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Warnings, then Let the Hammer Fall – Good Idea?

I received an article from the United Parcel Service focusing on the curb. However within it were these sage words:

Let’s talk enforcement – and right away, I’ll admit that UPS pays its fair share in parking tickets. But if actual behavior change is desired, and not just an ongoing municipal revenue stream, then enforcement needs to be consistent, equitable and robust. This was an issue with New York’s “Clear Curbs” pilot launched early last year. The intention to limit curb use on congested avenues maybe made theoretically, but if only a single United States Postal Service truck parks at the curb regardless – and can’t be ticketed or towed – then you still have an entire lane blocked to traffic.

Consistent, Equitable, and Robust. What wonderful words.  But how many cities can actually claim that they meet those criteria? Do we really care about behavior change, or are we simply filling that maw known as the General Fund?

I wonder what would happen if instead of writing a ticket for a first offender for a minor infraction like overstaying a time limit or parking without a permit the PEO wrote a warning. The second infraction hit em with a robust fine. We have the technology available to track this and do it. Wouldn’t most people change their behavior after the warning – and feel better about parking at the same time? PLUS the ticket written on the second offense could remind them that they got a warning last time, and heap a little guilt.

If a PEO can show a citizen that this is the second offense it would seem to me that it would take a lot of the sting out of the citation and perhaps mediate a confrontation.

Is this a good idea or bad? All you folks in charge of municipal parking out there let me know.


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Another Stupid Idea

I have been musing about how cities can make parking more attractive to their citizens when I came across an article describing a new potential law in DC that would allow the parking department to deputize private citizens to write parking tickets. My question is “why?”

If there is a dearth of tickets, then why not hire more enforcement officers. Its not as if they don’t pay their own way. Has there been complaints from the citizenry that not enough parking tickets are being written? I don’t’ think so.

This request seemed to come from the city council. Is it remotely possible that there is a dollar sign somewhere in the explanation? Could it be that the council wanted more income without the countercost of paying PEOs?

Just what kind of person is going to volunteer their time to write parking tickets. I know a couple of bozos on my block that would sign up in a heartbeat, but I wouldn’t trust to be fair and balanced at all. Frankly I might try to find a way to write a ticket for that junker pickup parked in front of my house.

Trying to raise the level of compliance is hard enough without having a bunch of parking vigilantes running around out there. I note from the article that they are going to be trained in conflict resolution. I’ll bet there will be a lot of conflict to resolve.

It seems like just one more stupid idea that will rain hell fire and damnation down on the parking industry.


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In with a BANG! Out with a Whimper

The Big Bang Theory is no more. The last episode aired this past week. Everything appeared to be resolved in the lives of the seven characters who interacted in the past dozen years. Those of us who spent 12 years with Sheldon, Leonard, Penny et al might have been slightly disappointed in the last episode.

The Big Bang Theory attracted an audience that liked Star Trek, Babylon 5, Firefly, Comicon, video games, comic book superheroes, and the like. If you didn’t have at least a tangential understanding of those subjects, plus a smattering of quantum physics, many of the references voiced by the characters would be lost on you.

The show followed the lives of six extremely bright researchers in physics, astro physics, and biology, plus a novice actress who grows into a pharmaceutical sales rep as their friendships take them into situations that are funny, poignant, and often thought provoking.

There is no question that this is a “either love it or leave it” type of show, but its following was nearly 18,000,000 each week, putting it well within the top 5 of all shows on TV.

The last episode may have left fans a bit nonplussed as it wound down to take the title theme which played each week at light speed, into an almost sad, quiet ballad. Sheldon’s speech at the end did bring a tear to the eye but was neither unexpected nor out of character.

The Big Bang Theory was and is a coming of age journey for seven young adults, and perhaps also for those of use who watched and loved them. It will be missed.


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But….That’s not True!

I’m in the parking business. People around me are complaining that the future is bleak. What with Uber/lyft, electric scooters and bikes, the entire ‘mobility’ thing, autonomous vehicles, and connected cars, my business is threatened from all sides. What to do, what to do?

As I have mentioned, we have taken a lot for granted in this business. We typically showed up at our garages or lots five minutes before opening, took down the chain or opened a gate, then jumped back so we wouldn’t be run over by cars rushing to fill our garages.

When we did market, we would manipulate prices (particularly early bird) to attract parkers away from our competitors. And that was that.

In some markets, particularly Manhattan, we would reach out through the internet and attempt to attract customers to fill the few spaces available after the monthly parkers arrived for the day. And there you go.

Suddenly we are truly finding competition. Uber/Lyft is killing valet services, hotel parking, and airport parking. And why not?

Why spend ten or 15 minutes waiting for a valet to bring your car when you could jump in a Uber and be on your way? Why rent a car for $80 bucks a day when Lyft will take you to your hotel and drop you off at the front door? Why drive to the airport and pay $10 bucks a day to park, when Uber will drop you off at the gate?

