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Yep… We Changed the Dates for PIE 2021 — It’s Now Set for April 12-15.

We are announcing new dates for PIE 2021. Our venue has offered us new dates and we grabbed them up. PIE 2021 will be held April 12-15 at the Schaumburg, IL Convention Center, a short 15 minute drive from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

These new dates will place PIE a month away from the Intertraffic Show being held in March in Amsterdam and move us into a time that doesn’t conflict with Spring Break, Easter or Passover. Plus, April is a beautiful time to visit Illinois.

Our PIE team, under the leadership of Marcy Sparrow, is working on some new approaches to the way we will be presenting the information content of the event, plus some “ab fab” networking that will truly ‘welcome back’ the parking industry after a challenging year.

Plan to come and see your parking friends, colleagues, and competitors after nearly 18 months without an industry event.

Mark your calendars. PIE 2021, April 12-15.



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Is Parking Back?

Is parking back? Will the recovery be a “V” or a lopsided “S”? The answers to these questions mean jobs, profit, and in some cases survival. Parking Today reached out to industry leaders and received encouraging news. In some cases it was counterintuitive.

An owner in Chicago, for instance, is seeing parking in his facilities at 65% of normal. Not too shabby considering that two months ago it was in the single digits. This is in the face of only about 35% of the office workers that feed his garages have returned to work. “Its fear of riding the trains,” he said. Many of those coming to work are driving and helping in the garage occupancy.

The vast majority of workers in downtown Chicago ride the Metra. And most of them, who are coming to work, are now driving. “We have companies we have never heard of calling up and asking for parking spaces.”

Of course his garage in Galveston that supports the cruise ship industry is a different story. “We haven’t parked a car since March, and probably won’t until the fall.”

Chicago’s experience may be different from Los Angeles, where rapid transit is not so pervasive, however operators, particularly in the hospitality end of the spectrum are seeing an uptick. We are told that high end destination hotels near the beach are selling out and people aren’t taking Uber and Lyft, but driving themselves, and that’s good news for the valet industry. Hotels that cater to the business traveler don’t see the same kind of increase. They will be slower to re bound.

Smarking reports the following: The rebound is happening slowly but surely: Miami commuter parking was back to almost 70% of same time last year, Austin 60%+, Boston 60%, Chicago 50%+; On_street parking has been back to 50% for 4 weeks nationwide, and online parking searching is back to 50%.

The bottom dropped out on the 15th of March. We are now four months in to this (I know it feels like four years) and things are turning around. If we can just keep our betters from screwing it up, we will come out just fine.


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Some Good News – Looking out the Window

I have noticed that the number of cars in the garage under our building is slowly increasing. In February it was full, in March empty, but now maybe 25% and increasing at about 5% a week. It is also an off airport location and those spaces have a few cars in them, too. Seems like good news.

Traffic is definitely picking up on the 405.  Not back to the normal urban crawl, but more cars nevertheless. They have to park somewhere.

I’m told that when you fly (I know a number of people who have flown in the past couple of weeks), the planes are full. This is very good news. That means as reservations pick up, airlines will have to lay on more flights, airports will be busier, more cars will be taking people to the airport, and on and off airport locations will begin to feel more normal.

I print this without comment – You can read it all here

Deaths in the U.S. from all causes peaked during week 15 of 2020, which is April 8 to April 14. This is the CDC’s chart found here. It shows that the Wuhan virus has never had any significant impact on those aged 0 to 44. Within the age groups that have been affected by COVID (remember, this chart shows deaths from all causes, which I think is the most relevant metric), fatalities peaked during week 15 and have fallen precipitously since then. The last couple of weeks worth of data are incomplete, but CDC includes provisional estimates of total fatalities to try to fill in that gap.

This chart also comes from the CDC. It shows the percentage of deaths that are attributed to pneumonia and influenza, which includes the Wuhan virus. Normally during flu season these causes account for six to eight percent of all deaths, while during the current epidemic they peaked at a little under 16 percent. But the percentage has fallen rapidly and is now back down to the average level.

Taking the data together, it appears that the Wuhan epidemic is more or less over. At this point, COVID-19 is just one of around 150 viruses currently in circulation. That doesn’t mean that it does no harm–it’s a disease–but it does imply that COVID does not represent a public health crisis, let alone a unique crisis. People are dying at the same rates they generally do.

The current increase in “cases” is mostly an artifact of vastly more widespread testing, but the testing and consequent “cases” have little significance since most people who contract the virus don’t even notice it–not exactly the definition of the greatest public health crisis in a century. This is especially true in the younger demographics where the disease is increasingly identified through testing. To the extent that total deaths begin to rise again, it will be evidence of a “second wave” of greater or less significance. But at this point, there is no evidence that this is happening.

