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No Offense/None Taken: My Blog and Clarity

My blog below on renaming the parking industry (Parking thy name is Mobility) elicited the following response. I thought it important enough to bring it out into the sunlight so we all could benefit from its wisdom:

No offense John, but Lee Iacocca hasn’t been relevant in 30 years.  Many professionals in our industry weren’t even born when he retired in 1992.   While I agree that changing names on whims and trends isn’t always the smartest course of action, living in the past isn’t either.

Iacocca also knew when trends were changing and adapted Chrysler to meet consumer demands. His introduction of the minivan saved Chrysler – he was an innovator.   That same minivan concept was rejected by Henry Ford II because it wasn’t what was traditional – a move he regretted.

So maybe instead of fighting to maintain the old… embrace the new and be an industry leader.

First, I take no offense but I’m not so sure about Lee Iacocca. Or for that matter any person not born after 1992 (meaning anyone over, what 27?)  Sorry, I don’t mean to be snarky, but please, surely you haven’t succumbed to the shibboleth that ideas of those alive in the past are by definition irrelevant. Do you include Aristotle, Freud, Descartes, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Einstein, Jobs, those scientists at Bell Labs who invented the transistor, Churchill, King, oh pick one of 100 or 1000 more. Are they irrelevant?

I guess my blog wasn’t clear, although that was the point, clarity.  “I’m in the CAR business.” Clear – “I’m in the PARKING business.” Clear. “I’m a leader in new technology, that will transform the future and make the world a better place.” Not so much.

When Steve Jobs put a 20 page insert in the New York Times describing in detail his new computer, it was met with yawns. When Apple placed an ad with two words “Think Different” the firm’s new machine flew off the shelves. Clarity.

I visited a start up a few years ago. They were attempting to tell me what they did. I was 30 minutes into their presentation before I realized they were a Pay by Cell company. I asked them to rethink their presentation and put their company’s description into one sentence. They did and now are one of the most successful Pay by Cell companies in the country. Clarity.

Maybe it’s maintaining the old or cloaked in irrelevance, but being able to clearly describe what you mean, in precise language, is an admirable skill. “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

If we can describe the technology we are using today in a way that people will understand is helping them to better find, access, and pay for parking thus making the industry more responsive to them, perhaps we can change the perception of “Parking” and let it become a profession that brings pride and honor to itself.

We don’t levitate a car into a garage, we don’t transport a car into a garage, we still don’t mentally cause a car to enter a garage and stay, we park it. Clarity.


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Don’t Say “Alexa” in my Living Room

I bought an “Alexa” device for my wife for Christmas. She told me she was afraid to set it up because Jeff Bezos might be listening to our private conversations. I asked her why he would care about the stuff we talk about but she was adamant.

I had some free time a week or so ago and decided to set it up myself. (I found there was an on/off switch so if she wanted to say something private she could turn it off.)

It was easy to get going, sort of sets itself up, and hooks to your wifi. Then you are ready to roll. You start out by addressing it “Alexa” and it’s Cylon (Look it up) like ‘eye’ focuses on you and awaits your command. “Alexa play soft jazz.” Or “Alexa, order dog food for Suki” – I find that one particularly scary. There have been cases where someone named “Alexa” came over to visit and the homeowner said something like “Hi, Alexa, did you year Charlie Jones died. Let’s buy some flowers for Charlie’s funeral” and 200 bouquets were delivered the next day to the church.

I elected not to connect our newest family member to my phone. If you do, she will make calls and deliver text messages. I guess I’m just not ready for that. Now she is just used at the Van Horn manse for music. She’s hooked up to our stereo and to our Pandora account. She will play most anything.

You just must remember to use euphuisms when describing her within “ear?” shot of the device. If not, you could turn off the “Greatful Dead” at a critical riff by Jerry Garcia.

Alexia, Off –  I’m going to bed.


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Parking – Are We Partners or Are We Prey?

