Tag Archives: parking professional


How Steel City morphed into an innovation powerhouse:  A follow-up on the Pittsburgh Parking Authority.

By Julianne Wilhelm

ONCE AN AMERICAN MANUFACTURING EPICENTER known for its smoke-billowed steel Parking Transofrmation article 19-02mills, the City of Pittsburgh, Pa., has become one of the top innovation cities in America, positioning itself as a city of tomorrow.

To date, the region’s per capita research and develop­ment (R&D) spending is nearly two and a half times the national average. After the turn of the millennium, Pitts­burgh began investing in all the typical ingredients of the modern American urban success story: a diverse and ed­ucated workforce, universities and research institutes, and restored neighborhoods. Leading in Pittsburgh’s innovative force was the Pittsburgh Parking Authority (PPA), a key player in the city’s striving economy.

Taking lead from David Onorato, CAPP, executive director of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, the city was the first in the country to make the change to a pay-by-plate system in 2012. Within the next five years, the PPA would be named IPMI’s Parking Organization of the Year, becoming one of the first to be recognized as an Accredited Parking Orga­nization and listed among the top 10 inno­vative parking cities in the U.S.  The Authority’s influential shift caught the attention of top cities around the world, all vying to know the secret of their path to success.

A Bold Move Forward
Up until 2012, Steel City was just that, a metropolis vast with steel, coin-operated single-space meters. The slow-paced meters had been a part of the city’s landscape for nearly 75 years and were becoming difficult to support.  Onorato led the modernization for the authority with a vision to improve the parking experience for all Pittsburgh patrons—on-street and off-street in busy lots. The first objective was to extend the option of paying by debit or credit cards to those who were limited to the use of coins to pay for parking.
“With the support of my IT Department, the deci­sion was made that pay-by-plate was the way to go,” says Onorato. “We decided we were about to make a drastic change from the coin meters.” The authority made the bold move to transition the meters with a vision of increasing revenue, capitalizing on new tech­nologies, and improving efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency.

In 2012, Pittsburgh became the first U.S. city to implement an on-street pay-by-plate system on a large scale. The authority made the decision to manage its network of metered spaces with Flowbird’s Cale Web Terminal (CWT) multi-space kiosks.
The authority began installation of 500 pay-by-plate terminals, the largest CWT installation in the U.S. at the time. The terminals were all connected to a back-office system that monitored the status of the terminals and tracked revenue generated.

Leading the Transition
With the first large-scale implementation of its kind, the authority sought a seamless customer transition from single-space mechanical meters, as well as several pay-and-display meters, to a full-scale, pay-by-plate operation. Knowing many vehicle owners didn’t have their license plate number memorized, the authority worked with city businesses to distribute key fobs. Each fob had space for patrons to record their license plate information for reference during parking transactions.
Once the new system was installed, meter greet­ers—staff and local students who came out to educate patrons about the modernized process—began appear­ing around town.
“The customers needed to know the why,” says On­orato. “When you pay for a parking spot using pay-by-plate, you can park anywhere else within that area with the time you have left over. No new transactions.”
The new system also eliminated wasted parking space that had been unknowingly idle for years. The old parking spaces drawn out for pay-and-display were measured for car lengths that were outdated, fitting 15 cars to a block. With the newly implemented pay-by-plate zone system, patrons easily fit 18 cars to a block. This contributed to a major increase in revenue, allow­ing the authority to self-fund structural repairs.