Now, reread the last paragraph. What are the problems with it? Its filled with conventional wisdom. But is it true? It is as far as it goes.

True you wait a few minutes to get your car from a valet, but you also wait up to 10 minutes for Uber. PLUS you pay a minimum of what $20 each way to ride in Uber, much more than you pay to park, even with tip.

Sure, it’s cheaper to take Lyft than rent a car, but do you sacrifice any flexibility? If you are going to multiple meetings throughout the day, is paying the Lyft fees, probably $15 or $20 a pop including tip, more or less than rental and parking?

Studies have shown that dropping your car off and paying for parking at the airport, depending on the number of days you are away, is less expensive than Uber/Lyft. If you live 15 minutes from the airport and are travelling three days, take Uber. If you are 45 minutes from the plane and are going to be gone a week, drive.

Conventional wisdom isn’t always correct. If we simply roll over and accept things on face value, we deserve what we get.

Just sayin


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Call for Speakers = PIE 2020

The theme for PIE 2020 is The Parking Experience. How do we as an industry make the parking experience the best for our customers, the parkers? We are looking for out of the box ideas to reduce the stress and turn the parking experience into one that people will actually look forward to and enjoy.

With that in mind, we are reaching out to all Parking Today readers, whether consultant, supplier, member of an organization that runs or manages parking for an office building, city, university, airport, shopping center or venue. If you are interested, apply for a speaking slot.

These presentations can be short, 10 minutes, or a panel lasting an hour. We are starting early and are flexible. If you have had great customer service successes, let us know. We may pick you for an entire session, or blend you in with others.

Just write up a short summary of what you would like to present, along with your contact information and send it in. If you make the cut, we will let you know. Astrid will coordinate and our team will review. Send your entry to her at astrid@parkingtoday.com.

Deadline is June 15. You don’t have to have the complete presentation done, just a quick outline.

See you in San Diego


PS  If you have other ideas for a presentation, we are open to that too.

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On the Road — Israel

I’m attending the Israeli Conference on Parking Traffic and Transportation being held next Wednesday in Jerusalem. Organizer Pini Cabessa has been kind enough to invite me to attend and report on the event.

Israel is a hotbed of parking and Transportation technology and their products and services will be on display, along with a number of presentations focusing on the country’s activities in public parking policy, autonomous and electric vehicles, robotic parking, and the effect of parking on real estate. If you want more information, click here

I know its a bit late in the day, but if you happen to be in the area, this is a great opportunity to experience parking and transportation, Israeli style. I cannot recommend it high enough.



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Data is King! Technology Rules! Smart Parking is the Future!

These and like buzzwords are pervasive in our industry. Whether its at trade event seminars, on web sites, in blogs posts or articles in Parking Today, authors and speakers tout the ‘future’ and tech as the saviors of all things parking.

They seldom mention an aspect of our industry that is the most important, the customer.

I was browsing web sites looking for some fact that had escaped me and was struck as to how our business to business communications neglect our customers. The following terms were rampant:

  • Simplify your parking management
  • Manage  operations not paperwork
  • You receive unprecedented access to insights and data
  • Brings efficiency and simplicity to your operations
  • Data and tools to help you make informed decisions.

Not even a passing reference to our customers, the parkers. It may be semantics, but how would our attitudes change if we considered just how these benefits actually affected the customers we serve.

Sure, a smooth talking salesperson could adjust any of these to show how they bring better customer service. But in reality, these phrases were meant to tell a senior manager how this suppliers’ services would benefit his operation, not his customers.

You might think that these were just lead in concepts, but when I read the follow up case studies, the user of this product talked about Easy Implementation, Revenue Generation, Cost Savings, and product Durability. Not a word about how it affected customer service or made the parking experience better for the organization’s clients, the parkers.

The problem isn’t restricted to suppliers, its rampant in parking organizations, too. Yes, there are organizations out there that do a stalwart job in customer service. But I’m afraid they are in the minority. And until that changes, we will still be an industry that is known for creating stress in our customers and a not so wonderful parking experience.


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Danger, Will Robinson, Danger

When Robot B9 spoke those words to Will in the ancient series Lost in Space he was warning his charge that trouble was ahead. Today those words have become a part of the urban lexicon to cover most anything that looks ‘iffy’ on the horizon.

I was talking with a senior member of the parking industry about the tons of VC money that is coming into the parking industry and she uttered that fabled phrase. Her experience was that companies who received an influx of cash often lost their focus. In one case she had to remove a product after a VC fueled merger. “I had difficulty getting phone calls returned. That wasn’t a problem before.”

A friend who is in the VC business agreed. “When companies start, they are working on ‘friends and family’ money. Their goal is to get the best product and service delivered on time and under budget. The pressure on them is great to perform.” Then the money arrives and the pressure changes.

