Tag Archives: TPP-2013-08-

Dialing and Thriving

TPP-2013-08-Dialing and ThrivingBy Soumya S. Dey, PE, PMP, and Angelo Rao, PE

Washington, D.C., has approximately 18,000 metered on-street parking spaces. The parking program has seen significant changes during the past few years, including two rate increases, lifting a Saturday moratorium on parking meter fees, and extending the hours during which meters are operational.

In the summer of 2010, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) launched a series of pilots to assess state-of-the-art meter hardware (single- and multi-space meters), meter configuration (pay-by-license-plate and pay-by-space for multi-space meters), space-sensing technology, and payment options (pay-by-cell) (see the July 2011 issue of The Parking Professional).

The pay-by-cell (PBC) concept showed significant potential. Two pilot programs conducted by Verrus (now PaybyPhone) and Parkmobile covered 1,700 spaces and showed encouraging adoption rates and usage. In less than a year, the programs had 30,000 customers and accounted for more than 100,000 transactions. Consequently, DDOT made a strategic decision to introduce PBC citywide.

A Multi-Agency Process
Parking in the nation’s capital involves a large number of stakeholders. DDOT is responsible for management, maintenance, operations, and collections for all metered curbside spaces.

The enforcement function is shared between multiple agencies. Parking enforcement officers (PEOs) at the Department of Public Works (DPW) account for more than 80 percent of parking citations using wireless-capable (but not wireless-enabled) handheld devices. DPW uses Gtechna’s ticket-writing software on its handhelds. DDOT traffic control officers (TCO) account for approximately 10 percent of parking citations. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) issues approximately 5 percent of parking citations using the PocketPEOTM platform. More than 12 other agencies have ticket-writing authority in the city as well.

Other key stakeholders include the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which is responsible for adjudication, and the Office of Unified Communication (OUC), which is responsible for customer service request intake.

Clearly, implementing a program that introduces another payment option at all metered spaces in D.C. required considerable coordination, collaboration, and integration across different agencies and systems.

Pay-by-Cell Program Roll-Out
Recognizing that the program required buy-in from various stakeholders, the request for proposal (RFP) was developed in a collaborative and inclusive environment. DPW was an integral partner in developing the RFP, selecting the vendor, and negotiating the contract.

Key features of the solicitation included:

Transaction fee-based business mode. The cost of the entire program would be borne by users.

Turnkey solution. Given the complexity of the program, DDOT was looking for a vendor to provide a turnkey solution with several specific stipulations:

—Procure and maintain ticket-writing hardware for all DDOT TCOs.

—Enable wireless functionality of ticket writing handhelds for all DPW PEOs and pay for monthly data costs.

—Install on-street signs and decals on the meters indicating zone numbers for each block face along with information for parking transaction initiation.

—Integrate and implement the system. The PBC transaction information had to be exchanged in real time with the ­ticket-writing software.

—Plan and implement an aggressive marketing and public outreach campaign.

—Train staff, including all TCOs, PEOs, and other key partners/stakeholders.

—Pay credit card processing fees.

—Ensure continued operation, including upkeep of signs, decals, hardware, wireless plans, etc.

—Provide 24/7 customer service through a call-center and proactively resolve issues for PBC customers.

Vendor responses were evaluated by a multi-agency selection committee using the four factors identified in the RFP as shown in Exhibit 1.

DDOT selected Parkmobile as its vendor. The project was implemented on a very aggressive timeline, primarily to sustain the momentum, excitement, and customer base from the two parking meter pilots. The key milestones and high-level tasks are shown in Exhibit 2.

System Functionality
Exhibit 3 (Adapted from Parkmobile) shows the functionality of the PBC program in Washington, Customer. Registers for the program using a credit/debit card and license plate; parks and initiates a parking session using either interactive voice response (IVR) system or smartphone application, specifying the zone number and duration. The transaction information goes to a Parkmobile server.

  • Enforcement. The parking session goes to enforcement handhelds. Data is exchanged in real-time with Xerox and Gtechna ticket writing software.
  • Parking operator. Revenue is deposited in a D.C. bank account. DDOT can monitor system performance in real time.

Marketing and Public Outreach
A key component of the program was an aggressive public outreach and marketing campaign. Parkmobile’s marketing team, in collaboration with DDOT’s Communication Office, devised a comprehensive and robust outreach plan for this project. The plan included:

  • Using traditional media channels.
  • Aggressively using social media, including Facebook and Twitter.
  • Collaborating with business improvement districts (BIDs). BID Street Ambassadors were trained in the Parkmobile system and provided on-street guidance to customers.
  • Students from DDOT’s Summer Youth Program, DDOT TCOs, and DPW PEOs provided on-street support as the program rolled out. DDOT TCOs and DPW PEOs also served as ambassadors.
  • DDOT program staff and Parkmobile employees provided on-street support.
  • The outreach team provided instructional and promotional materials that were handed out to the public during launch.

Exhibit 4 (Source: Parkmobile) shows sample promotional materials and pictures from the ribbon-cutting ceremony that was attended by the mayor of D.C. and other key officials.

Key Program Metrics
The pay-by-cell program continues to be very popular. Adoption curves for customers and transactions are shown in Exhibits 5 and 6. Within the first year, the program had 375,000 customers and 3.5 million transactions; it grew to almost 600,000 customers and more than 7 million transactions by May 2013. Today, less than two years after introduction, PBC accounts for close to 45 percent of the city’s parking revenue. The average revenue per transaction for PBC is approximately $2.70. Since its inception, the highest day, week, and month has accounted for 23,300, 131,500, and 541,000 transactions, respectively.

Options for Initiating Pay-by-Cell Transactions
The PBC program allows a customer to initiate a transaction using two methods: cell phone or smartphone application. When the program started, a majority of transactions (55 percent) were initiated through the IVR systems. As the market penetration of smartphones increased and the application was expanded to multiple platforms, this trend reversed. Now, 80 percent of PBC transactions in D.C. are initiated through the app as shown in Exhibit 7.

Pay-By-Cell User Characteristics
Exhibits 8, 9, and 10 provide a snapshot of user characteristics. Eighty-seven percent of customers have their vehicles registered in one of the three contiguous jurisdictions (D.C., Maryland, or Virginia). The remaining 13 percent come from other states. It is interesting to note that within 45 days of launch, vehicles from all 50 states had used the PBC system.

Almost 50 percent of users parked for more than 90 minutes. Given that the revenue per transaction for PBC is almost three times as much as coins, the program appears to be especially attractive for longer duration parkers.

More than 60 percent of users used the system more than once in a month. Fifteen percent of users used the system more than once a week.

Customer Feedback Survey
A customer survey was conducted as part of the program, and between 69 and 78 percent of respondents said they had a positive experience, based on the question asked. Eighty-six percent of customers would recommend the program to others, and 95 percent would use the system again.

Program Enhancements
As the program grew in popularity, there were issues faced by all stakeholders.

As the program ramped up, call volumes to the 24/7 call center increased significantly. The program was launched in phases in various parts of D.C. from May to June 2011. Call volumes increased 88 percent from May to June, and 225 percent from June to July. In July 2011, Parkmobile’s call center fielded approximately 43,000 calls from PBC customers in D.C. D.C. agencies worked with Parkmobile to refine and fine-tune certain business processes to ensure that call volumes stabilized and eventually decreased (call volumes dropped to about 17,000 by June 2012 and 7,000 by December 2012) in spite of increased system use.

