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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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What Happened to Taxis

Taxis have existed since the 1700s. They are ubiquitous in major cities around the world. Suddenly, they are being challenged by Uber and Lyft. Seemingly overnight taxis are being replaced by an app on your smart phone.

But is the app the real reason?

Taxis had no competition. They set a very low bar for themselves. The chances are the drivers didn’t speak your language. They were filthy. They assumed you were a criminal by having video monitoring and a big piece of bulletproof glass separating you from the driver. When it came time to pay, it was a negotiation. Plus to get one was a real problem.

They didn’t seem to care. It was “my way or the highway.”

Then came Uberlyft. A tap on your phone and it was on the way. You knew who was coming, how long it was going to take, and how much it was going to cost. You had a choice of a limo, a standard sedan, a small car, or a shared (cheaper) ride. The cars were clean, the drivers attentive. You could even let the people you were meeting know where you were and when you would arrive. Often they offer phone charging, and a bottle of water. At the end you could rate the car and its driver. Taxis were toast.

If you see Uberlyft as a competitor, can you see why? Do you see any similarities between your parking operation and a taxi. Is your garage pristine, or dirty? Do your employees communicate clearly with your customers? Is your facility bright and having an appearance of safety? Is it easy to find, is it easy to pay? Do you have special features for your customers like concierge service, perhaps a nearby Starbucks, or service for their vehicles. Do you have internal valet service? How about a shuttle to nearby restaurants, clubs, or venues. Do you offer a driver if they overindulge?

Are you so concerned about competition with other garages that you don’t join in a program to promote parking in your area, or the development of an app to easily find parking in the neighborhood?

How have you promoted the “Parking Experience” in your neighborhood. Is your “Parking Experience” a great one?

Think about it.


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We’ve Not Been Truly Challenged…

Bricks and Mortar retailers are under attack. On line shopping has challenged the Mom and Pop grocery on the corner all the way up to the big boys, Sears, J C Penney, and Macy’s. They have been caught with their proverbial pants down and are seeing the results in falling sales and dwindling foot traffic.

My take is that the Parking Industry is moving rapidly into the same mode. We are being truly challenged for the first time and are running scared.

Some of the challenge is existential. Will we cease to exist? Some is an experience we have never felt before. We are being challenged by commercial forces and we are not rising to the occasion.

In the past, we showed up at our garages in the morning, opened the gates, and then jumped back so the cars wouldn’t hit us as they rushed to fill empty spaces. Our challenge was to find ways to take customers from garages nearby and place them in our parking decks. We did this with ‘early bird’ rates or with signs that screamed lower prices (often misleading with huge digits with $5 overpowering the six point type that said “per 15 minutes” at the bottom.)

Workers in the building above our garage or residents in the building adjacent to our facility paid whatever it cost to park there, complaining, but nevertheless paying. It was a cost of owning a car.

People drove to dinner and used our valets because there was no real alternative. They put up with long wait times and grouchy valets.  Folks drove to the airport, or to the ball game, or to the concert or beach. That was because that’s how you got there.

Did we make it easy for them? Did we make our garages safe, well lit, comfortable? Did we make it easy for people to pay? Or frankly to find us? Did we provide other services they might enjoy? There was no need to do so. We just had to jump out of the way. The money kept flowing in.

The technology we developed makes it more difficult to use the garage. Parkers have to fight their way through complex pay on foot machines. They have to enter license plate numbers they couldn’t remember. They have to download apps into phones and then attempt to use them. They are asked to enter their phone numbers (which one did I use?). They are asked to sign up in advance. They are asked to pay on exit with a credit card that didn’t work in the machine they couldn’t reach from their car. Our goal was to get our employees out of the garage. Did we really think about the parker?

In the meantime, companies like Uber and Lyft were decimating the taxi industry and making it easy to leave our cars at home. Studies were showing that people were taking these alternatives because of the stress caused by having to park a car. People are willing to pay more rather than to deal with parking.

Are we as an industry really trying to make the parking experience better for our customers? We give it lip service. But do we really? I looked at the seminars given at the “big three” parking industry events this year and only around 10% actually talk about the customer experience. OK I guess you could twist yourself into a pretzel and tell me that talking about a “data lake” or employee retention or PCI compliance deals with the customer experience. But really. Does it?

