Tag Archives: specifications

Constant Progress

IPI’s volunteer leaders have been hard at work via the association’s committees, advancing the parking profession with programs, initiatives, and research. Here’s what they’vetpp-2016-05-constant-progress_page_1 been doing so far this year.

Awards of Excellence Committee
IPI’s Awards of Excellence competition for new facilities, surface lots, innovative programs, sustainable new construction, and restoration of existing structures never ceases to amaze the committee. Committee members review the entries each year; at press time, members just completed our second year of online judging and are looking forward to turning it up a notch in the 2017 competition by increasing the total number of overall entries. Every year, it’s tougher to choose the beautifully designed facilities, technology-driven innovative programs, and overall architectural achievement winners.

Prior to opening the upcoming 35th annual competition, the committee will be streamlining the category criteria and looking at ways to increase the total number of entries. The committee will also be moving the timing of the competition’s timeline for entries to begin in summer 2016 with a deadline moving to late fall 2016. For more information, visit parking.org/aoe.

CO-CHAIRS: Rick Decker, CAPP, and Anderson Moore

Consultants Committee
The Consultants Committee is participating in numerous IPI initiatives that cross committee lines. The committee is supporting the Parking Matters® initiative to create case studies that demonstrate just how critical parking programs are to our cities, campuses, and transportation networks. In addition, the consultants are actively engaged in supporting IPI’s Green Star Exhibitor program, which gives recognition to companies that provide sustainable solutions, products, and services that are in line with IPI’s ustainability Framework. We are working with the Smart Card Alliance to generate a timely and relevant update to the EMV and Parking White Paper and help guide parking professionals through the transition to Europay MasterCard Visa (EMV) technology. And we are bringing back the Consultants Talk Back panel to the 2016 IPI Conference & Expo, this time with a focus on
mobility and alternative transportation.

CO-CHAIRS: John Bushman, PE, and Mark Santos, PE

Education Development Committee
Last summer, the Education Development Committee (EDC) welcomed several new members. The current committee, comprised of 16 volunteers, continues its tradition of effective and relevant output. The committee’s recent focus has included an update to the CAPP Resource Guide, a refresh of the CAPP practice exam, and the development of new online courses, including “Technology Trends” and “Foundations of Finance.” These two courses, as well as other online courses, are available for purchase through IPI. It is important to note that several of the courses have been provided to state and regional parking organization workshops as part of their front-line, in-person training efforts.

Recently, Denny Smith, PhD, joined the IPI staff and is working with several committee members to further professionalize our education products. Next in the queue for the EDC is to work closely with the USGBC and develop course content in support of the Green
Garage Certification process (now known as Parksmart).

CO-CHAIRS: Tom Wunk, CAPP, and Josh Cantor

ITS Parking Task Force
It has been an exciting couple of months within the ITS Parking Task Force as we have been actively pursuing presentation opportunities nationwide. We were selected to present at the New England Parking Council Spring Conference & Tradeshow in late March and were offered a special opportunity to present during the IGNITE session at the 2016 IPI Conference & Expo. Part of the task force’s recent efforts has been to format our current presentation to the IGNITE timeframe of five minutes, which has been an interesting challenge. We were also fortunate enough to have an article published in the February edition of The Parking Professional that highlighted a traffic management center (TMC) and our objectives. Lastly, we are putting the finishing touches on the Tennessee DOT-TMC visit, which will serve as the only offsite facility tour offered at this year’s IPI Conference & Expo in Nashville, Tenn.

CO-CHAIRS: Jason Jones and Ken Smith, CAPP

Membership Committee
New members, first-time attendees, and member prospects will have plenty on tap to welcome them at the 2016 IPI Conference & Expo, May 17–20, in Nashville. Among them:

  • A new-member/first-timer orientation that will include a fun speed-networking social session featuring topics designed to get the conversation flowing.
  • Conference morning meet-ups in Central Perks, a relaxed coffeehouse setting, with membership committee members on hand to greet. Look for membership committee members wearing big buttons that say “Ask Me Why I (Heart) IPI,” and share your personal stories about how IPI benefits you, your career, and your organization.

