businesses report their status (earnings, etc) quarterly. This request was made by some of the most successful firms in the land. It seems they are spending small (and in some cases large) fortunes simply preparing reports. The end result it seems is to affect stock fluctuations and enriching wall street traders but little else. Corporate managers are distracted by these reports and cannot see the long term.

That set off an entire thought chain about the speed of our lives and whether we really benefit from the bombardment of information, communication, and the like or whether it is detrimental to the quality of our lives.

We have trained ourselves that we MUST respond instantly to emails. We have set expectations that if we don’t have an instant response (even if its just an “l’ll get back to you later” response) we are being ignored and begin to take offense. The fact that the person may be in the bathroom or careening at 70mph down the 405, well you know what I mean, is immaterial. They didn’t respond. There must be something wrong. Maybe they are dissing me. Maybe I should take offense. Hmmmmm.

Of course this is absurd.

I have also been musing about “fake news.” Although I am cynical about it, I will give the devil its due. I will assume that most “fake news” is “mistaken news.” That is in the rush to get the news to those who crave it, reporters and their ilk don’t take the time to check their facts, ensure they aren’t being played by their sources, and forget the rules we used to play by. That is, a story didn’t run until it had been verified by two independent sources. If you didn’t have those, there was no story. In our quest to bring the news to the consumers, in our desire to use all the tools at our disposal (smart phones, internet, Twitter, and the rest) we forget that we need quality as well as speed.

That’s why, by the way, I don’t watch TV news. I know that newspapers can be biased, but at least there is a chance that some editor, somewhere, had a chance at the story before it ran.

As Michael Walsh said in over at PJM:

Indeed, it’s not just business that needs a respite from the increasing pace of infinitesimal events — it’s all of us.  Are we really better off by having our days sorted into seconds and even microseconds? Is it really vital to have instantaneous communication with the outside world? Are not some things better to be said at leisure, rather than repented of in haste? Can anything worthwhile or lasting be created in a Wall Street nano-second? Or can only often-irreversible damage be done?


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They Had Your Back, Show Them You Have Theirs

Today we celebrate Veterans Day, formerly Armistice Day, the day the War to End all Wars, WW 1, drew to a close. We remember those who serve today, and those who served, and those who gave everything for our country.

Our military is all volunteer. The men and women who serve today do so because they want to. They pass rigorous tests and not all are taken. They are the very cream of our youth. While serving they gain character and skills that transfer easily into civilian life.

But do we think about them when we are hiring? Here is a pool of talent that is virtually untapped. What can we, as an industry, do for them, after they have done so much for us.

A group of veterans including Doug Cram, Jeremy Duplechin, Todd Tucker, Stephen Smith and Allen Corry, all parking professionals, have founded a non profit organization called Veterans in Parking. Its goal is to find jobs for veterans as they return to civilian status.  PT is supporting this group and so should you.

In addition to saying a quick prayer or thinking a few good thoughts on Veterans day, why not do something tangible. Join Doug and his group and bring high quality candidates into your hiring process. You can reach them through their web site www.vetsinparking.com.

These veterans volunteered to watch your back. They took years out of their lives and risked their future and health to protect you. This is a perfect way to show these fantastic people you have their backs, too.


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Its Election Day

Have you Voted? There is still time. It seems there is a huge interest in this election and if my precinct is any example, it will be a big turnout. Each party says a large turnout is good for them. I have no clue. As bad a job as the pollsters have done in the past, I’m not sure just how to read them now. I say just watch reruns of MASH, WKRP, and Andy Griffith today and wake up tomorrow to sort out the winners and losers.

I voted at the local fire station. There was a long line at 715 in the morning, it took almost 45 minutes to queue up and vote. We use a data card with a little stamp that puts ink in circles on the card.  Its pretty easy and there are no ‘hanging chad.’ You then put the card through a scanner where it is tabulated at that time. When the polls close, the scanner is hooked up to a phone line and the data is downloaded to election central and totaled. Neat, huh.

As you can see from the picture, there were some kids there with their parents. I thought this was terrific. They got to see what democracy was all about first hand.

There is something special about voting, whether your side wins or not. You feel empowered. Try it. You will like it.


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