Tag Archives: TPP-2012-11-

Growing Pains

TPP-2012-11-Growing PainsBy Justin Bean

Roosevelt Island is a small community with big aspirations. Located on New York’s East River between Manhattan and Queens, it is a prime two-mile by 800-foot section of real estate that features housing developments, parks, and commercial areas. The island is linked to Manhattan by a three-minute tram ride, subway, or bridge, and its population is growing.

Cornell University recently announced plans to build a high-tech research center that will attract thousands of students and several hundred faculty and staff members, as well as an increased daily influx of businesspeople, entrepreneurs, and guest lecturers to the island. An expected development of three additional residential buildings will also bring in more than 1,000 new residents and 30 new storefronts along Main Street, further increasing foot and vehicle traffic on the island. To address these issues, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has dedicated $100 million to island infrastructure improvements.

Parking is already an issue, and given the impending growth of this small community of 12,000, it will only become a more pressing challenge. On-street parking is increasingly difficult for visitors and residents, and double parking and short meter times put a burden on patrons of local shops. Instead of building out large amounts of new parking capacity, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), which manages the island, has decided to leverage technology and smart planning to address the parking and congestion challenges that come with growth.

“Because of the island’s limited transportation infrastructure, our focus is to ensure that our roadways are as free from congestion as possible. Parking or cruising for parking can lead to more congested roadways, as well as lost business revenue if parking cannot be located,” said Fernando Martinez, vice president of operations for RIOC.

RIOC hopes to proactively address the issue with its Smart Parking program. The corporation routinely looks for technological solutions to the challenges that come with growth. From expanding free Wi-Fi to an automated vacuum collection system for trash collection, to harnessing tidal power, RIOC is implementing solutions to create a clean, livable area.

Technology Intervenes
“Roosevelt Island has a lot of interesting projects and points of interest for anyone involved in urban planning/urban affairs. It has come to be a test bed for new, innovative technology and sustainability,” said Martinez. “In the next five to 10 years, we expect to have a greater number of visitors to the island…utilizing the transportation network, shopping in the stores, and taking advantage of our beautiful parks and public spaces. Many will come to the island by public transit; however, we also anticipate that many will be looking to park vehicles as well.”

Due to the scarcity of land to use for new parking, the island needs to optimize the use of existing parking infrastructure by enacting smart pricing policies. RIOC looked into various smart parking technologies and decided to implement sensor-based parking guidance and management technology that works with an app that provides residents and visitors with guidance to available parking spaces. The app also informs drivers of prices, and payment options, and allows them to make mobile payments and reserve spaces in local garages.

Using the latest technology, RIOC will have the ability to better assess the dynamics of parking on the island using analytics and real-time applications that can drive decisions to add more parking or change regulations and pricing to encourage drivers to better use the available spaces. Garages on Roosevelt Island can publish their location information—including current occupancy, reservation availability and special promotion—to drivers via a parking management software system.

“We plan to install sensors in a majority of our on-street parking in order to collect data about parking behavior and to identify trends,” said Martinez. “We will also launch Parker, which allows folks to see where parking is available to guide parkers to open spaces. Once we have some data to work with, we will look at pricing for both on-street and off-street parking. We will also evaluate and adjust the span of time that folks can park for.”

Snow Days
RIOC officials note that they were initially concerned about the effect that harsh weather conditions in New York could have on the equipment. A major component of the test was to see if the sensors would work buried under ice, snow, and road salt through the winter, and the performance, says Martinez, was “fantastic.”

“We plan to use the data we collect from the sensors to set an effective pricing plan to improve availability of short-term parking where it’s needed. We will in turn reduce congestion on Roosevelt Island because less folks will be cruising looking for a space, they will know if spaces are available and where they are. Additionally, there will be more spaces available because long-term parkers will be taking advantage of attractive rates at Motorgate [a local parking garage]. Much of the improved availability of spaces can be attributed to efficient enforcement,” he says.

Martinez adds, “Our property manager for Shops on Main has stressed that an effective parking policy is key to a successful commercial corridor. Smart Parking can improve sales for local businesses, reduce congestion on our only street—Main Street—and generally make parking easier for residents and visitors alike.”

The Space Search
Independent studies show that around 30 percent of city traffic is caused by drivers looking for a place to park. Moreover, a study by UCLA Professor Donald Shoup found that in a 15-block area of Los Angeles over a year, motorists drove an excess 950,000 miles, wasting 47,000 gallons of fuel and emitting 730 tons of carbon dioxide.

The Parking Pain Survey published by IBM in 2011 revealed that finding parking is a major problem for drivers in the U.S.—and globally—that leads to an average of 20 minutes spent looking for parking. According to the survey, 60 percent of drivers give up on finding a spot, and 27 percent of drivers had been in an altercation with someone in the past year over a space. RIOC hopes its new system will reduce traffic congestion, emissions, and driver frustration.

Martinez believes that parking is not only an important city planning tool, but one that will be used even more in the future. “As the technology becomes more widespread, the implementation will become a common recommendation for planners to make in order to reduce traffic congestion, improve on street parking availability and revenue,” he says.

Justin Bean is marketing manager for Streetline, Inc. He can be reached at justin@streetline.com or 650.242.3412.

TPP-2012-11-Growing Pains

Multi Modal Magic

TPP-2012-11-Multi Modal MagicBy Ross Allanson, CAPP, and Atif Saeed, CAPP

Infrastructure that’s designed and built to meet transportation needs makes a big difference in how our communities function and grow. The City of Minneapolis’ leadership and regional partners have traditionally been forward-thinking when it comes to creating a favorable environment for a balanced and sustainable mode share. This attitude towards public transportation and accessibility played an important role when a new professional baseball stadium was planned for the middle of downtown Minneapolis. In the end, the facility was built without adding a single public parking space to existing inventory.

After considering several sites around the Twin Cities, a decision was made to construct the new Minnesota Twins’ stadium, Target Field, in downtown Minneapolis. The location decision was due, in large part, to existing transportation infrastructure that served the area. This included close proximity to the crossroads of Interstates 394, 94, and 35W; ample parking supply, including state- and city-owned parking facilities; a light rail station; a commuter train station; transit bus stops; an inter-city bus terminal; and a bike trail.

Though existing transportation infrastructure near the proposed stadium was ample, the new ballpark’s success would rest on how well these pieces worked together to serve fans and maintain mobility for downtown commuters. Target Field would be located in an urban setting that generates activity at all times of the day. Downtown Minneapolis houses headquarters of several international companies; Target Center (home court for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx); a thriving arts and theater district; and many restaurants, bars, and clubs. The influx of 40,000 Twins fans for each game was both a challenge and an opportunity.

Careful planning among many groups that worked together was critical to the project’s success. Any plans for accommodating pedestrian, vehicle, bike, and transit traffic to Target Field required sensitivity to existing traffic patterns. Public and private entities came together in an unprecedented way to make the project a success.

The Roadway System
City traffic engineers reviewed all existing roadway elements to ensure effective signal coordination. A reverse traffic flow plan was put in place to accommodate overflow from the area’s largest parking facilities. Additionally, traffic control agents were strategically placed in key locations to guarantee that traffic would flow smoothly on game days.