By reaching out and growing membership, we will add new voices and ideas and further expand IPI’s sphere of influence worldwide. Ultimately, our goal  is to advance the parking profession, and one way to do that is to help members access all the benefits of membership—most of all, offering the ability to connect, share, and learn from peers.

Also in the works, an update to IPI’s short but sweet member video. Stay tuned!

CO-CHAIRS: Allen Corry, CAPP, and Mark Lyons, CAPP

Parking Matters Committee
Parking Matters. We know it, but to many outside stakeholders, which include city  managers, elected officials, university decision-makers, airport and hospital executives, urban planners, etc., the proof is seeing real parking solutions to real challenges.

That’s why the Parking Matters Committee is on a mission to gather case studies that tell our story across all sectors. Have a case study to share? Let us know, and we’ll send you a case study form to submit. At this month’s IPI Conference & Expo, we’ll also be videotaping industry leaders, capturing compelling parking success stories for a series of videos. And Parking Matters Marketing & Communications Awards winners will be announced. This year, more than 10 programs will receive honors, with three capturing Best of 2016 awards. Look for their great ideas and marketing takeaways in the July issue of The Parking Professional.

We’ll also be unveiling an (unfortunately) much-needed tool for parking professionals on suicide prevention, response, and recovery. Also, if you see reporters or TV crews in the Expo Hall, that’s our PM media outreach initiative up close and personal, improving  perceptions about parking.

CO-CHAIRS: Gary Means, CAPP, and Vanessa Solesbee

Parking Research Committee
The mission of the Parking Research Committee is to help our members and industry take a deeper look into topics that are both timely and useful. As such, our group has been allocating its recent effort on a project that could help define the parking industry. Our group, in conjunction with staff and the Membership Committee, is hosting an ongoing survey to derive the overall size (spaces, revenue, and type) of the parking industry—first, within IPI’s membership. The survey went to IPI members recently and will be compiled and analyzed in 2016; all participants will receive a copy as soon as it is released. The ongoing survey is likely a jumping off point for bigger efforts beyond IPI’s membership but serves as a starting point and foundation for this important exercise.

In addition, members of our committee are also beginning parallel efforts that will create a library of relevant and timely published research for IPI membership, create succinct information about mobile applications, and embark on research about the true effects of paid parking in an urban environment.

CO-CHAIRS: Irena Goloschokin and Brett Wood, CAPP

Professional Recognition Program Committee
This program has always been about one thing: parking industry people. Whether individually or as a team, their outstanding go-getter attitudes build the organizations that are leading the way for others to follow.

This year, the new Emerging Leader of the Year category was added to the Professional Recognition competition. The committee also reviews the nominations for lifetime achievement and staff member, supervisor, organization, and parking professional of the year. It’s always a difficult playing field, but the committee is happy to see what others are doing in the industry and committed to choosing those to honor at the parking.org/prp.

In the near future, the committee will be gearing up to move the timing of the ompetition’s call for nominations to begin in summer 2016 with the deadline moving to late fall 2016. For more information, visit parking.org/prp.

CO-CHAIRS: Dan Kupferman, CAPP, and Wayne Mixdorf, CAPP

Safety and Security Committee
The Safety and Security Committee is made up of a group of professionals with a wealth of experience in safety, security, and incident command scenarios.

Current committee projects include:

  • Senior driving campaign. IPI is working with AAA to launch a campaign to educate senior drivers about parking safely.
  • Inclement weather survey. This initiative will provide resources to improve the safety and security of parking patrons, staff, and facilities. The survey will be distributed to IPI membership in fall 2016.
  • Suicide Prevention Task Force. In an effort to help member agencies, IPI is working in cooperation with mental health and suicide prevention experts to develop education regarding awareness, prevention, response, and recovery to incidents of suicides taking place within parking facilities.
  • NCS4: IPI and NCS4 (the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety & Security) are developing member education to enhance event safety. (See p. 24 for more.)

CO-CHAIRS: Bruce Barclay, CAPP, and Geary Robinson, PhD, CAPP

State & Regional Committee
When IPI asks state and regional associations (SRA) how we can better support their success, the resounding answer is with membership management, including marketing, recruitment, value proposition, and retention.