There are some big names out there – Visa, Apple, Google, Ford, BMW, Verizon, ATT, Amazon. They have a world view that is biblical in size. Why should they care about little ole parking? They could buy our entire industry with one year’s profits.

The money guys, however, seem to be circling and investing. Not just a few million either. Think about Bain Capital, Morgan Stanley, and Soft Bank. They have invested billions. They don’t do that lightly.

As for the household names I listed above, they too have an interest in our little back street operation. I am sure there is a guy at Visa who’s job it is to keep an eye on parking and how the billions in cash flows through our garages and lots. Verizon is exhibiting at PIE. Amazon is extremely interested in how connected cars will find and pay for parking, plus can you say “Alexa.”

These companies and many like them are realizing that parking is an important part of our daily lives. It has become more than a bad recurring dream with which the public must deal, but a commodity that these companies need to include in the services they offer. And in each one there is someone whose job it is to interface with parking.

Companies like Passport, Arrive, Spot Hero, and Pay by Phone and Park Mobile (the last two owned by Volkswagen and BMW) are in daily contact with these giants, sharing ideas, software, and data.

I remember 10 or 15 years ago they wouldn’t return our phone calls. Now we are on speed dial. Yes, grasshoppers, we have come of age. Now what does it mean. Are we partners, or are we prey.


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Parking thy name is Mobility

I have been musing about name changes and when I did my daily review of Parknews.biz I noted that a large number of the stories focus on “Mobility” in their headlines and leading paragraphs. In some cases parking isn’t mentioned until halfway through the story. Every one of the companies mentioned is in the parking business. What? Are they ashamed of it?

When asked what he did for a living, Lee Iacocca, the famed automobile guru, said “I’m in the car business.”  He didn’t mince words. He wasn’t in transportation, or manufacturing, or mobility. He was in the CAR business. And very successful he was, too.

Iacocca was clear about what he did. He built and sold cars. He understood his market, listened to his customers, and gave them what they wanted. He didn’t have a lot of time for fancy names. He talked straight.

I noted in an earlier blog that maybe the reason our industry’s name is seemingly being changed by our betters is that our industry is too busy doing what the name says, parking cars, than to worry about semantics. Parking millions and millions of cars each day. Providing a place for people to safely leave their cars while they work or play.

I understand that the term “Parking” isn’t sexy. When you tell someone at a party you are in parking they wonder when you are going to get a real job. But if you want to clearly, succinctly, describe what we do, “Mobility” doesn’t’ hack it. We park cars.

Remember, 85% of all commuters drive their own cars to work each day. Someone has to put them somewhere. That’s what we do. We Park Cars.


By the way – if you ever want to find out if someone is full of baloney, ask them to tell you what they do in one sentence, two at the most. Can you describe your organization, job, or product in one Sentence? Give it a try.

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Hyundai Predicts Level 4 AV in 11 years. Level 5???

Two years ago we discussed in detail when autonomous vehicles would be commercially available. Wags from silicon valley said, “just around the corner” or “just over the horizon.”  The inference being within the next decade, certainly. That was in 2017.  I was a tad more jaundiced. I predicted 30 years or more.

Remember, autonomous vehicles that threaten the parking industry must be level five, all singing and dancing cars that will go anywhere in any weather. My prediction was that the first vehicles that were level five would be taxis (or Uber/lyft), commercial vehicles (long haul trucks and delivery vehicles), and buses/shuttles. That made sense to me because the investment in level 5 will be horrendous and the commercial benefit to these companies (removing the single largest expense, the driver) is obvious.

Over on Parknews.biz Astrid posted an article about Hyundai and Kia and their EV charging and auto valet parked cars.  The idea is that you would drop off your EV in front of the parking garage, it would park itself and if needed charging, would be parked in a ‘charging slot’. When charged it would automatically be moved to another spot, allowing another EV space for charging. When you wanted the car, you would call it on your smart phone and it would drive to your location. Super.