Enough for now


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Little Things

Have you ever noticed that sometimes it’s the ‘little things’ that really get under your skin. Minor inconveniences or simply things that catch your attention that bug you. For instance:

When I sit in our living room, I look out the window and see a short palm tree. One of the fronds is yellow and dying. It needs to be cut off…I have been staring at it for months and thinking about it but have done nothing. The other day I put down my book, got a saw, and went out and cut the damn thing off. Took maybe four minutes. Now I can look out my window and not see that damn frond. My world is a better place.

For at least the past three years, my shower has had a slow running drain. I have tried everything – you know snakes, Drano, clearing out hair, nothing seemed to help. Finally it go so bad I couldn’t clear it and I called a plumber. Half an hour and $75 later and I have a clear running drain. No water backing up, no standing in soapy water. Life is good. I actually stand there and watch the water circle the drain. It’s wonderful. Why didn’t I call the plumber three years ago?

We have a princess flower tree in our back yard. I has been leaning over so badly I have had to tie it up to the garage, but it was still leaning and looking like it should be removed. Finally, I simply took a board, placed it under a branch, and now it is getting straighter. Once a week I move the board a bit and by the end of summer, I’ll have a straight tree. Dollars invested $0 Time invested 4 minutes.

We have a gizmo on our TV so Robyn can listen without bothering me, and another gizmo so I can hear through my hearing aids when I want to. However, to make this happen, I had to create a series of wires and connections that look roughly like the snakes in the Well of Souls in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The problem is that there was a bad cable. Every time the cleaning lady came (once a week) she dusted around there, and the gizmos didn’t work. I would shake the wires and it would start to work again. Finally I decided to fix it. I was able to determine which one of the cables was bad. Also that much of the snake pit was unnecessary. I went into my box of cables, found the ones needed, and replaced everything. Time taken, 20 minutes. Money $0. All is right with the TV world.

There are probably a dozen more of these ‘little things’ around. But I will tell you, fixing the four above has made the quality of my life much greater. These are minor changes. They took no time and very little money. I’m going to start on the car next. Probably take a small investment but it will be worth it.

These weren’t things I dwell on, but things that when I saw them, they bugged me. Now they don’t. I know you probably fix things like this as a matter of course. More power to you. Fixing little things is easy and important. It gives you time to think about more important things. It only took me three quarters of a century to figure that out.


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It’s About Independence and Opportunity

Celebrations like Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day are among the things that define the American Experiment. When we declared independence from England nearly 250 years ago, the country didn’t magically become ‘free’ and all our people ‘equal’.

We took off one cloak and replaced it with another. The founding fathers knew they were imperfect, and often had to trade like crazy to cut the deals that held our fledgling country together. That political infighting continues to this day.

The founders knew that change would come, but they understood that culture moves slowly. Certainly they wanted it “NOW” but the differing social and economic forces prevented many of the changes needed.

It took the famous ‘four score and seven’ years for slavery to be abolished. It has taken an additional 150 years for those held in servitude to see their ancestors in a time where they have the opportunity to lead better lives.

The key word is not freedom, but opportunity.  We have become so embroiled in accusations and petty hatred that we have forgotten that what makes us great, and in most cases unique, is not the freedom we take for granted, but the opportunity we all have to succeed, and also to fail.

We have the independence to make what we want of our lives. Some start higher on the ladder than others, some have to struggle just to get started. Life isn’t fair. But each of us has the opportunity to make of ourselves what we can.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book about Outliers and their investment of 10,000 hours of practice in their field of endeavor has been scientifically debunked. There are other attributes including intelligence, age, talent, and even the selection of a field of focus. It is doubtful that Bill Gates could have become an NBA star, no matter how many hours he put into it, but neither could Kareem Abdul Jabbar have guided a dos program to the size of Microsoft. We each have our own path.

Given the opportunity and independence each of us has, its frustrating that others are more successful and many without even having to put in the 10,000 hours. They seem to flow through life from one success to another, while we are still practicing and trying and failing. What the hell talent do they have that I don’t?

If you have the time over the Independence Day Weekend how about considering not the reason why you are where you are today, why you  succeeded or failed, but the opportunity and independence your country has provided. By the way, that’s all you get. The rest is up to you.


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Don’t Panic: Third Quarter Begins Tomorrow

My industry sources tell me that many of the parking improvements that were scheduled for installation in the third quarter were moved to the second to take advantage of the fact that most parking facilities were empty. This gave the installers an opportunity to do their work without having to work around traffic. Made perfect sense.

That means that Q2 saw a good cash influx for those who had a good order book. However it also means that Q3 could see some challenges. Many companies are just getting back to work, cars are only now starting to return to parking facilities, and owners are a tad reluctant to commit to orders until they see that the worm has in fact turned.

Winston Churchill is famous for quotations. Today on Parknews.biz we featured one of the best: “”Sure I am of this – that you only have to endure to conquer.” And endure we shall.

