Tag Archives: TPP-2014-02

Navigating the Maze

TPP-2014-02-Parking Without ApologyBy Thomas Szubka, CAPP

I recently had the opportunity to share a presentation about the City of Tampa, Fla., Parking Division’s experiences implementing new technology during the past few years. Later, in a roundtable-type discussion, I heard a smaller municipality’s parking professional mention that it was the role of larger and more established parking markets to be the guinea pigs for implementing technology. He said they should work out the kinks for the benefit of markets like his.

I must admit that I had not previously considered this type of statement to be relevant to the City of Tampa Parking Division, as we are not what I would brand a large-market municipality. However, our department has been relatively active with our efforts to implement technology in the past five years. While we may not be a large parking market, there is a significant amount of experience that can be shared and may help organizations considering adopting or upgrading to new technologies avoid the challenges that we faced.

Let’s start with a little background. Some of our recent efforts have included:
PARCS installation and upgrades in eight parking structures. These facilities now operate on the same common system with on-site servers that allow for universal validation and similar options for contract parking.

Installation of 26 pay-and-display pay stations on 13 surface lots. This has eliminated the need to staff these lots, which serve as contract parking by day and event parking during nights and weekends.

Overhaul of our on-street parking system, including installing 147 multi-space parking meters. This significantly reduced our inventory of ­single-space meters, gave us monitoring capabilities, and most importantly, gave customers the opportunity to pay with credit cards.

Implementation and upgrades of a license plate recognition (LPR) system. This system has primarily been used to locate and boot scofflaws with multiple citations and was expanded to enforce residential and other permit programs via a virtual permit application.

Implementation of a system-wide permit and citation management system. This has modernized our enforcement and adjudication process, provided us with the ability to better analyze our permit systems and data, and given us an improved customer management system that is able to cross-reference data.

Installation of more than 100 security cameras and a recording system. Originally installed to monitor PARCS equipment, our camera system has been used in conjunction with law enforcement efforts to apprehend criminals.

Addition of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Originally part of a nationwide grant program, these offer an added amenity to our customers.

Implementation of a mobile payment solution. This serves as another payment option for our customers in an increasingly mobile-dependent culture.

While all ultimately successful, these experiences ranged from turn-key to, at times, miserable. From this, I’d like to share my top 10 things to understand and consider when implementing technology.

You’ll Get Tired
Understand that implementing any technology can be an exhausting process. There will be many conference calls and meetings to map the process, convert data, and program functions. Frustration will creep in when you realize that the solutions are not exactly what you expected and you are forced to make decisions to activate/deactivate a portion of the solution to maintain your existing processes. Don’t forget the inevitable deadlines that you will encounter and test.

Inevitable Obsolescence
As soon as you purchase a parking solution, an upgrade will replace it. At least, it often seems that way. On the other hand, if you keep waiting for the next upgrade before taking the leap, you may never get it done. Of course, if you have a smartphone, you should be used to this by now.

Bid vs. RFP
If you have a procurement process, always favor a request for proposals (RFP) over a straight bid. Parking technology is too important and detailed to automatically go for the lowest possible cost. Do your homework and find the best solution and then ask for proposals to make it happen.

If you need to go through a committee, take the time to educate its non-parking members about parking and the challenges you expect the solution to address. Remember, you have to live with their decision.

Ask to see how reports are generated, how they look, and if they are customizable. Make sure you can accept the type of reports that are provided by a prospective vendor before you begin the relationship.

Rate Programming
Many organizations (primarily governments or municipalities) are bound by resolutions or charters when it comes to parking rates, which means they cannot easily be altered to accommodate the limitations of a solution or specific equipment. Ask your vendors to show you how they program your rate structures and how customers will ultimately see and interact with the technology.

Technology providers are becoming more open to integrating with others—sometimes even with their direct competitors—but it’s important to realize that there is a cost involved on both sides of almost any integration process. Unless specifically contracted, the new technology partner will only be responsible for the cost associated with its side of the integration, leaving the rest for you to pay. Do your homework, because this could be prohibitively expensive and may influence your provider choice.