Effects beyond the City
By 2014, the authority collected $47,000 a day from the pay-by-plate system, up from $22,000 from the old coin machines. The market’s response was favorable.
Other cities across the U.S. began to take notice. After the 2012 pay-by-plate transition, many requests for proposals (RFPs) for multi-space parking meters asked for pay-by-plate as at least as an option, if not the primary mode of operation.
Advancing toward Organization of the Year
In 2015, the Authority saw another opportunity to ex­pand its progress by adding a mobile payment applica­tion to the system. Users were quick to adapt to it.
Pittsburgh’s acceptance of the new payment fea­ture easily outpaced market response elsewhere. Just five months after its introduction, the city’s use of the app rose to fourth among all the app’s roster of met­ropolitan clients. By 2016, transactions reached the half-million mark to account for more than $1.2 million of meter-sourced revenue. Previous downtime of the old meters of 20 to 30 percent was reduced to less than 1 percent with the new meters and the introduction of the phone app.
Evidencing the success of its efforts, the authority was named the 2015 Parking Organization of the year by the International Parking and Mobility Institute (IPMI). It was recognized for not only their ability to be financially self-sufficient but for funding other city services and activities. Revenues from the new parking system continued to increase, and in that same year, the authority signed a co-op agreement with the city, giving them more than $28 million each year.

Innovation for the Long-Term
Perhaps the greatest factor of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority’s success is its ability to always be two steps ahead, innovating for the long-term. With the knowl­edge that approximately one-fifth of the city’s metered spaces were in off-street lots, the condition and ap­pearance of those locations were closely monitored, with any necessary repair or improvement funds set aside annually.
During a 14-month period starting mid-2015, the authority began the largest capital repair project in the organization’s 73-year history. Among those restored would be four neighborhood facilities, a project that would add a 25-year lifespan to each structure. Each pub­lic repair would be a major investment, but by the end of 2017, nearly $24 million—all internally funded—would be invested to enhance these valuable parking assets.
“One of the major factors in our ability to self-fund our capital repair and to enter into a co-op agreement with the city was the major overhaul to our meter oper­ation system,” says Onorato. “The drastic meter revenue increase can be directly related to the installation of [the] pay-by-plate system with pay-by-phone technology, along with the introduction of credit cards, three years of minor rate increases, elimination of marked spaces, and the ability to maintain the meters through data.”

The largest repair was done on the popular Third Ave­nue Garage, a facility going on six full decades of continu­ous operation. The project faced the obstacle of long-term heavy repair with the requirement that parking opera­tions be continued throughout construction. Through careful planning by the authority, the project adopted a white noise method of hydro-drilling that wouldn’t hin­der nearby businesses and schools—a sharp contrast to jackhammer drilling. Evidencing the effectiveness of the authority’s proactive approach to capital repair, the Third Avenue project received top honor in the Large Facility Renovation category by IPMI in May 2017.

Maintaining the Standard
By mid-2017, the Pittsburgh Parking Authority had come a long way from where it was five years before. A city that had spent 60+ years using the same main­stream process, had been converted by the authority’s bold moves forward. Steel City was now the City on the Move and became one of the first municipal providers to obtain IPMI recognition as an Accredited Parking Organization (APO), the certification that recognizes best practices in responsible parking management, innovation, customer service, safety, and security.
Onorato views the pursuit of accreditation as having been highly beneficial, both as a management resource and as an aid in sharpening employee awareness to con­tinuously improve all aspects of customer service.

Holding true to APO standards, the authority con­tinues to work with others to enhance economic and quality-of-life values. In the years since initial pay-by-plate installation, Onorato continues to upgrade the city’s mobility structure. Currently, the city has in­creased its multi-space kiosks to 1,040 units, respond­ing to the need for convenience in more locations.

“The purchase of advanced revenue control equip­ment and complementary software support improved operating performance across the board,” says Onorato, “The adoption of [the] pay-by -plate system enhanced virtually all aspects of that function, from customer convenience and revenue generation, to enforcement effectiveness and resolution of ticket violations.”

Today, the City of Pittsburgh is witnessing a de­crease in citations with an increase in revenue, reflect­ing that compliance with pay-by-plate is higher than ever. The authority is happy to report it has surpassed $20 million in revenue, compared to $7 million in 2012. Given the sequential investments in technology, the authority is now among the most technologically advanced operators in its field.

Read the article here.

JULIANNE WILHELM is Marketing manager with Flowbird. She can be reached at julianne.wilhelm@flowbird.group.

