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Stress and Uncertainty of Finding Parking

Researchers have determined that Uber and Lyft have reduced the number of people driving in the central city and therefore parking activity is on the wane. Guess what.

“We found that the stress of the uncertainty of finding a parking spot downtown was enough to discourage people from driving themselves and made them willing to pay more to avoid it.”

Bold letters are mine. You can read the entire article on Parknews.biz.

In my last blog I commented on the way our industry uses platitudes to discuss the issues that affect parking. We are spending big bucks to ask PricewaterhouseCooper to tell us what is going to happen to the parking industry in 20 or 30 years. Fair enough. But what are we actually recommending that the industry does TODAY.

I hear complaints that the numbers are down. If so, what to do?

Read the bold print above. The Stress and Uncertainty of finding a parking spot downtown are moving people to spend more to take Uber/Lyft. OK – what can we do about that stress and uncertainty.  We are causing the stress and uncertainty. Shouldn’t we be able to fix it? Note the words “Willing to pay more.”

At PIE this year there were dozens of companies that promoted the concept of removing the uncertainty of finding parking. There were dozens of companies that make it easier to park using high tech ways to get folks into the garage and into their space. There were dozens of companies that provided lighting that would reduce costs and make the garages more inviting.

We need to fix this stress and uncertainty problem now. Its fine to be concerned about the ‘future.’ But in the meantime, why not address our current problems with real-world high-end marketing solutions.

  • Make it easy for folks to enter, pay, and leave your garage.
  • Make your garage attractive to them. A little paint and elbow grease can do wonders. Replacing your lighting can actually save your money.
  • Promote your parking city wide to let people know you are there and can find you.
  • Run promotions and affinity programs.
  • If reservations help, get on board now.
  • Make it so they can park, find a space, pay and leave any of a number of ways. One size doesn’t fit all.
  • Don’t be afraid to spend money to make money.
  • Work with clubs, venues, restaurants and the like to make parking seamless and fast. There is no reason you should wait 15 minutes to get your car.
  • Do you have shuttles from your garage to the local hot spots. Jitney service would be very attractive. Band together to provide this service.

I came up with these suggestions in five minutes.  You could probably come up with 20 more that better fit into your wheelhouse. Be creative, and if you are not, hire someone who is.

The days of opening your garage and expecting it to fill by 9 am are gone. But you can still fill it if you really want to adjust. The Parking Industry is in a box. Its time to get out of it. Not sometime 20 years from now but today.



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Its Time to Sell the Bananas

The Parking Industry must adapt to changing times. We must become involved in planning and government as urban areas evolve. Parking is part of the future. Terms like ‘reinventing,’ mobility, planning models, and ecosystem are sprinkled liberally in sage publications like this one.

Wags like me post platitudes like those above and seem wise and ‘forward thinking.’ But except for crafting documents that are “wise and forward thinking,” just what do we bring to the party.

It seems to me like we write like this to justify our existence. Our readers feel warm and cuddly that they have read something worth while, and we scribes feel good about ourselves and press on with other sage and learned prose. But so what?

Where is the guidance as to just how to do whatever it is we are promoting that day, or the input that tells us what happens if we take certain differing paths. In most cases its nonexistent.

The problem is that we simply don’t know what to do, or worse, think we know what to do but are afraid to say so because, shudder, we might be wrong. If we are an organization, we can’t be accused of taking a position that favors one side over another, so we take none at all. If we are a publication like PT, we cover ourselves in platitudes so we can’t be accused later of being wrong.

If the authors are good, we don’t even realize that we are reading pablum.

At a seminar held at PIE last week, an attendee asked me specifically what he should do to increase the revenues in the parking facility he owned in downtown Chicago. His numbers were going down, and he had just attended a seminar that basically said his numbers should be going up. Yikes.

Its easy to blather on about what may happen, or might be, or what the world will look like in two or three decades, but what about reality. What about today, right now. All the forward thinking on the planet isn’t going to help this fellow fill his garage.

So I got cute and told him to imagine he was selling bananas. He had a lot of them but people weren’t buying. Perhaps he should try to sell them one at a time so people could eat them when they walked out of his store, like an ice cream cone. Or maybe sell them in big bunches so the whole family could enjoy. How about selling them while they were green so they could be eaten next week. Perhaps one was too much, and they should be cut in half.

It got the reaction I wanted. People laughed. The time has come to consider just what it is we are selling and maybe ask our customers just what they want. What if they want more than just a place to store their car? What if they want security, cleanliness, ease of payment, a Starbucks on the corner, maybe a shuttle to the park or the city hall, how about…. You get the idea.

