A New Kind of Crisis Management

By Casey Jones, CAPP

Rahm Emanuel famously said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” In spite of the tragedy and difficulty we currently face during this once-in-a-century health crisis, my optimistic nature sees hope (and not political cynicism) in what Emanuel was getting at, and I see it play out in organizations within our industry.

In weekly state and regional association virtual meetings, countless stories are told of how changes are being made to improve safety, reduce costs, and adjust policies and procedures to accommodate new customer needs in spite of–and to a large extent because of–the current health crisis. We have moved past any initial paralysis brought on by COVID-19 restrictions and we’re trying new things and succeeding. I was on a state association call recently and the discussion turned to a strategy one university was using to accommodate their permit holders. Previously the school had only offered annual permits but has expanded to shorter-term permits to allow more flexibility.

There are other examples as well, from moving to touchless and online payment systems to flexible permitting and renewal options, all of which consultants like me have been suggesting for years. So what’s different? COVID-19, of course. But understanding that changes are possible because of the pandemic won’t be enough to sustain them beyond the COVID-induced “pilot” phase. Many of the changes we’re making now we’ll want to keep in place in the future when we return to normalcy, and we should use this time to fully grasp why we’re able to make difficult but necessary changes to our programs. We need to dissect each decision to determine exactly what specific factors resulted in approval. Knowing this will help us sustain the positive improvements we’re making now and provide a roadmap for future program improvements.

Casey Jones, CAPP, is senior parking and mobility planner with DESMAN.