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Just for the sake of Clarity

We receive news releases daily. More and more they are using complex terms in an effort, I think, to obfuscate. See I did it right there. I used a complex word (obfuscate) when a simple one, like blur, muddle, confuse, would have worked just as well.

In this case, the news release was filled with words like “cloud based mobility infrastructure platform”. It continues using “ecosystem of value driven services” and “unified platform through which they can consolidate and analyze their disparate management information.”

I love this phrase: “extensible architecture and cloud-based platform truly revolutionize the industry by providing customers and mobility partners comprehensive real-time, ecosystem data and sophisticated management tools.”

At the bottom of each news release is a paragraph that describes just what the company that sent out the release does. This line summarizes: “a future-ready philosophy that manifests itself in a smart ecosystem of solutions, products, and integrations that work together to improve mobility.”

The last line sums it up: “robust real-time data services provide efficient, secure transactions and business intelligence for organizations of all sizes and industry spectrums.”

There is not one hint in the entire 500 word release that tells you what the company does (I know that it creates reliable, high tech cloud based parking revenue control systems.) I note that the release comes from a PR agency and not from the company itself.

Is someone is trying to impress someone with their ability to use complex terms or are they simply trying to communicate? I will go with the latter.

Our world, it seems, has become a complexity of Twitter, Smart Phones, and computer games. Nothing is simple. A tree isn’t green, its Hunter, or Pine, or Sage. The Sky isn’t blue, its Azure. Things don’t move fast; they move at light speed. Something doesn’t happen quickly; it happens in a milli-second. Everything is an ecosystem, done in ‘real time’, is ‘cutting edge’, and ‘future-ready.”

This has become a part of our world. The author of the news release isn’t to blame, they are simply following the lead they see on their phone, display, or TV. Hemingway is spinning in his grave.

Hopefully this trend is changing. We hear that some are dumping their smartphones for flip phones and using them for, can you believe it, talking to people. People are leaving Instagram because they are beginning to understand that it is a haven for the self-centered and bs.

Let’s make a pact. Strive for clarity. Let your 10 year old read it. If they can’t understand it, the odds are that no one else can either.


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Looking for Work? Read This

Help Wanted –Advertising Sales

Parking Today is increasing its extremely successful sales program. We are seeking an experienced salesperson to work with our Advertising Sales Manager. Experience in the parking industry helpful. Experience in advertising is not necessary. We will train. This position may be part-time but can work into full time. The successful candidate will receive specific vertical markets and product lines in which to operate. We are committed to your success. Geographic location not important for the right candidate. Send resume and cover letter in confidence to marcy@parkingtoday.com.


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Why The Customer Experience Is A Human Experience

The following post will be reprinted in the September issue of Parking Today.

My technological epiphany can be quantified like this:

  • Five hours on the JFK tarmac
  • One screaming two-year-old
  • One screaming four-year-old
  • Zero cellular or wifi reception

I was in a tight situation, literally and figuratively. I couldn’t find out how much longer we would be delayed, nor alert my wife back in San Diego, nor lock down a hotel and uber if the airline decided to cancel the flight.

Here we sat in what’s largely considered the greatest city in the country but I couldn’t so much as get a single bar of signal to make the best decisions for my family. And there was nothing I could do about it.

As a customer, nothing could have been more frustrating.

It dawned on me that the best solution to our situation wasn’t some new technology but good, old-fashioned service. I didn’t need tech to give me salvation, I needed the flight attendant to give me information.

A complementary gin and tonic wouldn’t have hurt either.

The Problem With Putting Tech First

By over-prioritizing technology we put the cart before the horse. And oftentimes, we tend to put both before the people on board, i.e. our customers.

Because new technology is often seen as a necessity, we’re quick to replace what we have with something we may not have a need for. Sure, it makes us feel good, our flashy new investment… but is it really a solution if you have to create a problem to solve?

For airlines, investing in apps that feed passengers real-time flight info sounds great. But flight attendants are highly trained, personable, and fully capable of relaying the same information without the costly price tag… and they don’t need wireless bars to do so.

Speaking of wireless bars, right now engineers are working toward the next big leap in mobile communication, and yet the technology available to us today is still far from perfect.