The IPI/SRA liaison program is in high gear with more than 10 liaisons building upon and fostering new lines of communication, and IPI set forth to develop an education series surrounding membership management for SRA volunteers. With the successful premiere of the “Thirty Minutes of Education (TME), Gearing Up to Grow Membership,” IPI provided its first quarterly expert-facilitated talk for the SRAs.

On Feb. 24, Peggy Hoffman, CAE, president of Mariner Management, talked about the top three needs to jump-start marketing, additional resources and case studies, and two action items to get started. IPI looks forward to continuing the engagement of industry experts for SRA volunteers in the TME series. Future TME topics may include increasing the member value proposition, raising membership rates, and finding new revenue sources.

CO-CHAIRS: Bridgette Brady, CAPP, and David Onorato, CAPP

Sustainability Committee
When this issue went to print, the Sustainability Committee was gearing up to review applicants for the Green Star Exhibitor program at the 2016 IPI Conference & Expo. Green Star highlights exhibitors who have a commitment to sustainability and/or provide products or services that help organizations meet their sustainability goals.

The committee is also developing case studies on sustainable projects that will be available to the IPI community. Case studies under development include bike access, lighting, ventilation, and electric transportation. The committee will provide a full slate of
articles to The Parking Professional, including stories on stormwater management and bike education programs.

CO-CHAIRS: Irma Henderson, CAPP, and Brian Shaw, CAPP

TPP-2016-05-Constant Progress


Staying Put

by Geary Robinson

What it means to shelter in place and how to know it’s the right decision during a crisis.


In the first grade at Washington Elementary School, Lawton, Okla., the bell rang and our teacher instructed us to leave our classroom, line up in the hallway, turn and face the wall, kneel, lower our heads between our knees, and place our hands over our heads. I was scared—my parents never taught me to do this. Later that day, I relied on my older brothers who also attended Washington Elementary, to explain this event to me. I was quickly schooled on something called the W, when big terrible bombs would be dropped on us because of our proximity to Fort Sill and everything would burn up instantly! My brain went to a weird place of rationalization. Why was it called a Cold War if that country was going to cause everything to burn up? Later in life, I realized that in that moment I had for the first time experienced sheltering in place.

More recently, I wrote, “First responders were traditionally thought of as local fire, police, and emergency medical personnel who respond to events such as fires, floods, traffic or rail accidents, and hazardous materials spills. However, due to increased concerns about bioterrorism and other potential terrorist attacks, the definition of first responders has been broadened. Presidential Directive 8 (DHS) defined the term ‘first responder’ as ‘individuals who in the early stages of an incident are responsible for the protection and preservation of life, property, evidence, and the environment, including emergency response providers as defined in section 2 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 101), as well as emergency management, public health, clinical care, public works, and other skilled support personnel (such as equipment operators) that provide immediate support services during prevention, response, and recovery operations.’”

First Responders
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 would have acknowledged and included the principal, teachers, and staff who, back in 1959, cared about their students and would risk their own lives to teach us how to be safe. They are included in the description of “skilled support personnel (such as equipment operators) that provide immediate support services during prevention, response, and recovery operations.”

Different types of events dictate changes in the types of sheltering in place used during crisis. Active-shooter situations may require barricading doors or hiding in locked closets. Weather-related events may dictate seeking shelter in a basement or a closet in the center of the first floor of a home or building. The weather event may last for a few minutes, several days, weeks, or months. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) states on its website: “Taking appropriate shelter is critical in times of disaster. Sheltering is appropriate when conditions require that you seek protection in your home, place of employment, or other location when disaster strikes. Sheltering outside the hazard area could include staying with friends and relatives, seeking commercial lodging, or staying in a mass-care facility operated by disaster relief groups.

“To effectively shelter, first consider the hazard, and then choose a place in your home or building which is safe for the hazard. For example, for a tornado, a room should be selected that is in a basement or an interior room on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls.”