Enough about mobility, autonomous cars, and scary stories about empty garages. Its time to sell the bananas.


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A PIE 2019 FLY BY — IP Parking

Kudos to IP Parking and their drone flyby at PIE 2019

Tell me this isn’t the best. Thanks to the gang at IP Parking.






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It May Not be Right, But it’s the Way It Is

PIE 2019 was winding down. The exhibit hall was closed and the exhibitors were packing up. The shipping crates were being trucked in from a holding area off site. I wandered through the hall, taking care not to trip over pieces of exhibits and boxes littering the aisles.

I then heard a familiar voice raising the proverbial heck. I friend of mine was complaining to anyone who would listen that his crate had yet to be returned to his booth. He had complained to the shipping company and then in no uncertain terms to the staff at the door where the crates were coming in.

I went back to the shippers and was told that this was routine, and that it all depended on the luck of the draw. The crates were returned in the order they were loaded onto trucks in the holding area. There were three trucks, and only one truck at a time could fit into the exhibit hall’s loading dock.

Although this was explained to my friend, it didn’t serve to calm him down. I left and went to the bar. He ran me down in the bar ranting and raving. I left my adult beverage and went back down to see if there was anything I could do.

When I got there, his crate was sitting at the entry door, the last one off the last truck.

I asked the union shop steward when it was going to be delivered to his booth. “As soon as it is handed over to me.”

At that moment it all became clear. Never, NEVER, upset the shop steward if you want to change how things are happening.

In situations like this they have absolute control. And there is nothing NOTHING you can do about it, except maybe make matters worse.


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“Air Garage” Campus Parking Using “Space Force”

Here’s the deal – Through the use of an app, an Airzona company called “AirGarage” is renting out unused parking spaces around the University of Arizona and Arizona State to students and faculty who don’t want to fight the on campus parking rules and regs. You can read all about it over on Parknews.biz.

The company cuts deals with local businesses with extra space (churches, restaurants, offices and yes, even private residences.) Then the parker goes on line, finds a space they like, and reserve it.

They can then park in that lot and AirGarage sorts our the money.

Ah, you say, how does the church know that the people parking in their lot are authorized to do so. This is where it gets interesting.

To regulate those lots, AirGarage users can join the “Space Force” — a game-like crowdsourcing enforcement feature through which, by scanning license plates in the lots you park in and ensuring everyone is using the app correctly, users can earn free parking.

“We have a squadron of enforcers who can compete with one another to get the highest score for the week,” AirGarage founder Jonathan Barkl said. “By crowdsourcing enforcement, we’re able to lower the cost for our lot owners and bring more parking options online.”

“Air Garage” parked 30,000 vehicles last year and is growing – it expects to expand into California (UC Berkeley) this year.

I would think that this app is perfect for its demographic. College students live by their smart phones, and would love the idea of a “Space Force” game. These folks may be on to something.


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PIE 2019 – A Team Effort

The Parking Industry Expo 2019’s success was the result of a team effort. I am gratified how the Parking Today group came together and performed flawlessly.

It was interesting to sit back and watch the 10 members of our team work to present an event that had raves from even the most particular critics. My personal thanks go to Marcy, Astrid, Kelley, Jordan, Paul, Robyn, Andy, Francine, Bob, and Peter who formed a fantastic group and went above and beyond to make this event happen.

We must also thank the sponsors and exhibitors without whom PIE could not exist. Thanks go particularly to the Platinum and Gold sponsors. We hope to see you all back next year at PIE 2020 in San Diego.

But there would be no PIE without the attendees. You brought out the best in our speakers, attended networking events, and yes, even partied a bit at our beach party. Thanks for being there and making PIE the parking event of the year.

With nearly 30 seminars, networking events, PIE’s largest exhibit hall, and a half day smart parking seminar, this year’s event brought new features to parking trade shows. Highlighting the opening was the first annual Parking Today Awards Breakfast honoring outstanding efforts in Parking Garage Design, Sustainability, Customer Service, and Technology.

Headlining the awards ceremony was the presenting of the lifetime achievement award to centenarian Larry Donoghue who brought down the house with his hilarious comments on ‘how to live to be 100.’

Thanks to all. See you next year in San Diego.


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Conference Featuring Israeli Parking Technology

Israel is known for its high-tech sector, and parking is not forgotten. The Israel Conference on Parking, Traffic and Transportation will be held in Jerusalem on May 15 featuring companies from across the country and presentations by leaders in the field.

Conference Organizer Pini Cabessa told Parking Today that the day long event offers an opportunity for distributors, dealers, and OEMs from around the world to be exposed to the finest in Israeli parking technology. More than 30 Israeli companies will have exhibits plus many more will be in attendance.