Tickets Written in Error
One of the issues the team focused on was the number of tickets written in error. A multi-agency/multi-disciplinary team from public and private sectors adopted a data-driven, Six Sigma-based approach to identify root causes of problems. Exhibit 11 shows the identified root causes and some of the solutions developed by the team.

As a result of these enhancements, tickets written in error dropped from 2.5 percent in June 2011 to less than 0.001 percent by the end of the year. This was another great example of how the team worked together to enhance the quality of offering for the customers. The team also modified the business process to significantly reduce the cycle time to resolve issues when tickets were written in error as shown in Exhibit 12.

Responding to Increased Processing Fees
One of the significant external factors that affected the PBC program was a dramatic increase in credit/debit card processing fees. To offset the increased costs, DDOT worked with Parkmobile to introduce a virtual wallet concept to help minimize the number of credit card transactions. People who signed up for virtual wallet were able to keep their transaction fees at previous levels. As shown in Exhibit 13, since its inception in October 2012, virtual wallet adoption rates have increased; they now account for 16 percent of PBC transactions. In January 2013, Parkmobile introduced PayPal as a payment option. Currently, 6 percent of the transactions use PayPal as a payment mechanism.

The PBC program in D.C. is a tremendous success and has exceeded all expectations. It is one of the most successful PBC launches around the globe. The program has buy-in from all stakeholder agency directors, which is a big reason for its success. Moreover, the business and contracting model aligned the vendor’s goals with the agency’s goals. Opting for a turnkey solution made accountability easy. This complex and high-profile program has changed the face of on-street parking in the nation’s capital. Customer satisfaction is up, turnover and occupancy have stabilized, and revenues have been more in line with the current space inventory.

The PBC success has enabled DDOT to consider asset-lite solutions to parking. The PBC adoption rate has encouraged DDOT to explore the possibility of a meter-less parking solution as part of a pilot in the Chinatown/Penn Quarter area of the city. The popularity of the pay-by-smartphone application has prompted D.C. to look at other solutions where smartphone applications can provide a better and more cost-effective customer experience in parking and other program areas. Two such examples include using an IVR and QR code-based system to report meter outages and a citywide program called “SeeClickFix,” for service requests.

The PBC program for D.C. has yielded the added benefit of a collaborative environment, risk/reward tradeoff-based strategic approach, teamwork, and partnership, and a stronger relationship with all stakeholders. This program has positioned Washington, D.C., as an innovator in on-street parking. The lessons learned and relationships developed from PBC can be leveraged as D.C. continues to innovate and implement cutting edge programs to provide a positive customer experience in the nation’s capital.

Angelo Rao, PE, is citywide parking program manager for the District Department of Transportation. He can be reached at angelo.rao@dc.gov.

Soumya S. Dey, PE, PMP, is director of research and technology transfer for the District Department of Transportation. He can be reached at soumya.dey@dc.gov.

TPP-2013-08-Dialing and Thriving

Behind The Curtain

TPP-2013-08-Behind The CurtainBy Jeff Pinyot

Substitute LED for Oz in a memorable movie quote and you get this bold statement: “Do not arouse the wrath of the great and powerful LED. I said come back tomorrow.” This begs the question: is light emitting diode (LED) technology ready today, or do we, as the wizard said, have to come back later for a product worthy of today’s parking garage?

Unless you are like Rip Van Winkle awakening from a 20-year slumber, there’s no question among parking professionals that the garage lighting field has changed. Out with the lamps of metal halide and high pressure sodium, and out with their annoying buzzing ballasts that were a constant reminder of money going down the drain.
Smart designers, owners, and operators are using low energy and longer life solutions such as T8/T5 linear fluorescents, domestic induction, or LED.

There is no question that linear fluorescent lighting, when installed and used properly, can illuminate a parking garage satisfactorily, but note the word, “satisfactorily.” It is a solution—albeit a low-cost one—that will make you a quick hero when the next electric bill shows up. There are other solutions that will also bestow the hero crown on you when the electric bill shows up, but still provide great illumination and unbelievable maintenance savings. Begin to draw the curtain exposing Oz, and you start to learn why other lighting technologies are gaining momentum and winning the lighting battle.

Domestic induction and LED are regularly winning the return on investment (ROI) battle against T8 and T5 linear fluorescents. Super-long lamp life, low-cost installation (that can re-use existing pendants), great warranties, excellent performance, and low-maintenance designs are all reasons for the victory.

Utility rebates are also a factor, as utilities across America offer, on average, $100 for each induction or LED fixture that replaces an existing HID fixture. Contrast that with a mere $20 to $30 for T8 or T5 solutions. Many utilities have eliminated incentives for flourescent fixtures. Consider that even on new construction, some utilities offer rebates with no upper limits. Build a new parking garage in Charlotte, N.C., and the utility will kick in half the fixture cost difference between a typical high-energy consuming HID fixture and that of a low-energy high-tech fixture such as induction or LED.

To put numbers to this, say a typical HID fixture costs $150 (175 watt MH) and a domestic induction solution costs $350 (LED costs $450 and up for a good one). The utility will pay half of the $200 spread to help in the purchase of the induction, and no money for the T8 or T5 fixture. It is imperative to consider utility incentives before choosing one technology over another.

A recent east coast induction project was awarded 50 percent of the installed induction lighting cost by the local utility. The utility awarded more than $100,000 to the owner for choosing wisely. Had the owner selected T8 or T5 fluorescents, they would have received a rebate of just more than $16,500—a pittance of the induction rebate—making the domestic induction bid lower first cost than fluorescent.

The Rule
Here is the mantra that will always be true: Don’t pick a lighting technology. Pick a lighting company that you can trust. Pick a company that has experience in a variety of lighting technologies so you know which solution is best for your parking garage. If you have a poured slab garage in Phoenix that has ceiling-mounted fixtures and a highly-reflective ceiling, why assume the same fixture or technology would work on a deep and dark double-T pattern in St. Louis? Leave that up to the pros and leave it up to a company that has done it before and has a long list of references.

A client recently told me it would be just as foolish for him to ask my opinion on parking rates as it would be for him to tell me what technology lighting fixture to use in his garage. If all a company sells is induction, guess what they’ll suggest. One size does not fit all.

Induction and LED offer very similar performance. Some will vehemently argue against that statement, but it is true. Yes, LED is the most efficient distributor of light, but, look at many LED-lighted parking garages at night and you might think they are closed for business. The pavement is well-lighted, but the walls, vehicles, and ceilings are dark. An LED that is designed to perform like the HID it is replacing is key to having a happy client. Single-directional LED fixtures can deliver more lumens per watt to the floor than induction, but to get the much-needed uplighting and vertical lumens, you need to refract the source and make it omnidirectional.

Here is a rule of thumb that takes you way past the curtain and deep into Oz: Every time you redirect lighting, you lose about 10 percent performance. What does that mean? Use LED as an example. We all know LED has a tendency to be glarey. To reduce glare, you can bend the LED with an acrylic cap at the source, (a TIR), you can refract it externally, and then finally, you can distress or color the refractor to further reduce glare. Each of these manipulations has a performance penalty associated to it. If a manufacturer of an LED fixture claims 90 percent delivered lumens but addresses glare three times, you have to wonder. Every fixture manufacturer has the same access to the same LEDs with the same starting performance, and there is no room for fudge here.

LED has a great future and the lighting world is bullish on it. We like to call LED Lindsey Lumen, because there is more press covering LED than what really happened in Benghazi.