One of the most visible and effective tools used by the city was the installation of a series of variable message signs, which are used to direct vehicles toward available parking. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) also uses messaging boards that display “Full” or “Open” status for major parking facilities accessible from the interstate freeway system.

The Parking System
Immediately adjacent to the ballpark are three large parking facilities that are owned by MnDOT. Commonly known as the ABC Ramps, they offer discounted carpool parking and provide mass transit hubs that mitigate pollution and traffic congestion through increased use of high occupancy vehicle (HOV) choices. These facilities also have direct access to the interstate highway system and are managed by the City of Minneapolis as part of its fringe parking strategy, which reduces traffic congestion in the central business district.

The ABC Ramps were originally built as commuter facilities, so they were designed for staggered entrance and exit times. They were not originally capable of handling the mass ingress and egress associated with a new major league baseball stadium. Moreover, the only local street exit for one of the garages was slated to have a light rail system constructed in front of it.

To address these challenges, several steps were taken to be ready to handle baseball crowds, including:
A new entrance and exit for local street access from a key ramp.
Conversion of revenue control equipment to allow cashier-less exit and credit card payment.
Re-striping for straight-in parking stalls to operate in a two-way traffic mode.
Increasing entry and exit lane distances.
The modernization of existing elevators.
The addition of two new elevators to accommodate increased pedestrian traffic during events.

In addition, a pedestrian bridge was constructed from one of the ramps to the ballpark to address ADA and safe pedestrian access.
Private parking operators also took steps to ensure that arriving fans had many parking options. Some operators worked with the Twins organization to provide programs that addressed employee parking needs along with those of fans who wanted pre-paid parking options.

Metro Transit, the regional transit provider, had recently introduced a number of improvements to encourage increased transit ridership. The North Star line is a heavy rail system that brings fans from the northern and western parts of the metro area. The Hiawatha light rail line brings fans from the southern parts of the city as well as from Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. Local city bus service can be accessed from two parking facilities that are adjacent to the field or from a recently updated transit corridor just a short walk away. Finally, suburban bus routes were put in place from the western and southwestern suburbs specifically for baseball games.

Charter Bus
The selected stadium site was not large enough to accommodate charter bus parking, so the surrounding roadway system and surface parking options had to be considered. Space was identified, and a plan to park the anticipated 120 charter buses was put in place. The primary parking area is about one block from the ballpark and can handle about 40 buses, which typically meet charter bus parking needs for games. The rest were accommodated on streets and other areas.

Bicycle parking was always a part of the original plan, and more than 300 potential bike rack parking spaces were identified before Target Field opened. The city already had a robust network of bike lanes. Additionally, a major bicycle trail—the Cedar Lake Bike Trail—runs directly past the ballpark. In the end, biking turned out to be such a popular option among game-goers that the existing supply of bike parking did not meet demand. Fortunately, the Twins and the city, in collaboration with MnDOT, were able to quickly add to the supply.

A plan to provide for a safe flow of pedestrians at anticipated high-volume points was put in place. The plan included agents at street corners and the temporary use of traffic lanes to handle those high volumes. In addition, the city leveraged its skyway system of interconnected pedestrian walkways that use enclosed bridges over the city roadways between buildings, to further enhance pedestrian options.

Providing clear communication regarding the available transportation alternatives was essential for the transportation strategy to work. The Twins promoted the available transportation options through a dedicated web domain, DestinationTargetField.com, and by distributing flyers to fans during major events held before the opening of the ballpark. The City of Minneapolis Communications Department also played an important role in getting the word out to the public by working with many downtown partners. Following are some of the key messages covered by these communications:

The importance of planning ahead. Encouraging fans to arrive early and stay late (this would also result in patronage of local restaurants and bars). Web links to the transit website and transit options. Web links to bicycle routes and parking information. Web links to information on driving directions. Web links to a map of all surrounding parking.Suggesting that fans may be able to park in the same location they’d used for Twins games in the past.

As Minneapolis welcomed a new major league baseball park, the transportation infrastructure built around a multi-modal framework easily accommodated an additional 40,000 fans arriving and departing for baseball games. By all accounts, the multi-modal message was received well by the fans. Increased transit and bicycle use was most dramatic. On a typical game day, parking facilities and pedestrian and street traffic are mostly cleared within 40 minutes of the last out.

Studies reported an estimated 20 percent of fans arrived by mass transit, 3 percent arrived by charter buses, 1 percent arrived by bicycle, and 25 percent parked on the large ramps immediately adjacent to the ballpark; 50 percent walked from local hotels, nearby places of employment, and residences as well as parking locations more than two blocks away.

Atif Saeed, CAPP, is parking systems manager with the City of Minneapolis Public Works, Traffic and Parking Services. He can be reached at atif.saeed@minneapolismn.com or 612.673.2159.

Ross Allanson, CAPP, is general manager of ABM Parking Services. He can be reached at ross.allanson@mplsparking.com or 612.343.7275.

TPP-2012-11-Multi Modal Magic

Reforming Parking Policies

TPP-2012-11-Reforming Parking PoliciesBy Valerie Knepper

Parking policies are emerging as a key and sometimes volatile issue in land use development and transportation planning efforts. A growing group of public and private interests are seeking changes in parking policies, pointing to problems such as inefficient usage of limited land, negative economic effects of high parking requirements, quality of life concerns, and environmental issues. Local governments face unprecedented fiscal challenges requiring innovative approaches that foster economic growth while working with scarce resources. In California, regions are tasked with reducing the production of greenhouse gasses through a combination of land use and transportation strategies (pursuant to Senate Bill 375, Steinberg, 2008).

Parking is at the nexus of land use and transportation planning and development. For the last several decades, most American cities have treated it as a simple engineering question. Cities typically turn to the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Parking Generation Rate manual, wherein the number of potential land users (residents, employees, shoppers, etc.) is generally assumed to justify almost one vehicle for each person for each use. Since the 1950s, cities have typically established parking requirements based on these ITE levels of parking use, requiring developers and businesses to provide this amount of parking regardless of local circumstances.

Parking is now understood as a very important part of how we plan our cities and regions, both in terms of urban form and transportation mode. There is a growing understanding that parking policies affect where new development will be built, where people live, how much people spend for housing, how people travel, the cost of travel, and the economics of businesses. A growing number of cities and regions in the U.S. are rethinking parking policies, with some fundamentally changing how they think about, plan, design, price, and manage parking. The aim of these new approaches is to create more flexibility to meet market demand for parking, allow for market response to demand for a variety of housing choices, support a community’s transit-oriented and infill development goals, and address larger issues of regional economic, equity, and environmental consequences.

In California, responsibility and authority for parking policies falls squarely in the realm of local zoning by local jurisdictions. While some localities are making progress in applying these newer concepts about parking to their communities, others feel limited by dwindling resources. Some cities are reticent to allow additional development at all, especially new housing that brings new residents and new demands. Others are very sensitive to the concerns of some existing residents who fear parking spillover in their neighborhoods if new developments are built with smaller amounts of parking.