Hyundai, in the article, expects this to be running by 2025 and commercially available by 2030. They acknowledge this is a level 4 vehicle. So lets see. Industry is projecting a level 4 vehicle 13 years from my discussions in 2017. And remember, these vehicles will need garages that have been substantially altered to handle them, plus ‘special’ charging stations that charge without having to plug in the vehicle (from a device mounted in the floor.)

The concept of a level 5 vehicle is still decades away. In the meantime, we will need parking facilities and other infrastructure for the millions of vehicles that bring the work force into the city each day. Remember 85% of all commuting is still done with private vehicles.

Dale Denda and I will be discussing this in detail at PIE 2019 this coming March. Be there and hear the facts.


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Midwest Parking Resource Forum Launched at PIE 2019; Municipal Parking Managers – Don’t Miss This Major Event

This is an event where parking managers from cities of all sizes can come together and discuss common problems and solutions. Moderated by Julie Dixon of Dixon Resources Unlimited the program mirrors similar extremely successful events she holds in Northern and Southern California. The informal discussions allow for the airing of problems and offering of solutions. Over 100 cities are expected.

Take an afternoon, bring your successes (and Failures) and discuss. Whether you are a line enforcement officer, police official in charge of parking, a parking department manager or line parking manager, this Forum is for you. Bring your managers, your senior staff, or come alone. It’s a great way to spend a Monday afternoon. Vendors, you are welcome if you want to hear how your services are seen by the people who use them.

Julie Dixon has over 27 years of parking and transportation management experience, Julie has been directly supporting municipalities throughout the United States. She has extensive knowledge and hands-on experience with the solicitation, development, deployment, operation, and maintenance of solutions ranging from municipal parking programs to automated enforcement systems.

She has been responsible for establishing policies, defining objectives and delivering on initiatives for municipalities of all sizes, working at all levels within the administration, enforcement and adjudication processes. In October 2012, Ms. Dixon founded DIXON Resources Unlimited with a goal of directly supporting municipal parking programs.

The Forum will be held in conjunction with the Parking Industry Expo on Monday, March 12, at 1 pm at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, IL. For more information, contact Julie at julie@dixonresourcesunlimited.comor register now at www.pieshow.parkingtoday.com  Its Free.

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Do you Lack Original Thought?

We live in a world of clichés. Our businesses are surrounded by them. An article in “Fast Company” posted on Parknews.biz lists five that we use every day, and most likely use them to cover for the boss. Consider.

  1. Let’s circle back on this” – Its indecisive. It means you don’t know what to do so let’s do nothing.
  2. “We need to manage expectations” – Right – we are failing and this is a gutless way to say it. Be honest.
  3. “Let’s think outside the box” – This one is ok but needs guidance. What is the ‘box’ and what lies ‘outside.’
  4. “Let’s blue-sky it” – This is unclear. There is no box, no real scope of the discussion. The result will be vague and a lot of wasted time.
  5. “That’s not on our radar screen” – This suggests that the boss is ducking the question rather than responding to it. If it’s a good idea, then put it on the agenda or explain clearly why its not a good idea.

We use clichés freely and frankly we should consider the definition of the word: “a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.”


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Mobility is more than a Service; MaaS includes Smart Parking as well – PIE 2019

One of the highlights of the Smart Parking Symposium being held as a part of the Parking Industry Expo 2019 this March in Chicago will be a presentation by senior policy advisor Jack Opiola on Mobility as a Service.

He will bring attendees up to date on how MaaS is affecting transportation not only in the US but also in cities around the world. He will contrast and compare MaaA activity in areas as varied as Atlanta, GA and the entire country of Portugal, and describe just how MaaS differs in Europe and in the US. He will describe how in car technologies will evolve to include Mobility and how MaaS is a ‘push pull’ evolution, involving opportunities, economic growth, productivity, user choice, demands & acceptance

Jack Opiola brings over three decades of experience as a project manager, expert consultant and senior policy advisor to local, state, national and international transportation agencies and private clients in the area of advanced technology for enhanced, integrated mobility with value added Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) applications.  

