I told a friend at this year’s IPI Conference and Expo in Phoenix that I couldn’t believe how much I was learning.

The pace of technological innovation continues at breakneck speed, but even more fascinating is the creative application of these advancements in parking management and sustainable transportation initiatives. Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., are all pursuing advanced programs that could redefine parking’s relationship with technology and our interaction with larger transportation and environmental disciplines. Somewhat ironically, despite the cutting-edge technologies and creative system design and integration, the basic elements of communication, customer service, and effective program management continue to be core issues that need to be addressed.

The innovation and product development of an increasingly diverse set of vendors and suppliers was really eye-opening. New products and services (not to mention professional colleagues) from around the globe were some of the most exciting elements of this year’s conference for me.

Equally impressive were the advancements in mid-sized municipal programs. At the top of this list are Michael Klein’s innovative program in Albany, the incredible turnaround of the Cedar Rapids parking program (now known as “Park Cedar Rapids,” led by Vanessa Rogers and Jon Rouse) following the devastating floods of 2008, and the City of Lincoln’s strong and steady progress in going from “Good to Great” under Ken Smith’s leadership. These programs show the depth and penetration of the industry’s progress.

Another key area changing how we are perceived is facility design: parking being “better integrated into the urban form” and designed with sustainability and economic development in mind. A great way to stay abreast of the innovation and industry advancement in these areas is the IPI Awards of Excellence program. Look for more on this year’s winners in the July issue of The Parking Professional.

One final note: The selection of Rachel Yoka as IPI’s Parking Professional of the Year was the perfect choice! Congratulations, Rachel!