The Parking Professional: MOBILITY & TECH

Using Digital Signage to Optimize Occupancy and Communicate Rates

By Meghan O’Brien

REGARDLESS OF THE TYPE OF FACILITY YOU OWN OR OPERATE, parking rates are deter­mined and approved through private and local regulations. Although it seems like this might inhibit you from capitalizing on varying occupancy volumes at your garage, the opposite is true. By analyz­ing historical data for a parking facility and adopting a yield management approach, you are able to optimize its use and revenue.

Dynamic pricing has experienced growing global popularity in the parking world. One company found success implementing this methodology at a venue in Boston, where parking needs vary drastically de­pending on the type of parker and time of day.
LAZ Parking is one of the largest parking com­panies in the U.S., growing loyalty through a com­mitment to both its clients and employees. But with several options for parking near TD Garden, a multi-purpose arena in Boston, Mass., LAZ looked for a way to stand out among its competitors and attract additional customers, particularly during off-peak hours. While the parking venue did not struggle to at­tract parkers during games or concerts, the company decided on a strategy to conveniently and quickly change rates to increase the parking potential during less popular times without constantly reprinting windmasters and other static signage.

Automation in Play

In the hopes of improving communication with cus­tomers at this particular facility, LAZ was willing to test the benefits of a new technology. It partnered with Infotraffic to provide a solution that allowed changing rates to be programmed and displayed, putting dynamic pricing to work in a way that would be clear to customers.

LAZ programmed various parking rates using the system’s online rate calendar and management platform, which were then displayed at the entrance of the lot on a digital sign. Instead of reprinting and switching out a limited number of windmasters to display rates, the system lets managers automate, program, and display rates in real time, flexing with the market, local events, demand, and other factors. The new system was connected with the existing PARCS for a streamlined experience and also pro­vides a library of customizable digital content for an enhanced customer experience, including advertis­ing, holiday messaging, directional information for drivers, and event announcements.

“I’m very proud of this lot, and we’ve done a lot of improvements to it,” says Todd Gilbert, LAZ Parking manager. “The system is a great tool, and the sign certainly heightens the awareness and gives it some brightness. The team has been great about building rate grids for the sign, and we’ve seen a 4 percent increase in revenue since last year.”
There are great reasons dynamic pricing has tak­en off, particularly in cities and urban environments with varying parking needs depending on time of day, day of week, and what’s going on nearby. This case study illustrates the importance of both considering dynamic pricing and ensuring an effective, well-thought-out system is in place ahead of time to make it work.

Read the article here.

MEGHAN O’BRIEN is business development manager with Infotraffic and a member of IPMI’s Parking Research Committee. She can be reached at mobrien@infotraffic.com
800.241.8662 | info@southlandprinting.com Every Ticket Imaginable

Driving Smart Cities: The Trends affecting parking, transportation, and the evolution of mobility.

By Brett Wood, CAPP, PE; and Rachel Yoka, CAPP, LEED AP BD+C

Driving Smart CitiesThe goal of this piece is to share seven key trends and innovations that will affect our industry and your business. This is not a definitive tome predicting the future, but rather a place to start examining where we are headed as an industry and generate conversations (and possibly arguments) about what that means for us as professionals. While it’s important to review recent survey results and relevant research, we also felt it’s critical to take a look at key bleeding-edge, disruptive, and innovative trends from within our typical space—as well as outside of it.

Trend 1: Evolution of the Curbside Environment
During the past 10 years, the curbside environment in our cities, universities, and airports has changed dra­matically, with rapid growth in competition for needs along the curb. What was once the domain of parking, loading, and transit now sees competition from food trucks, parklets, bicycles, transportation network com­panies (TNCs), and a variety of other uses. This rapid rise in competing interests naturally draws the concern of parking professionals, but the multi-faceted need is actually empowering industry professionals to think creatively and dynamically.

In recent years, our cities have adopted policies that promote flexible use of the curb, aiding businesses with loading needs in the morning, parking needs mid-day, and advanced passenger drop-off in the evenings. This dynamic approach is improving use of the curb and promoting higher activity and revenue for parking pro­grams and businesses alike. With this new approach, we have seen increased thoughtfulness related to policy development, data collection and aggregation, and curbside access. As the transportation industry continues to change, the need to be flexible, creative, and dynamic along the curb will also grow.


