Tag Archives: COVID-19

On The Road Again

driving car on the road, travel backgroundBy Matt Penney, CAPP

For the first time in a year and a half, I was on the road again. I ventured outside of the Baylor University bubble in search of parking knowledge. For me, visiting other people and locations is a highlight of our parking industry. Zoom is O.K., but in my opinion, good people and walk-throughs are always better in person.

So I jumped on Texas Highway 6 for a short hour and a half drive to Bryan College Station. Peter Lange and his always friendly Aggie cohorts welcomed me back to Texas A&M University. Wow, their new offices are stunning! And innovative! I got the tour and saw several friendly faces I haven’t seen in awhile–even did that awkward half handshake/half fist bump COVID combo that is currently a part of our new normal.

There were discussions about COVID, parking demand, revenue, and what the future might bring. It may be the group sidebar conversations that are missing from video conferences. These “rabbits” from the professional jargon help you understand the personalities in the room. From the personal to the humorous, these tidbits make up the personalities we connect with.

It was a good visit. The onsite observations provided the exact information I was looking for. The 6-foot distance still seems a little forced and I miss smiles unblocked by masks. In all, I probably wasn’t on campus for more than a couple of hours.

I hope you get the opportunity to connect in person sooner than expected!

It was good to be on the road again.

Matt Penney, CAPP, is director of parking and transportation services at Baylor University.

 

Are Flexible Work Arrangements the New TDM Tool?

Cartoon of man working from home, teleconferencing with colleagues.By Perry Eggleston, CAPP, DPA

Rahm Emanuel 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.”

I started as executive director of UC Davis Transportation Services on January 2, 2020, and while I was still learning my way around the campus, the COVID crisis struck. The industry suddenly faced unprecedented difficulties that challenged the most senior mobility experts.

March 16 came and suddenly, there were discussions of campus closures, distance learning, and teleworking. Until that time, telework was a wish for many in the transportation industry but not considered plausible due to supervisor and management reluctance. Within a week, these discussions made campus-wide telework a reality. When this COVID thing lasted longer than a few weeks, the campus started to look at how we could use the lull to continue the momentum of flexible work arrangements (FWA–the term our campus now uses for telework and compressed work schedules), and our department pushed the campus to continue planning using them past the pandemic.

To address all the issues for making FWA an ongoing TDM strategy, I am co-chairing a university committee: “Reimagining the Workplace.” Stakeholders from human resources, technology, planning, safety and ergonomics, employee/union relations, communications, legal, and finance are all involved. The committee has already identified several advantages to FWA: recruiting the best talent, employee well-being, more campus space for students, and reducing traffic congestion and air pollution. However, there are challenges to be overcome to arrive at the advantages.

Join Ramon Zavala and me April 21 when we host the IPMI webinar, Teleworking: An Alternate Mobility Mode. We will look at what institutions should consider when creating their own FWA program and planning lessons learned.

Perry Eggleston, CAPP, DPA, is executive director, transportation services, at UC Davis. He and Ramon Zavala, the university’s transportation demand manager, will present on this topic during an IPMI webinar, April 21. Click here for details and to register.

What Is That New Normal?

New normal word with yellow arrow on roadBy Brett Wood, CAPP, PE

For the past 12 months, we have been pontificating about what the post-pandemic world might look like:

  • Would we all just work from home forever?
  • Would we have all of our goods delivered out of convenience?
  • Would the state of our downtowns and campuses forever be shifted?
  • Would people even commute and park anymore?

If you talked to some people this time one year ago (me included), you’d have thought the new environment would be a completely different world than the “before times,” while other people were convinced we would bounce back and go right back to where we were. And as with everything in life, the answer likely lies somewhere in the middle: A little bit of good from the before, a little bit of good from the quarantine days, and you find yourself in a post-pandemic world that begins to reshape life without radically transforming our industry’s landscape.