The sweetest sound a person hears (or sees) is their own name. When Westfield Century City developed its reserved space program, it included a way to put my name up on the wall in front of my reserved space. It cost a few bucks to do that, but I loved it. That’s a great customer experience.

We need to spend more time on the “Parking Experience.” They installed LPR in our building here at PT central and never said a word about it. One day I drove in and the gate popped open. It was fantastic. The garage is still dirty, crowded, and the like, but the fact that I don’t have to present a card is wonderful. Why not promote that from the rooftops. My parking experience got better – tell the world.

Over the next few months I’m going to continue this “Parking Experience” theme. I would like to hear from you. There must be ways to remove the stress caused by having to park a car. Let’s do it.

There is no need to wait for Armageddon. We can fix our problems today.


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EVs need to stand on their own!

The venerable George Will reports  that government subsidies are keeping the electric car industry alive and when they are removed, sales plummet. The vast majority of EVs are purchased by households with incomes over $100K (they can afford to pay what EVs cost) and the subsidies therefore equate to a transfer of wealth to those who need it least. Read the article here.

I have noted this before, but maybe when it’s a quote from George Will, people will take notice:

Electric cars have cachet with advanced thinkers who want to be, or to be seen to be, environmentally nice. They do not think of such vehicles as 27.4 percent coal cars, that being the percentage of U.S. electricity generated by coal-fired power plants. According to a Manhattan Institute study:

[B]ecause of stringent emissions standards and low-sulfur gasoline, new ICVs [internal combustion vehicles] today emit very little pollution, and they will emit even less in the future. Compared with new ICVs, ZEVs [zero-emissions vehicles] charged with the forecast mix of electric generation will emit more criteria air pollutants.

And the reduction of carbon dioxide — “less than 1% of total forecast[ed] energy-related U.S. CO2 emissions through 2050” — “will have no measurable impact on climate.

I have no problem with electric vehicles. I think the Tesla Model S may be the best automobile ever made. If folks want to drive electric vehicles so be it. But let’s not be fooled.

I get steamed when I read the license plate frame that comes with each Tesla. “Zero Emissions.” Baloney. It should read “Moved Emissions”. Unless they can guarantee that the electricity they use comes from wind, solar, or hydro sources, they burn petroleum, too. Just in a different place.

But I digress. EV’s are a money loser for the auto companies. Period. They build them because the government requires them to do so. Period. People don’t want to buy them because they cost more than conventionally powered vehicles, and for other reasons including range anxiety, lack of power, and in many cases inability to get the job done. (SUV vs Prius).

Half the EVs in the US are sold in California. A look out my front window will attest to that. But people aren’t crazy. The guy down the street owns a Tesla, but also a GMC Yukon. He has his bases covered. He is environmentally pure and can still get his kids to soccer practice. My friend Clyde has and electric smart car and drives it because its fun. But he also has a Lincoln Aviator. He drives it when he wants to get somewhere.

I know this flies in the face of all who campaign for electric vehicles and make their living off of them. But the economics simply aren’t there.

Time for a reality check on EVs.


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Micromanaging from On High

I found an article over on parknews.biz about the city of Destin, FL. It seems the municipal dads and moms have decided to tell local merchants how and where they can collect money on their parking facilities.

A local shopping center decided to charge for parking and put a prepay collection operation at the parking lot entrance. This caused a backup on one of main highways through the town as people had to stop, find the money, and pay. The city council, having reviewed the issue, decided to fix the problem by requiring all parking operations to pay on exit.

There is also a restaurant that has a valet operation at the entrance to their parking facility that causes a similar problem. Will the next law passed in Destin also require valet operations be located at the exit of the parking facility.

Dare one suggest that this tropical city hire someone who knows something about parking and traffic flow and take a look at the entire problem and perhaps come up with a solution that doesn’t require the city reach quite so far into the commercial operations of the merchants. Perhaps suggesting a few minor adjustments might solve the problem without the long arm of the law becoming involved.

Just Sayin.


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