Smart Growth, SB 375, and Parking Policies
California’s SB 375 established a process for the state to achieve emission reductions from the transportation sector, to meet the goals of the state’s global warming legislation (AB 32, Nunez, 2006). The bill requires metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) such as the Metropolitan Transportation Committee (MTC) to develop a sustainable communities strategy—a new element of the regional transportation plan—that strives to reach greenhouse gas reduction targets through transportation, land use, and other policies. MTC has developed policies and incentives to increase the proportion of new development occurring close to high quality transit, because residents who live and/or work close to transit drive significantly less than average.

MTC Regional Parking Initiative
Over the last several years, I have led a multi-faceted regional initiative to support reform of parking policies in the San Francisco Bay Area. This work has focused on both the effect of parking policies on travel mode choice in the short run and on land use patterns in the long run, and has established a regional role to make significant progress on this difficult issue. The MTC Parking Initiative has included technical analyses, case studies, communication methods, several series of workshops for planning and transportation professionals, and direct assistance to local jurisdictions seeking to develop new parking policies.

Education has been a major focus of the MTC Parking Initiative. We have found a number of fallacies, some contradictory, that have required extended conversation:

MTC funds planning efforts for transit station areas, typically at a cost of $500,000, that include parking analyses and policy development. I have heard from many city planning directors and officials that they would like to get rid of or at least reduce their parking minimums but don’t have the money or the political ability to do so. MTC does not have sufficient funds to support such planning efforts at each of the 109 local jurisdictions (cities and counties) within the region.

The Perspective of Developers
and Financiers

In early 2012, we conducted a series of interviews with developers and financiers about parking policies. They made the case that they conduct their own analysis of the amount of parking that will create a profitable product, and do not need city requirements to substitute for their more detailed analysis.

A number of developers and financiers expressed an interest in producing housing close to quality transit with smaller amounts of parking. The perspective was expressed that parking minimums cause developers to build too much parking, raise the cost of housing, and waste public funds, all of which acts as an exclusionary force that keeps a diverse range of housing product out of many areas. Several developers and financiers supported the relaxation of parking requirements so they could build in keeping with the current market conditions, including for a sizable younger population that has greater preferences for living in walkable neighborhoods.

Recent Activities—AB 904
and Parking Policy Discussions

There is growing concern by some members of the state legislature that the feasibility of smart growth in general and transit-oriented development (TOD) is being hampered by the high parking requirements imposed by many municipalities. Some members of the legislature are seeking to enact parking policy legislation to promote sustainable TOD to reduce urban sprawl and greenhouse gas emissions. Assembly Bill 904 (Skinner) was introduced in the 2011-12 California legislative session. The bill attempted to establish a statewide cap on minimum parking standards for developments in transit-rich areas while allowing local opt-out provisions under specified conditions. The proposed legislation generated heated debate between local planners, developers, and other government agencies and was eventually tabled. A revised bill is expected to be introduced in 2013.

Smart growth advocates, regional agencies, and developers believe various factors feed the inertia and/or unwillingness of local agencies to reform their policies to allow additional TOD. Driving factors include excessive parking requirements for TOD and political resistance fueled by community concerns about additional development spilling into neighborhoods.

The League of California Cities countered the proponents of AB 904 with concerns about statewide planning laws that, in their interpretation, would restrict the ability of a municipality to exercise its police powers. They argued that these legislative proposals are a one-size-fits-all approach that threatens the autonomy of a city to define its individual community character and development prerequisites.

The CAPA Northern Section and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will sponsor a workshop on Nov. 9, 2012 to bring together panelists with diverse opinions to discuss parking reform and the concerns that arose regarding AB 904. See mtc.ca.gov for more information on the workshop. The objective of the workshop is to achieve greater common ground among workshop participants on policies and legislation that can promote smart parking practices in transit-rich areas, with the hope of developing a framework for future legislation that can be supported by a majority of stakeholders. Workshop comments and recommendations will be forwarded to state legislators and the CCAPA Policy and Legislation Committee.

Valerie Knepper is associate transportation planner with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. She can be reached at vknepper@mtc.ca.gov or 510.817.5824.

TPP-2012-11-Reforming Parking Policies

Walking the Line

TPP-2012-11-Walking the LineBy Hal King, CAPP

On-street parking might seem to work against the principles of Transportation Demand Management (TDM). To most observers, it promotes single vehicle trips and undermines mass transit. So how does on-street parking fit into TDM? How do we use it to reduce increasing congestion in urban centers and enhance local business and city livability? How do we make it into a program that supports area businesses and discourages long-term use by daily commuters?

On-street parking serves many masters. Local businesses need attractive, easy curbside access that turns over regularly. Commercial businesses need loading zones for deliveries, and mass transit needs adequate drop off/pick up zones to use without impeding traffic flow.

A study of U.S. parking policies by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy said that “curbside parking policy is fundamentally about managing the demand for an unchanging supply.” That might be the case, but on-street parking inventory is often reduced. New construction adds driveways and curb cuts. New businesses want new loading zones. Bus routes change and larger buses need more space. Changes in traffic patterns may cause reductions in turn lanes and sight distance.

When on-street parking is mismanaged, the result is an effective subsidy for automobile use. To put it simply, people don’t use mass transit because they prefer to drive their cars. Municipalities face a larger need to incorporate principles of TDM into on-street parking. Poorly managed parking systems increase the overall burden on infrastructure with more vehicles on the road and other consequences. Street maintenance costs (paving, painting, and plowing) are on the rise, but salaries for personnel to perform these duties may be eliminated in the annual budget.

The old response was “build a garage and move them off the street.” A bare-bones garage, however, has a median cost of more than $16,000 per space; that’s before things such as landscaping, street furniture, or maintenance costs are taken into consideration. The problem is that drivers won’t use off-street facilities if they see no advantage to parking away from the curb. Thus, congestion increases because there is little turnover with nowhere for arriving vehicles to park, and revenues will not offset the cost of the construction bonds.

Poor on-street pricing policies are the bane of many cities. Political pressure can cause them to become third-rail issues that never change to meet the municipality’s needs. The result is a continual deterioration in equipment and services when inadequate revenue is created to improve or even maintain current equipment. The artificially low price creates high demand, increasing the public’s desire for a commodity the area can’t provide. It becomes the Catch-22 of parking.

Some cities try to cure this issue through enforcement, but even the best have trouble with this:
Berkeley (2004): 32 percent of vehicles in 1-hour metered parking areas overstayed the time limit.
San Francisco (2007): One-third of parkers overstayed the time limit or didn’t pay at all.
Manhattan (2008): The average stay at a 1-hour meter was 93 minutes.

Additionally, many cities feel a stronger enforcement presence can do more economic harm than the parking problems. And parking issues can quickly become safety issues when vehicles park illegally in turning lanes or near crosswalks. A recent study commissioned by the Chicago Department of Transportation shows the reality of safety issues for pedestrians in intersections. It showed that from 2005 to 2009, 74 percent of pedestrian crashes were in crosswalks at intersections. Compliance will linger after the visible or direct enforcement is removed, but not for long. When drivers no longer feel threatened, they will resume illegal behavior. Only when enforcement is frequent and regular will drivers adjust their performance based on expectation.

Seeming Opposites Attract
So how do we move on-street parking closer to something that can work with TDM?
First, assess your operations:

Review your parking stock. Where are your existing spaces and how many are there per block? Do you have abandoned driveways or no-parking zones? Do you need to consider
parking outside of commercial areas due to commuter overspill?