Trend 2: The Dynamic Parking
(and Transportation, and Mobility) Professional
Evolving responsibilities mean changing skill sets that are required for professional success, as organizations and as individuals. IPI’s 2018 Emerging Trends in Parking survey cited massive change on the horizon for parking professionals; in response to the question “Which of the following best describes the parking professional of the future?” 60 percent stated “parking, transportation, and mobility professional.” Roughly 10 percent selected parking professional or transportation professional.

The role of the current industry professional is already exceedingly more complex than it seems. Our readers know that well. However, the lists below, though not com­prehensive, provide a snapshot of our professional areas of practice today and our evolving and anticipated ones. How will we prepare new team members who join our organizations? How will we keep our current employees and leaders engaged and learning these broad skill sets for continued growth? A significant strate­gic (and ideally annual) investment in continued training and professional development will be required of those organizations that are deter­mined to stay ahead of the curve.

Current Tool Box/Qualities of the Parking Professional

  • Operations
  • Administration
  • Management
  • Technology
  • Politics
  • Economic development
  • Community outreach
  • Human resources
  • Accounting
  • Planning
  • Sustainability
  • Transportation demand management (TDM)

Tool Box/Qualities of the  Future Industry/Mobility Professional
All current qualities, plus…

  • Curb management
  • Mobility as a service (MaaS)
  • Smart city development and support
  • Urban planning
  • Data analysis and benchmarking/KPIs
  • Mobile applications and technology integration
  • Investment and management of alternative modes, including microtransit
  • Transit integrations and partnerships (all modes)
  • True TDM Integration
  • Bicycle/electric bicycle/scooter programs/storage/share
  • Accommodating and encouraging active transportation, including pedestrians
  • Adaptive reuse and capital planning for industry change

And that is just the beginning…

Trend 3: Wrestling  with Big Data

The concept of big data in the parking industry is nothing new—our leaders in the technology realm have been push­ing us farther and farther into the worlds of data collection, aggregation, validation, and analytics. During the past decade, everyone from experts to field personnel have been focused on collecting and unearthing data from all parts of our systems, including:

  • Back-end program management systems.
  • Sensors and counting equipment.
  • License plate recognition.
  • Video analytics.
  • PARCS equipment.

Now that we have all this technology, what do we do with it? First and foremost, professionals should be col­lecting data in a way that they can develop and maintain key performance indicators that support the growth of their programs. Whether that means internal performance metrics to validate and adapt program decisions or external benchmarks to compare against industry peers, the data we have been collecting and maintaining is a valuable source of information to chart our programs.

Second, as more and more cities adapt smart city pol­icies and practices, parking can be at the forefront of this movement, both internal and external to our programs. Most of our advanced technologies are already in place and should be easily adapted for contributions to smart city systems. More importantly, the parking technologies of the past few years are likely customer focused and, we hope, revenue positive, both of which are central tenets of successful smart city technologies. A few examples of park­ing-related smart city technologies include:

  • Wayfinding integrated into everyday apps.
  • Smart and efficient enforcement.
  • Mapping existing and underutilized assets.
  • Creating opportunities for more informed choice and behavioral change.


Trend 4: Generational Shifts
Our conversations about millenials and their tremendous effect on society will continue, but more change is coming. Get ready for Generation Z or Gen Z (also known as iGeneration or iGen and post-millennials). Although the name and precise birth years aren’t yet decided (roughly mid-1990s to mid-2000s), we do know quite a few things about how this generation is different.