Off-the-Shelf vs. Custom
Every technology provider began with the purpose of offering a solution for a specific group of issues. If you do not present that exact scenario for them, understand that their off-the-shelf solution will have to be modified or have a workaround. This is not necessarily negative, but it may cause additional stress during the implementation process.

Ultimately, the final solution may not resemble what you originally envisioned due to the provider’s limitations, and a compromise may be necessary. Due diligence prior to entering into an agreement will help manage expectations and may also affect your choice of technology providers.

Hosted solutions are becoming more popular, and for the right reasons: regular upgrades, faster response to downtime, and reduced maintenance headaches are all checks on the pro side of the spreadsheet. Hosted solutions, however, rely on dependable network and internet communications for which your organization is primarily responsible. We have found the subscription fees associated with hosted solutions to be financially easier to manage than the costs of on-site options because there are no unexpected costs. If you own an on-site server, you are also responsible for repair, maintenance, and upgrades, and planning for those can be difficult, especially as the technology ages.

It is a fact of life: no matter how well you prepare or how dependable your service is, you will have communication issues. These issues, of course, always seem to occur at the worst possible times, during the peak of your operations, and during the most important events.

This is a good time to become friendly with your internal IT resources if you have not done so already. Even if you have the best provider in the world, your in-house experts are a critical component to ensuring that your technology works to its full potential. How the technology connects to the internet is usually going to be your responsibility, and your IT professionals are the ones who hold that key. Also, stay in touch with your vendor and make certain you have the most recent upgrades, updates, modems, and other equipment to reduce the frequency of interruptions.
Most important, however, is to be prepared with a plan B and a script to properly address customer issues.

Sales vs. Service
Some of the best qualities of successful sales professionals are that they have a positive attitude and are convinced that they can solve your issues and make your job easier. Often, these sales professionals are correct, and at worst, they can at least bring you options. That said, no one knows your operation as well as you do. Sales professionals will focus mostly on the benefits of their product without full realizing how small drawbacks can negatively affect your operation.

Expect that nearly every project will not go as planned and that solutions will not prove as easy as they were explained to be during the procurement process. This is normal. Do not expect the worst case, but manage your and your stakeholders’ expectations that all your issues will be resolved with a handful of new technologies.

That’s not to say that vendors do not have the solutions; most are, in fact, at the top of their games. However, there is a very large disconnect between theory and practice. For every parking issue, there are multiple possible solutions that will vary by customer. It is probably unrealistic to expect a vendor to be able to provide every solution—our industry isn’t that static. The best you can do is be thorough in your due diligence and take your time during the procurement process to have real demonstrations that include your specific operational nuances. You may not be able to change the inevitable, but you will be better prepared to work through it.

Adding new technology to your operations should be exciting. By preparing yourself and managing expectations, you will better enjoy the process of implementing new technology and have a more successful roll-out with your customers.

Thomas Szubka, CAPP, is operations superintendent for the City of Tampa Parking Division. He can be contacted at tom.szubka@tampagov.net or 813.274.8182.

TPP-2014-02-Parking Without Apology

Parking Without Apology

TPP-2014-02-Parking Without ApologyBy John P. Blood, AIA and Elizabeth Danze, AIA

Parking in central Austin, Texas, is at a premium. Faced with the challenge of locating a much-needed garage along a leafy boulevard adjacent to a residential neighborhood and across from a large park, we at Danze Blood Architects sought to create a structure that would be functional, unapologetic, and aspirational.

We both attended the Yale School of Architecture and were strongly influenced by Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building and his Temple Street parking garage in New Haven, Conn.; they were built between 1959 and 1963. Famous for his rigorous use of concrete and strong formal expression, Rudolph’s work is also tempered with a complex and refined sense of human scale. Ultimately, his architecture is embodied with a rich sense of character.

Prior to the completion of the parking structure, we had extensively renovated the interior of a 30,000-square-foot building as part of an effort to consolidate the corporate headquarters of T3, an integrated advertising and marketing firm. In renovating the building, which was built in 1952 and originally served as the central office of the Texas Medical Association, we sought to create an open, unified interior that would be conducive to imaginative teamwork and that capitalized on the building’s original character. An advertising and marketing firm’s animated and lively business model served as a counterpoint to the original building’s stately, if somewhat austere presence.