Review your parking regulations. What are they, where are they, and why are they? Many places installed regulations years ago for somebody nobody remembers anymore. Is it time to change that regulation? Has the business use of the area changed so that regulations should change as well? Can you consider reducing or extending time limits to better serve the community?

What’s your capture rate? How many violations are you writing, and how does it compare with the number of actual violators?
Next, look at occupancy studies. This can be done in a number of ways:

Do a physical study. Map out all locations to be studied. Make multiple map copies and have study staff note the number or address of spaces and license plates every hour. Survey staff should note all un-ticketed violations to assist you in your enforcement strategies.

Use a license plate pecognition (LPR) system if you can. LPR makes your occupancy studies easier and faster, and covers more area by using GPS locations and plate numbers. You can review each block for each pass and note if the same vehicle remains in the same block or area.

Next, consider your pricing. If change is needed, be sure you have the data to back up your requests. Rate studies should be available when promoting these changes. Studies should consider proximity, population, rates, and hours of operation. Include your operations as well. If on-street parking is being used as long-term parking, your data will support you. Your occupancy studies can be very useful in moving past perceived problems and achieving real results.

Once you’ve done your studies and collected your data, it’s time to make decisions.

Taking Action
Consider congestion pricing by the hour. Business districts have different needs for different businesses. Daytime businesses such as office buildings draw large numbers of users at one time. Restaurants or bars draw smaller, more transient crowds that don’t require as much turnover. You can increase or decrease parking rates by date or time of day in order to promote turnover as needed.

Consider congestion pricing by area. Creating a price advantage can stimulate an underused area and relieve congestion in other districts. Prices can go up or down, depending on the response and needs of the local businesses.

Think about investing in newer parking equipment that includes multiple payment options and the ability to connect to outside data sources through cellular service or WiFi. If you are looking to implement congestion pricing options, you will be unable to do so with older, mechanical equipment. Even first and second generation electronic equipment may not be able to handle integrating multiple rates in one day and may not easily change rates.

Pay-by-cell providers usually sell their products on the ease of adding time to an already parked vehicle. Another benefit is that most pay-by-cell services can send a text message when the vehicle’s time is about to expire. This helps get the motorist moving and the space open, and you get points for turning over space through customer service. There are even smartphone applications that can direct customers to blocks that have a higher probability of open spaces.

Consider payment interaction with off-street facilities or mass transit: Use the ability to interact with other transit options to make off-street facilities and mass transit more attractive.
Review your enforcement practices:
Who enforces parking for your agency: police, your department of public works, or a private company?
How are the routes set up?
Have parking regulations changed since routes were created?
Are different areas now in need of enforcement?
Have hours changed?
Is there an overlap of officers?
Is a GIS system available for use in updating routes?
Does your parking enforcement staff have other duties?

Finally, consider new regulations. Examine different parking hours. Consider banning parking before 9 a.m. to help keep bus lanes clear and traffic moving, and reduce the probability of spaces being taken by early-arriving employees or students.

Consider a ‘block face” ordinance that allows a parker to use a specific parking area for the length of time allowed by your regulations. After that time, the vehicle must leave that parking area entirely and not return that day. It puts a stop to playing musical cars every few hours to beat the rules.

Explore heavier fines or tow regulations for bus stops or clearways. Sometimes the threat of a few dollars in fines simply isn’t enough. Your ability to interact with other transit agencies can help you make the case for heavier fines. Last year, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority got the legislature to agree to raise the bus stop fine to $100 statewide. That has had an amazing effect on clearing bus stops. Towing is usually the nuclear option but is only required a few times to get the point across.

Work with your transit agency to consolidate transit stops. Multiple stops in a short span frustrate traffic flow and reduce valuable parking stock. Working together with transit authorities can help both of you reduce service complaints by providing optimal locations with enough size to reduce traffic impact.

When it comes to regulations, be above board and clear on the correct reasoning behind creation of new ones. Be sure to list recent regulations you reviewed and removed. Have occupancy surveys ready, highlighting the number of long-term parkers in your short-term curbside parking areas. Many times, people know this problem exists, but few understand its scope.

Hal King, CAPP, is associate director of the Albany Parking Authority. He can be reached at hking@parkalbany.com or 518.434.8886.

TPP-2012-11-Walking the Line


By Allen Greenberg

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation recently announced discretionary funding awards for 12 different programs, including the Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP). The VPPP awards include seven parking pricing projects. Before this announcement, the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) comprehensive Contemporary Approaches to Parking Pricing: A Primer (visit parking.org/fhwaprimer to download a copy) made its debut at the 2012 International Parking Institute Conference & Expo in Phoenix in June, where a panel discussed the primer and the strategies it includes; FHWA contributed a Parking Matters® blog post about it shortly thereafter (visit blog.parking.org).

While looking back at and studying all of the innovative parking pricing strategies that have been deployed is very much a worthwhile exercise, FHWA’s recent funding announcement shows that it recognizes the importance of continuing to advance new parking pricing strategies at the same time it encourages the institutionalization of approaches that have already been successfully demonstrated.

A discussion of the newly-announced FHWA-funded projects follows, but a little background and context might be helpful first. As IPI members know, local governments usually manage and price on-street and municipal parking—it’s not something in which the federal government generally gets involved. That doesn’t change with federally-funded pilots, where the federal government is sometimes a partner with local governments to push the innovation envelope. Local governments have applied for federal assistance, typically in response to a solicitation and often together with state governments and private-sector partners that implement the

Of the seven new projects funded, two are focused on providing improved information about parking policies and pricing to encourage better decisions; four are implementing new outreach strategies and providing technical support to expand parking pricing into different cities and apply tailored parking pricing strategies to new and unique circumstances; and one tests a new parking pricing strategy—dynamic pricing.

Better Information for Improved Policy Decisions
Some cities and regions seem to have the support needed to institute parking pricing, but lack the technical tools to do it well. The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission is being funded to create a parking supply and pricing regional database and analysis tool to assess a range of innovative, locally-determined policy scenarios. The proposal garnered 15 support letters, most from area local governments, showing that the database and analysis tool that will be created is in high demand.

The City of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been funded to evaluate the effectiveness of a range of already-deployed parking pricing strategies by area employers and to provide financial incentives to deploy and evaluate additional cutting-edge strategies. Cambridge’s Parking and Transportation Demand Management Ordinance (PTDM) that was passed in 1997 requires large developers to reduce single-occupant vehicle mode share by 10 percent from 1990 levels. To meet this goal, developers must choose a set of transportation demand management (TDM) measures to implement. Subsidized transit passes and parking charges of some sort are commonly included. There are more than 50 PTDM plans in place that affect more than 35,000 employees. Monitoring and annual reporting are required, so there is much to learned from this project.

Expanding and Developing New Types of Markets for Parking Pricing
PARK Smart, New York City, was awarded funds to build off of a previous pilot that introduced higher on-street meter rates during peak times in a few neighborhood retail areas to increase vehicle turnover and allow more vehicles to access existing on-street parking. The new project will engage communities and offer tailored pricing strategies in up to 25 new neighborhood retail corridors that are reflective of both parking demand and localized political conditions.

