In 1989, the new downtown management organization in Kalamazoo, Mich., began negotiating with the City of Kalamazoo to take over and manage the downtown municipal parking system, writes David Feehan in this month’s Parking & Mobility magazine. A recent survey of residents had revealed that the most hated aspect of downtown was parking. Enforcement officers had been dubbed “meter Nazis” and one customer referred to the parking garages as “dull, dirty, dark, and dangerous.”

The city was losing as much as $100,000 a year on the system, had bond obligations to pay, and heard frequent merchant complaints at city council meetings. Business leaders on the board of directors of Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated (DKI) thought they could do a better job and so, through a series of leases, subleases, and operating contracts, DKI assumed responsibility for downtown parking—on street, off street, garages, enforcement, and meter repair.

David writes he knew a paradigm shift in thinking was necessary and urgent. So he recruited a hastily organized parking task force, and at the first meeting, posed the question, “How would the parking system operate if it were run by Nordstrom?”

The city found out–and you can too. What happens when parking’s run like Nordstrom?