Parking requirements for the renovated building were grandfathered, and T3 required additional parking to meet the physical demands of the successful and growing firm. To accommodate a new parking garage, the company acquired a small adjacent lot located on a steep hillside that abutted an established residential neighborhood on the uphill side.

Design Goals
From the outset, the client and design team sought to create a structure that would work efficiently and with unapologetic formal expression using a compelling sequence of circulation, light, space, and a strong connection to nature. The strict limitations of the garage’s constrained, sloping site also required an efficient layout. To address this, the design uses a simple and economical configuration whose formal language is both functional and expressive.

A continuous helical floor plate that responds to the turning radius of the automobile provides a structure that functions as both parking surface and circulation ramp. Organized around a central light well that’s defined by vertical cables, the continuously-sloping ramped surface can accommodate 100 parking spaces. Creating an ellipse at the center of the structure, the cables not only mark the spiraling vehicular path, but also provide transparency throughout the structure, which is useful both for security and orientation.

Additional constraints of the project that were dictated by its site were the City of Austin’s stringent impervious cover limitations and water detention requirements. Rather than dedicate a large portion of the limited available land to satisfy these requirements, the structure instead responds artfully by integrating a planted green roof on the top of the garage. The green roof connects to a sustainably-designed water harvesting system and keeps the garage within the city’s impervious cover limitations. The rooftop tray and water collection tank celebrate their functions as prominent design characteristics with positive environmental and social effects.

One hundred percent of precipitation is managed on-site with regard to slowing water runoff: peak discharge has not increased beyond what was occurring before development. All water collected from the roof enters a large cistern that is clearly articulated and highly visible at the structure’s high-traffic southeast corner. The collected water is used to irrigate the roof and surrounding landscaping, reducing requirements for extra water for irrigation Additionally, the remaining area of the site that is landscaped is planted largely with xeriscape species (plants that require very little water to thrive) to further reduce the need to water, which is expected to be on the order of only 16 gallons per square foot per year.

Approximately 4,000 square feet of space were planted, translating to a total water requirement of 64,000 gallons per year. If natural rainfall comes in the right distribution, it’s possible that all of the structure’s water needs can be met by the rainwater collection tank. The rooftop planting has positive implications for the structure’s neighbors as well, mitigating and softening the view for uphill residences and providing a potential habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Green Walls
The artful use of vegetation on the vertical surfaces also simultaneously expresses the structure’s presence and helps it blend into the existing natural landscape on the hillside. While leaving the concrete structure exposed and expressed, a series of rhythmically-­overlapping screens serve as the framework for a veil of native plants that cools breezes and tempers the harsh Texas sunlight. The permeability of the metal screen panels contrasts the mass of the concrete structure visually. It also allows daylight and breezes to flow through the entire building freely, and provides transparency that promotes security on all floors; both benefits are key functions for the building’s success. The vines trained onto the screens provide living green walls that allow the building to recede further into the hillside, diffusing the edge between the building and its site. The functional and aesthetic characteristics of the metal mesh/screens both harmonize with and accentuate the concrete structure, transforming a potentially uninteresting building into a bold and honest expression.

To further enhance the building’s function and underscore its contribution to the urban fabric, allowance was made within the structure to accommodate the future addition of an elevator. This would provide ADA access to the roof deck area, allowing it to be used for company events or other functions, with the panoramic view of the Austin skyline serving as an enchanting backdrop. Built of nothing more than concrete, steel, and foliage, the elegant and unapologetic parking structure takes on the creative energy of its users, finding opportunities within the simplest of forms to inspire and uplift an otherwise commonplace daily activity.

John P. Blood, AIA, is principal with Danze Blood Architects. He can be reached at john@danzeblood.com.

Elizabeth Danze, AIA, is principal with Danze Blood Architects. She can be reached at elizabeth@danzeblood.com.

