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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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I know I sound like a broken record, but I can’t help myself.

Those of you who read this regularly know that I don’t watch television news. Haven’t for over 30 years. All of it, on all channels, “news” has become entertainment and shows no relation to actual reporting.

Back in the day, before cable TV, news was reported once or twice a day, with time given for some reflection on the part of the reporter or his/her editor. Yes, editor. The purpose of an editor is to review the story and ask pertinent questions concerning the source, the quality of the report, and its truthfulness. In those days, the story wouldn’t be reported unless there were a minimum of two, and most often three, sources.

Today, the goal is to get the ‘news’ on the air as fast as possible. Often reporters are describing the story ‘live’ without any editing or concern with the facts. The “news” is filtered through that single person’s life experience and prejudice.

When something as serious as our current pandemic is raging, the last thing we need is ‘if it bleeds it leads’ reporting. Stories about a single incident, one doctor’s opinion, a celebrity got tested but someone else didn’t, and worst, speculation – story after story beginning with “what if” or including the words “possibly” or “could” or “I predict,” are taken as gospel and spread like wildfire.

Find a web site, probably from a newspaper, that you feel is reliable, and check it once or twice a day. Then press on. If we are on lockdown, stay on lockdown. If you must go out, social distance. Follow instructions but use common sense.

Someone said a great change of pace would be I Love Lucy and Groucho Marx reruns.

Best and be safe out there

JVH

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San Diego Reels with Parking Everywhere PIE 2020

San Diego lived up to its reputation as having the best weather in the US on Tuesday as blue skies and balmy temperature welcomed PIE 2020’s second day. More that 1200 attendees jammed the convention center for a day focused on seminars, PT Awards, plus the opening of the Expo.

Josh Kavanagh opened the first session talking about UC San Diego and how it leveraged parking to enhance the parking experience. Alongside his session Michael Back held forth on cashless parking, Mario Baggio spoke on prevention the deterioration of your parking structure and Chris Yigit brought video and its technology to improve PEO safety.

The crowd then moved to the ball room where breakfast was served, and the Parking Today awards were presented. Seven individuals and organizations were awarded the coveted plaques in various parking disciplines. See the May Issue of Parking Today for the winners.

Following the awards, the exhibit hall opened. The largest space ever occupied by PIE, the exhibit hall included upwards of 175 booths covering all aspects of parking technology. Included in the exhibit hall was an classic car show where  owners from the San Diego area brought their beautiful vehicles and placed them on display.

Seminars continued after the exhibit hall closed with George Baker Humanizing the Parking Experience, Brian Wolff and Brandy Stanley speaking on the customer experience in real life, and Police Chiefs Robert Leftwich and Ty Lewis discussing parking management and the police.

Seminars continued with Seattle’s Margot Polley discussing Pay by Plate, Matthew Valera holding forth on Video Analytics, Theresa Hughes speaking on Pre Booking, and Julie Dixon leading a team from Paso Robles describing the city’s conversion to paid parking.

The day finished with Kevin Ulenhaker discussing how to buy technology, Bill Smith leading a group on the Automated Parking Experience, and Matt Mandel speaking on automated payments.

The evening was rounded out as attendees walked the streets of San Diego’s Gaslamp District enjoying the city’s world class restaurants, bars and clubs.

If only…

If only the world hadn’t turned on its head. We would all be in San Diego celebrating the parking industry and each other. Don’t worry, we are working with the speakers and setting up webinars for each of the presentations. You will be seeing them on line in mid April.

We know its not the same as in person – we will be doing that next year in Chicago. More about PIE  2020 tomorrow.

JVH

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PIE 2020 Breaks Records in San Diego..

PIE 2020 opened this morning to a beautiful day in San Diego. Blue skies and white puffy clouds welcomed nearly 1200 to the city’s convention center for three days of parking excitement, learning, discussions, and tech.

Julie Dixon’s Parking Resource Forum hosted over 150 people who entered into free wheeling discussions of on and off street parking, mostly from the point of view of cities and universities. Vendors were present to find out just how these customers felt about their products and services. No blood was let.

Seminars were everywhere with Kevin Uhlenhaker leading a panel on LPR, Scott L. Weiland, PE holding forth on Parking Structure Maintenance, Bill Smith and Craig Wilson filling the attendees in on how to use good public relations to promote their organizations, and Smarking’s Wen Sang leading a group of downtown business owners in a discussion of rate setting. Attendees jammed into seminar rooms on the convention center’s fourth level after the longest escalator ride on the west coast. They were happy to see that the presentations were live, interactive and not ‘death by powerpoint.’