Park-and-ride facilities provide users an alternative to driving into Seattle, but the park-and-ride lots in King County (where Seattle is located) fill early, forcing schedule-constrained commuters to drive into the city despite other intentions. Pricing such existing parking capacity isn’t politically viable, but pricing new capacity—if it were affordable to provide—is. By arranging for commuters to pay multifamily neighborhoods with available daytime parking to use those spaces, fewer drive-alone trips to downtown Seattle are expected. In particular, this project’s focus on opening up additional parking spaces in multifamily neighborhoods (along transit routes into downtown) will introduce a new market of users to public transit, while pricing of such parking will help ensure its continued availability.

FHWA previously funded the nation’s largest and most sophisticated performance-parking program to date: San Francisco’s SFpark, which includes 6,000 on-street parking spaces (and more than twice that number of municipal garage parking spaces) to achieve an on-street parking occupancy goal of 60 to 80 percent by charging rates that vary by geography and time of day. FHWA’s most recent funding announcement builds off of the success of SFpark by supporting two related, but distinct, efforts. First, for other cities to be able to directly benefit from the work of SFpark, funding is being provided to develop technical specification documents other cities need to implement similar programs. Second, while SFpark has shown great promise in demand-based pricing in retail corridors, using performance parking to manage on-street parking in residential neighborhoods has run into political obstacles, including in San Francisco. A pre-implementation project is being funded to identify and assess options for performance-based parking in residential areas there, with the hope that such a study will lead to the implementation of a technically robust and politically palatable approach that prices residential parking to achieve parking availability objectives and reduce congestion.

Finally, to demonstrate efficient and cost-effective deployment of the SFpark strategies in a new city, FHWA has awarded funding to Los Angeles for its LA Express Park performance parking system implementation in Westwood Village, a neighborhood that includes 543 on-street and 366 off-street parking spaces. As with SFpark, this system will use in-roadway sensors to monitor occupancy and adjust prices to achieve performance targets for parking availability, which is expected to reduce congestion by both encouraging alternative mode access and allowing motorists to park quickly instead of having to circle for parking.

Developing and Testing the Most Advanced Parking Pricing Strategy
FHWA is funding the first pilot of dynamic parking pricing for metered curbside spaces to improve parking availability. This will take place in a congested downtown business district and abutting popular retail and tourist areas in Washington, D.C. This project will develop a variable pricing rate structure and follow up with a dynamic pricing algorithm for each of three types of parking users: passenger cars, freight and commercial vehicles, and intercity buses. As with SFpark, various channels of real-time parking availability and pricing information will be made available. The project is expected to help reduce congestion (25 percent of which, according to a 2004 D.C. study, can be attributed to circling vehicles in search of open on-street parking) by making more parking available so bus drivers have an alternative to circling when waiting for returning passengers and commercial vehicle drivers are able to find legal spaces instead of double parking and blocking traffic.

Previous and ongoing FHWA studies show that capable parking professionals have successfully implemented cutting-edge parking pricing strategies, which are leading to less driving and congestion and improved parking availability when people choose to drive and park. The seven newly-funded parking pricing projects are expected to add to the recent successes highlighted in FHWA’s Contemporary Approaches to Parking Pricing: A Primer and expand upon the repertoire of strategies available to parking managers.

For more on the Value Pricing Pilot Program, visit fhwa.dot.gov/discretionary/2012vppp.cfm.

Allen Greenberg is senior policy analyst with the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Congestion Management and Pricing Team. He can be reached at Allen.Greenberg@dot.gov or 202.366.2425.


High Value

TPP-2012-11-High ValueBy Colin Stewart

The discussion of on-street parking rates is a common one in the media as municipalities large and small realize they need to increase rates to increase revenue or generate turnover. Most cities have recognized that price is a more demand-based and customer-friendly way to generate turnover than enforcement. Winnipeg, Canada is no different in that regard, but the Winnipeg Parking Authority was able to influence the discussion and gain support for increasing on-street rates through consultation that included the presentation of transactional data for on-street parking.

Like many mid-sized cities, Winnipeg endured a period of limited growth in the downtown and so had little incentive to consider whether the primary goal of on-street metering—turnover—was being achieved. However, a number of factors began to change the fortunes of downtown, resulting in increased traffic. At about the same time, the city council established the Winnipeg Parking Authority (WPA) to oversee municipal on- and off-street parking operations. While off-street rates had increased with changes in the market, on-street rates had remained unchanged at $1 per hour since 1992, resulting in long-term parking on the street being less expensive than parking off-street.

There has been a fair bit of academic discussion on the principle put forward by UCLA Professor of Urban Planning Donald Shoup, that if on-street locations with higher demand have higher prices, demand can be spread across the entire inventory, resulting in a level of occupancy around 85 percent. The ability to determine usage and thus determine occupancy with a level of accuracy beyond the parking guys looking at a map and commenting, “Lots of cars there every day, must be high demand,” has been the missing piece of the puzzle.

The Experiment
In Winnipeg, the planned upgrade of the on-street meter inventory from single-space meters from the 1970s to pay-and-display meters (multi-space paystations), provided the opportunity to test this theory. With the roll-out of new meters planned over a series of years, the WPA instituted a pilot project to determine if higher rates would achieve the desired level of turnover. From this pilot project, the authority then developed a method to achieve results similar to San Francisco’s SFpark initiative, but at a more manageable cost. Costs aside, unlike San Francisco, Winnipeg is a winter city. Snow plow operations make the embedding of objects in pavement less practical, and in-street sensors were not a realistic option.

Conveniently, one of the first areas where the new equipment was installed was around the major hospital campus, which provided an ideal pilot project control group; after all, the level of demand at hospitals is relatively constant and not dependent on seasonal fluctuations (with winter temperatures sometimes dropping to colder than -40 degrees Celsius with the wind chill, the seasons definitely have an effect on on-street demand), so the only variable is price. By adjusting the rate to $2 per hour, all-day off-street parking immediately became less expensive than parking on the street.

Analysis of the results showed that not only was there an increase in available spaces, but the city also experienced a decrease of almost 25 percent in the number of expired-meter tickets written. Given that the hospital’s parking agency saw increases in both the numbers of all-day transient parkers and its monthly waiting lists, it is safe to assume that many of the vehicles now parking off-street belonged to staff, which was the exact group one might argue should be parking off-street to help encourage turnover.

As part of the analysis, transaction counts from area paystations were examined as a separate data set from the financial transaction audit. This analysis allowed a methodology to be developed to determine the average usage rate of each stall at individual paystations. By 2009, the various metered locations in the downtown had been converted to paystations, allowing for the complete analysis of the transaction data. Obviously, one year’s data doesn’t present enough information to influence discussion, so an additional year of data was gathered and analyzed before recommendations to the city council were prepared.

Beginning with 2010 data, transactions were analyzed for each month to provide greater accuracy and to adjust for construction or other reasons for parking being temporarily unavailable. Seasonal fluctuations were also identified; as one example, for two weeks every July, one of North America’s largest and more successful Fringe theatre festivals makes some of the municipality’s high-demand streets unavailable for parking.