Why start piling on new options and features that don’t strengthen those we currently and widely use? For airlines and wireless companies alike, the brands who are going to win are those who have the best internal infrastructure and policies in place to elevate their customer experience.

The same goes for parking companies.

We face this sort of tech-based dilemma regularly. The parking-free future promised by those behind the ambiguous wheel of autonomous vehicles, valid or not, has driven many in our industry to fight fire with fire, tech with tech.

Balance Is The Best Solution

Perhaps one of the most common examples of “over tech-ing” the customer experience is the automating of attendant roles.

Overnight, garages and lots replace human attendants with error-prone electronic ticketing machines. Suddenly, the process customers were familiar with is replaced by something if not complicated than at least unexpected.

Already, the customer experience is disrupted. But if a credit card doesn’t run, if a customer has a question, if a ticket is damaged and doesn’t read… if any of a thousand technical issues occurs, that which would otherwise be solved by a helpful attendant now diminishes the customer’s experience, satisfaction, and likeliness to return to your grage.

At Ace Parking, we try to rollout new technology on our customers in a manageable way. When implementing automated attendant systems, for instance, we either staff our facilities with helpful ambassadors for a transition period or keep staff on during peak egress and ingress times.

This allows us to flex our payroll while maintaining the personal service our customers have always appreciated. Having a live person on hand helps us resolve problems quickly and personably, reducing consumer aggression towards technology. Because the thing is, whether it’s a user problem or a tech problem, to the customer, it’s always your problem.

Keep It Coming Back To The Customer And The Customer Will Keep Coming Back To You

In always focusing on customers, we are always measuring their experiences as accurately and effectively as we can. We constantly analyze and tweak, analyse and retweak until we get it as close to perfect as possible.

By no means was my tarmac “technological epiphany” akin to the kind that trickles out of Silicon Valley startups. I hadn’t conceived the next mobile app phenomenon or digital solution, but what I came to was something equally as valuable. Potentially moreso.

Keith B Jones

Ace Parking

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JVH writings stale? NEVER!!!

I read  half a dozen or so blogs each day. I realized today that they get stale. They say basically the same things over and over. I don’t want to read them any more. I’m bored with them.

I then realized that there was a remote possibility that the readers of my blog could feel the same way. Let’s face it. The bon mots that come from moi could just possibly border on sameness.

So in an attempt to push beyond the same old same old, I am going to attempt to reach out to other writers and sprinkle their wisdom in amongst mine. See the first one, above.


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PIE 2020 Announces Keynote Speaker: David Zipper


PIE Keynote – David Zipper

PIE 2020 is proud to welcome David Zipper as its Keynote. David is Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government. His background in transportation, parking, and urban innovation brings an insight in how we can, as an industry, meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. His writings on ‘fear of missing out’ are featured on line in the Atlantic’s CityLab, plus numerous pieces on TNCs, micro mobility, apps, and presentations. His contrarian approach will inform and perhaps even disrupt your conventional thinking.

He has been a Resident Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, where he lead a new initiative on Trans-Atlantic urban mobility. He is also an innovation advisor to the Mayor of Akron, OH and the Greater Washington Partnership. David works with numerous smart cities startups and writes frequently for The Atlantic’s CityLab. He has spoken about urban innovation and mobility at events such as the Consumer Electronics Show, Autonomy, and the Chicago Ideas Festival.

In college David cofounded Empowered Painters, a business training unemployed residents of North Philadelphia to paint homes in affluent suburbs. Ever since, David has shaped strategies for cities to catalyze growth through innovation and new technologies. His perspective on urban development is rooted in his experience working within city hall as well as being a venture capitalist, policy researcher, and startup advocate.

From 2013 to 2017 David was the Managing Director for Smart Cities and Mobility at 1776, a global entrepreneurial hub with over 1,300 member startups. At 1776 David connected hundreds of entrepreneurs to urban leaders eager to deploy their solutions, and he closed millions of dollars in partnerships with cities and corporations worldwide. He continues to be a Partner in the 1776 Seed Fund.

David previously served as the Director of Business Development and Strategy under two mayors in Washington DC, where his responsibilities included attracting businesses to the city, promoting entrepreneurship, and overseeing economic development strategy. Under his leadership the District created the DC Tech Incentives program to help local startups scale. David also oversaw the creation of the city’s 5-Year Economic Development Strategy, and he managed support to Washington’s first startup incubators.