Breakfast followed with PIE’s keynote presenter, Harvard’s David Zipper. His keynote focused on FOMO, the fear of missing out, and on how that interrelated with PIE’s theme, The Parking Experience. Zipper was followed by PIE’s management boot camp led by Chad Gamble with his own special take on management’s relationship with staff and customers.

The seminar filled afternoon included David Lieb and his take on whether you need to build your way out of parking problems on campus, Chris Schepperman hosting a panel on Electric Car Charging, Jeff Pinyot and Farid Ibrahim holding forth on high tech parking technologies, Todd Pierce on understanding the parking experience and a panel hosted by Spot Angels on how to put the customer at the center of the Parking Experience.

The day was rounded out by PIE’s famous speed networking where over 200 people got the change to meet each other face to face in an atmosphere warmed by Marcy Sparrow and Astrid Ambroziak and a little adult beverage.

Veterans from the USS Midway were honored at the “Top Gun” party Monday Evening. A very wild DJ, expensive gifts, and even an appearance by Tom Cruise, at least most people said it was Tom Cruise made for a memorial evening.

If only…

If only the world hadn’t turned on its head. We would all be in San Diego celebrating the parking industry and each other. Don’t worry, we are working with the speakers and setting up webinars for each of the presentations. You will be seeing them on line in mid April.

We know its not the same as in person – we will be doing that next year in Chicago. More about PIE  2020 tomorrow.

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I Look out the Window…

I went to the store a week ago and the shelves were empty. No bread, no canned goods, few vegetables, little meat, and of course no toilet paper.

I went back today and found there was a short line waiting to get in. I waited five minutes and was allowed in the store. When I entered, I was handed an antiseptic wipe for my hands. As far as I could see the store was basically back to normal. They were a little low on bread and pasta, but on balance everything I wanted was there and in good supply. Plenty of milk, butter, and other dairy. Lotsa meat, and fish. Plenty of vegetables. The store wasn’t crowded. Shopping was a breeze.

I think two things have happened. First, the public has gotten itself under control and second the supply lines are opening up. The problem before was that the stores simply didn’t have time to restock the shelves after the mob emptied the place. My concern about the availability of food is gone.

The stores seem to have come up with a solution to ‘social distancing’. They simply slowed down the number of people allowed into the store at one time. They also helped with hand sanitizers upon entry. Once the public understood that there was no need to panic buy, the long lines outside the supermarkets disappeared, at least in my neighborhood.

Here’s a thought. Why not set up a program where all retail acts like my local Ralphs. They limit the number of people in the store, hand them an antiseptic wipe on entry, and life goes on. Restaurants could do the same, limiting the number of people who could eat at one time, maybe keeping every other table open. Clubs and theaters could do the same.

I’m told that one of the safest places to be at this time is in an airplane. The hepta filters in the planes remove 99.9% of the critters in the air so unless some creep sneezes on you, you are safe. And TSA could check people for temperature and visible disease and stop them at the gate.

If we allow people to go to the supermarket, why not the auto parts store, the clothier, and the barber (barbers and hair stylists are trained to keep sanitary). It seems to me that we can ‘social distance’ without destroying the fabric of our society.

Just sayin.

JVH

PS — Maybe the politicians at all levels could go a couple of weeks and not say anything. Let the pros handle the problem. We seem to be in a “Never let a crisis go to waste” mode. Enough already.

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Is “Work from home” Really better?

Joe has an interesting point in his response to my last blog. Could all the ‘work from home’ requirements being foisted on us become permanent and thus affect cities central cores, all the businesses that survive based on a daily influx of workers into an area.

He comments on the benefits of having coworkers at hand in the office but juxtaposes that with being surrounded by the wonders of family at ‘work from home.’

A couple of decades ago a major financial institution decided to move most of its workers out of the office and back home. Think of the savings, they posited, in office space and related costs. The advent of instant communications makes such decisions possible. Five years later, they moved everyone back to the office.

They found that both the tangible and intangible results from working from home, even when employees were required to come into the office one day a week, were a big negative. Productivity was down, and creativity almost nonexistent.

Creativity seldom happens in a vacuum. So called brainstorming sessions, water cooler discussions, and “Charlie said something that gave me an idea” plant seeds that oftentimes grow into world class ideas. Teams aren’t formed over the ‘net. Competition that one sees in an office environment wanes when there is no office environment.

As much as our betters would like to promote the concept of working from home, the social construct that results from an office environment has shown that the camaraderie of the office makes a huge difference in just how business is done.

My prediction: As soon as we come to our senses, and go back to work, the results will show in unimaginable ways. Social distancing is not natural. It may be necessary for a short time, but we are social animals. We will love the result.