Although most of the seminars will be held in Hebrew, Israel is a country where virtually everyone speaks English. Manufacturers and tech suppliers present will be able to discuss their products in English.

“Should any visitor wish to meet Israeli technology suppliers, they should contact me in advance and I will be happy to put them together with those companies featuring the technology needed, “ Cabessa said. “Many parking technologies including automatic license plate recognition, payment by cell phone, various parking management systems, and all types of parking apps have manufacturers in Israel. If a company is looking for any of these this is the place to come.”

The seminars will be covering topics familiar to parking professionals around the world:

– Solutions for efficient and intelligent use of parking resources in Israel.

– Parking solutions for malls and commercial centers, hospitals and hotels,

– Electric Vehicle – Charging the electric vehicle in parking lots.

– Automatic parking lots for vehicles and vehicles – private and public.

– Locating parking spaces and using parking and transportation applications.

– The parking branch, as a yielding investment channel and its effects on construction projects

– Valuation of trade in parking lots as an investment channel

– Operation and maintenance of parking lots

– Parking control and parking systems

– Lines for engineering planning for the next generation garages.

– Expert – futuristic design for parking lots in Israel – the next generation.

For more information feel free to contact Pini Cabessa directly at +972 50 5618990 or email Pini@messer1.co.il. The event will be held May 15, 2019 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem. If you have any questions about travelling to Israel, contact PT Editor John Van Horn at jvh@parkingtoday.com.

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Parking Industry Expo 2019 – A Smorgasbord with Dessert

You Must Taste the Entire Event!

I have been looking through the Seminars being presented at this year’s Parking Industry Expo and can’t help but be impressed with the wide variety of presentations. Yes, there are some directed at cities, but also some at airports, universities, and dare I say it, the private sector.

Just looking at the titles from Tuesday can give you a taste of what is to come: Enforcement, Lessons learned from Chicago; Designing Downtowns for Women; Hiring the Best; Solving Parking Availability; Parking Guidance at the UC Sacramento, Understanding Consumer Behavior; Cyber Security; Airport PARCS; Technology, Friend or Foe; Are You losing money collecting money; Why the Parking Market must Grow.

And that’s the short day. Wednesday brings a plethora of topics dealing with Universities, Cities, Parking Operations, and Tech. One seminar even takes you on a trip with Dorothy down the Yellow Brick Road to Oz. Check out all the PIE seminars here.

Like the famous Swedish Buffet, the Parking Industry Expo has something for every taste. And of course, enables you to satisfy your sweet tooth with networking, breakfasts (yes bacon and eggs), and a beach party that will prepare you for PIE’s new location in 2020.

Its not too late to register and spend a couple of days in balmy Chicago (temps will top out at 50 on Wednesday) and satisfy your hunger for all things parking. Our smorgasbord is cooked up just for you.


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Heat Wave Hits Chicago!

All things are relative, right. It’s going to be in the 40s in Chicago during PIE. It looks like another year in the unending record of never snowing on PIE in Chicago. The weather is looking good for parking pros in the windy city.

O’Hare should be running like a well-oiled machine. The exhibitors are shipping and the support companies are receiving. Marcy, Astrid, Jordan, and Kelley are tending to last minute details. Excitement is building.

I am receiving Powerpoint renditions of the seminars and trust me, they are world class. Dale Denda has asked me to craft a story line to go with his presentation, and I am telling the heart rendering saga of George, Gracie, John and Mary.

Jordan tells me that the food and beverage orders are in and parties, breakfasts, exhibit hall lunches, and all, are set. She is ensuring that the food is the best evah.

I just came from a meeting and can assure you that the welcoming ‘newbie’ seminar at 11 on Monday is going to be spectacular. Astrid likens it to the Algonquin round table. It will be fun for all.

New this year are the Parking Today Awards. Over bacon and scrambled eggs, four organizations and one individual will be singled out for their outstanding work in the parking industry. The surprise MC is Andy Van Horn. He was kind enough to volunteer to help out. His boss said OK but told him to be sure we didn’t lure him back into the parking industry. He told me he is looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.

PIE 2019 will be one for the record books. See you there.


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A Story about George and Gracie

I’m told I’m a story teller. I have been asked to craft a story to go along with the presentation at PIE by PMRC’s Dale Denda in two weeks. He posits that we may be looking at the numbers, or failing to look at numbers,  concerning auto travel from a perspective that could cloud the issue. It’s a fact that 87% of all commuter traffic is using a private vehicle. Fair enough. That number, percentage wise, hasn’t significantly changed in almost a half a century.