Educate Yourself
The key to a good LED purchase is to know what you are buying and how it is rated. Look to see if the fixture manufacturer is overdriving the LEDs and operating hot for maximum output, which is a cost-saving trick with negative consequences. Are the individual LEDs quickly upgradable and at a low cost to take advantage of technology improvements going forward or is the fixture you are considering purchasing actually disposable at end-of-life? Does the fixture do well lighting the floor but not illuminate the other important parts of the garage such as cars, walls, and ceilings? Know what you are buying and make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

I recently saw a popular LED fixture manufacturer use the enhanced performance of 5,500k LEDs in the 5,000k output schedule of their fixture, but footnote a +/- 10 percent performance. This is a well-documented trick that is nearly impossible to expose unless you interrogate the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) files of the fixture manufacturer. A trick like that should eliminate that company. Caveat emptor!

Further Down the Yellow Brick Road
In the induction world, one must be wise to the guts of a fixture and its origin. If they could talk, what language would your lamp and ballast speak? Do you need an interpreter? A great rule of thumb when a fixture manufacturer quotes an induction or LED fixture is to see if he proudly identifies the brand name of the lamp, ballast, or driver components the company uses. Some recognizable induction fixture manufacturers (and importers) that serve the parking industry do not identify whose lamps and ballasts they are using on product data and submittal sheets. Would you buy a new car without knowing what engine will power it?

Recently, an Indiana university took delivery of a domestic induction solution for the relighting of their deck (or so they thought). Only after the fixtures were installed did they realize that the supplier used fixtures with Chinese lamps and ballasts instead of the domestic solution that met the campus spec.

Because LED is changing so fast, do yourself a favor: see that the fixture you select, whether induction or LED, is able to be upgraded in place at a reasonable cost as LED performance improves. Also ensure that your fixture of choice can be field modified from one technology to another as lighting technologies improve and develop.

Finally, do a demo. Just as you drive a car before signing on the dotted line, try out a fixture. If the lighting manufacturer or supplier you are working with won’t accommodate a cost-effective or free lighting demo, pick a new company.

“Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me … I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of Th.D.: Doctor of Thinkology.” Welcome to Lighting Oz!

Jeff Pinyot is president of ECO Parking Lights. He can be reached at jspinyot@ecoparkinglights.com.

TPP-2013-08-Behind The Curtain

Defending the Enforcement Officer

TPP-2013-08-Defending the Enforcement OfficerBy Colleen M. Niese

But I was only going to be gone five minutes.” “Your meter doesn’t accept cash.” “I don’t have to pay for parking—I’m on staff.” Parking enforcement officers can be subjected to listening and resolving the proverbial “dog ate my homework” excuses from customers trying to extract themselves from violation notices every day.

The wide spectrum of possible rationales provided to enforcement officers, from a promises and bargaining to insult and offensive language, may be viewed as part of the job. However, in those cases where the exchange escalates into a verbally abusive confrontation or happens between the enforcement officer and a fellow employee, the organization/employer has obligations beyond settling the notice—it is responsible for ensuring a safe work environment for all concerned.

It’s not uncommon for employees and managers to become cognizant of their respective responsibilities to resolve these types of conflicts at the time an actual situation presents itself through an enforcement officer filing a grievance. Managers at any level of an organization can better prepare themselves to bring this type of altercation to an amicable end, or better yet, decrease the likelihood of having an altercation in the first place by instituting best practices.

Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill
It’s a well-used adage, but “hire for attitude, train for skill” speaks volumes when it comes to hiring enforcement officers. An organization can train an individual in the procedures associated with patrol and violation notice issuance, but it’s been proven time and again that adults are challenged to change behavior.

To source and hire ideal candidates, first review your job description and job posting practices to ensure they align with the attitudinal competencies of a successful enforcement officer. Verify there is language that specifically addresses working with the public, customer service, and conflict resolution. Next, make sure your interview process includes open-ended questions that ask the candidates to discuss their approach toward resolving customer issues, such as:

  • What have you found to be success factors when resolving a customer issue?
  • When an upset customer approaches, what do you like to say and/or do first to try and diffuse the situation?
  • Tell me about a particularly challenging customer issue that you were able to resolve.
  • Have you ever had a time when you could not resolve a customer issue? What did you do next? What did you learn from this experience?
  • On rare occasions, a guest may use words you find insulting. What have you found helpful to do, say, or think to not react? How do you respond to these types of customer comments?

Be sure your interview process also includes an objective view of a day in the life of the enforcement officer and how the organization supports officers through training, leadership, and coaching. Hiring managers may tend to shy away from this type of narrative during the interview as they are concerned it could scare off potential applicants, but studies have found the more realistic a view an employee has entering a new job, the better the odds are that he or she will stay with that organization.

First Things First
When a new employee joins the organization, he or she routinely receives a small stack of paperwork for human resources and payroll purposes, an employee handbook, and general orientation material. There’s a potential missed opportunity during this onboarding. Take a fairly deep dive with two key documents: the organization’s parking policy and its stance on a harassment-free workplace.

Staff members often aren’t aware a parking policy exists beyond their issued permits or may believe they are exempt from the parking policy altogether. An organization’s complete parking policy, including provisions for special events, holidays, weekends, and other special circumstances, should be clearly spelled out and reviewed with staff during their first day at work. The policy should include language regarding violations in terms of how they are issued, by whom, and what an employee’s matter of recourse is should he or she wish to protest. Also, the document could also include what is not acceptable when a staff member receives a violation in terms of challenging the enforcement officer and potential consequences should a staff member choose this particular route, with a reference to the company’s harassment-free workplace policy.

This policy communicates the organization’s
zero-tolerance stance on harassment and retaliation of any nature, the distinction between harassment and workplace hostility, and in very plain-speak, the organization’s procedures related to how an employee may voice concerns he or she may have, the organization’s response, and discipline in cases of harassment. Once drafted, a final review by legal counsel is always recommended to ensure the language complies with the law and the original intent of the document is met.

It’s easy to take this proactive communication a step further by posting the policy on the organization’s intranet and issuing an annual letter from a senior leader to all employees that reminds everyone of the organization’s stance on harassment and the consequence should an individual be found in breach of the policy. These particular steps support setting the tone from the top, and can be helpful should a legal situation emerge.

Train for Success
Training new enforcement officers meets two key objectives: teaching them the fundamentals of their job responsibilities (the technical skills) and, just as importantly, teaching the soft skill set needed for customer service and conflict resolution. Procedures related to shift work can be pretty straightforward, but learning the specifics related to conflict resolution, either proactive or reactive, is just as necessary for a enforcement officer to succeed.

There are several online providers that sell conflict resolution training that can be seamlessly integrated into an organization’s existing overall program at a very reasonable cost. Purchasing this kind of program gives the organization confidence that the conflict resolution subject matter is provided by experts and is designed at the appropriate comprehension level. When sourcing this type of solution, verify that it includes the following:

  • Conflict resolution for both external and internal customers.
  • Balancing customer service and adhering to company policy.
  • Solutions that include hands-on examples that can be easily applied.
  • Practical strategies for the individual to use to ensure they don’t take the bait and become involved in an emotionally-charged conversation.

Make sure company-specific information is included with this type of training, including internal policies related to violations issuance exceptions, escalation procedures, and the latitude an enforcement officer has in making autonomous decisions.

Successful training programs are designed to better guarantee that the enforcement officers learn, and as importantly, retain the organization’s guidance, policy, and procedure from the start of their careers.

