By Joshua Cantor, CAPP
I’ve finally accepted that 2022 is underway, not because I have some aversion to a new year or saying Happy New Year, but because I know that there is serious work to get done. Every year seems to bring new goals, challenges, and aspirations, but most of us have had to reset so many times over the past two years since COVID-19 started that it’s tough to know what “normal” is and what we should be planning for. We keep hearing that there is a “new normal” but what does that really mean? Is it a short-term assessment with the hope that everything will magically return to pre-COVID or has society permanently been altered?
In parking and transportation, our industry was already headed toward an emphasis on technology-based solutions, and that seemingly has only been accelerated. However, with many parking and transit agencies still facing revenue reductions and having to make budget cuts, they are being forced to take a hard look at what services are still essential versus what is just something nice to provide. What bus routes remain a core need to operate even as ridership has dropped? What staffing levels are needed in garage operations and in enforcement? Is there a customer service level that you can’t fall below even when faced with reduced staffing or can changes in operations be sufficient to meet the needs of a changing customer base? Reverting to what was “normal” before 2020 does not seem to be in the cards for us.
These are all the kinds of questions we find ourselves asking as we head into the great unknowns of 2022. Whatever the answers are, there is no doubt that “normal” is a temporary state of mind.
Whatever this temporary or perhaps altered state of mind is, IPMI has some great resources for all of us in the industry to stay abreast of what is happening. Forum’s online community, the educational webinars, the monthly magazine and e-newsletters, and annual conference are all opportunities to share the changes in our jurisdiction and learn from what others are doing. Not feeling like we are on an island with the resources of the IPMI community has been so wonderful as we navigate the new normal. It’s more important than ever to keep taking advantage of it in preparing for what is thrown our way next.
Joshua Cantor, CAPP, is director of parking and transportation at George Mason University and a member of IPMI’s Board of Directors.
By Sarah Blouch, Carl DePinto, Zachary Pearce, and Keith Palma
Initiating changes to parking and mobility systems on college campuses can be difficult and frustrating for campus parking professionals. New solutions to old problems abound as technology and innovation flourish in the industry. But the fear of the unknown, competing needs for a scarce resource that require established priorities, and the inability to gain consensus (much less a direction) on those critical priorities are all frequent reasons why university leaders tend to resist making changes. They have enough challenges to deal with at any given time, so why create more?
Well, it turns out there is nothing like a good crisis to help the evolution of change move forward! While the pandemic forced everyone into crises management mode for the past 15 months, we have now shifted into planning for a “new normal” and at the same time, seizing opportunities to implement long-desired changes to make our systems more effective for the customer and efficient for operations. Flexible and scalable parking options to address hybrid work schedules, protocols around cleanliness and social distancing, and event parking changes to better manage traffic and enhance safety for the sellers are all now possible (and in many cases required) to manage the long-term aftereffects of COVID-19.
It is time to embrace the ”E” words: Evolutions in operations to Enhance Efficiency and Effectiveness.
Carl DePinto and Zach Pearce are with Duke University and Duke Health; and Sarah Blouch and Keith Palma are with CampusParc. They will present on this topic at the 2021 IPMI Parking & Mobility Conference & Expo, Nov. 29 – Dec. 2, in Tampa, Fla.
By Cindy Campbell
Many of the virtual trainings I conduct include a group discussion. This last year, one of my favorite discussion topics has been, “Tell us about something good that’s come out of the disruption caused by the pandemic.” Many of the responses have been incredibly thoughtful and uplifting. Here’s a sample:
- Someone who left the comfort of home and traveled over 2,500 miles to assist one of his adult children after a medical procedure. He spent six months helping his son and in return, received the gift of extra time with family members.
- A colleague who found herself questioning the current purpose of her professional life in the midst of the pandemic. While talking with an industry friend, she realized she needed help to sort everything out. Through hard work and determination, she found her renewed purpose and is now actively helping others who may be dealing with similar struggles. She believes “it’s all worth it if I’m able to be that help to someone else.”
More cool things: Participation in a campus mentoring program, more time interacting with a young child attending school virtually, learning a foreign language, planting a vegetable garden for the first time, starting a podcast, volunteering at a local food bank, discovering a new appreciation for cooking–the list goes on.
I wanted to share some of these examples with you for a couple of reasons:
- As a reminder that there is usually something positive we can discover in every situation. It may not be easy to identify or what you expected to find. It can take time and perspective. The good stuff may not present itself to you–you might actually have to go in search of it.