On that note I will leave you with my two favorite quotes by Winnie.

First, commenting on the dangling participle.

After receiving a Minute issued by a priggish civil servant, objecting to the ending of a sentence with a preposition and the use of a dangling participle in official documents, Churchill red penciled in the margin: “This is the sort of pedantry up with which I will not put.”

And, after maybe a tad too many brandies, he was accosted by a woman who was berating him on his inebriation. His world class response: “Madam, you are ugly. In the morning, I shall be sober.”

It may take a month or two, but in one not too distant future morning, our industry too will be sober. Happy Third Quarter to all.


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Is the Parking Industry Racist?

I have been thinking about the maelstrom in which we find ourselves. Is everything truly about race. Is every action we take meant to reflect white privilege and white supremacy? Certainly that is so if you believe the media and the cancel culture.

In the past few days I have come across a couple of blogs and an article that hint at possible racism in parking. I have been reluctant to blog about it because I felt that it was adding fuel to an already roaring fire. I have been reconsidering that position.

Michael Connor at Kimley Horn has written a thoughtful piece about residential parking permit programs and how they may be construed, even obliquely, as racist and red lining. My immediate reaction was to spike it. Do we really need more articles about race, particularly in the parking industry, for goodness sake? Michael’s piece starts like this:

In theory, parking is color blind and unbiased. A parking space doesn’t know the color of your skin, your economic status, or any other personal features that may relate to you. It doesn’t care if you are a doctor, lawyer, administrative assistant, or customer at a restaurant—all it asks is that you pay the appropriate fee and/or follow the posted restriction. But is parking as equal as we think? Are there elements within the parking industry and in the parking experience that are inherently biased toward one group or another?

Tony Jordan’s group, the Parking Reform Network, up in Portland is positing the idea that parking minimums may be inherently racist. To some extent they make low cost housing more difficult to build and unattainable to the poorer sectors of our society. You can see where that is going.

I’m not ambivalent. I have very strong feelings about this entire subject. I won’t get into them in detail now. I do, however, believe there are at least two sides to the discussion. And it needs to be had.

Michael agrees we need this discussion. Who knows how it will come out? Maybe we will shine some sunlight into some dark corners of our profession. Or, maybe we will find that rules we make could use some ‘adjustment’ because they are inherently unfair to everyone.
Unfortunately the July Issue of was nearly in print when I received Michael’s article, so I’m not able to get it in. But with August, I hope to begin an ongoing discussion. His article is fair and open, and I will invite Tony to also be a part of it. I invite anyone else to join in. Let’s talk.

If anything good can come out of this mess, perhaps a little understanding and empathy will be part of it.


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The Masque

OK, I’ll admit it, I am not comfortable wearing a mask. Its hot, its smelly, it fogs my glasses, and frankly I miss seeing the faces of people I meet on the street or in a store. The inconsistencies that our betters have put forth in dealing with masks is legend.

You have to wear a mask entering a restaurant but as soon as you sit down you can take it off. Until you go to the restroom, then you have to put it back on. (The waitstaff seem to be in control as to who sits where, I have seen “Table closed” signs removed quickly when a large party happens to arrive.)

In California you are supposed to wear a mask when walking on the street, and perhaps that’s reasonable on a crowded central city street, but is it reasonable on a neighborhood street where the nearest other person is a block away? And how about in cars, or while jogging on the beach, or working in your front garden.  OK, see the exception below. Does that mean that while walking on an uncrowded city street I don’t have to wear a mask. But is walking to the post office consideration recreation?

I have read that the hearing impaired (read that JVH) don’t have to wear them, but that makes no sense. It’s not me talking that I can’t hear, its others around me I can’t understand. And its THEIR masks causing the problem, not mine. Yes, you can remove your mask when talking to me, but why do I, as hearing impaired, get a pass. Confused yet? Sigh.

I did find this ‘exception’ amongst others as noted by the California Governor’s Office:

Persons who are engaged in outdoor work or recreation such as swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling or running, when alone or with household members, and when they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.

I did note that walking through parking facilities is specifically noted as a place where masks are required:

Working in or walking through common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators and parking facilities.

OK, I understand elevators, and hallways and the like, when when in a parking facility are you within six feet of another person?

If you want to see all the rules, go here.

Ok, now will all you “Karens” that are giving me the stink eye for walking Suki without a mask back off. I am not breaking the rules, and trust me, Suki will ensure no one is closer that six feet. And when you are jogging or walking in the park on at the beach, take off the damn mask. Let’s loosen up a tad when we can.

Wearing masks is a courtesy to others inside, in stores and businesses. So be it. But remember, wearing the mask is to protect others from you, not you from others. I think wearing the mask in reasonable situations, is appropriate. But we need to make sense out of it. Everyone wearing masks all the time everywhere, particularly when it is obviously unreasonable and unnecessary is instilling fear, and treating us like serfs.