Who’s in Charge Here?
Up to this point, the discussion related to enforcement officer support has largely been focused on key tactics and tools organizations can use. Probably the most crucial piece to this puzzle is the role the manager plays in supporting all of the above-described efforts. His or her leadership ability, from recruitment to training and ongoing coaching, will materially influence the enforcement officers’ overall success.

As with the enforcement officer position, organizations should take the same approach when recruiting for their managers. Key competencies for a successful patrol manager typically include proven ability in customer service and conflict resolution, institutional parking knowledge, and specific leadership behaviors such as coaching, championing employees, and strong verbal communications skills. Some potential candidate interview questions to explore these particular areas of expertise could be:

  • Describe your approach to evaluating talent and expertise when interviewing potential frontline personnel; what questions do you like to ask and why?
  • How do you lead your team to ensure each person performs his or her job duties consistently and according to the organization’s expectations, policies, and procedures?
  • Tell me about a challenging customer interaction that was escalated to your attention. How did you resolve it? Was the customer satisfied? What did you impart to your team afterward in terms of lessons learned?
  • How do you influence others who do not report to you to help you meet your work objectives?

Managers should play active roles in both the training program and on-the-job coaching. The enforcement officer training program should include a manager’s guide that contains both the learning objectives and guidance regarding the role he or she will play in terms of supporting the organization’s performance expectations through his or her leadership.

All of this is put to the test the moment a manager is asked to settle a dispute between an enforcement officer and customer, or when an officer complains that a co-worker demonstrated abusive behavior. Regardless of the specifics of each situation, his or her listening, communications, and decision-making capabilities need to be consistent both in terms of aligning with the organization’s policy and from situation to situation. Enforcement officers will quickly question the trust of their leader if they perceive the manager is arbitrarily making procedural exceptions or changes resolution techniques based on certain customer profiles or other dynamics that should have little or no bearing on the outcome.

These scenarios bring about a valuable opportunity in coaching and feedback that, when capitalized on, guarantees employee loyalty and continued high performance. Immediately after the situation is resolved, the manager can check in with the enforcement officer to review what worked and lessons learned, and recognize his or her effort throughout the situation.

As long as people work with people, the potential for an emotionally-charged exchange will always exist. While organizations cannot fully eliminate this probability, they can proactively prepare through their hiring and training practices and leadership principles.

Colleen M. Niese is principal at The Marlyn Group. She can be reached at cniese@marlyngroupllc.com.

TPP-2013-08-Defending the Enforcement Officer

Who’s In Charge

TPP-2013-08-Who's In ChargeBy Bridgette Brady, CAPP

The Intercollegiate Athletic Department at Washington State (WSU) is fortunate to have an outstanding relationship with the university’s transportation services,” says Bill Moos, Washington State University’s director of athletics. “The two units work together to establish and implement policies and procedures that apply to game day parking for all of our patrons, including lots for our donors. I consider our partnership to be outstanding.”

Flash back to the fall of 2010: Moos received a surprising call on his weekly radio show about recreational vehicle (RV) parking for football games, and it wasn’t what you might call positive. Worse yet, there were follow-up calls during the next week’s show. An extremely public media outlet that was supposed to foster conversations about college athletics became a forum for complaints about RV parking. Only the nightly news could have been worse.

Depending on the event, WSU accommodates 350 to 500 RVs per event weekend. WSU’s RV parking situation arises from both necessity and tradition: Pullman, Wash., where the campus is located, is a smaller college town with fewer hotel rooms than can meet demand during large events. RVs are a necessity. Football RV culture has become more popular with the commercialization of tailgating, and parking for those vehicles has grown in popularity, both for overnight accommodation and daytime-only fans.

More than 10 years ago, a simple set of regulations was put into place that didn’t work out as well as staff hoped. Rates were low, self-parking created impassible areas for emergency vehicles, and fires were even built on the pavement or green areas. Fans arrived as early as the Wednesday before a game and some parked their campers in non-RV lots.

Recognizing that the issues would only be compounded by increasing demand, new regulations to address safety and capacity were introduced each season, resulting in an incrementally higher level of discontent from the RV community. Calls came and letters were written to various university officials, and some fans became agitated and verbally abusive toward event parking staff, who heard every complaint in the book. “Who’s in charge of RV parking?” “Why is WSU treating their donors like this?” “Who approved these rules?” “Wait until the president (of the university) hears about this!”

University officials didn’t always agree on the answer because a clear distinction of roles and responsibilities was not in place. Transportation Services (TS) had a great working relationship with athletics but there was no formalized event parking management plan. After a season of confusion for staff and RV patrons, something had to change.

A town hall meeting was arranged to give the RV community its voice. The strict enforcement of regulations was mentioned during the meeting. Restrictions that limited RV drivers to arriving on campus after 5 p.m. on Thursday were unpopular. No saving spaces was an issue as were a few other regulations. However, what the loyal fans really wanted was a showing of appreciation.

Questions were asked and answers and suggestions were given. From this point, the Game Day Experience partnership evolved. It’s a simple model, really: athletics manages the relationships and TS and public safety manages logistics. When the two intersect, communication between the departments happens before decisions are relayed to fans. More importantly, those unified messages go to the fans as just that—unified.

We listened to the patrons and changes were made. Athletics created an operations center in the primary donor lot, the spirit squad and mascot visited the RV lots regularly, and staging areas were created that allowed RVs to arrive earlier than 6 p.m. Pre-season communications to these fans were prolific. More changes in regulations and rates were to come, but they were given advance notice and a feedback period. The relationship between the university’s departments and the fans grew a little stronger each year.

The Season of Big Change

In January 2012, athletics and TS met to discuss the need for big changes to all football game day parking. Record attendance was expected for the 2012 WSU football season thanks to the hiring of new head coach Mike Leach and a beautifully renovated Martin Stadium.

Where was everyone going to park?

Together, athletics and TS ripped off the Band-Aid with a complete overhaul of game day parking. Not only did the mass changes create considerable logistical challenges, but they represented a monstrous disruption of culture for the fans. We were about to put the Game Day Experience management model to the test.

Complaints about rates and operational changes were directed to athletics. “We knew we had a big challenge ahead of us,” explains Chris Boyan, assistant director for TS, “but having athletics focus on relationships with fans allowed us to focus on operational solutions.”

Martin Stadium is located in the center of campus and does not have dedicated parking. A considerable percentage of the parking system was already used for donor parking, and that need increased with the additions of suites and loge boxes. Donor parking displaced roughly 1,200 general parking spaces in a system that reached capacity during seasons of lower attendance.

The solution for managing parking demand, as we all know, involves increasing rates. Athletics increased its donor levels considerably for the first time in many years. WSU had historically not charged for general parking, and that went from free to $20 per space in one season. In addition, major changes were introduced to the RV parking program, including requirements for minimum donation levels, and all RV parking was pre-sold online.

For control purposes, cash operations for general parking needed to be kept to a minimum, which required credit card acceptance in the field. WSU didn’t have a real-time online system to do that. The development of an online event parking platform required integration with TS’ management system and athletics’ ticket system. Partnerships and cooperation between vendors came into play with the customization of the systems. The costs of hardware for the wireless point of sale (POS) system to vend and verify permits and accept credit cards in the field were split by athletics and TS.

The development of a park-and-ride shuttle system required the assistance of various property owners within the community. Local churches offered their lots, WSU’s veterinary college offered a large pasture area, and the City of Pullman provided parking in various locations. Pullman Transit assisted with development of shuttle routes, providing 10- to 15-minute frequencies throughout the system.