Community Involvement
In beginning the discussion of increasing meter rates, the WPA partnered with local business improvement zone (BIZ) groups to engage potentially affected stakeholders. These consultations included discussions with not only businesses in the proposed increased rate area, but also downtown residents. Of course, data is nothing more than a series of numbers if not presented correctly. Important to the discussion was the use of maps to demonstrate where areas of high demand were and to show the increase in demand on a year-over-year basis. Using parking demand data to demonstrate that there are more people coming downtown tends to gain the interest of BIZ groups.

An interesting side benefit of mapping the high demand areas was the ability to identify specific drivers of parking demand and a concrete example to put to rest the claim that a parking meter will drive customers away from a business. In one case, a store that provided customer parking was located in an area where demand was approximately 50 percent for about three blocks in every direction except for the on-street parking immediately in front of the door, which was at 87 percent. This was not the only example where the metered spaces in front of a business were in high demand, but was the most striking example of the fact that customers will come to a store when there are products they want regardless of whether or not there are parking meters.

Making Adjustments
In July 2012, the Winnipeg City Council approved the creation of high demand zones in downtown and authorized the WPA to adjust meter rates based on demand to achieve as close to 85 percent occupancy as possible. Implementation of the new rates was scheduled to begin in the fall.

By focusing on the reason for meters and the need for turnover, the discussion stayed about ways to increase turnover rather than the rate increase itself. By the time the proposal was brought before the council for approval in early 2012, the efforts of the WPA to consult and facilitate discussion had generated two favorable editorials in the Winnipeg Free Press that supported both the use of increased rates to generate turnover and the way the WPA determined the areas for increased rates.

Going forward, the WPA intends to conduct more detailed analyses to determine such things as the highest-demand times of day, week, or month and the average length of time purchased. While the adjustment of on-street rates on anything beyond an annual or bi-annual basis is unlikely to be implemented simply due to cost (the same cold weather that affects demand on a seasonal basis limits the ability to remotely adjust the programming at meters), the data can help with adjusting parking enforcement patrol deployment decisions and be of use in discussions relating to additional downtown development.

With demand-based pricing models becoming more prevalent, the methodology developed by the WPA can be used for multiple on-street parking solutions, including single space, pay-and-display, and pay-by-plate as long as the transaction counts are available. For any municipal parking agency about to embark on a discussion of increasing meter rates as a means of increasing turnover, determining demand and proactively engaging stakeholders in a discussion as part of the process goes a long way to addressing potential claims that a rate increase is a cash grab.

Colin Stewart is manager, special projects for the Winnipeg Parking Authority. He can be reached at colinstewart@winnipeg.ca.

TPP-2012-11-High Value

Hitting Moving Targets

TPP-2012-11-Hitting Moving TargetsBy Mike Carneiro

In some parking enforcement jurisdictions, as few as 25 percent of parking fines are collected in full before the first enforcement escalation. Even the best-run parking programs only achieve voluntary payment rates in the 35 to 40 percent range unless they initiate a process of mailing follow-up notices. What happens to the rest of those tickets? They age and become increasingly difficult to collect.

The steps taken by a municipality, beginning with the issuance of a ticket, can be critical to both the effectiveness of the parking ordinance to helping traffic flow and curb turnover, and to the successful collection of the fine. There is one common thread to any successful enforcement effort: you have to know who the registered owner of the vehicle is and how to reach him or her.

Accurate steps must be taken early on, starting with a need for the ticket writer to properly record all pertinent data; if they fail to do so, the citation may prove to be uncollectible. If all key elements are recorded at the time of the violation, the success of finding the registered owner and ultimately collecting payment increases dramatically. It is critical that all the information used to contact a violator be accurate, not only to secure vehicle ownership and send notices in hopes that the municipality will receive payment, but also to reach the owner of the vehicle who is ultimately responsible for the violation under the law.

Go to the Source
The only place to obtain registered owner information is at the source—the state department of motor vehicles (DMV). DMVs are like fingerprints: every state has one, but no two are the same. The only common denominator is that they all issue license plates.

Just as the parking profession has the International Parking Institute (IPI) to help develop and promote practices to improve our operations, there is a similar industry association for DMV professionals. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) focuses exclusively on issues related to DMVs. Its members and constituents include 51 DMVs in the U.S. alone, and each one is preoccupied with issues.

Some of the leading priorities of DMVs are designed to make it difficult and complex to obtain registered owner data in the name of privacy protection. This requires that the party making a request provide sufficient information and credentials to prove its legitimacy.

“At the end of the day, it’s not just one person crafting these rules, but 51 governors, legislatures, and others, which can lend to widely variant requirements,” says Neil Schuster, president and CEO of the AAMVA.

In a perfect world, every vehicle would be issued a unique license plate. In the DMV world, the same license plate numbers are issued across as many as 40 different registration types. This may be the biggest challenge to proper identification. Without knowing the registration plate type, getting the correct violator is like shooting a bow and arrow while blindfolded.

Are there duplicate license plate numbers for different plate types within an individual state?

What happens to the license plate when a vehicle is sold? In 10 states, ownership of the plate is transferred with the vehicle upon sale, making the processing of backlogged violations more complicated and requiring a comparison of vehicle ownership effective dates to citation issue dates.

Does the state require a contract with the municipality before allowing it to make an inquiry? Nine states–Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia–have such a requirement.

Each state has its own regulations for the number of characters on a plate, ranging from one to eight. According to the AAMVA’s Automated License Plate Reader Working Group, 23 jurisdictions will allow one character on a vanity plate, and 32 allow stacked characters on license plates.

Are there other data elements that must accompany the plate when an inquiry is made at the DMV, such as registration plate type, vehicle make, or violation date? Many DMVs require this information to help protect the privacy of motorists.

Intentional Barriers
Some of the barriers that DMVs have erected are intentional in an effort to protect the privacy and safety of motorists. For example, the change in federal statutes that occurred in 1994 with the Drivers Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) called for important changes in procedures. The intent was to protect the identity of vehicle owners, making it difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to acquire a name and address based on a license plate. The law was enacted after several high-profile stalking cases, at least one of which ended with a motorist being murdered by her stalker. The gauntlet put up by the Act also affected the parking industry as states tightened their grips on registration data. Today, if you are not DPPA-qualified, you will not be able to obtain personal data.

So how, in such a diverse world of license plate issuance, does a municipal government maintain a successful parking program? A good place to start is by employing experts who stay attuned to changes in each DMV’s rules, regularly gather data to ensure the greatest opportunity of locating a vehicle’s rightful registered owner, and who know all the nuances to requesting that information. Very high success rates have been achieved in locating registered owners by working with such experts.

One agency in the southeast was faced with more than 75,000 offender accounts that had undeliverable addresses. After the agency undertook a thorough DMV search for those addresses with the help of an experienced vendor, new address information was generated for 81 percent of those accounts, resulting in an additional $5.1 million in billable debt placed back in the collection stream.

To successfully locate registered owners, you have to be as proactive as possible and open a dialogue with every DMV. With an up-to-date knowledge of each DMV, an experienced team can continually tune the system, creating profiles on each motor vehicle division that help make specific determinations about which data elements are required to compile a qualified identification. Additionally, the profiles contain elements that identify whether the state reissues license plates or issues a multitude of plates with the same number but in different categories.

Focus on What Matters
In today’s mobile society, it’s not enough to know how to navigate your home state’s DMV regulations, particularly if your municipality is located near your state’s border. An analysis of license plates on citations will reveal where efforts should be focused.