According to Nielsen data, Generation Z currently makes up 26 percent of the U.S. population, making it larger than the baby boomers or millennials. Its members will comprise 40 percent of all consumers by 2020. Much has been published about their eight-second attention span (down from 12 seconds in 2000), but this may be interpreted in more than one way. Fast Company magazine dug a bit deeper into the attention span question and found that Gen Z has what they call “highly evolved eight-second filters.” Because of the wealth of information and sources of that information, they make decisions on what to read or digest and what to discard very quickly. As professionals, we will need to understand and adapt, as Gen Z will be our customers as well as our employees. Other attributes of this cohort:

  • They seek value for their money. They won’t hesitate to invest, especially on tech, but they will spend time making sure they find the best deal, either in stores or online.
  • They are ambitious, driven, and under pressure to make a difference and gain work experience, including internships and mentoring experience.
  • They communicate with multiple plat­forms—social media, podcasts, and their own branded material. Your typical public relations campaign for the boom­ers simply will not work across these platforms; they need shareable content and will create their own.
  • They are collaborative, but also entre­preneurial—they don’t trust the estab­lishment to provide them with long-term employment and a pension. They are prepared to make their own way.

Perhaps most importantly at present, gen Z grew up connected from birth. With approximately Gen five devices per person (and increasing by the day), they demand immediate and real-time information and seamless integration of services, including those in the mobility sphere.

Trend 5: Managing the Changing Workplace
During the past decade, the workplace has steadily taken on a new look in an ef­fort to meet the desires of a new gener­ation of workers. Led by the technology and innovation sector, the workplace has become less rigid and more about open collaboration. And the way we work has changed, with a great focus on flexible work schedules, digital and telecom­mute work options, and mobility to do your work from wherever you may be.
In response to this changing ap­proach to the work environment, the professional who manages transporta­tion and parking choice for the employ­ment sector may need to rethink the way they provide for and manage parking. Employers will likely need to think about commute options for their employees, including flexible transit, parking, and mobility options. Employers also need to help educate and inform their employees of commute options, to help them make better decisions on a day-to-day basis. And commute choices should come with options for digital data access, which help employees keep working, even when on the move.

Trend 6: Disruptive and Innovative Technology
This trend often gets the most press, as almost all elements of the transportation industry are waiting eagerly to see the effects of full vehicle automation and driverless systems. The good news (we think) is that we don’t really need to wait for impactful transportation disruption. Today’s impacts, such as TNCs and shared mobility options, are already changing the way we manage parking. Changing electric vehicle ownership trends will likely change the way people make decisions about parking. And data-sharing, along with connected vehicles, will change the way we interact with parking technologies.
In regard to autonomous vehicles, the parking professional has a large stake in the ultimate outcome of their implementa­tion and adoption. Vehicles that never park and always shuttle between destinations, waiting on their owners, have the poten­tial to completely change how parking facilities operate. Auton­omous vehicles that are part of a larger ride-sharing fleet could also change how and where vehicles are stored and recharged. The ultimate goal of the parking professional should be to have a seat at the table to help craft policy and make decisions about how cities adapt to and manage autonomous vehicles.

Trend 7: Active Transportation as A New Frontier
Active transportation,otherwise known as “nonmotorized transportation,” includes human-powered activity such as walking or bicycling and plays a significant role in the development of real estate. A high walk score can improve the value of your home or facility. Aside from the dollar value impact, the built environment, which includes neighborhood design, street layout, and building design, has a significant effect on the health of communi­ties, families, and individuals. Walkability di­rectly affects health. Living in a neighborhood with shops and retail within walking distance lowered the risk of obesity by 35 percent , according to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Roughly 45 percent of respondents to the Emerging Trends survey citied the desire for more livable, walkable communities as a key societal trend affecting our industry, mirroring the 50 percent of U.S. residents who stated this was a high or top priority when considering where to live. Access to trails and green space further amplifies these impacts.
So it follows that where we place our fa­cilities and our programs matters—in terms of access, convenience, and overall usage. Consider active transportation as a catalyst for development, a way to make employees healthier and more productive, and a method to increase retail visibility and sales volume.

Perhaps what’s most interesting about these trends will be where and when they in­tersect and amplify, or contradict, each other. The rise of TNCs and competition for the curb will be directly affected by the progress of au­tonomous vehicles (AVs) and other disruptive technologies. The focus of Gen Z on active transportation and the changing shape of work will transform how we develop real estate, especially in major metropolitan areas. Each of these trends will also help shape the evolution of the mobility, transportation, and parking professional—as an industry, we should be poised and ready for change.

