Tag Archives: enforcement

Giving Extra Grace While Keeping Your Staff Safe

By Vanessa Solesbee, CAPP

In a normal year, many mild-mannered, rational people go a bit crazy during the holidays. As evidenced by the countless news stories about pre-COVID stampedes and fist fights over that prime parking space, this time of year tends to bring out some of our less desirable characteristics.

For many, the added stress of the pandemic has begun to normalize, and not in a good way. We are all getting used to being in a constant state of anxiety and high alert—about our health, job security, our families, friends, and our communities. Many who work in customer service roles have participated in training after training about how to effectively negotiate difficult people, both before and during the pandemic. We’ve also recognized that people are just not themselves right now and that most people who act out just need a bit of extra grace or some time to cool down.

While this pandemic has provided all of us with an opportunity to develop or build upon our emotional intelligence skills, giving our patrons a little extra grace does not mean we should lose sight of our commitment to keeping those we employ and/or manage safe and supported.

Recently, one of my staff had an unfortunate experience with a community member well-known for expressing displeasure (not just about parking). This individual chased our town enforcement vehicle, making several unsafe maneuvers in traffic, yelling out the window until the employee pulled over. The individual then jumped out of his car and rushed the driver’s side door, yelling and waving his citation. The staff member handled the verbal altercation well and it resolved without escalation to the police department, however the community member then wrote a scathing email blaming the employee, me, and the town for a poor customer service interaction to our mayor, town trustees, local paper, and others.

Thankfully, the entire interaction (including the almost movie-like chase) was caught on our in-car camera. The staff member was equipped with a police department radio, and my employee and I did a full debrief immediately afterwards and he provided me with a written report. Our investment in the proper pre-incident security measures and post-incident protocols allowed me to provide a full and accurate account of the situation. It also allowed me to confidently and firmly stand up for my employee and state in a (very) public manner that this type of behavior would not be tolerated under any circumstances.

While this type of interaction is not new to anyone who has been working in parking (and transit) for any length of time, the situation was a good reminder that no matter what external factors the world throws our way (pandemic, wildfires, economic instability), making sure our frontline employees feel safe, protected, and supported should be priority one. Many of us have been trained that excellent customer service includes giving our patrons the benefit of the doubt every time (“the customer is always right!”), but this philosophy can also encourage an immediate imbalance in the power/relational dynamics of service provider and customer.

I have worked in a customer service type of position for the majority of my 18-year career and have learned I am better able to serve angry or disgruntled patrons if there is an understanding that a basic level of civility is required from both parties. While I may feel empowered by my role, experience, or privilege to lay down firm boundaries with those I serve, it is important that as a manager, I also work continuously to ensure my staff feels that same empowerment—not for the purpose of swinging toward the opposite end of the spectrum (“the customer is always out to get me”) but to confirm their value as employees in our organization and their value as human beings, worthy of feeling supported and protected each time they put on the uniform and head out the door.

Vanessa Solesbee, CAPP, is parking and transit manager and Estes Valley Resiliency Collaborative (EVRC) Administrator for the Town of Estes, Colo.

Undoing Unconstitutional

By Shawn Conrad, CAE

It may be hard to remember simpler times when we weren’t dealing with a global pandemic and the top trend and topic for our industry was curb management.  It’s even harder to fathom that only a year ago, parking enforcement and specifically chalking tires was being deemed unconstitutional.

During the spring of 2019, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati revisited a case in which a plaintiff argued that the parking enforcement practice of chalking tires constituted an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. This was troubling news to many who used this enforcement practice, and was heavily discussed during the 2019 IPMI Conference & Expo in Anaheim.

Fast forward a year and there is welcome news coming out of a recent Appellate Court ruling. To find out all the details, be sure to read attorney Michael Ash’s article in the November issue of Parking & Mobility magazine. Michael, our legal columnist, provides a complete background on the court’s recent opinion and how it validates parking enforcement’s role in promoting safe use of our roadways and provides equal access to limited spaces and a means to enforce parking ordinances. Be sure to look at the digital issue of Parking & Mobility in your email next week–Michael’s article begins on p. 8.

As to the Constitution, it is best to remember what Benjamin Franklin said: “No gains without pains.”

Shawn Conrad, CAE, is IPMI’s CEO.

Cities Begin Enforcing Parking Regulations as They Reopen

As COVID-19 lockdowns begin to ease and people head back to their normal lives a little bit, cities around the world are beginning to enforce parking regulations:

  • New York City, which just entered phase one of reopening, announced last night that its famous alternate-side parking rules would be relaxed for about two weeks to let people ease in.
  • Richmond, Va., will begin enforcing residential parking permit rules in some areas, while other regulations remain relaxed.
  • Albany, N.Y., currently in phase two of reopening, announced it will begin enforcing most parking regulations with limited exceptions.
  • Philadelphia, Pa., started enforcing meter regulations.
  • Ann Arbor, Mich., returned to regular operations in its public parking facilities.

Other cities announced their return to regular or modified-regular parking operations this week as well. What’s happening where you are? Please share on Forum.