Before moving to Washington David served as Executive Director of NYC Business Solutions in New York City under Mayor Bloomberg. In this role he designed, implemented, and managed a $6 million initiative called Training Funds that helped 75 businesses improve profitability while providing 3,000+ employees with average wage gains of 11%.

The Parking Industry Expo, sponsored by Parking Today Magazine, will be held March 22-25 at the San Diego Convention Center. The event will host more than 1500 parking professionals from all aspects of the industry, public and private, on and off street. More than 150 companies will be exhibiting their wares. Seminars, presentations, and networking will round out the event. For full information log on to pieshow.parkingtoday.com.

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Garage run by Attendant with Three Headed Dog

That headline is known as clickbait. You simply had to read this article, since the headline was so intriguing. By now, you realize that you have been had. There is no story about a Three Headed Dog and you were suckered in to reading this by a false impression. But, since you are here, why not read on?

I just read a headline that 500,000 fewer jobs were created over the past 18 months than previously reported. OK, that sounds like an horrendous error. But if you divide 500,000 by 18, you get just under 28,000 and since most months saw in excess of 250,000 jobs created, the actual number was an error factor of about 10%. Not great, but certainly not the horror a half million error represented. Clickbait.

The goal of headline writers is to get you to read the story, not communicate facts in any way. I love this one:

“Scientists develop blood test that predicts whether you’ll die in next 10 years”

Well….If you read the article, you find that the test isn’t really peer reviewed, and has much more work to be done. The headline says, not infers, that its real, now, not later. Why would one want to take it anyway?and in my opinion, don’t take it. Who want’s to know?

“Time to Rethink Taboo on Cannibalism?”

Read the article and you find the answer is “no”.

What if I changed the headlines on the following blogs:

The Sincerest form of Flattery to “Parking is a Necessary Evil”

A Parable- Farmer Smith and Farmer Brown to “You Have to Spread the Fertilizer”

Dog Days of Summer to “Will that Dog Ever Catch the Rabbit?”

My guess is that a few more people would have read them had I spent a few more minutes on the headline. But…do you as a reader feel conned or tricked? Tough. Madeja look.


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Collaboration is Key

The blog below shows how regulation can run amuck. But does this mean that we should have no regulation at all? Ace’s Keith Jones writes in his Power to Go blog:

And yet, as Deloitte reminds us, “Governments at all levels are among the entities best positioned to bring stakeholders together, and gathering their input could be critical to formulating smart, agile regulation.” For instance, regulators can incorporate the de facto standards for system redundancies, sensors, decision making, and connectivity into legal rubrics and regulations.

However, one thing is certain: collaboration is key.

I’m not a fan of over regulation. But the right kind is good. Involving all the parties before the fact and then using a light touch can make for a better infrastructure environment.

Far too often regulators think they know better than the regulated and like in the New York case below, foist regulation before talking to those who will be regulated. They ended up having to ‘rethink’ and ‘unspend’ the money required to put the regulations in place.

Plus, maybe if the people affected were involved in the decision, they would better understand why the changes were necessary.

As Keith says, Collaboration is Key.


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But What About the Neighborhood

New York City, relying on input from transportation gurus, decided to instigate a program to cut down on double parking. They installed loading zones in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn with no notice. Read all about it over at parknews.biz.

The signs were installed, and the enforcement began. Cars were booted and if the boots weren’t removed (after paying the fine) within two hours, the cars were towed. After towing, total charges were $430.

For some strange reason, the folks living in the neighborhoods were up in arms. Grabbing their torches and pitchforks, they held a meeting. The issue wasn’t just the highhanded way the city instituted the new program, but also the fact that a large number of parking spaces were removed.

The city didn’t seem to take into consideration that by removing the parking spaces, they were affecting the people who lived there. Sure, UPS and Fedex would have a place to park when they delivered Amazon orders, but the people who were residents and paid taxes had fewer places to park.

I love this comment from the city:

“We are adjusting some program locations based on community feedback,” a Department of Transportation spokeswoman said in a statement.”

Note this ‘adjustment’ will be coming after the program was put in place.