Read the article here.

RACHEL YOKA, CAPP, LEED AP BD+C, is IPI’s vice president for program development. She can be reached at yoka@parking-mobility.org.

BRETT WOOD, CAPP, PE, is a parking planner with Kimley-Horn and co-chair of IPI’s Parking Research Committee. He can be reached at brett.wood@kimley-horn.com.

More Than Acronyms

by Mark D. Napier, CAPP

Why parking professionals need to understand NIMS and ICS and what each can do in a disaster.tpp-2016-05-more-than-acronyms_page_1

It is important for all parking professionals to understand the basic tenants of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS). The fundamentals of each are relevant to the parking industry, and the implementation of NIMS or the activation of an ICS structure are not limited to large-scale crisis events such as terrorism or natural disasters.

The terms NIMS and ICS are often incorrectly used interchangeably. ICS is in fact a component of NIMS. So what does each do, and how are they relevant to parking professionals? Read on.


The events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 increased our awareness that we needed to focus on improving our emergency management, incident coordination, and our capabilities across a full spectrum of potential incidents. We needed to put in place a national framework to prevent and handle significant events that potentially involve cross-jurisdictional government resources and participation by many other stakeholders. NIMS arose out of that need and establishes a national-approach framework.

NIMS provides a systematic, proactive approach to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government and the private sector to work seamlessly to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity, to reduce the loss of life and property and harm to the environment. While it is true that perhaps only the federal government could design such a run-on sentence as a statement of purpose, we should find instructive what it indicates. NIMS’ intent is not to be limited only to government agencies and is not designed to be only reactive. NIMS also speaks to the need for multiple stakeholders to work together to reduce critical incidents and be able to effectively respond to them.

NIMS is comprised of four components that work together in a flexible and systematic manner:

1. Preparedness. This involves a host of activities conducted on an ongoing basis in advance of any potential incident—training, planning, establishing procedures, examining personnel qualifications, maintaining an inventory of equipment resources, and completing a scan of the environment to determine potential vulnerabilities. A parking professional should address at a minimum the following with respect to preparedness:

  • What are your total personnel resources?
  • Are your personnel ready to respond to a significant event?
  • Do you have an accurate inventory of your equipment resources?
  • Do you have up-to-date policies and procedures for handling significant events?
  • Have you conducted an assessment of potential vulnerabilities or other factors in the environment of your operation that could pose a threat (weather, nearby targets, etc.)?
  • Have you conducted exercises/drills to test your preparedness?

2. Communications and information management. Emergency management and incident response rely on the ability to communicate and access information systems. We need to assess in advance of an incident our capabilities with respect to this component. The significant error is to not consider the failure of systems during a significant event—it is probable that many of the systems relied upon during normal business would be dysfunctional. Consider what alternatives or potentials for redundancy might be available given a wide array of system compromises. The end result should be the development of reliable and scalable alternatives.

3. Resource management. This component involves two distinct facets: First, what are your current resources, and where are the gaps in what might be required to address a significant event? This includes both personnel and physical resources. Second, in a
significant event, how would resources be mobilized, tracked, and recovered? In a recent significant event, a parking operator felt comfortable that available cones and barricades were sufficient until he realized that there was no reliable system to transport them from a remote site to where they were needed. During Hurricane Katrina, dozens of New Orleans school buses sat in flooded parking lots after failing to be deployed to assist with evacuations.

4. Command and management. This component involves the ability to effectively and efficiently manage incidents through a standardized incident management structure—the Incident Command System (ICS). The preceding three steps should occur before an incident. This one ensures that we can appropriately respond when there is an incident.