New traffic plans and road closures to separate donor, transit, and general parking traffic flows were developed with the assistance of local and regional enforcement and planning agencies. All agencies and departments coordinated the design and placement of new signage.

TS was offered a seat in the new stadium operations center on game days. The ability to communicate directly with public safety and athletics created unprecedented institutional resolve.

By the end of the first home game, there were many reasons to celebrate. There were very few issues that couldn’t be remedied on the spot, and parking didn’t receive negative press. The entire system was operational for the first home football game and was executed with unprecedented partnerships and teamwork. We were all in it together.

“The Washington State University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has a great partnership and working relationship with transportation services on campus related to administering parking for our home athletic contests,” says Randy Buhr, senior associate director of athletics. “Our departments continually work together on an ongoing basis throughout the year to have a parking program in place for home sporting events that hopefully will be viewed positively by our fans, the participating teams, and others.”

Bridgette Brady, CAPP, is director of Washington State University Parking & Transportation Services. She can be reached at b.brady@wsu.edu or 509.335.5105.

TPP-2013-08-Who’s In Charge

It’s Academic

TPP-2013-08-It's AcademicBy Bryan Townley

During the most recent semester at The Ohio State University, I enrolled in my first city planning studio—one of the capstone classes of the undergraduate planning program. Because these studio classes are arranged in a way that allows students to work directly with municipalities, they function as a hands-on mode of education as well as a team-building exercise.

The studio I joined was tasked with creating a guide that could be used by the leaders of Lancaster, Ohio, to revitalize their struggling downtown. Lancaster, a rural city of 39,000 residents, is located in southeastern Ohio along the border of the Appalachian foothills and the flat farmland of the Midwest. The city faces many of the same problems as others in similar areas: a declining downtown, traffic congestion, economic hardship, and loss of industrial jobs. However, one of Lancaster’s biggest problems—one I learned is intertwined with those previously mentioned—is its downtown parking situation.

It became apparent early in the studio process that there was a parking problem in Lancaster. However, after talking with stakeholders, it seemed that everybody had a different definition of what the exact issue was, which made it a controversial and somewhat touchy subject. Some believed there was not enough parking in downtown, while others believed there was an overabundance of parking. Stakeholders advocated for limiting the creation of new parking areas, while others wanted to tear down vacant buildings to create more parking. How could such contradictory perceptions be voiced so aggressively?

Student Involvement
Out of the Lancaster studio group, I was tasked with creating recommendations to remedy the city’s parking problem. The first step in the process was to get the facts behind the large difference in perception of what the problem actually was. Aerial imagery of downtown Lancaster shows an extreme amount of surface parking. After visiting the city several times and taking inventory of parking lots, locations, and number of spaces in each lot, it became obvious that most downtown parking was underused. So why did so many believe the downtown area needed more?

The answer lies in the types of parking in downtown Lancaster: on-street public, off-street public, and off-street private. Through observations of Lancaster’s parking inventory, I determined that there was a large difference in numbers of public and private parking spaces. This was backed up by a recent parking study conducted in Lancaster that found that 78 percent of all downtown Lancaster’s parking—and 97 percent of downtown’s off-street spaces—is private. These private lots often have restrictions in place that do not allow visitors to park unless they are patronizing attached businesses. Sometimes, this restriction even prohibits going to another business after visiting the shop that owns the lot. Further restrictions limit lot access for those who are not business employees, as workers can purchase permits and tags to display in their vehicles.

The most visible and convenient downtown parking for visitors is on-street parallel parking. Consequently, , being the most convenient, these spaces are also the most used. If spaces are not available in front of a desired business, downtown visitors must look to off-street parking. Due to there being a much larger percentage of off-street private parking, visitors have few public-parking options. In fact, there are only 56 off-street public parking spaces in downtown Lancaster. This is where the parking problem begins: visitors see all available off and on-street public parking as full, and the only empty parking areas they can find are private. These private restrictions and the time it takes to find adequate parking deter visitors from the downtown area, leading to the perception that there is not enough parking downtown.

The recent parking study also stated that the overall weekday parking occupancy was recorded at 57 percent, which includes those private parking lots throughout downtown, many of which have plenty of space available. This is how certain stakeholders justified the perception that there is an overabundance of parking in Lancaster and why both perceptions—that there is too much and too little parking—are correct. The overarching problem with parking in downtown Lancaster is its overabundance of private parking and lack of public parking.

Required Ratios
The city ordinance states that businesses must provide a certain number of parking spaces based on their square footage; this is what led to the creation of the private lots throughout downtown. The code would probably make more sense in a suburban setting, but it hurts the downtown. Private parking restrictions limit the businesses that visitors can frequent, forcing them to drive from business to business, even when they are only a block apart. If no off-street public parking is provided, on-street parking is always the first to fill, leading to the perception of inadequate parking and deterring potential customers. This kind of code also threatens the walkability of a downtown; forcing people to drive short distances rather than walk creates unnecessary traffic congestion, which further discourages walking. A downtown is supposed to be the most walkable portion of a city; this is not the case in Lancaster

In the guide created by our studio group, I made several recommendations to the City of Lancaster:

  • Designate a centrally located and easily accessed public parking lot in downtown. This lot will create a more inviting atmosphere for visitors who currently become frustrated in the search for adequate parking. This lot also encourages visitors to frequent multiple shops during their time downtown, instead of restricting them from doing so.
  • Employ a park-and-walk slogan that emphasizes the ease of only having to park once to be able to visit any and all businesses in downtown. Visible, easy-to-read wayfinding is key to promoting public parking, as it is the first thing drivers look for upon arriving in downtown.
  • Loosen the city’s minimum parking requirements downtown. This will help reduce the development of unnecessary private parking lots.
  • Create a code that allows for shared parking between businesses based on their peak hours of operation. Lancaster is very much a nine-to-five city, and stakeholders greatly expressed their desire for more night entertainment options in downtown. I recommended that the city allow lots owned by daytime businesses to be shared by those open at night. This would relax the need for more private parking, while helping to attract desired nighttime businesses to downtown Lancaster.

Throughout the Lancaster studio process I realized that parking is much more complex than it appears. Parking seems to be a constant balancing act between too much and too little, with both sides having the potential to deter both businesses and visitors and causing the paradoxical effect of having both too much and too little parking simultaneously. I have learned that the wrong type of parking can create compounding problems, while the correct type has the potential to be a catalyst for future success in a city. I hope the latter will prove true for Lancaster.

Bryan Townley is an undergraduate student in the city and regional planning program at The Ohio State University. He can be reached at townley.12@buckeyemail.osu.edu or 614.353.5869.

TPP-2013-08-It’s Academic


TPP-2013-08-BrandedBy Mark E. Hairr

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK) recently embarked on a campus infrastructure improvements effort that resulted in an historic level of campus construction. This extensive upgrade to campus facilities is a key element in supporting the high level academic and research programs necessary to move UTK from a top 50 public research university to a top 25.

Because the university parking system is comprised of more than 16,000 parking spaces in nine garages and more than 100 surface lots, practically any construction project of significance has an effect. In addition to university-controlled parking, there are 1,000 municipal on-street metered parking spaces along campus streets that fall under the jurisdiction of the City of Knoxville. Further, the university’s parking system is complemented by a comprehensive campus transit system that provides fixed-route bus and point-to-point van services seven days a week. As a result, the effects of construction projects go well beyond parking, but also to campus transit routes, bus stops, and the level and frequency of transit service.