I’ve had the good fortune of doing some interesting work with several programs over the past few months, evaluating what change was beginning to look like–analyzing data and patterns about how people were commuting and parking and what those shifts taught us. As the country opened up further and further in the summer and fall of 2020, we began to see more people come back into the office or emerge for destination-based trips. And as we’ve entered into 2021, we can begin to start seeing some of the patterns that will shape our industry, including
hybrid work models (two to three days per week in the office) that create alternative commute patterns

Shifts in demand peaks, like higher demand levels in the evening for destination-based demands (restaurants and entertainment districts), are likely different in every community. As a parking program manager, it’s critical to begin looking deeper into your data now to understand how the new demand patterns will affect your programs, policies, and practices. Begin to review permit patron patterns: How often are they coming in and when are they coming in? Look at transient patterns: When do they occur and how does this compare to similar times in 2019? Looking at how those shifts are occurring can begin to help you shape what you offer your patrons and how you manage your system. And as the country returns to a more stable activity pattern, you will be prepared to define what the new normal is for your program to serve the community around you.

Brett Wood, CAPP, PE, is president of Wood Solutions Group.

Measure, Stir, Bake, Relax

By Rita Pagan, DES

Have you ever watched The Great British Bake Off? It has been my go-to “Coronavirus/helping with math/if I hear pivot one more time” guilty pleasure. Although, I must admit, the recipes aren’t things I would necessarily pin to my Pinterest board. Biscuits and sponge cakes have not gotten me through the past year for sure. Bring on the dark chocolate cake!

Baking is my go-to stress reliever. I don’t really even like eating what I bake but I get a sense of relaxation being in the kitchen following a set of directions. Maybe it’s the project manager in me. Love that flow chart of ingredients in a recipe!

Hearing about hobbies friends and family have picked up during this past year has been inspiring. I even learned how to make my own homemade, kid-approved, everything bagels thanks to a coworker.

A study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who take on projects such as baking or cooking reported feeling more relaxed and happier.

Do your body and your mind some good and relax with something you love to do. You’ll thank yourself later!

Rita Pagan, DES, is IPMI’s events and exhibits manager and in-house master baker.

Time to Re-think the Goals of Transit

woman with face mask texting on the phone while traveling by bus.By Lesli Stone, CAPP

I was recently listening to an NPR Podcast, All Things Considered, where the topic was “What is the Future of Public Transit in the U.S.?” There were a lot of great points made in reference to system budget deficits and what relief could be expected.

The discussion continued with the expected, well-thought-out arguments regarding service cuts being a result of lower ridership–the resulting reduced service being a catalyst for even lower ridership, and the death spiral continues. Then I heard the following:

“One of the problems we have is that we’re very focused on maintaining the status quo. Everything about the investments we make in our transportation system are ensuring that people can continue to get around in the same ways that they did, you know, 10 years ago. And so for the most part, the transit options we’ve been giving people have been very similar year in, year out. And many of the support programs that have been announced during the COVID crisis have been about maintaining that status quo.” Yonah Freemark, Urban Institute.

What if we are doing it wrong? What if our “new normal” requires a new way of thinking about an old problem? The morning commute now looks very different for many people. Our choice travel destinations are no longer the same.

Maybe now is the time to think about transit in a very basic way. Who is going places and where, exactly, are they going? How can we help them get their safely and conveniently? How can we help them plan their trip?

Before we can decide what the future of transit in the U.S. actually is, we probably need to decide if the status quo is actually what we are aiming for. If so, then we should feel free to carry on. If not? We should redefine the actual problem that we are trying to solve.

Lesli Stone, CAPP, is general manager at National Express Transit Corporation.

Pittsburgh Welcomes Spring with a Flea Market in a Parking Garage

Man in mask and rubber gloves putting products in car after shoppingThere’s a special kind of demand for outdoor activities and a feeling of normal this spring, including the return of flea markets. But when dicey weather, a need for social distancing, and a desire to include those who both drive and walk all come into play, what’s a city to do? In Pittsburgh, it’s all coming together to give new meaning to the phrase “garage sale,” offering a great new example of how parking organizations have flexed to help their communities in unprecedented situations.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership will host a 75-vendor “Car Bazaar” flea market inside a downtown parking garage on Saturdays this spring, checking all the boxes: plenty of room, inclusive of all, lots of fresh air, and protection from possible spring showers. So far, the community is more than receptive–the first Saturday’s event already has a wait list of 50+ hopeful vendors, many of whom say they’ve been unable to participate in markets since the pandemic’s arrival a year ago.

Vendor spaces sell for $15 and are reserved in advance, and the garage’s downtown location offers plenty of room for those who drive to the event and easy access for those who walk. Live music, food vendors, great diversity in vendors and merchandise, and what organizers hope will be a light, festive atmosphere will give a great vibe to the garage all spring. Read all about it here.