5. Ongoing management and maintenance. We can think of this component as how we stay ready and prepared. Too often, we get excited about a new concept or program and then steadily lose interest over time. Unfortunately, this can lead to tragic results when we finally need to respond to significant event. We cannot look at NIMS as a one-and-done project. NIMS has to become a part of how we do business and something that is revisited and refreshed on a regular basis. This can be done through exercises, drills, refresher training, and effective debriefing of incidents when they occur. Another effective technique is reviewing critical events that happened in other locations, assessing how your operation would have responded under similar circumstances, and embracing a lessons-learned mindset.

Remember that the first three components are important. These are components that you must engage before an incident occurs. No matter how skilled you are at ICS or capable you might be with respect to command and management, you simply will fail if you have not paid attention to preparedness, communication and information management, and resource management ahead of an event.

There are tremendous resources and information under the “independent study” tab at training.fema.gov/is/. They are free of charge and content-rich.

There is a huge misconception in our industry that ICS only applies to first responders and extremely large crisis events. This is simply not the case. The parking professional needs to understand the fundamentals of ICS for two reasons: Our operations might be affected by the implementation of ICS during a significant event. Parking operations are not located in the middle of empty cornfields. Parking exists in congested areas, central business districts, college campuses, airports, and around critical infrastructure. All of these areas are prime locations for producing significant events.

There is also a great likelihood that parking operations will become part of the implementation of ICS activation. A knowledgeable parking professional can be an asset to handling the event instead of an uninformed bystander, or worse, an impediment to operations.

ICS as a structure is scalable and adaptable to address events from the relatively small to the catastrophic and highly relevant to the unique structure of parking. Using ICS for every incident, planned or unplanned, helps hone and maintain the skills needed for addressing large-scale and serious incidents.

Incident Command Structure
Structure and the integrity of structure are important elements to the successful implementation of ICS. For ICS implementation to lead to the successful handling of an incident, each member in the structure must understand his/her roles and responsibilities and have the discipline to stay within his or her confines. This often takes a much higher level of discipline than is present in our day-to-day operations and may be something many team members are entirely unaccustomed to.

The Incident Commander
When an incident spans only a single jurisdictional or operational area, there should be only one incident commander (IC). When an incident is so large as to span multiple jurisdictions or several operational areas, you might establish an incident management team (IMT) that is comprised of ICs from each jurisdiction or operational area. Most often, there will be a single IC who will assume responsibility over an incident, develop incident objectives, and serve as the central decision-maker for action plan implementation.

The IC should be the person with the greatest understanding of the incident, the incident environment, and the available resources. This person might also be selected based on training and supervisory/command abilities:

  • A command staff supporting the IC is comprised of a public information officer, a safety officer, and a liaison officer. The IC alone gives direction to his or her command staff.
  • The public information officer is responsible for interfacing with the media, public, and outside agencies with incident-related information.
  • The safety officer monitors the incident operations and notifies the IC of any health/safety issues that might affect incident personnel.
  • The liaison officer is the IC’s point of contact for representatives of other agencies and organizations that might support incident operations or be affected by them.

ICS General Staff
The operations section is responsible for carrying out the activities directed by the incident objectives at the direction of the IC. It does not freelance its activities. Any activity engaged in is at the expressed direction of the IC unless there exists an immediate unanticipated threat to life or property. The operations section may be subdivided to branches based on function or geographic disbursement.

The planning section is responsible for the collection and dissemination of incident situation information and intelligence to the IC. This section may compile status reports, display situation information, and prepare other documentation with input from the operations section chief for the IC. The planning section is further divided into support sections that report directly to the planning section chief:

  • Resources unit. Responsible for recording the status of resources committed to the incident. This unit also evaluates resources committed currently to the incident, the effects additional responding resources will have on the incident, and anticipated resource needs.
  • Situation unit. Responsible for the collection, organization, and analysis of incident status information and for analysis of the situation as it progresses.
  • Demobilization unit. Responsible for ensuring orderly, safe, and efficient demobilization of incident resources.
  • Documentation unit. Responsible for collecting, recording, and safeguarding all documents relevant to the incident.
  • Technical specialists. Personnel with special skills that can be used anywhere within the ICS organization.