But the absolute numbers have changed. Fifty years ago that 79% was 66 million cars, today its 131 million.

George and Gracie live in a community outside of San Diego. It’s a 30 minute commute on a good day, an hour on a bad day. They have a nice home, third of an acre, two kids, and have developed many friends through their church and their kids’ school.

Gracie commutes in the family Prius each day to her job as a lawyer in San Diego. George works as a CPA near home and is tasked with driving the kids to various functions dealing with school, church, and other activities. He drives an SUV.

Between the two of them they make over $200 K a year. They love their lifestyle. Schools are good, neighborhoods are quiet, and its safe.

It should be noted that there is no public transportation that will get Gracie to work in San Diego. Her betters tell her that she should pull up stakes and move downtown, into a four bedroom condo in the heart of the city where she can walk to work, the kids can walk to a high rise school, and George can find work as a CPA.

What exactly is her motivation to do so? Housing is cheaper outside of the metro area. Its safer for her kids. The schools are better. Sure she might save a half hour to 45 minute drive each way a day, but what is she getting in exchange.

John and Mary have just gotten married. They both work for companies in downtown San Diego. They have a two-bedroom apartment within walking distance of shops, clubs, restaurants, their gym and best of all, their work. Together they make $140,000 a year

They have made friends in their building and at the Gym. They don’t own a car but rent one when they want to visit their friends who live near George and Gracie. If they need to get around in the city, Uber and Lyft are there to help. Their betters see them as the perfect family living a perfect life, and saving the world at the same time.

In a few years they begin a family. Mary is now concerned about taking the baby shopping using Lyft (did you ever see all the stuff you have to schlep when you take one child on even a short trip.) They buy their first car. She starts thinking about schools and safety. She and John begin to talk about moving. They have been able to save a few bucks and are eying a house near George and Gracie.

John and Mary’s betters tell them to stay put. City life is great. Its full of excitement and the police are really doing a great job with the crime wave. What possible motivation do they have to stay?

After the kids are out of college will George and Gracie move into the city? Maybe, maybe not. Will John and Mary return? Maybe, Maybe not.

The realities of life in the US are that the same proportion, generally speaking, of people are living in the ‘burbs’ and driving to work in the city every day as they have for 60 years.  And how that’s set to change is not exactly an intuitively answered question, as Dale will explain. 

The problem is that there are just more George and Gracies and John and Marys today than there were back then. Congestion is going to become worse and worse. The need to quickly park these vehicles is going to become more and more apparent. The need to provide for them will become critical.

Our betters would like to say that either George and Gracie move, or they take the train. But there is no train, and there is no one who is proposing a way to pay the literally trillions for the trains that are needed.

At PIE – Dale Denda  will give you the numbers that back up my story. He will tell you about the millions and millions of George and Gracie’s, and go on to question how many John and Marys will factor into the equation over time/or in just a few years]

To help the George and Gracie’s and John and Mary’s of the world we need to think outside the box. We must adapt the parking business. Consider this from Todd Tucker over at Arrive:

Rail was the most popular way to travel for years, but railroad companies experienced a major decline in the 1950s due to the growth of automobiles and air travel. Because they were singularly focused on rail, those companies neglected to see the bigger picture – that they were not just in the railroad business, they were actually in the transportation business. They didn’t innovate. They lost relevance and lost customers. When was the last time you opted to ride a train across the country instead of flying on an airplane?

Similarly, National Cash Register (NCR) was a top 4 powerhouse of a company in the early 1900’s and prevailed in the transactional calculations machine business. In the 1950’s however, despite huge market dominance and what should have been a massive head start on the world, they almost went out of business due to a refusal to acknowledge and embrace the, then-emerging computer industry that is now ubiquitous. NCR barely recovered, but countless firms from the last century no longer exist today due to a failure to adopt technological change. From the list of Fortune 500 companies that existed in the 1950’s, only 12% even exist today

To keep from going the way of NCR or the Railroads, we need to change our story. We need to find ways to reduce that congestion by perhaps moving car short term storage out of central cities and providing shuttle service into town. We need to think about how we can make the parking experience quicker, better, more modern. We need to get those cars off the streets in seconds, not minutes.

We need to enable drivers to find parking quickly and use technology that they already have in their cars and pockets to get them off the streets and into safe, clean parking areas.

We must plan the infrastructure so that it will handle the millions of cars that are going to be driving in and out of our cities daily.

As Dale points out – the numbers are staggering. Parking must be part of the solution.

See you art PIE – Join in the discussion.


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