The potential disruptive effect of this level of construction on the campus parking and transportation system was mitigated through a collaborative and unique communications strategy branded as the Conezone. This initiative provides clear, concise, and updated information that’s targeted to specific audiences, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors, about how construction affects their parking and movement around campus. Construction is expected to continue at a high level over the next several years, so the Conezone initiative will continue to be the central tool used to ensure campus stakeholders are equipped with the information they need to successfully navigate campus.

Strategy Impetus
The major impetus for the development of a branded communications strategy at UTK was a $160 million student union project. Because this is being built on the site of the existing university center, which will continue operations throughout construction, it is necessary to build the new facility in two phases, with phase I opening in 2014 and phase II opening in 2016. The student union construction site is located at the epicenter of campus, where pedestrian and vehicular traffic volumes are highest at the university.

The student union project, combined with other major campus construction projects, resulted in the loss of more than 500 parking spaces in the center of campus. This was especially difficult to address because these spaces met a wide variety of parking needs for students, faculty, staff, daily visitors, and those attending campus special events. As a result, the university recognized the need for a special planning and communications effort to ensure that the highest levels of safety, parking convenience, and campus mobility were maintained over five years of upheaval.

The student union construction project by itself had far-reaching effects on the parking, mobility, and transportation elements of campus. For one thing, it required the closure of a parking garage that supported all visitor parking for the university center and a significant rerouting of the main student pedestrian corridor connecting residence halls, the university center, and academic buildings. Further, the project resulted in fewer available spots in a surface lot at the center of campus that supported a range of parking needs for faculty, staff, students, visitors, and special events, particularly athletics; the lot lies directly across the street from the 102,000-seat football stadium.

The high number of construction projects that will be ongoing throughout campus furthered the need for a special effort to ensure campus parking and mobility is maintained at the highest level possible. In total, there will be more than $500 million worth of construction projects occurring simultaneously on the 550-acre campus during the next five years (and possibly longer). These include two new residence halls with more than 700 beds each, a new 110,000-square-foot engineering building, a 123,000-square-foot music building, development of 13 sorority houses ranging from 9,000 to 17,000 square feet each, major additions to the equine and animal hospital facilities on the agriculture campus, and major renovations to the athletics complex located at the heart of campus.

The UTK administration assembled a team of stakeholders more than six months in advance of the start of construction on the student union project. Representatives from a wide range of university departments, divisions, and areas included those from the university administration, academic units, communications/media relations/creative services, the police department, parking and transit services, housing, disability services, career services, finance, the dean of students/student affairs/student life, the parents association, athletics, recreation sports, and others. The planning effort was led by UTK Finance and Administration in conjunction with the office of communications, and involved regular team meetings in which a plan was formulated, updated, and put into action prior to the beginning of the student union construction project.

Armed with a commitment to develop a branded communications strategy, the UT Communications and Creative Services staff took the lead in brainstorming and developing different branding concepts. Administrators used as a model a recent branding effort employed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) for the state’s largest interstate construction project. TDOT used “SmartFix 40” to brand the Interstate 40 construction project, which lasted several years in the downtown area. The SmartFix 40 effort was a comprehensive approach to communicating major project information, timelines, and roadway changes on an ongoing and regular basis throughout the duration of the construction project. It was highly effective in contributing to the overall success of the project.

After a series of meetings aimed at evaluating appropriate brand identities that would be appropriate for the UTK effort, it was determined that the the school’s mascot, Smokey the dog, would provide a highly identifiable and well-known branding icon to serve as the focal point for this campaign. The next step was to identify the specific elements and mechanisms to be used to communicate with the campus community.

The major means for communicating on a regular ongoing basis would be a new website hosted by the UTK Communications Office; it used the Conezone branding in both its address (conezone.utk.edu) and design. The site was developed to target relevant information to different campus audiences, including separate pages for faculty/staff, students, visitors, and persons with disabilities. The website included regular updates on major campus construction projects and specific details on how each project affected campus mobility. A key element of the website was a series of maps of specifically-delineated areas of campus that included information about the construction project and tips on the best parking, transportation, and pedestrian options available to effectively navigate around campus.

In addition to the website, the communications effort involved the installation of a number of informational signs throughout campus. They included the Conezone branding and relevant site-specific information, and are a critical complement to the overall communications effort. These signs are very distinct and stand out easily from typical street, traffic, and construction signage. Several of the signs in high-traffic pedestrian areas included quick response (QR) codes that linked directly to the Conezone website, offering instant information for pedestrians on campus.

The Conezone communications strategy has been a success, minimizing headaches associated with confusion, parking, and mobility problems, and congestion typically associated with extensive construction in a dense area. The initiative hit the bull’s eye in accomplishing the original goals set out at the beginning of this process—namely, lifting the shroud of mystery and communicating pertinent information to the campus community in a highly-effective manner.

Although the UTK campus is experiencing historic levels of construction, especially in the heart of campus, the detrimental effect on the campus parking and transportation system and the number of complaints have been kept to a minimum through the initial phase of the program. The website and its regular updates ensure that information is current and is communicated to targeted audiences in a timely manner, usually well in advance of the start of work. This branded communications effort will continue to serve as a primary resource for ensuring that parking, transportation, and mobility for students, faculty, staff, and visitors are maintained at the safest and most effective level spossible for years to come.

Mark E. Hairr is director of parking and transit services at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He can be reached at mhairr@utk.edu or 865.974.6031.


Park Your Park Here

TPP-2013-08-Park Your Park HereBy Kim Fernandez

Midway through an otherwise ordinary day three years ago, Jeff Petry picked up the phone to hear the voice of a seriously stymied parking enforcement officer.

“He said we had people sitting in parking spaces outside Starbucks and other downtown businesses,” says Petry, parking manager at the City of Eugene, Ore.
“They’d paid the meters and they had chairs and were sitting there. My officers wanted to know what to do.”

With that, Petry and his staff were introduced to Park(ing) Day. Launched by San Francisco art and design studio Rebar in 2005, Park(ing) Day encourages organizations, governments, businesses, and individual citizens to re-think parking spaces one day a year and (legally) transform them into mini-parks, art exhibits, exercise spaces, and other things that have nothing to do with cars.

Rebar says Park(ing) Day was developed to help people think about new ways to approach urban infrastructure, and that’s accomplished once a year—Park(ing) Day 2013 is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 20.

For parking professionals in municipalities, on university campuses, and other places where the day has caught on, confusion has morphed into everything from good-humored tolerance to all-out participation.

“My biggest concern was for their safety,” Petry says of his first group of Park(ing) Day participants. He left his office and headed to Starbucks to see what was going on, and found a few spaces transformed into parklets. All the meters had been fed, though, and everyone seemed to be taking precautions, so Petry said hello and told his officers to let the people be.
“I thought it was cool,” he says.

Growing Participation
Since its launch with one parking space in San Francisco, Park(ing) Day has attracted the attention of nonprofit organizations, artists, community groups, and even businesses, who’ve all started participating with their own one-space-big exhibits. Rebar says that in 2011 (the latest year for which numbers are available), 975 parks were erected in 162 cities and 35 different countries. They range from the elaborate to the super-simple.

“One of our spaces was taken by a group of women who put sod grass in a space and sat there, drank coffee, and enjoyed the sunshine,” says Petry.