- As humans, we are hard-wired to resist change. When we’re comfortable, we naturally want to maintain that feeling. We also have an amazing capability to adapt and overcome–and we do it all the time.
How many times have you heard (or said), “I can’t wait for everything to go back to normal.” (Believe me, I can relate to that sentiment.) My question is this: How do you adapt when today’s normal isn’t fully returning to yesterday’s normal? When you find yourself removed from the comfort of your normal, consider what you might be missing–are you open to new or adjusted possibilities in this situation?
With or without a pandemic, it is important to recognize that our normal is continually changing. It is natural to find comfort in the normal we know–the challenge is finding it when we experience our NEXT normal.
Cindy Campbell is IPMI’s senior training and development specialist. She is available for customized in-person or virtual training; click here for details.
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.
By Robert Ferrin
Believe it or not, we are coming up on one year since the COVID-19 pandemic started. This year has presented numerous challenges and opportunities in our professional and personal lives. We’ve had to constantly pivot to new realities and environmental factors. Through it all, we’ve created new habits to survive and thrive in our “new normal.” Like all things, once you start new habits, they become more comfortable and little by little, things become normal.
Up until a few weeks ago, I may have seen my office a half-dozen times during the past year. I settled into a new schedule and new expectations for meetings, work time, and employee coordination. In summary, I’ve gotten used to this new normal and found ways to see the positive aspects of a work-from-home structure.
Fast forward to the last few weeks. I’ve slowly started to pick one day a week to get back in the office and remind myself how things used to be. I’ve quickly realized habits are tough to break–I’ve been late for meetings, forgot to factor in travel time, and emotionally struggled with dipping my toe in the pre-pandemic world while we are very much still living with COVID and its related health issues. I’ve had to remind myself I deserve some grace, just like everyone else, and preach patience as we think about a post-pandemic world.
The world won’t change in an instant on the back end of the pandemic as it did on the front end. In a lot of ways, re-entry will be much more difficult and friction points will occur as we come out of this unprecedented time together. As we each start to figure out what our post-pandemic work cadence looks like, I’d encourage you to keep an open mind and give yourself some grace. We each have the potential to create a new model for work in a post-COVID world and blend the positive aspects of work-from-home and work-from-office. Let’s keep sharing ideas and thoughts to make our re-entry a success!
Robert Ferrin is assistant director for parking services at the City of Columbus, Ohio, and a member of IPMI’s Board of Directors.
By Nicole Chinea, CAPP
I recently went out to dinner post-COVID. I have to admit, it was a bit scary. Despite what is going on in our world at the moment, I am grateful to say that this is the first time I have felt fear from going to dinner with friends.
The area we ate was busy and outdoors. When we arrived, we were unable to find a parking space. Different day, same problems. Parking was free in this area. As we circled looking for a parking space, I felt like a fish looking at the world from a bowl.
I took mental notes of each step I made. Door handles. Elevator buttons. People. Yes, we had to take an elevator to get to the restaurant. Four months ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about this and would have probably only observed if the elevator was clean, air conditioned, etc.
While my evening was wonderful, it brought to light so many things that never really mattered before. My mind immediately started listing solutions that we now will use in parking and could have made my experience different: A lot attendant to point out the shortest and safest route to the restaurant. Signage to encourage visitors to use the stairs versus the elevator. Hand sanitizer in the elevator lobby.
Parking professionals are great at sharing solutions and ideas among our network. However, our knowledge can be helpful if extended further given our new normal.
Nicole Chinea, CAPP, is senior project manager with WGI.
By Kevin White, AICP
Like many other sectors of the economy, the parking and mobility industry has been affected significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite significant impacts on revenue, staffing, and other functions, municipal operations have deftly adjusted to local conditions and are planning in earnest for an uncertain future as cities and states begin to re-open and we move further into this period of “new normal.” While we have all read and heard a variety of prognostications of what the future of parking and mobility might look like, there is a great deal of uncertainty inherent in all of it.
Looking to the immediate and more long-term future, cities should focus on what they know to be true and what they can control. The new normal places significant importance on being nimble, open, and transparent, and leveraging technology and data to serve customers, understand the parking and mobility demand profile, evaluate performance, and make operational adjustments as the situation evolves.
Chrissy Mancini Nichols and I authored a 10-point roadmap for navigating the new normal in parking and mobility. We hope it’s helpful.
Kevin White, AICP, is a parking and mobility consultant with Walker Consultants.