Being conscious of your environment and surrounding while paying attention to where you are and what is occurring gives you the best opportunity to assist others and help yourself in quickly determining a safe place to go. Sheltering in place is about protecting yourself and those who are with you at the time a hazardous event occurs. The February 2013 Presidential Policy Directive (PPD-21) provides an “all hazards definition,” which helps us understand that no single definition is going to cover every situation or event: “A threat or an incident, natural or manmade, that warrants action to protect life, property, the environment, and public health or safety, and to minimize disruptions of government, social, or economic activities. It includes natural disasters, cyber incidents, industrial accidents, pandemics, acts of terrorism, sabotage, and destructive criminal activity targeting critical infrastructure.”

Why In Place
Sheltering in place is about protecting yourself and those who are with you at the time a disastrous event occurs, regardless of its origin. To do this, one would have to plan for a disaster, thinking about what actions he or she would take to ensure his or her own safety along with that of his or her family, friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. Sheltering in place may also be defined as the here and now: You finally have the time to take that long vacation to go cross-country and suddenly find yourself in the middle of very cold, icy weather on the interstate, where all traffic has come to a standstill. During the winter of 2010 in West Texas, an ice storm shut down I-20, leaving hundreds of people stranded for hours.

Are you ready to shelter-in-place in your vehicle? It’s a great example of needing to plan ahead. KnoWhat2do.com recommends having the following items in your car:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries.
  • First-aid kit and manual.
  • White distress flag.
  • Tire repair kit, booster/jumper cables, pump, and flares.
  • Bottled water and non-perishable food items.
  • Seasonal supplies to combat weather conditions— blankets, gloves, etc.
  • Local maps.

In his book “Disaster Response and Recovery,” author David McEntire defines sheltering as “the location or relocation of evacuees or others to places of refuge, a function that is frequently required in many disasters.” In planning to shelter, we need to include those who may need assistance for physical reasons in getting and staying somewhere safe.

KnoWhat2do.com offers a brief description on the Special Needs Assistance Program (SNAP). The purpose of this program is to allow local residents who have special needs to register with their local emergency management offices. If you or someone you know has a special need during a hazardous event, encourage him or her to contact the local emergency management organization to see if it has a SNAP program.

There have been many incidents during the past several decades in which sheltering in place has worked well. One of the most recent occurred during the November 2015 bombings in Paris, France, while teams from France and Germany participated in a soccer match. Keeping the fans in the stadium may well have saved many lives; estimated attendance was approximately 80,000.

The University of Oregon uses a three-step shelteringin-place plan that defines three types of sheltering for different categories of events (chart above):

“Stay or Go: Shelter-in-Place and Secure-in-Place In rare instances immediate evacuation may not be the safest option. Examples could include security incidents in which individuals would be safest remaining in place or situations in which hazardous materials were released into the environment.

  1. To secure-in-place, move to an interior room and lock or barricade the door.
  2. To shelter-in-place, close windows and doors and seal gaps under and around them with duct tape, plastic, or towels.
  3. To seek shelter, go inside the nearest building and move to an interior room.”


Case Study: Baltimore

The following brief case study is the personal assessment and view of Robert Milner, CAPP, and not those of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). Because the Freddie Gray trials are still going on, this case study is based on the general effects after a shelter-in-place has been declared versus the actual details involved in how and when a shelter-in-place was declared.

UMB, founded in 1807, is the founding campus of the University System of Maryland. Located in Baltimore City, this 71-acre research and technology complex encompasses 65 buildings just west of the Inner Harbor. UMB is Maryland’s only public health, law, and human services university. The university is within walking distance of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium (home of the Baltimore Ravens), Royal Farms Arena, and the Baltimore Convention Center. The France-Merrick Performing Arts Center (also known as the Hippodrome Theatre) is connected to the Baltimore Grand garage—one of seven garages owned by the university.

There were several major events scheduled the night of Saturday, April 25, 2015: a large gala in the Baltimore Convention Center; an Orioles baseball game; a show at the performing arts center; and a fundraising event at UMB’s Southern Management Corporation Campus Center. After meetings and conversations that took place when protests began, the only events that continued as scheduled were the Orioles game and the Hippodrome Theatre performance. University leadership made the decision on Friday, April 24, to close at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

After city protests turned destructive, the university went into a shelter-in-place. Despite this order, the Orioles game and Hippodrome performance went on as scheduled. Depending on where your university, hospital, municipality, etc. is located, a shelter-in-place decision could affect or be affected by the surrounding environment (entities, places of business, etc.). This certainly was the situation the UMB Parking and Transportation Services faced regarding one garage used for Orioles game parkers and/or hospital staff, a second garage used for theater and Orioles parkers, and a third garage used for hospital staff, patients, and patient visitors.