Louisville, Ky., hosted 26 parklets in 2012; Isaiah Mouw, CAPP, general manager, Republic Parking System, visited about 20 during the course of the day. “There were a lot of interactive parks with activities or games, along with representatives to talk with you,” he says. “One parklet allowed people to paint doors bright colors, and the doors were used to replace boarded-up doorways on abandoned houses.” Another parklet hosted a mini-mini-golf course and invited children to come play.

Dallas saw 42 groups participate in more than 50 parking spaces last year, says city Park(ing) Day co-organizer Noah Jeppson, who’s an environmental graphic designer. “The first year, we had participation from a few architectural firms and some city departments,” he says, adding that in 2011—Dallas’ first year of Park(ing) Day—there were 35 participants. “As word got out, more people wanted to get involved and they started having really creative ideas.”

Spaces in the city are coordinated by Downtown Dallas, Inc., which secures sponsorships from local businesses and issues free permits to participants. Jeppson says last year’s day saw a wide variety of installations.

“We had a yoga studio where people could do yoga,” he says. “A couple turned one space into a dog park. A lot of universities participated, and they turned spaces into art or seating installations. One space was used to give manicures and pedicures, one gave out snow cones, and we had a dance stage in one and a remote-control car racetrack in another. It’s really nice to see such a variety of people with different ideas.”

Along with the individual space exhibitions, Dallas’ Park(ing) Day includes stages set up where local performers play music.

Similar events take place in Long Beach, Calif., on Park(ing) Day. That city’s first participation happened in 2009, when a local design firm laid artificial turf in a single space and complemented it with a tree and a bench. The city got involved in 2011, offering no-parking permits to those who wanted to participate.

“We decided to encourage participation rather than discourage it,” says Tiffany Chen, sustainability analyst, City of Long Beach Office of Sustainability. “We made it really easy in 2012 and asked people to sign up online if they planned to register, and then we registered them into the worldwide Park(ing) Day map.”

The map, hosted at parkingday.org, pinpoints every registered participant in the world, letting interested residents plan to visit Park(ing) Day installations when they happen and keeping track of who’s participating and where.
“We have bicycle advocacy groups who give bicycle tours of Park(ing) Day,” says Chen. “They take people to visit all the Park(ing) Day spots in the city. It turns into this day of activities and celebrations.”

Why Participate
Petry admits even he was caught off-guard when he got that first phone call from an officer about people sitting in chairs in a parking space three years ago. “The police had questions,” he says. “There was something going on here. They had to make sure public order was kept and people were safe, and then there were questions about things like dirt runoff from sod in parking spaces and what that meant for stormwater. And parking enforcement officers didn’t know what to do because there were supposed to be cars parked there!”

Businesses, also, complained a bit that first year, but soon realized their own benefits from the event. “People bought a lot of food and beverages,” says Petry. And there’s another benefit as well: “When you have happy, smiling people in front of your business doing something unique, you get your picture in the paper.”

“We tell people they need to follow city ordinances,” says Chen. “If there’s a spot you didn’t get a permit for, you need to feed the meters and talk with the people in the businesses there. Honestly, after the first year, our businesses saw that this draws people in. They turned a new leaf and started participating instead of being upset.”

Last year, she says, a bookstore transformed a parking space into a library, and people were invited to sit in chairs and at tables to read for a while. “It drew people inside to purchase books,” says Chen.

Park(ing) Day in Long Beach is a limited-time event: permits run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. “This isn’t a whole-day kind of thing,” says Chen. Other cities have similar setups; in Dallas, the day runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., which is just long enough for both city workers and residents to participate.

And while the idea seemed weird at first, even hesitant city officials have embraced the concept. “It’s become something like Earth Day,” says Chen. “We embraced the mission of urban open space and being able to call to the public’s attention how space is allocated and how we can improve the quality of life and the walkability of our community.”

Jeppson agrees. “The city didn’t know how to respond the first year,” he says. “We had to have barricades around every space and there were off-duty police officers on every corner. The city was afraid cars would go flying into the spaces. They’re used to festivals that close streets temporarily, but this was different—we’re demonstrating what can happen in this one small space. It’s getting easier and easier as we go along.”

He says the benefits are worth the work. “It brings people together,” he says. “There are people who live in the city who may not interact with businesses. And the people who work there may only get out to walk to lunch. These parklets and Park(ing) Day force them to think about the city and the life that’s there. People who don’t see the city as a liveable area can see some of these events and activities, and they transform city life.”

“This shifts how people think space is used in an urban environment,” says Chen. “In Long Beach, there isn’t a lot of space. Parking spots are a huge commodity here. But what about spots for people? There aren’t many parks downtown, either. If we can create temporary installations or gathering spaces for people, it brings the community together in a different way.”

And it’s very little work for her office, she says. “Generally, the most work we do is plan our own parklet,” she says. “We put the information out there and think about how we’ll participate. But the community takes this on itself.”
Petry agrees, saying that even the first year, he saw no reason to discourage the day. “From my perspective, they were safe and it was unique. There were no real issues to deal with,” he says. And it’s a great opportunity to bring the community together and make parking part of the fun.

“The worst thing you can do is crack down on something that should be a unique, fun experience for your community,” he says. “What’s the difference between a downtown and a suburban mall? You have creative, unique things going on in your downtown. One of those things is Park(ing) Day.”

For more information on Park(ing) Day 2013, visit parkingday.org.

Kim Fernandez is editor of The Parking Professional. She can be reached at fernandez@parking.org.

TPP-2013-08-Park Your Park Here

Robin Hoods or Hoodlums

TPP-2013-08-Robin Hoods or HoodlumsBy Leonard T. Bier, JD, CAPP

While watching morning television recently, I saw a newscast about parking “Robin Hoods” in Keene, N.H. Individuals were following parking enforcement officers (PEOs) performing their duties, and putting coins in expired meters. The Robin Hoods placed a business card on the windshield of each rescued vehicle stating, “Your meter expired! However, we saved you from the king’s tariff.”

It must have been a slow news day, because the story was picked up by ABC and CBS network news as well as Fox News and CNN. The newscasts interested me because the reporters stated that the city had filed a lawsuit to stop the Robin Hoods. I thought there had to be more to the story, and contacted Keene City Attorney Thomas P. Mullins, to find out.

Mullins told me that the city has become the target of a government noncooperation movement called Free Keene, which advocates minimalist government and opposes many municipal government regulations, including parking rules and enforcement. It appears from reviewing the Free Keene website that the group’s intent is to disrupt and ideally take over the municipal government system through the democratic election process.

The Facts

The Robin Hoods are a group of approximately six or eight persons associated with Free Keene, plus an unknown number of volunteers. The city filed suit seeking an injunction to prevent the Robin Hoods from coming within 50 feet of Keene’s three PEOs while on duty, saying the group’s members “regularly, repeatedly, and intentionally interfere, harass, and intimidate the PEOs in the performance of their employment duties.” The city further alleges that the Robin Hoods, “follow, surround, touch or nearly touch, and otherwise taunt and harass the PEOs solo or in groups of two or more.” The city’s complaint also states, which appears not to be in dispute based on Free Keene’s website postings, that the Robin Hoods coordinate their PEO and parking meter enforcement interventions by texting as well as using two-way radios, and that they video and audio tape the PEOs in the performance of their duties.

The PEOs have stated that the actions and behavior of the Robin Hoods have caused them to be physically touched and subjected to verbal abuse and intimidation tactics, resulting in occupational stress and considering quitting their jobs.

