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A City in the Sand

I spent last week traveling to Dubai to speak at Gulf Traffic, a trade event covering parking and traffic and focused on the Middle East, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia markets.

This is not a particularly large event, with NPA, IPMI, and PIE events having more exhibits and attendees, however it does bring a focus to traffic and parking to this vibrant and emerging region.

Dubai can best be described as an uber-modern city that has grown out of the sand. It has the best that money can buy with high rises soaring, some to incredible heights. Architecture is stunning, and hotels and recreation areas rival any on the planet.

And with all this growth, parking and transportation have become major headaches for the city’s government and planners. This is also true in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Riyadh, Bahrain, Medina, Kuwait, Cairo, and other major cities in the area.

Gulf Traffic offers these communities the opportunity to see the most up to date technology and also hear discussions about how their parking and transportation issues are being attacked in other area around the world. Speakers from Europe, Asia, the US, and Canada as well as from local municipalities held forth on different aspects of the parking and mobility industries.

It was an honor to be asked to speak to this group. I hope my bon mots on MaaS and how it can grow into a program to cover both parking and transportation was of some interest to those assembled.


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Paul didn’t realize it, but he wanted an event that stressed WIIFM, that’s “What’s In It For Me.” He wanted an event tailor made for him. He wanted to share his problems with someone who would listen, and maybe listen to others. He wanted to connect in an atmosphere designed for connection, not just sales and promotion.

He wanted the opportunity to have dinner with a small group of peers, in a nice restaurant, and be able to really talk. He wanted real, human help when he needed it but he didn’t want it in his face. Sure, he could run an app, but having someone at hand to give directions was good too.

He wanted enough time to meet companies on the exhibit hall floor and have and opportunity to ask questions and get solid answers. He wanted the exhibits to be small enough that he could walk in and not feel intimidated by 40 sales staff and huge pieces of equipment. He knew he would spend more time on the exhibit hall floor if he felt comfortable there.

Vendor parties were great, but did he really feel that drinking free booze made a difference as to what problem he was going to solve with the information he gained on the exhibit hall floor.

Seminars are great, but let’s face it, he was going to find solutions from people he met, and on the exhibit hall floor. Technology was moving at light speed. On that floor, he will be able to slow it down a tad and understand just what he needs and doesn’t’ need.

He wanted to bring solutions to his boss, not only to make her happy, but also to make his job easier and therefore him more successful. If he could unwind some of the snafus that hit daily, could he not reduce the stress and perhaps not take so much home at night.


To be continued…



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The Search for Perfection

What Paul needed was a trade show where he could meet people like him and talk about the problems he was facing. It needed to be diverse enough to cover all aspects of his professions, not just focused on cities, or airports, or shopping centers. As he thought through his problems, he realized that universities, airports, business complexes, cities, all had similar problems, and perhaps different solutions that he might be able to use.

But Paul wasn’t the easiest person to get to know. He didn’t feel comfortable walking up and introducing himself. In fact, just the opposite. How the hell was he supposed to “Connect” if he was tongue tied saying hello. He wasn’t good at finding his own way in social situations. He wasn’t the type to go over and sit down next to someone and introduce himself. He needed a wingman. And that wasn’t going to happen.

As he sat in the bar that evening, he began to describe to himself the perfect trade event for him.

There would be people in vests that were in the lobby of the hotel to direct him to the check in area, and then to the registration desk for the event. When he got there, more guides would show him where to sign up, and where the seminar and exhibits were being held. He wanted to see a real person, not just a sign or app on his phone.

Once on the exhibit hall floor, he would find more of these friendly guides to help him find specific vendors or give directions as to where the food, drink, water and particularly rest rooms were located.

Would there be events where he could meet people kinda like speed dating, limited to attendees and excluding vendors. He wondered if he could have an upscale dinner and maybe be seated with others from the event. Its easier to meet people over an entrée than in a hallway.

Would the parties be a tad more low key, so he could, if he dared, actually talk to someone and be heard? Would the exhibit hall be open hours that don’t conflict with seminars and speakers, so he could feel comfortable going to the exhibits and not miss a seminar he wanted to attend?

Would the seminars be limited in scope but diverse enough, so he didn’t feel he had to choose one over another? Would they be simply “pitches” from vendors or actual learning sessions on success and failures in his industry?

He guessed he wanted a user-friendly event where he could feel comfortable in an environment where he could meet and truly “connect.”

As he left the bar, he realized he hadn’t drunk as much that night. The next day he began his search for the perfect trade show.

To be continued…

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There Wasn’t Enough Aspirin on the Planet

As Paul thought about the trade events the next day, he realized that what he really liked about the shows was the exhibit hall. It was diverse. There were people there whose job it was to talk to you. He could pick and choose what he wanted to learn. And get different opinions on new technology and old faithful solutions.

But still, the shows can be intimidating. He had been to events that were so big he couldn’t see everything in a month, halfway a couple of days. Vendors spent big bucks to outdo their competitors in their presentations but seem to forget why they were there. It seemed like their exhibits were supposed to sell their products without interacting with him. They reminded him of his boss. She talked at Paul, not to him.