It will be interesting how those in charge will begin the ‘great unmasking.’


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Looking out the Window – This Rebound is a good thing

As I drove around Southern California on Friday there was a sense that we were back to normal traffic wise. Interstate 15 north out of San Diego was jammed with what I would call the usual Friday night chaos. The surface streets in West Los Angeles that morning were slowed to a crawl.

Something is going on in our building near LAX. I am running into people in the elevator, in the lobby, in the men’s room, everywhere. The valets that had be placed on ‘hold’ for the past three months are back to work in our ‘valet only’ visitor parking area. When I went to dinner on Saturday at a local restaurant, there was a line outside waiting to get in (and four valets on duty.) Lunch on Thursday was back to normal (once I went back to the car for a mask I had forgotten.)

On the ground (or in the air) reports from colleagues flying note that planes are full, and in two cases, the ‘empty middle seat’ wasn’t empty anywhere on the plane. Although shops at LAX are closed, DFW was open for business and people were enjoying their time between planes, if you can, in fact, enjoy times between planes.

I headed back to my periodic visit to the doctor today and found that his office has not closed at all during the ‘shutdown.’ Robyn went to the stylist and got four inches trimmed off her hair. Life is being pulled kicking and screaming back to normal.

I have had reports from consumable suppliers to the parking industry that orders are beginning to come in again and shipments are on their way. All those cars on I15 have to have somewhere to park.

We aren’t back to normal, but I stand by my prediction that summer will be a “great reopening” and we will be back to a ‘near normal’ by fall.

It will take certain segments a tad longer to recover. Airport parking will reflect just how long it takes people to get back to flying. But it will be aided by those who elect to drive rather than take Uber/Lyft or public transportation. Companies supporting venues will see their numbers down until sports and concert activity picks up, but it will.

I have no numbers, no facts I can back up with surveys, but l do believe my eyes.  They haven’t failed me yet. That great economic engine that is America is on the rebound. And parking is coming along with it.



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AV has come up against a brick wall, its AI

Have you noticed that we don’t see so many articles these days about how autonomous vehicles will be taking over the automotive industry and that there will be no need for parking in the future? What has happened to the AV industry?

There is an article Astrid put up last week on Parknews.biz titled “Driverless Cars Show the Limits of Today’s AI” that may explain it. The article, from the Economist, posits that artificial intelligence, particularly in dealing with complex issues like driving, has a long way to go. Problems like dealing with an airplane landing on a highway or someone jumping out in a chicken suit or a stop sign covered with stickers, often flummox the computer, but is something a human can deal with without thinking.

Computers learn through the invocation of Moore’s Law. Computing power gets cheaper and faster on a exponentially. In other words, it processes terabytes of data (which it must do to drive a car) using brute force. Its not smart, just fast.

IN MARCH Starsky Robotics, a self-driving lorry firm based in San Francisco, closed down. Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, its founder, gave several reasons for its failure. Investors’ interest was already cooling, owing to a run of poorly performing tech-sector IPOs and a recession in the trucking business. His firm’s focus on safety, he wrote, did not go down well with impatient funders, who preferred to see a steady stream of whizzy new features. But the biggest problem was that the technology was simply not up to the job. “Supervised machine learning doesn’t live up to the hype. It isn’t actual artificial intelligence akin to c-3PO [a humanoid robot from the “Star Wars” films]. It’s a sophisticated pattern-matching tool.”

Wow! VC is impatient, tech simply is not up to the job. Who knew?

One study, for instance, found that computer-vision systems were thrown when snow partly obscured lane markings. Another found that a handful of stickers could cause a car to misidentify a “stop” sign as one showing a speed limit of 45mph. Even unobscured objects can baffle computers when seen in unusual orientations: in one paper a motorbike was classified as a parachute or a bobsled. Fixing such issues has proved extremely difficult, says Mr Seltz-Axmacher. “A lot of people thought that filling in the last 10% would be harder than the first 90%”, he says. “But not that it would be ten thousand times harder.”

This is what happens when people begin to believe their own press. So called “journalists,” or tech writers, simply want the story to be true. They don’t ask the hard questions, they don’t press for answers. After all, if they can do it in Star Wars, why not in 21st century America.

Elon Musk has discovered that its easier to fire a Tesla into orbit, or shuttle humans to the international space station than to have a Tesla drive itself in a snow storm. The technocrats are finding that wishing it so is easier than making it so.

As I have said before, but it bears repeating. Self Driving vehicles will first be shuttles in a confined environment, then perhaps long haul trucking and Grubhub type deliveries, and then taxis in a limited geographic area. Level 5 AV, the ‘Jetson’ solution, is a long time off, if ever, with current technology.



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