And this final comment from one of the folks living in the area:

“All of the concerns were about the signage along the residential streets that took away parking spaces,” Holliday said. “It was just an unbelievable situation. We just have to continue as a community to be informed and aware.”

Notice that they were most concerned about the removal of the parking spaces.

Here is a situation where our betters’ desire to remove privately owned vehicles has run roughshod over the desires of the citizenry. Planners would do well to discuss their plans with the folks who live there before they put them into effect.


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Why do they hate us so much?

I asked that question at a seminar filled with on street parking managers and enforcement officers. After a lot of hemming and hawing, it came down to this:

The PEO is Judge, Jury, and Executioner, all rolled into one. When a person get a parking ticket, most of the time they don’t even see the officer who gave the ticket. There is no way to plead one’s case. The deed is done.

Sure they can go to an appeals board, where 90% of the tickets are affirmed. You have taken time off from work, waited in line, explained your case, and you lose. In most cases you have already paid the fine, so even if you win, its weeks before you get your money back. I some cases, you have to pay the ‘court costs’ up front before you are heard, and even if you win, you don’t get that back. Its no wonder that PEO’s are hated.

At least when you get a speeding ticket, you face your accuser. You can have a conversation with a human being. Sure you most likely will lose, but the site of your very pregnant wife in the seat next to you might mitigate that 10 MPH over the speed limit. The CHP has babies too.

If the light turns red just as you enter the intersection, you can talk to the officer about it and in many cases get off with a warning. Even if you get a ticket, sometimes the experience isn’t that horrible – On one speeding incident, I ended up joking with the officer and was written up 10 MPH under what I was actually going. (I asked him if semis were written for speeding and he said yes, if they go over 55mph. I started laughing, he couldn’t keep from laughing. I said that now that the comedy part of the ticket writing was over, could we proceed.)

When there is a traffic accident, we see the Highway Patrol out there dealing with the injured, helping get traffic around the scene, and we understand just how hard their jobs can be. When we see a PEO writing up someone who overstayed a parking meter by five minutes, we are immediately on the side of the parker. And the parker seldom sees the person who wrote the ticket.

In many cases PEOs try not to interact with those who broke the rules because they want to prevent altercations. When you are caught speeding, the officer has you dead to rights. Not much to be upset about. When you are issued a parking ticket, were you really guilty, or was the PEO just trying to get her average up?

I don’t have a solution for all this, but we need to find one. PEOs have a tough job. But do we tell their story?


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The Sincerest form of Flattery

About six months ago we coined the term “The Parking Experience.” Our goal was to convince an industry that really didn’t consider its customers. The parking marketplace had changed, but the industry hadn’t changed along with it.

Back in the day, a garage operator would show up, open the doors and then leap back so they wouldn’t be run down by the customers rushing to fill the spaces in his lot. There was no reason to really consider the wants, needs, and yes feelings of the parkers. If they wanted to go somewhere, they had to park.

I received a news release the other day. The first words were “Parking is a necessary evil.” “Evil” are we. If we consider ourselves “evil” then what must our customers think. At a seminar a few weeks ago, a PEO got up and said that he was “the most hated person in the room.” He didn’t get a lot of laughs, because we all knew it was true.

Our industry has a world class public relations problem and I felt it was time to do something about it. So, we came up with “The Parking Experience” and are promoting it everywhere we can. The goal is to get the industry thinking about making the parker’s experience a positive one. The theme of the upcoming Parking Industry Exhibition is “The Parking Experience.” Most of the seminars and exhibits will be focused on customers.

Something must be working.

We are seeing tweet after tweet, organization after organization, supplier after supplier, operator after operator talking about “The Parking Experience.” Its all for the good.

To make a change, we first have to start talking about it. We have to get the idea that parking is “evil” out of our minds before we can get it out of our customers’. We have to work towards getting our enforcement officers at least to tolerated, or respected, and away from hated.

Studies have shown that 60% of the people who take Uber and Lyft rather than driving because they don’t want to suffer through finding, using and paying for parking. It considerably increases their stress level. That’s our fault. We have the tools to reduce that stress, we have to start using them.

Keep those “Parking Experience” conversations going. If you include PT, we will spread your ideas as well as ours. Together we can change the parking world, one customer at a time.


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