He had specific work problems that added stress that spilled over into his homelife. He was a good husband and father, but this job was really getting to him. He sort of knew what the solutions to his work problems were, but he needed to talk about them with someone who had the same problems. He needed to “connect.”

What is the old saying, a problem shared is a problem halved. He can’t talk to his boss, she doesn’t have time for problems, only solutions. His wife listens, but really doesn’t have anything to add.

The time at the bar was getting longer, and sometimes there wasn’t enough aspirin on the planet for that morning headache.

To Be Continued

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He Wanted Solutions

The stop for a drink last night was eye opening, but it also added one more problem to his life. A blazing headache.

The hour he spent in the bar reminded him of his last trade show. Alone, leery, perhaps just a bit confused. What was he there for? Why was he going to all these seminars? Did he really learn anything?

He fought his way through airports, couldn’t find the place to register for the show when he arrived, the hotel lost his room, the trade show floor, which he normally enjoyed, was big and confusing.  He worked for a city, he was interested in on street. How could he find companies that would give him the information he needed?

And the seminars – please. He was on the front lines. He knew what his problems were. He wanted solutions. Not descriptions of technotoys that cost a fortune and didn’t really fit in his wheelhouse.

Paul’s city could only afford to send one person to a trade show.  There are three big ones each year, plus numerous local events. Which one to choose?  Who should go?

Would going to the show simply add more pressure to his already full and complex life?

Maybe the best solution was another drink and aspirin for the headache.

To be continued

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Are You Calling Me Stupid?

This little story is from Julianne over at Flowbird. It can happen to all of us, and perhaps her response to the attendant could go into all our list of ‘perfect’ responses. JVH

This past summer I had my favorite little brother come visit me in my now hometown of St. Petersburg, FL. I put together a grand itinerary of all the fun things we could do while he was here including the #1 on his list; a half-day chartered fishing trip. When the day came, we woke up at an ungodly hour to drive over to the marina and board before sunrise. The Marina is in a famous little outdoor tourist shopping attraction called John’s Pass Boardwalk in Madeira Beach, Fl. I knew parking might be tricky so I opted to park in the parking garage.

After 4 hours of doing the samba with a fishing rod, 12 squeals while digging around the bait bucket, and infinite calls of, ‘don’t let that thing touch me,’ we were finally heading back to the car with our winnings. We loaded up and I headed to the exit where a parking attendant was stationed and asked for my ticket. It took a minute for me to bring my brain back to that foggy early morning and when I even pressed the button to get a ticket upon entry.  I looked on my dashboard, in my cup holders and in my pockets. I started to do that frantic panic thing. I made the boys check their pockets, hats and wallets. I ripped my purse apart, the fishing bucket….nothing.

I looked at her sheepishly, “Um….I think….I think I lost it while fishing.”

She (the parking attendant) glared back at me. “What do you mean you don’t have it? You’re supposed to leave it in your car.”

Me – the parking pro – immediately went on the defense, “How was I supposed to know that?! There are no signs!”

“It’s common SENSE!” She yelled back at me.

Oh and that did it. She lit the fire. I went from frantic to furious. I looked at my little brother and my brother-in-law sitting next to me. They didn’t have to say anything. I read the look in their eyes, “You? Of all people? Messing up parking?”

I was about to lay into this woman. She had no idea who I was. I WORK in the parking industry and she has the AUDACITY to say it’s common sense?! Does she have any idea how many different ways the parking in this facility could actually work? Maybe I WAS supposed to bring it in to be validated by the marina…and get a discount on parking! OR, maybe there was a validation code on the back of my fishing receipt. OR, there was an LPR vehicle roaming around and knew exactly how long I was here and how much I owed. The list was ENDLESS!

I was about to prepare my “I know more than you” speech with all its parking facts and realities…but then I stopped. I thought, “No. Don’t do it, Julianne. Just..take..the high road.”

So, I looked up at her and with my mother’s same sweet yet stinging vernacular I said, “Ma’am, are you calling me stupid?”

She lifted the gate and let me out.

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The Pressure Was Intense

Paul awoke worrying about everything, his job, his family, his income, his life in general. OMG the pressure was intense. His boss was looking over his shoulder, his employees were looking for leadership, his wife really wanted that new car. Now what.

He saw the ad in Parking Today about the “arena”, but now was not the time to take a risk, and he wasn’t a risk taker, anyway. Sure Teddy Roosevelt could talk about getting bloody and failing, but he had kids in school and needed a regular income. The arena, bah.

As he opened his browser in preparation for his work day, he noticed an ad for a trade event happening in Chicago in March. The tag line was “Connect.”

But connect with what. These events were typically a bunch of vendors hawking their wares and a bunch of parties where you could go and drink and have your ears blown off with unintelligible music. What does that have to do with ‘connect.’

He was up to his neck in ‘connections.’ He had his staff, his boss, his family, his friends. He had enough connections. Besides how was a connection at some trade show supposed to take the pressure off at work, or at home. Best just lie low and maybe it will all blow over.