Parking Whack-a-Mole

IPMI Blog 03-18-20By Blake Fitch, CAPP

In my last blog post, I wrote about transformation by communication. I explained the process used for adding an additional parking zone to the City of Aspen, Colo., for the first time since 1995. It didn’t take long to see the domino effect from making this change. Our parking director likes to refer to this as the Whack-a-Mole effect, meaning that when you address one issue, another pops up.

In another section of the city outside of the designated parking zones, a transformation was taking place. The vehicles displaced for the creation of an addition parking zone found another area to migrate to. Lone Pine Road became the new storage area for vehicles and trailers—some individual had even set up shop conducting business out of a small, converted bus.

It was difficult to find the right balance for the best use of the parking spaces in this area. This section of the city originally started out being regulated as 72-hour parking. Residents of the area as well as parking staff observed the creativity of the individuals parking here. Some of the parkers banded together and found a way to defeat this system by simply trading parking spaces with each other.

We then implemented a two-hour parking rule that was meant to promote the turnover of parking spaces. We had swung the pendulum too far, leaving the street’s parking virtually empty. In our latest attempt to remedy the issue we have designated these spaces as a 24-hour parking with strict enforcement. The results so far look promising for balancing turnover and occupancy. Only time will tell if the effect will be long lasting. The next step to try may be the implementation of a paid parking system in this area.

Blake Fitch, CAPP, is parking operations manager for the City of Aspen, Colo.

In Saginaw, A Court Decision That Could Undermine Downtown Planning Across the U.S.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this spring that chalking tires for parking enforcement violates the search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment. The decision had potential wide-reaching implications in the parking and mobility industry. IPMI developed this opinion piece on the matter.

By Shawn Conrad, CAE

The federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Michigan recently issued a decision that, if it stands, could have major repercussions for cities across the United States. The court found that the act of “chalking” tires as part of a municipal parking enforcement program constitutes a warrantless search and, without a search warrant, is illegal under the Fourth Amendment.

Tire chalking is a common practice across the country. It’s done to monitor whether a vehicle remains parked in a given space longer than the permitted amount of time. While conducting rounds, a parking enforcement officer discretely places a chalk mark on vehicle tires. When the officer returns, generally several hours later, it is clear which vehicles have overstayed their parking session by the chalk marks on tires.

The court’s ruling may seem like an obscure one, but its implications are potentially far-reaching. Parking time limits are a vital element of downtown urban planning. It is essential to keep parking spaces turning over throughout the day, particularly in downtown business districts. The general rule of thumb is that cities want 15 percent of their spaces to be available on each block to ensure that people who need parking can find it quickly and safely. The more quickly and conveniently drivers can park, the faster they can get to the shops, restaurants, service providers and other businesses they intend to patronize.

The economic benefits of this type of downtown planning are easy to see. Businesses are more likely to thrive if their customers can find convenient parking close by. But there are other benefits as well. For example, when parking is available and easy to find, cars aren’t circling blocks waiting for parking spaces to become available. This reduces congestion and creates a much safer environment for pedestrians and other drivers. It also provides environmental benefits because cars aren’t unnecessarily burning fuel and emitting carbon monoxide. By supporting local businesses, reducing congestion, and promoting more sustainable urban planning, parking time limits dramatically promote the welfare of communities and improve the quality of life of citizens and employees of local businesses.

By every indication this issue isn’t settled yet. Higher courts may weigh in, and we hope they’ll consider the important role parking time limits play in downtown parking and transportation planning. The courts should recognize that chalking and other strategies designed to keep parking spaces turning over regularly aren’t infringements, but rather essential strategies for promoting economic welfare and improving the quality of life for citizens.

Cities must be able to place limits on how long parkers can remain in downtown spaces. It doesn’t matter whether cities chalk tires or use more sophisticated technologies like license plate recognition. It is vitally important for cities to be able to monitor lengths of stay. Ultimately, everyone—drivers, residents, and local businesses—benefits greatly when parking laws are enforced.

Shawn Conrad, CAE, is IPMI’s CEO.

Essential Services: Parking Enforcement in the New World

By Shawn McCormick

Parking enforcement is taking on many new functions not considered five or 10 years ago: the increase of transportation network companies (TNCs) in urban and suburban areas, homelessness, e-scooters, e-bikes, the what’s-next mobility option, event management, and traffic management to name a few. Maintaining relevance in the workforce requires parking enforcement professionals to explore additional opportunities to remain relevant.

During a session at the 2019 IPMI Conference & Expo, we will explore tools and methods to deal with these new challenges from a parking enforcement officer’s perspective:

  • Officer safety strategies while enforcing and managing traffic.
  • Maintaining focus on the mission and goal of parking enforcement services.
  • Managing priorities while improving services and opportunities as new mobility options present themselves.

Adjusting to enforcement options that are outside the job title currently applied to parking enforcement officers can be frustrating and challenging. Staying relevant as the world around us changes or prepares to change soon is imperative to job sustainability.

Shawn McCormick is director, parking enforcement and traffic, sustainable streets division, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. He will present on this topic at the 2019 IPMI Conference & Expo, June 9-12 in Anaheim, Calif. For more information and to register, click here.