“The VC goals are different than those of the company. They are looking for the valuation of the company to increase, and for the company to reach a point where they can get their 5X or 10X return.” He said.  “The pressure and focus changes almost immediately. What was a customer centric company focused on product and service becomes a money centric company focused on ROI.”

Although his company is more of an incubator than a true VC organization, he told me that his primary job is to keep the founders focused on their product and their customers.

I think it all boils down to why the founders of a company started their enterprise in the first place. Did they do so to take an idea and make it something that made the world, industry, or service better, of did they do it so they could exercise an ‘exit strategy.’

I know, all you MBAs out there are shaking your heads and wondering what I’m going on about. Of course you have to plan for your exit from a company you began. You have to protect yourself, and after all, isn’t your goal a comfortable retirement?

Dunno, it is? Isn’t that comfortable retirement the end result of a job well done? When the VC money comes knocking on your door, should the headline of this blog be ringing in your ears? Maybe B9’s word should be “caution” rather than ‘danger.’


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Marcy Sparrow Heads Parking Industry Expo

Parking Today Sales Director Marcy Sparrow has found another task on her plate. PT Publisher John Van Horn has named her to head the Parking Industry Expo to be held in March, 2020 in San Diego. “When you have a task to be accomplished, you give it to the most successful and busiest person in your company. And Marcy is that person,” Said JVH.

With a new title of “Director of Parking Industry Expo and Sales”, Marcy will lead a wide-ranging team of professionals to make PIE 2020 the largest and most successful event in the company’s history.

“My goal is to involve everyone at Parking Today Media in the project,” says Sparrow. “We have one group focusing on catering, another on the expo, AV, and the web site, a third on seminars and our awards event. By involving a large group, we will have a more successful event. I plan to meet with all the teams regularly to share successes and problems.”

“We just met with the team at the San Diego Convention Center and with hotels nearby. This area is fabulous. We are rethinking our schedule, so attendees and exhibitors will have time to visit the myriad of restaurants, clubs, and other venues within less than a block’s stroll from the exhibit hall. The weather will be in the high 60’s, the views world class in this most livable city in the US.”

“We have already sold over 1/3 of the exhibit hall and we haven’t even begun to advertise sales. I expect a 25% increase in the size of the exhibit hall floor, and this means a bigger and better show for attendees. Our theme this year is “The Parking Experience” and will focus on helping the industry make parking a better experience for those actually using our product, the parkers.”

Marcy Sparrow has been at Parking Today for 13 years and is credited with growing the company and bringing its advertising and marketing tools to an entire industry. “Marcy is one of the best-known names, at least to the companies that supply goods and services to the Parking Industry,” says Van Horn. “She brings competence, knowledge, and a certain joie de vivre to any task she’s assigned. I have no doubt she will lead PIE to new successes in the years to come.”

The PIE website will be on line by June 1 and can be reached through www.parkingtoday.com.



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Federal Court Outlaws Chalking – But Whose Fault is it?

A federal court in the Midwest has ruled that chalking is no longer legal in five midwestern states. Read about it on parknews.biz.

What the heck is that all about?

It seems that a lawyer in Michigan took a parking citation all the way to Federal Court and won. The court ruled that chalking was similar to entering a person’s house without a warrant. Wow!

The City of Saginaw, MI argued that the Supreme Court had carved out a “community caretaker” ruling stating that cities could ignore the ‘warrant requirement’ if the goal was to mitigate a public hazard. Get this:

Appeals court Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, reversed.

She said traditional law on searches of vehicles had been upended by the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision restricting the powers of police to use GPS devices to track criminal suspects.

In United States v. Jones, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said that attaching the tracking device was a form of trespass on private property by police that requires a warrant.

Donald said the chalking of Taylor’s car was just like the GPS installation, a trespass for the purpose of gathering incriminating information and therefore a Fourth Amendment violation when done without a warrant.

She dismissed the “caretaker” exception, saying that Taylor’s vehicle posed no safety risk. The city was trying to raise revenue, not “mitigate [a] public hazard,” she wrote. Bold Face mine.

Where did she get the idea that the parking fines were to ‘raise revenue’? I wonder what the decision would have been if the judge understood that parking enforcement was to protect a public resource (Parking) and to ensure there was enough parking for all who needed it.

I’ll tell you where she got that idea? She got it from us. We are intransigent when it comes to enforcement. Just today there was a two-page article in the LA Times about a woman who took two years to fight a parking and towing ticket. The parking department fought her every step of the way. Eventually she won. Read about it here.

This is the kind of publicity that just destroys us. The judge, down deep, understood that parking enforcement was an evil and she needed to find a way to slap it down. There’s not a lot of clarity here, but a lot of emotion.


BTW — You can still photograph vehicles, use LPR, and other methods, as long as you don’t touch the car. And YES, you can still put a citation on the car after you have determined it is in violation.

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