Life safety came first, and property damage came second. The university assigned its police officers in SWAT gear to the various garages needing support. This became important as events continued to unfold in the area. Camden Yards issued a brief shelter-in-place toward the end of the ballgame and did not allow fans to leave. The university still had to contend with the Hippodrome performance, scheduled to let out within an hour of Camden Yards’ shelter-in-place. University police personnel were able to assist.

With the mass transit services halted, our department had to assist with getting the parking staff home, fed, etc. Through combined efforts of the police and parking, this unfortunate evening ended without any harm to life or safety. The takeaway is to not only learn what a shelter-in-place is but to understand what would be involved should your organization have to declare a shelter in place.

GEARY ROBINSON, PhD, CAPP, is director of transportation services at the University of North Texas. He can be reached at geary.robinson@unt.edu.

TPP-2016-05-Staying Put

Two Plain Hamburgers. No Fries.

tpp-2016-05-two-plain-hamburgers-no-friesby Cindy Campbell

Very few of us have ever received specific training on effective listening. My first formal course on the topic came in a workshop about Steven Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Covey talks about listening skills, or more appropriately, the lack thereof. One of the points made about his fifth habit—seek first to understand, then to be understood—rang true with me: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Why do we do this? Were we taught in our formative years to ignore message content? Perhaps not explicitly, but in some ways I suppose we were. For the sake of efficiency or expedience, we learned to listen for key words and to anticipate phrases so that we could reply quickly.

As adults, we filter everything we hear through our own life experience and previous knowledge. Sometimes in our haste—certainly more often than we realize—we draw the wrong conclusions, completely missing what someone is really trying to tell us. When this occurs in our business dealings, we risk being perceived as uncaring, disinterested, or even mechanical in our responses. In an industry in which the public’s perception can be critical to our success, leaving customers with a bad impression
can prove to be costly on many levels.

No Fries
In line at a fast-food place (don’t judge me), I recently overheard a conversation that illustrates Covey’s assessment of the importance of listening.

“How are you today?” asked the employee. “Would you care to try one of our new menu items?”
“No, thank you,” came the reply. “I’d like two plain hamburgers and nothing else. To go.”
“Would you like anything to drink?”
“No, no drink. Just the burgers.”
“Okay. Would you like anything else?”
“No. Nothing else.”
“OK, so that’s one hamburger …”
“No, I’d like two hamburgers.”
“OK, so two hamburgers. Would you like any fries?”
“No fries. Just two plain hamburgers. That’s it. To go.”
“So two plain hamburgers, no fries. And, I’m sorry, what did you say you wanted to drink?”
“No drink.”
“OK, will that be for here or to go?”

As I stood there, I could feel the tension radiating from the customer trying to order his meal. I wondered how long it would be before he ventured back in for another hamburger.

Now, I recognize that we don’t sell fast food, but the lesson from this observation still applies. In the parking industry, our product is a combination of services and access accompanied by a healthy dose of problem-solving and chaos prevention. Customers
don’t always fully understand or appreciate our services. Often, they can be unpleasant and difficult to assist and yet despite their attitudes and the lack of respect they may exhibit toward us, we must still provide them with an attitude of service. Pretending to listen or only listening selectively is not providing service. It’s withholding service.

As industry leaders, we must recognize that active listening plays a vital role in how we are perceived. To be successful, we must instill the attitudes and aptitudes for active listening within our organization. Active, in-the-moment listening conveys significant proof of genuine care about what the speaker is saying, thinking, or feeling. It isn’t necessary to agree with or even to understand everything that is being said; we simply have to set aside our preconceived ideas about what’s coming next and try to understand someone else’s point of view.

One last thought on the importance of active listening: Good listening skills can improve relationships beyond the office. Listening effectively can bring understanding and cooperation to our interactions with our friends, our family, and especially our significant others and our children. We owe it to ourselves and to those important to us to be fully present and listen carefully.