The Court
The city has chosen to pursue its legal remedies in civil court rather than criminal court because the burden of proof in civil court is a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that a judge or jury needs only to believe one side slightly more than the other. In criminal court, proof must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. To understand the distinction, think about the results of the O.J. Simpson murder trials: not guilty in criminal court, but held accountable for two murders and damages in the civil suit.

The city does not have a meter feeding ordinance and is not seeking to stop the Robin Hoods from putting coins in expired meters to prevent the issuance of parking tickets. Nor is the city attempting to limit in any way the Robin Hoods’ rights of free speech or to stop the recording of the PEOs in the performance of their duties. The city is simply seeking an injunction to create a safe work environment for the PEOs of 50 feet, allowing them to perform their duties without fear of being physically touched, surrounded, harassed, verbally abused, intimidated, or subjected to undue employment related stress.

The decision of the Superior Court of New Hampshire whether to grant the 50-foot injunction in the case of City of Keene vs. James Cleaveland, et. al., and provide the Keene municipal PEOs a safe work environment is of national importance to government- operated public parking and of interest to all municipal, utility, and parking authority members of IPI.

Leonard T. Bier, JD, CAPP, is the principal of Bier Associates. He can be reached at lenbier@optonline.net or 732.828.8864.

TPP-2013-08-Robin Hoods or Hoodlums

Campus Lighting Swap Saves

TPP-2013-08-Campus Lighting Swap SavesBy June Broughton, CAPP

Two years ago, Transportation Services at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, embarked on a massive lighting project that involved replacing all fixtures in five parking garages, including those in stairwells, elevator lobbies, and roofs. Transportation Services engaged a consultant to conduct a thorough lighting study of all five parking structures, incorporating lighting levels, fixtures, and cost analysis.

Texas A&M is the sixth-largest university in the United States, with approximately 50,000 students and 12,000 faculty and staff on a campus that covers more than 5,500 acres. The university runs a $20 million parking operation that includes more than 36,000 parking spaces, 120 surface lots, and five garages.

The $2 million retrofit to low-energy fixtures was designed to reduce energy consumption, costs, and carbon emissions, and improve lighting levels. A low-interest loan from the State Energy Conservation Office will be repaid on a 10-year plan using energy savings achieved as a result of the project.

High pressure sodium (HPS) parking garage lighting fixtures, which produce a yellowish/orange light, were replaced with induction lighting, which produces a very efficient white light. This brighter light is also perceived by customers to be more inviting and cleaner in appearance. Other lighting sources that were considered but ruled out for various reasons were LED and fluorescent lighting. Induction lighting was determined to be the best long-term solution, yielding the highest return on investment.

When asked about the project in 2011, Peter Lange, executive director of Texas A&M Transportation Services, provided several reasons for choosing induction over LED lighting.

“The first reason for choosing induction over LED was length of life,” he said. At that time, LED was a relatively new technology with very few installations older than three years. “We think LED will be a proven technology at some point in the future, but felt it was not at a maturity level that we were comfortable with.”

“The second big factor was price,” he continued, explaining that the price of LED was about twice that of induction lighting. “If we had chosen LED, we would have been able to retrofit about two-and-a-half of our garages. With induction, we are able to retrofit all five garages.”

The Savings
It was anticipated that the garage lighting retrofits would cut energy consumption in half, or to approximately 2.2 kWh annually, which would result in anticipated savings of about $175,000 per year. So far, energy consumption has been cut by 40 percent, which, at current rates, translates into a savings of about $230,000 per year. Reliability on more than 2,700 fixtures has also proven to be improved; fewer than 1 percent of the ballasts have been replaced since the change. Texas A&M’s Department of Utilities & Energy Management continues to monitor the energy consumption and report back to transportation services.

Transportation services and the university’s departments of utilities and energy management, facilities planning and construction, and facilities services, plus the Smart Energy Campus Initiative, all played roles in completing the campus-wide conservation project. For their part, the supplier and manufacturer provided a 10-year parts warranty on the induction lamps and generators.

“As sustainability initiatives remain at the forefront of our responsibilities, Texas A&M Transportation Services will continue to search for opportunities to partner with suppliers and others in providing efficient energy solutions,” said Lange.

June Broughton, CAPP, is manager of Texas A&M University College Station Transportation Services and a member of IPI’s Sustainability Committee. She can be reached at june@tamu.edu or 979.862.7371.

TPP-2013-08-Campus Lighting Swap Saves

Campus Garages Change Perceptions

TPP-2013-08-Campus Garages Change PerceptionsBy Ian Nestler, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

With growing scarcities of both capital funding and vacant land, colleges and universities have begun tucking additional uses into campus parking garages, either by expanding footprints or adding floors. The benefits are as diverse as the potential uses.

Adding a street-level retail component such as food vendors or service providers, for example, can generate fresh revenue through leased space or profit sharing. Incorporating administrative offices, classrooms, lecture halls, or student services can deliver needed facilities at a cost far less than developing those projects from scratch and attract extra funds from such sources as grants. Non-parking uses also significantly animate the pedestrian experience, breaking up the sometimes faceless façade of a single-use “house of cars.” Though more costly per space to develop, the mixed-use garage has a much higher return on investment.

Mixed Use
With six distinct non-parking uses, the new Market Station garage at Florida International University, Miami, is a highly diversified campus garage. This $55 million, seven-story, 773,000 square-foot complex accommodates 2,000 parking spaces and more than 50,000 square feet of mixed-use space, including a campus police station, commercial food court, social hub with cyber café, three classrooms, health clinic, and university parking/transportation offices.

Market Station addresses a series of challenges that are characteristic of mixed-use campus garages, which are generally large and often serve as landmark features.

Market Station includes layering architectural precast panels, reveals, and raised architectural banding, and an extensive 12-foot-wide canopy over a serpentine terrace for outdoor dining that’s connected to the social hub. Stair and elevator cores, visible from outside, have decorative mesh and glass enclosures.

To give each use a distinct entry and identity while maintaining design consistency and respecting established campus architectural themes, stainless steel channel letters were used for the university logo and offices. Illuminated signs on the canopy identify retail users.

To enhance off-campus access to retail components, adjacent roadways were reconfigured.

Features such as open stairwells, glass-backed elevators, greater floor-to-floor heights (improving field of vision), CCTV, increased lighting, and security call boxes recognize that safety and security are top priorities. Acoustic separation was maintained between the garage and other uses.

The parking deck above the mixed-use space was waterproofed. Design issues were addressed to account for movement of the deck.
Interior circulation systems take advantage of the constant flow of pedestrian traffic.


Another example—the Southwest Parking Garage at the University of Florida, Gainesville—became one of the country’s first LEED Gold Certified campus parking garages. Unfortunately, it was also one of the last, as the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has since stopped certifying garages. (The Green Parking Council, an affiliate of the International Parking Institute, has developed new certification criteria, and Green Globes also certifies garages.)

Certified or not, colleges and universities want sustainable buildings, both to reduce operating costs and to use their garages as teaching tools. Popular features include daylighting, sustainable materials, bicycle racks, showers, reflective roofing, connectivity to public transportation, integrally-colored precast panels, low-mercury fluorescent or LED lighting, low-spillage roof lighting, stained cement flooring, and television monitors that share the buildings’ stories with visitors.

Not surprisingly, colleges and universities are at the forefront of changing the face and function of the traditional parking garage.

Ian Nestler, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, is managing principal in the Boca Raton, Fla., office of PGAL and a member of IPI’s Consultants Committee. He can be reached at inestler@pgal.com or 561.988.4002.

TPP-2013-08-Campus Garages Change Perceptions