TPP-2014-02-Parking Without Apology

Striding for Community Success

TPP-2014-02-Striding for Community SuccessBy Robin Davenport

This is the month gym memberships, purchased with all good intentions 30 days ago, lose their luster. Attendance falls—that extra half-hour of sleep is much more appealing than a few miles on the treadmill, after all—and many of us lose our will to keep exercising.

Here in Greensboro, N.C., we’ve found what we hope will be a fun way to keep our residents moving and healthier. No gym membership required, either! In fact, it’s as easy as parking a car.

Park and Stride is a public service campaign in the City of Greensboro that promotes increased daily physical activity in the lives of our employees and residents. This program encourages stairwell use in the four downtown city-owned parking decks; stair climbing is a low-cost and convenient way to add exercise into one’s daily routine, and climbing them in a natural way throughout the week is much easier than making time for a gym machine.

The Study
The initial partnership that made the program possible was between the City of Greensboro and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro (UNCG). UNCG staff was interested in conducting a study of the number of patrons who used the stairs in the parking decks and the local city hall building. After an initial assessment, UNCG staff installed positively-themed prompt signs at the elevators in the four city decks and city hall to get patrons thinking about using the stairs and their legs instead of elevators and buttons to go from floor to floor.

Several weeks after the signs were installed, staff conducted a second study of stairwell use to determine if the positive signage prompted any changed behavior. The study results reflected there was a slight increase in overall stairwell use. UNCG later provided grant money for improvements and enhancements for the stairwells in the parking decks in a continuing effort to encourage and promote wellness in the city.

As part of this project, the city’s parking operations office worked in conjunction with wellness city staff to partner with UNCG to develop a story mural in the downtown Church Street Parking Deck. An art student at UNCG developed a story line with graphics that offer a visual timeline of a variety of Greensboro historical events; some of its details are also offered in Spanish. The art student also involved local children with the African American Atelier—a local nonprofit arts organization that promotes cultural awareness and sensitivity—to assist with painting the characters in the stairwell.

Supplies for the project cost about $2,000, which was covered by the initial grant, and the art student managed the project as part of a class project.

Making it Competitive

Last year, the parking operations office learned there was a remaining balance in the initial grant fund that had to be used by its expiration at the end of the year. Staff there notified the city’s new wellness professional and began a conversation about the best way to use that money. Together, they decided to hold a contest for city employees to design a program to promote the use of city garage stairwells. Contestants had to develop a health and wellness-based theme to encourage citizens to use the stairs, propose installation details (mounting something directly on the walls, framing posters for the walls, or other options), and provide an estimated cost to implement their proposed program.

As a result of the contest, the program that became Park and Stride was born. The city’s decision to add a full-time wellness professional to staff increased resources and greatly helped focus and develop the project. In May 2013, the city conducted an RFP and reached out to local businesses to get the project off paper and into its garages.

Resident Involvement
To achieve the Park and Stride vision, 44 outstanding city employees who make wellness a part of their everyday lives were photographed. Each photograph was reproduced to be a life-size employee portrait, which was then printed on metal and routed to shape. These images were installed on the walls of the stairwells and actually look like people walking the stairs. The following information was included: employee’s first name; work title; statement that begins, “I walk because…;” a related healthy tip; logo; and QR code that takes visitors to a city website with wellness tips, healthy recipes, and information on local services to help residents get and stay fit.

Because the main audience is anyone who is about to ride the elevator, it was also important to include a point-of-decision prompt. Elevator wraps were installed with the following text: “I walk because I choose to add a little extra activity into my daily routine. And if the stairs aren’t an option, what can you do today to improve all your tomorrows?”

The goals of the elevator wraps are:

  • To encourage anyone who is able to take the stairs.
  • To address the fact that not everyone can choose to take the stairs.
  • To support people in making healthy choices, recognizing that sometimes the healthy choice is to not take the stairs.

Installation of the images began Sept. 3 and was completed in phases in the city’s four parking decks. The project officially opened at the Greensboro Fire Department’s 2013 Step Up Greensboro 9/11 Memorial Climb in the Bellemeade Street Parking Deck. A Greensboro firefighter who was personally affected by the events of 9/11 was chosen to pose for one of the featured images.