The challenge of obtaining registered owner information for out-of-state license plates becomes more complex and paramount for cities that are tourist destinations, house major universities, or are close to state borders. New Haven, Conn., for example, is home to Yale University, is the regional center for arts and culture, and is within a 200 mile radius of 10 neighboring states. About 45,000 students attend New Haven’s five colleges and universities: 45.4 percent are from out of state.

“Annually, about 15 percent of all the parking tickets we write are to vehicles with out-of-state plates,” says Jim Travers, New Haven’s director, transportation, traffic, and parking. “If we were not able to accurately and efficiently work with various states’ DMVs, we would very quickly lose control of our ability to maintain parking compliance.”

For many municipalities, knowing the regulations in the home state and perhaps up to three others will drive effective enforcement efforts. University towns may need to know the regulations in as many as 15, depending on the home states of its students. For tourist towns, multiply that need for knowledge by as many as 51 state and district departments and even those of other countries.

Just the Beginning
One of the key techniques that has been developed and adopted among municipalities, DMVs, and professional service providers is vehicle make/model matching. If plate typing is not an issue for a given DMV, identifying and comparing the vehicle makes from both the violation and the registration data returned by the DMV will vet out possible misidentifications. Some states require or recommend validation and comparison of body styles. If a motorcycle’s body style does not match a tractor trailer’s, the comparison eliminates potential problems. Having the ability to disqualify records and avoid a public relations nightmare by using one, two, or all three of these methods lends to the success of the parking program.

No matter how advanced anyone’s system may be, there is no absolute toward proper identification when entering and navigating the DMV maze. What a parking program needs is to arm itself with subject matter experts whose sole focus is to understand, anticipate, and adapt to the ever-changing and diverse world of registered owner acquisition and DMV processing.

Mike Carneiro is manager of data acquisition services for Duncan Solutions. He can be reached at mcarneiro@duncansolutions.com or 718.715.1941.

TPP-2012-11-Hitting Moving Targets

Bench Warrant

TPP-2012-11-Bench WarrantBy Haskell Nussbaum

Having written a book about how to beat parking tickets and sat as a judge who decided such cases, it’s somewhat amusing to be approached by “the enemy” to pen an article about how to make parking tickets stick. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of parking tickets already do stick; that is, the vast majority of people—even those with good defenses—never bother to fight their tickets at all. And of those who do fight, a huge proportion are found guilty by the judge. So I have to chuckle when I consider what advice to give to further stack the odds against people getting tickets.

But having taken the task, I’ll boil it down to one simple rule: don’t make mistakes.

As a judge, I saw parking professionals commit an enormous number of easily-avoided mistakes every day. These included technical mistakes, such as transposing digits in the year or license plate, incredibly illegible handwriting, and getting the sign–and therefore the violation–incorrect, thus voiding the ticket. These were the daily fodder crossing the desks of parking ticket judges when I sat behind the bench.

But if it seems obvious or simple to instruct someone not to make mistakes and if everyone already knows this clear piece of advice, why are so many mistakes made? And how can we avoid them?

To start, we can keep our tempers down. Here’s something that every judge knows: officers who are angry write bad tickets. The stories are amusing, if bordering on outrageous. My favorite was the case of the driver who left a spot before the officer writing tickets could get there. The police officer, miffed at the lost ticket, started running after the car, yelling at the driver while scribbling on his pad (he could keep up because of heavy traffic). When the officer finally scrambled up to the vehicle’s window, he threw the ticket in the startled driver’s face and yelled a profanity. Needless to say, there were numerous problems with such a ticket.

There are also often problems with tickets when ticket-writers are too literal. How many times must judges hear complaints about tickets being written just seconds after the driver’s time expired at the spot? Is there some kind of race among those who issue tickets to see who can slap down a citation the quickest? Is there a kind of wild west gunfighting contest going on? On your mark, get set, draw your pens…now cite! I’m not advocating laziness here, but when we see tickets written this way, it’s impossible not to think that they’re being written for a quota instead of because they’re deserved.

The Golden Rule
This brings up a more general principle: don’t be a louse. It’s surly to issue a ticket to someone who is running down the block towards his or her car just as the meter runs down. Even without a grace period as part of the law (when I was judging in New York, the unofficial rule was to give people a few minutes’ break on many time-sensitive violations, albeit not for meters), it’s a sign of compassion and humanity to give someone the extra minute to get behind the wheel. This goes directly to policy in many municipalities and to training. Are you trained to pounce on the opportunity to give a ticket? Or to serve the public?

The truth is that many people fight their tickets in court not because the ticket was wrongly issued, but because they’re hopping mad about the person who issued it. And often enough, a judge may agree with them. Parking tickets serve genuine purposes that the public actually agrees with; keeping the roads clear for traffic when traffic is heaviest, sharing limited spaces among a huge number of vehicles, and allowing deliveries to businesses while keeping traffic flowing are all things reasonable people want. But when the rules are enforced in a picayune and trifling way, when the issuers seem uncaring or hostile, or when a ticket just screams, “injustice,” people run to the courts for relief, and judges will often be sympathetic.

Study Up
Speaking of justice, here’s a good way to avoid having more of your tickets challenged successfully: know the law. It’s astonishing how many officers can’t decipher the signs that they’re issuing violations about. It’s also surprising how many are unaware of which vehicles are allowed to park somewhere because of a permit. Of course, cities could help by providing clearer and more prominent signage (including about permits), but that’s no excuse for a parking professional. Getting the sign wrong on the ticket is probably the quickest way to lose your battle at the courthouse. Is there anything sillier than a car with a permit getting hit with a slew of tickets? (Incidentally, some flexibility on this would help. Must everyone hear the story about the car that was moved and marked “Do Not Ticket” by police because of an emergency later being papered over with violations?)

Don’t even get me started about ticket fraud. Sure, the drivers are the ones who are most likely to play schtick to avoid fines, but some ticket issuers seem to be happily unaware of how serious it is to just issue tickets willy-nilly to meet some goal. Judges have seen officers issue 10 tickets to 10 cars in 10 minutes, in locations that are scattered across five boroughs. They also hear cases of ticket-writers taking out personal vendettas against neighbors. There’s nothing to say here except: don’t.

Pay Attention
On the subject of “don’ts” here’s another one: don’t give wrong advice to drivers. This scenario is actually more common than you might think. It goes like this: hapless driver, with screaming kids in the backseat, is desperate for a parking spot and can’t figure out the signage. He flails down a passing cop and asks if he’s allowed to park “there.” The enforcement officer, too busy or too distracted by the howling of the kids, doesn’t look carefully at all the signs, and says “sure.” Ten minutes later, while the family watches from the window of the fast food joint they scrambled into, another parking enforcement officer issues a citation. Voila—we’re now in court.

Similarly, don’t be afraid to admit a mistake to a driver. If the woman says she paid the meter and the stub fell off the dash and if she finds it after you’ve started writing out the ticket, void the ticket on the spot. It drives everyone crazy when the cause of justice is clear, but policy forces drivers into court.