He is dedicated to transforming Highway/Motorway Transportation into a sustainable funding model through “user pays ” policy and road charging by distance combined with value added services, also called Mobility as a Service. It is a 50-50 proposition – 50% technology and 50% payment and pricing platforms to manage demand and provide a common account methodology to simplify our mobile lifestyle.  Jack sees the synergistic fit of CAV and ITS through Road Charging as the creation of a rational funding mechanism to sustain transport funding into the future as well as the technological applications to integrate seamless transport for mobility from A to B and beyond.

The Smart Parking Symposium brings PIE 2109 to a close. The half day event will be held Thursday March 14 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. Log on to www.pieshow.parkingtoday.com for more details and to register.

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Smart Parking Symposium Slated for PIE 2019

SA Smart Parking Symposium is scheduled for Thursday, March 14, 2019 winding up four days of the Parking Industry Expo being held March 11-14 in Chicago. This half day symposium offers parking professionals insight into the continually changing landscape of the Smart Parking and Technology. Join us to hear how cities and service providers from across the country have worked together to implement new and innovative transportation and parking policies and services.

Sponsored by Arrive, the program will include:

Mobility as a Service  – Jack Opiola will bring us up to date on how MaaS is affecting transportation not only in the US but also in cities around the world

AI and How its transforming Smart Parking and Smart Cities – Dr. Subhash Challa will walk us through the latest developments in AI and Machine Learning Principals

Michael W. Lowder, retired Director, Office of Intelligence, Security and Emergency Response will shed light on how the DOT manages transportation and security issues impacting parking in cities, airports, universities and parking operations throughout the U.S.

Making the Smart Parking Smarter

Join Verizon Smart Communities for a conversation on future-proofing your Smart City investments and to cost effectively deploy Parking, Mobility, Lighting and Public Safety solutions. The key is to protect investment with the ability to add sensors and build new features onto existing infrastructure as technology advances. 

Plus: A major presentation on “The Last Mile” and the difficulties of bringing high tech solutions to market

The Parking Industry Expo is being held March 11-14, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare adjacent to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Find it on line at pieshow.parkingtoday.com. Contact: Eric Abel, eric@parkingtoday.com or +1 310 390 5277 ext. 1

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Please Don’t Tell Me What to Do – Colleen at PIE


Have you ever had a boss who typically barked orders and then got frustrated when the results didn’t magically appear?  We believe one, fundamental principle may be missing in this communications style:  he’s likely forgotten he’s leading adults.  

As adults, we don’t usually like to be told what to do.  No matter how big or small the ask, employees will decide for themselves whether or not a) they will actually do it and b) the degree of effort they’ll put into completing it.  There’s a leadership theory that demonstrates the ratio between quality of results and the degree of individual effort.  It illustrates well that those individuals who receive direction only will choose to basically, just show up.  They’ll exert the minimum amount of effort needed to complete the task and move on, not super concerned about their performance, or lack thereof.

On the other side of the coin, those leaders who figure out how to both align work with skill set and the best way to involve each individual to go above and beyond to reach that common goal, usually see the results they originally envisioned.  The first part is pretty straightforward: recruiters help hire people, accountants manage the finances, sales brings in new business, etc.  The second part is a bit more tricky.  It involves the leader truly understanding each personality, modifying his own communications style to be heard in equal measure around the table. 

If you want to learn more how to be that leader, in terms of influencing others to achieve your objectives, then join me for a lively discussion at this year’s PIE Show and Exhibition on March 13th where you’re learn a bit more about your own personal style and as importantly, how to read others’ profiles to best be heard, everytime.

Colleen M. Niese

Principal, Marlyn Group


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