The logistics section is responsible for all service support requirements needed to facilitate effective incident management. This section also provides facilities, transportation, supplies, equipment, and all other resources required to address the incident. In the activation of ICS, parking resources would most likely fall in the logistics section.

The logistics section is further divided into support sections:

  • Supply unit. Orders, receives, stores, and processes all incident-related resources, personnel, and supplies.
  • Ground support unit. Provides all ground transportation during an incident; also responsible for maintaining and supplying vehicles, keeping usage records, and developing incident traffic plans.
  • Facilities unit. Sets up, maintains, and demobilizes all facilities used in support of incident operations. The unit also provides facility maintenance and security services required to support incident operations.
  • Food unit. Determines food and water requirements, plans menus, orders food, provides cooking facilities, cooks, serves, maintains food service areas, and manages food security and safety concerns.
  • Communications unit. Major responsibilities include effective communications planning as well as acquiring, setting up, maintaining, and accounting for communications equipment.
  • Medical unit. Responsible for the effective and efficient provision of medical services to incident personnel.

The finance/administration section is only activated when the incident management is of such a scale as to require incident specific finance or administrative support.

ICS Implementation
It is easy to see that the ICS structure provides a comprehensive approach to handling significant incidents. However, to limit it to only those events is a lost opportunity to improve performance. How often have you approached a problem or challenge occurring in your parking operation to wonder if the right hand knows what the left hand is doing? ICS implementation clarifies roles and responsibilities while providing a structure that ensures coordination, communication, and a comprehensive approach. You need not implement every element of the ICS structure to derive significant benefit from it as a tool. Moreover, using it for smaller challenges or minor events is excellent practice for a major event.

Many forward-thinking parking professionals understand the power of ICS and do not wait for an incident or challenge to occur. They have regular tabletop exercises to simulate ICS implementation at a significant event. Some have gone as far as to have a topic presented for brief discussion at every weekly staff meeting. The more we practice with ICS, the more it becomes a part of how we operate and the more skilled we become at its implementation. Ideally, it should be second nature. You simply cannot wait until a significant event occurs and then hope for the best.

Additional ICS Considerations
Your parking operation may become part of the incident environment of an outside entity’s ICS activation. Being educated in ICS, you will better understand where your operation might fit in the incident environment and how decisions are made in the structure.

Recently, a large campus’ university police department got a call of a possible active shooter near the center of campus. Police activated ICS, and the IC decided that while the area search was conducted by operations, all personnel in the area should shelter in place. The supervisor of a parking garage in the area made the decision to open all the garage gates so people could escape the area. This interjected congestion into the area and caused people following the shelter-in-place order to believe there was a change and leave shelter. This could have led to tragic results. The parking professional needs to be aware of ICS and where decision-making resides during significant incidents.

A fundamental aspect of ICS implementation is the requirement for a debriefing. A debriefing allows us to reflect on performance and identify areas for improvement. Rank and organizational status must be left at the door for these to be effective. A debriefing should allow for very frank and direct conversations. The best of these can be incredibly uncomfortable. Remember, that practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.

Finally, parking leadership should meet regularly with law enforcement and first responders in their area. We can be viewed as a valued partner because of the assets, both in terms of facilities and personnel, we can bring to an ICS activation. We should request to be included in exercises and drills. This connects us to the logistics section and identifies our resources under NIMS. We also will develop lines of communications and professional relationships that have meaningful value should we need assistance in addressing a significant event localized to our operations.

Back to NIMS
ICS is how we respond to incidents. NIMS is the global way we prepare for incidents, with ICS being one component thereof. Do not neglect the other components of NIMS.

We need to put the tools of NIMS and ICS in our toolbox but ensure they do not rust there. Conduct exercises and implement ICS on small events and for challenges that are more typical. When a major incident occurs, we should hope our people fall into the ICS structure with calm professional demeanor, without being prompting, and bring credit to our industry through competent incident resolution and valued collaboration with local first responders.

MARK D. NAPIER, CAPP, is associate director, parking and transportation services, at the
University of Arizona. He can be reached at mnapier@email.

TPP-2016-05-More than Acronyms