Finally, remember that when a ticket is fair, the driver usually knows it. Sometimes the best way to avoid court and ensure that a driver just pays is to give him or her a sympathetic smile. A little empathy, perhaps a small joke, a line about how no one can get away with it at this location–all of these things will subtly remind the violator that yes, he really is in the wrong. And in that case, even if your handwriting is awful, you mixed up a stop sign with a handicapped zone, and you forgot to sign the ticket, the driver will probably just glance at the dollar amount and be grateful it isn’t higher.

Haskell Nussbaum is a retired attorney and New York City parking ticket judge, and author of Beat That Parking Ticket, available at beatthatparkingticket.com. He can be reached at admin@beatthatparkingticket.com.

TPP-2012-11-Bench Warrant

Answers and Questions

TPP-2012-11-Answers and QuestionsBy Brad Johnson, CPA, MS

Perhaps you read the thoughts of former U.S. Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell about the parking industry in the August issue of The Parking Professional. One of his themes was that useful knowledge about a business comes from visiting and talking with the people who actually run the business—the people who have daily face-to-face interaction with customers. I liked the interview for two reasons: he reiterates what I’ve said here for two years, and he stresses the importance of staff leaving the office and visiting the field. Success is all about communication.

In finance, precise communication is essential. If an accountant does not understand the nature of a transaction, correctly recording it seldom occurs. I recently participated in a conference call with a company’s accounting firm and several staff members. The discussion concerned entries for a complex transaction. A question was asked and answered, and I asked a follow-up question to clarify the accounting firm’s response. As a result, the firm changed its original answer.

What is there to learn here? Two things:
Accountants often deal in precision and they hear only the words in the question. Although they usually know the general background, it’s seldom that they also know the precise facts behind the query.

The answer to almost every accounting question is, “it depends.” Therefore, be alert to how small changes in circumstances will usually change the answer to a precise question.

When dealing with senior executives, finance staff often will hear questions in narrow accounting language. The executive, however, has a different meaning beyond the perceived narrow focus. To help understand the precise nature of the question, I suggest asking how the requested information will be used, and how the response should be formatted.

Knowing how the executive will use the information usually explains exactly what information the executive is actually seeking. For example, the executive might respond that he is planning for taxes, which suggests that the information provided should be on a cash basis rather than the customary accrual basis in which most accounting records are maintained. Clarifying questions can then be asked.

When I ask about format and the answer is, “on a spreadsheet,” that suggests the executive will be manipulating the information. I, therefore, want to be precise in identifying the rows and columns, including dates. I’m certain to use a clarifying phase such as “six months ended June 30, 2012,” rather than “June 2012,” for example.

Remember that spreadsheets are being prepared for use by another person, and the preparing staff member will not be present to add clarifying information when that second person gets to work. Too often I am handed sheets with column headings such as “cash receipts” or “budget,” without date period identification.

As Gen. Powell explained about parking managers in the August issue, if the finance staff reaches out and visits other employees, they will see first-hand how information they provide is being used and why it was requested. Having such information helps them respond in the most appropriate manner.

Putting this to work is relatively simple. I recently accepted a position as director of finance for a non-profit organization. I started my communication eduction by:

Reading the general ledger and all available finance reports for a three-month period.

Understanding the nature of the three most important transactions.

Preparing written procedures that explain how the important transactions should be recorded.

Written documentation for significant accounting issues is essential and will assist in communicating more accurate and timely information to staff and management. When asking questions, remember that the listener usually requires a fair amount of background.

Editor’s Note: With many thanks for his insight over the past few years, we bid a fond farewell to columnist Brad Johnson with this issue.

Brad Johnson, CPA, MS, is director of finance for Builders of Hope, Inc. He can be reached at Brad@buildersofhope.org or 919.830.6666.

TPP-2012-11-Answers and Questions

Sustainable Campus

TPP-2012-11-Sustainable Campus
By Gabriel Mendez and Shereen Shaw

Arizona State University has a long history of dedication to sustainability. As the nation’s largest public university in terms of enrollment, ASU leads by example, setting short- and long-term sustainability goals that touch every university department. These include the mitigation of carbon emissions from transportation by 2035 and the elimination of 90 percent of campus solid waste to the landfill by 2015.

There currently are 58 photovoltaic (PV) solar systems across ASU’s four campuses that generate about 30 percent of ASU’s peak daytime electrical energy needs. The university installed 15.3 megawatts (MWdc) of solar energy capacity on March 6, 2012, and expects to reach 20.6 MWdc by July 2013. Solar panels are installed on campus buildings and on the rooftops of eight of the nine parking structures and in three parking lots on the Tempe campus. The West campus has three parking lots shaded by solar panels, bringing the total number of solar panel-shaded parking spaces on both campuses to 4,611.

While the university focuses its efforts on many sustainability initiatives, including renewable energy and waste reduction, transportation remains a primary area of importance for making sustainable choices. ASU Parking and Transit Services (PTS) offers a wide range of environmentally-conscious commuting solutions. From the U-Pass and Platinum Pass programs to campus shuttles and Zipcar, PTS is doing its part to reach the goals in the ASU Carbon Neutrality Action Plan (carbonzero.asu.edu).

PTS’s biggest plan contribution is to reduce ­single-occupancy vehicle trips, and it has established the following programs to do that:

Transit Pass Program. Launched in 2005, PTS subsidizes nearly 60 percent of the actual cost of a Valley Metro transit pass for ASU students and employees, which allows for unlimited rides on the METRO light rail and Valley Metro buses throughout the year.

Eco-Pass Parking Permit. Debuted in 2011, this supplemental permit allows Transit Pass program participants 30 all-day parking privileges during the year. This provides the flexibility to park on campus on those rainy days.

Intercampus Shuttle Program. The campus shuttle system transports more than 43,000 passengers each month between the four campuses, significantly reducing the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road.

Zipcar. PTS introduced car sharing to Arizona in 2007. ASU’s Zipcar program has 19 vehicles in its on-campus fleet and approximately 3,200 members. This makes choosing mass transit easier; should the need arise, light rail and bus riders know there is a car available for them.

Because ASU is the first university in the country to have a school of sustainability, PTS recognizes that it must also be at the technological forefront as it pertains to sustainable initiatives. PTS partnered with ECOtality earlier this year to have six level-2 Blink electric vehicle charging stations installed on the Tempe campus. Level-2 charging stations run off 240 volts of electricity, which is a level most homes already have. A 7kW charger can charge a vehicle in three to four hours and draws about 30 amps of power. Thanks to a federal grant, ASU community members who have Blink access cards can use the charging stations at no cost for the remainder of 2012; these free cards can be obtained through PTS.

“We are pleased to provide these innovative services to the Sun Devil community,” says Melinda Alonzo-Helton, CAPP, PTS director. “Many of these programs are a result of PTS listening to suggestions from students, faculty, and staff. Others came about from PTS researching best practices within the parking and transportation industry and tailoring them to bring a higher level of service to ASU. At the core of our programs is greater convenience for our customers and a commitment to sustainability.”

Shereen Shaw is communications specialist for ASU Parking and Transit Services. She can be reached at shereen.shaw@asu.edu or 480.727.7053.

Gabriel Mendez is customer relations and services manager for ASU Parking and Transit Services, and a member of IPI’s Sustainability Committee. He can be reached at arnold.mendez@asu.edu or 480.965.4311.

TPP-2012-11-Sustainable Campus