JVH

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“We are Doing OK – But Those Guys Over there are in Real Trouble”

As I call around checking the temperature of the industry, I seem to get comments like the one above. Of course, there are owners and operators that are feeling the result of lower business and vacation travel, that are seeing lower daily revenues due to the fact that restaurants and clubs are closed. The input I get that in commercial garages the revenues may be down as much as 50% and airport operations see their parking revenues dropping to as much as 80% of normal. That ain’t good.

But manufacturers are telling me that the reduction in customer interaction has given them the opportunity to focus their resources on new products and time to correct issues in their software. Installers are commenting that installations are going smoothly due to the lack of traffic in parking lanes. If there ever was a time to install, this is it. If there was ever a time to plan, consider changes, make your operation better, this is it.

PT is offering free help wanted ads in both our print and digital platforms. Anything we can do to help. There are over a dozen listed, with five that came in today. Companies are hiring. I know we are. We just hired a new sales manager who began this week.

Don’t get me wrong, times like this aren’t pleasant. However, we must work with what we have. It is also the case that this won’t last forever. This is an excellent time to take stock, make those additions and changes you had been planning, and prepare for that wonderful time when pandemics are only a faint memory.

JVH

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An Entire Industry Shuts Down –

When we are told we can’t meet, can’t go to restaurants, can’t go the theaters, can’t travel and must work from home, where does that leave our cars? Well one place they aren’t is in parking garages.

I’m told that in many cities, garages are simply empty. That may not affect the monthly business, certainly not for a few weeks, but the daily parkers who foot the bill for most parking operations are nonexistent.

So now what?

A colleague remembers 9/11. There were a few weeks of similar shutdowns. There was the Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles. The city was reduced to a crawl.  This isn’t the first time this has happened, and won’t be the last.

The biggest issue is that we are in uncharted territory now. Whereas the problems after 9/11 were short lived (less than a month), we don’t even have a feel for how long this is going to last. Whether or not the timing is reasonable, or the virus is as deadly or virulent as stated, it makes no difference. Action that affects our lives is being taken at every level. Its easy to close a restaurant, but just how easy is it to open one later. Just who is going to say “OK, its safe to go out now.”

In the meantime, garages continue to be empty. What to do?

My advice, unsolicited as it is, is to move slowly. We are in early days. We don’t know yet how effective the ‘shutdowns’ will be. If they are extremely effective, then the crisis may be short lived. Don’t make long term decisions. Take it a week or two at a time.

Talk to your vendors. Work together to find solutions to the supply chain problems in which we find ourselves. A postponement might be better than a cancellation. A panic cancel of an order might mean a disaster for you a few weeks down the line.

In other words, let’s not take this lying down. Dylan Thomas reminded us to

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

JVH

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Update on Cancellation of PIE

Last week, the San Diego Convention Center (SDCC) announced that every event scheduled for March had been cancelled upon direction of the San Diego City Government and Health department, . including five major trade shows affecting more than 50,000 attendees..

Prior to this announcement, Marcy and I felt we had to move quickly to cancel PIE 2020, in order to give each of you as much warning as possible so you could make arrangements concerning travel and shipping of equipment.

We are working now to have a plan in place that will minimize the affects of this action to our attendees and exhibitors. We understand that these changes have a broad reaching affect on all of us. Our goal is to announce this plan no later than Mid April.

We are seeing reports daily from our extended PT family that travel is being cancelled, meetings are going virtual, and contact is being minimized. This is a very sad time for us all. The very nature of our respective businesses depends on good communication both digital and in person. We can only pray that this disruption will dissipate quickly and we can get back to a normal business footing as soon as it is safe to do so.

Thank you for your patience and many messages of support in this most difficult time. If there is anything we can do to help, please don’t hesitate to contact either Marcy or myself.

JVH

jvh@parkingtoday.com

marcy@parkingtoday.com

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In light of the Governor’s announcement, PIE 2020 is officially Cancelled

California bans mass gatherings to slow spread of coronavirus

(Reuters) – California is banning mass gatherings of 250 people or more until the end of March in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the office of governor Gavin Newsom said late on Wednesday. 

The health experts in the state advised that smaller events could be held if organizers implemented social distancing of six feet (two meters) per person, the governor’s office said bit.ly/38MA1DA in a statement.

More than 1,200 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States, with 38 deaths. California registered its fourth fatality on Wednesday.

The governor of the State of California has put the legal force of the State behind the decision to cancel PIE 2020.

We understand that the monies spent for booth space and entry fees are minimal when compared to travel, hotel, food, and related costs. Time was needed to unwind those expenses.

Our staff is working answer questions concerning this disaster and will have a plan in place no later than late April.

We truly appreciate the groundswell of support in our decision coming from our customers. This is a most difficult time for all of us and decisions we have made were taken based on the health and safety of us all.

We look forward to working through this crisis and to having an outstanding event in Schaumberg in 2021.

JVH

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