CINDY CAMPBELL is IPI’s senior training and development specialist. She is available for onsite training and professional development and can be reached at  campbell@parking.org.

TPP-2016-05-Two Hamburgers. No Fries.

Experts Needed

Experts Needed by Pierre Koudelka

by Pierre Koudelka

Why the way your RFPs are written is setting you up for disappointment and what the industry can do about it.

As it pertains specifically to parking access and revenue control systems (PARCS), your RFP may not be getting you what you intend. In my career as a manufacturer and consultant of PARCS systems, I have been involved in more than 1,000 parking projects worldwide. In all that time, I have not seen much improvement in the way we in North America go about assembling our thoughts and writing specifications for RFPs.

In the 1970s, specifications were good enough. Systems weren’t that complicated and PARCS specs were possibly 25 pages. Today, they are more than 150 pages. Granted, a good portion of that is what we call “legalese,” which protects everyone in case something goes amiss. The system can be very complicated, often consisting of mainframes; redundant backup systems; Europay Mastercard, Visa (EMV) requirements; full-blown networks; firewalls that often cause issues; and extensive software that can entail a dozen sub-systems that all have to work together flawlessly. To be fair, there are some good RFPs, but I feel a majority in the past 20 years have been flawed—some worse than others—and it’s getting worse every year. It’s smart to consider having a consultant write a spec instead of trying to do it yourself.

The advent of the computer and our ability to copy and paste has, in my view, been detrimental to the RFP process. The simple fact is that everyone seems to feel qualified to write a PARCS specification. Parking professionals take excerpts from past systems and add them to new ones and expect it all to work harmoniously. I have seen RFPs that included bits and pieces of three or four PARCS manufacturers’ ideas or features all mashed together and some that request unproven products and expect that someone will bid and make it all work. What’s worse is that when the bids do come in, they are accepted as meeting specifications when, in fact, they don’t.

I can’t begin to tell you how many facilities I have visited after everything was installed to find that the system didn’t meet the original specs. This has always frustrated the bidders who tried to do it properly and follow the spec to a T but lost because their price was (naturally) higher. But by then, it’s water under the bridge.

In years past, we had qualified engineering firms with parking experience write specs. That has changed—architects, operators, tradesmen of all kinds, maintenance people, and local regional managers all feel they’re up to to the task. But are they really? Parking sophistication is often underestimated, and some firms don’t put enough resources into their PARCS departments to do it right. Owners, on the other hand, feel if someone has any connection with parking, he or she must be an expert on PARCS. Authors have to be impartial and very technical, understand the IT world, and have carefully studied and analyzed all the major players before they can understand and recommend the various concepts and systems offered. Just because you operate a garage doesn’t mean you’re a PARCS expert. This is exacerbated by pressures put on writers to keep fees low.

When a system manufacturer has to bid an RFP as written, it becomes clear that many specifications are disjointed and impossible to build as requested. Consider for a moment the confusion over EMV and how some authors, because of a lack of understanding, have confused everyone as to what is really required, wasting money. That’s simply not fair to the owners who paid for a good RFP or to the bidders trying to comply. It’s to the point where we in the trade can often predict whose spec will be problematic before it even hits the street. Manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors have to work to resolve these gaps or try and come to a compromise, often resulting in a customer not getting exactly what he or she thought was coming. Poorly written specs cause major delays, rewrites, controversy, wasted money, legal action, and worse, some good people their jobs.

Today’s systems offer several hundred features and thousands of pages of code. The variable differences within a single feature are immense and require real understanding. Really consider who is best qualified before hiring someone to assist you on spending your money.

Ask yourself when you last saw an RFP that mentioned anything about the quality requirements, equipment longevity, or expected maintenance cost over the life of a system. Does anyone know? Service cost over time can well exceed the initial system cost and has to be considered. Another aspect that’s always missing is quantifying or measuring any feature’s ease of use. If the system features you’re requesting aren’t easy to use or quickly attainable, your staff might not use them. You’re wasting money calling for a feature that sounds good but that ultimately won’t be used.