Perhaps a stop at the Scotch and Sirloin on the way home would blow off some of the pressure.

To be continued…..

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Every Day Above Ground is a Good Day! Let’s Focus on the Present

My friend Carla Green over at Clarity Designworks sent this thoughtful missif today. I felt it needed a wider view. Thanks Carla:

When I ask a certain friend of mine how he is, his response is often, “Every day above ground is a good day.” I always smile at his words, appreciating this most basic expression of gratitude.

Because no matter what we face at any given moment, on any given day, the fact that we are here to meet it, greet it, tackle it, embrace it, is a gift. Whether we are confronting difficulty or experiencing delight, we get to actively participate in this thing called life. And what’s not to be grateful about that?

My friend’s sentiment also reminds me to focus on the present, what’s in front of me right now. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and worrying about it won’t change anything. What happened yesterday doesn’t deserve much attention either, other than learning from mistakes and cherishing memories. This day is where I can make a difference. This day is what needs my energy. This day is why I’m here.

And what I want to do with this day is express my gratitude for every trial, tribulation and triumph that comes my way, and yours as well. These things most certainly prepare us for what comes next, but perhaps their greater value is in encouraging us to appreciate the here and now, to savor each moment, to simply be present.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, perhaps you will enjoy the words of that silly old bear, Winnie the Pooh, and Piglet too:

“What day is it?”

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

“My favorite day,” said Pooh.

I hope today is your favorite day too.

Who can top the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh.

Happy Thanksgiving


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Happy Thanksgiving

Its Thanksgiving and time to think about things we can be thankful for. One can quickly list friends, family, good health, and the ease of getting the very meal you are eating while chronicling all the good things that are in your life. But if you can’t, I have, with the help of Jim Geraghty over at National Review listed a few things that might not pop to mind between the turkey and the stuffing:

  • Drunk driving rates have hit an all-time low
  • Air travel is getting safer and cheaper
  • High school graduation rates are the highest level ever
  • Teen drug use is down dramatically
  • A third of all American adults have a four year college degree highest level ever
  • There are more job openings than unemployed workers
  • Military causalities in Iraq and Afghanistan are down dramatically in the past five years
  • HIV mortality rate is down in the US by more than 80 percent and the President’s emergency plan for AIDS relief in Africa has saved 14 million lives over the past 15 years
  • With Amazon we can buy most anything, a book movie DVD, toy and the like, and we don’t have to limit ourselves to what a bookstore can have on the shelf.
  • You can self publish a book on Amazon for a pittance.
  • There is a You Tube video that can tell you how to fix anything in your house.
  • Think about how many pictures you take now and don’t have to develop film.

I could go on but you get the drift. A cynic could easily list tons of disasters and problems, but why? You can’t do anything about them. Worry helps no one. But thinking about some of the good things that have been happening, particularly in the toxic political environment in which we find ourselves, can be cathartic.

Try it, you might like it.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from all of us here at Parking Today Media.


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Just what is a cultural driver?

The World Resource Institute is hawking a blog that is bemoaning the fact that urban sprawl exists and therefore an individual’s carbon footprint is larger since they have things like houses, gardens, and cars, plus have to drive further to get to work. The WRI posits that we should live cheek by jowl in cities to reduce that carbon footprint. From their blog:

What Are the Barriers to Compact Growth?

Millions of urban dwellers live in private houses with their own gardens and private cars. Millions more aspire to this type of lifestyle. This cultural norm is reinforced by economic drivers, such as the lower cost of land around the urban periphery and tax policies that favor single-family dwellings.

But once housing and infrastructure have been built, it is extremely difficult to change a city’s design. The infrastructure and urban planning decisions made today can lock cities in to carbon-intensive growth patterns.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to breaking these locks is mobilizing the huge investments required to build or change transport networks. Once a city has highways, it is cheaper to extend them than to replace them with trains, for example.

Cities in North America and Australia depend most heavily on private cars. People living in these cities consequently have very high carbon footprints.

So let’s see. Folks are immigrating to the US both legally and illegally to get out of those compact cities and into places where they can have a piece of dirt, a garden and a car. The Horror.

I’m sure there are plenty of folks living on the upper East Side in Manhattan or Downtown San Francisco or in Central DC who are quite happy with a small apartment, no car, and a quick walk to work. So be it.

There are also those lugs who aspire to houses, gardens, and cars. It’s the cultural norm mentioned above. But I’m not sure that lower cost of land and tax policies are the drivers. Is it possible that it’s the human psyche that looks for a bit of freedom, personal ownership, the ability to actually see and touch the fruits of our labors?

To me this is not a bad thing, it is a ‘driver’ that lets people have a piece of the prosperity that they are creating. Somehow a 700 square foot apartment and a good pair of shoes just doesn’t cut i, at least for me.

The WRI would like to see us all stacked one on top of another in a compact, carless city so the our surroundings could be better controlled to fit into its vision of just how the world should work.

Somehow I still like the idea of having a choice. One size doesn’t not fit all.


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