Good installation is critical—any cost-cutting can be extremely detrimental, but very little is written in RFPs about the quality of the installation. Why is that? The catch-all phrase is something like, “You are to provide everything necessary for a well-operated system.” That’s simply not good enough. Why is it assumed that the electrical contractor (different than the equipment distributor) will use the best components and smart switches, terminate properly, and/or provide the good, clean power? Are they proficient in fiber optics, networks, and will they exceed local codes? I’ve seen no expansion provisions on conduit runs that open up, exposing wires.

The Importance of Specifics
How can anyone make an informed buying decision if he or she doesn’t have all these facts clearly outlined and quantified? The answer is, he or she can’t. The end result is that the consultant, the operator, or someone else will make a judgment call about what to buy. Unfortunately, this often boils down to the individual’s preference, existing relationships, past experiences with a vendor, or even worse, just price, rather than a clear, comparison metric of the spec or facts. You might as well flip a coin.

Some say that quality seems unimportant to buyers and it’s all about the price. I think it’s more about simply not understanding and discerning the real difference in parking systems, and it stems in part from poorly written RFPs. All manufacturers’ systems are not similar or equal as specs may imply. There is a measurable quality and feature-set difference. Manufacturers need to do a better job of explaining these differences—I have found many cut sheets provided by manufacturers to be meaningless.

Operators make many buying decisions when it comes to parking equipment, in part because they or their company owners feel they are qualified or it falls within their contractual purview. The car park owner may feel he or she gets a better price that way, but I question that. Price aside, the decision as to what equipment to buy may be better made by system engineers and IT specialists rather than local managers, as they may feel pressure from existing contracts. Short-term contracts often result in short-term thinking, and decisions may be based purely on cost.Owners often rely entirely on others for such recommendations without asking the right questions or challenging these recommendations. Purchasing really needs to be a collaborative effort that’s based on hard data and a measurable set of metrics. You can buy whatever you like; I just want you to do it for the right reason, be well informed with accurate, up-to-date information, and get what you expected.

Improving the Process
Here are possible solutions we should consider and implement for a more proficient RFP process going forward:

  • It seems to me that some sort of certification program needs to be established, both to certify individual specification writers and assist them in gathering information, developing benchmarks, and establishing metrics to better identify products and services.
  • The industry should establish a minimum standard requirement for spec writers. Given the ever-increasing complexities of systems, spec writers should have engineering and IT degrees. Metrics have to be established to better understand and analyze firms and products. Simply saying we want good equipment is not sufficient.
  • Spec writers should be required to take IPI courses on a continual basis in specific fields and pass an exam as we do with CAPP to maintain their certification.
  • Spec writers should be required to visit manufacturing facilities every two years to determine not only what is new but the factory’s quality standard, production techniques, and financial standings. There’s no sense in buying equipment from a firm that will not be in existence a year from now. We need to know product life expectancies and estimated cost of maintenance in three, six, or 12 years after purchase.
  • We need a method of advising the board as to who and when a spec writer visited a manufacturing plant and verify that all assigned tasks were covered.
  • Equipment and systems should be made available for consultants to play with and analyze at their leisure. And specifications should be updated regularly to be more accurate and current.

This may seem like a harsh critique of the process, and those currently writing specs may say it is demanding too much. However, we have allowed the process to deteriorate over the years, and we can’t continue to copy outdated and error-filled specs and disseminate them as new, merely because it’s easy. We have to start somewhere, and given the importance of PARCS and its ever-increasing cost, why shouldn’t there be an accreditation process?

The good news is there are people and associations within this industry that can come together and resolve many of these issues. I believe we have an opportunity and an obligation to manage who writes and how we write system specifications. We can’t continue to let manufacturers, distributors, contractors, and bidders resolve glaring errors after the fact. We need to better monitor and regulate this process to keep up with ever-changing technologies. Now is the time to review how we should approach the next decade so we can do a better job for our clients, our industry, and ultimately, the end user—our patrons. The best possible goal we as an industry can have it starts with proper RFPs.

PIERRE KOUDELKA has 45 years of parking experience globally as a leading manufacturer,
parking consultant, and author. He can be reached at jean.pierre.koudelka@gmail.com.

TPP-2016-04 Experts Needed