An important part of the project was to celebrate the installation and get the word out around town through a Park and Stride Photo Contest on Instagram. The contest ran from Sept. 16 through Oct. 12. This was a virtual contest in which residents photographed themselves adding steps or any other kind of activity to their day. They were asked to upload those images to the Instagram photo sharing site and indicate why they walk by tagging each photo #IWalkGSO @IWalkGSO. From this contest, two winners were selected; both received their own life-size images that will be installed in the one of the city parking decks. The contest was open to everyone because a healthy City of Greensboro benefits us all.

This was a great collaborative project between several city departments and was quite a success with the images that were produced and installed. The city is focused on providing healthy lifestyle choices for its employees, citizens, and visitors to downtown. This definitely sheds new light on endless possibilities for downtown parking decks as a partnering opportunity for Wellness. Come visit the City of Greensboro, and Park and Stride with us!

Robin Davenport is parking operations and enforcement manager with the City of Greensboro Department of Transportation. She can be reached at robin.davenport@greensboro-nc.gov or 336.373.2156.

TPP-2014-02-Striding for Community Success

Simple as a Wave

TPP-2014-02-Simple as a WaveBy Monica Tanksley

Wave and pay seems to be taking the world by storm, and the parking and transportation industry may be next in the revolution.

The basics: wave and pay is a contactless payment system that includes debit and credit cards, smartphones, key fobs, smartcards, and any other device that uses radio frequency certification (RFID) to make secure payments. These devices have embedded antennas and chips that enable users to wave their bank cards, keyfobs, or mobile phones over a reader at the point of sale.

Every day around the world, millions of people use public transit, whether bus, train, taxi, or subway, to commute to work, go shopping, sightsee, or visit family and friends. Although transportation mode convenience, speed, and safety are major considerations for passengers, so are the speed and convenience of the way they pay their traveling fares.

We can wave and pay for numerous items with our mobile phones by downloading an app or waving our bank cards. Retailers and banks have openly embraced this new technology; we can buy clothes, shoes, tools, and more with the wave of our hand. So why not wave and pay for other things in everyday life, including parking, riding a bus, train, or subway, or taking a taxi.

Pilot Program
A few years ago in Los Angeles, transit operations decided to take the hassle out of payment for mass transit commuters by piloting and implementing a wave and pay application. The LA Metro system offered riders special dual-use prepaid Visa payWave cards riders could use to pay transit fares and purchase fare products. Two types of cards were made available to riders:

Ride, Pay, and Reload cards were sold through kiosks within the system. These cards are active and ready to use immediately for both transit fares and purchases everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.

Ride, Pay, Reload, and ATM Cash Access cards could be personalized and are ordered online or over the phone. They offer a maximum value limit of $10,000. The cards have the added feature of a personal identification number (PIN) for obtaining cash at ATMs.

Piloting the contactless payment system proved that extending convenient, reliable, and secure payments to subways, trains, and buses could dramatically improve the commuting experience of millions of daily passengers. The system removes the burden of fumbling for cash or change, searching for tickets, standing in long lines to purchase a ticket, or paying for a ticket at a separate machine. Instead, commuters can focus on getting where they need to go. Transactions are completed via a global processing network, which reduces the chance of fraud and allows riders to speed through turnstiles and past fare boxes with a simple wave of their contactless cards. It’s easy for them to reload their cards and manage their transit accounts online.

The London Experience
In December 2012, Transport for London rolled out a new contactless payment system for its bus lines using wave and pay technology. Riders whose bank cards can accept contactless payments can pay for their bus fares directly with their bank cards. London’s transportation system built their own engine to interface with bank payment systems, allowing riders to use their bank cards or mobile phones to pay. And best of all, because transactions are small, riders do not have to sign or key in a PIN number to activate their purchases.

The parking industry is at the forefront of wave and pay contactless credit card technology. Smart technology is taking it to the streets, where cards can be used for change-free on-street parking at parking meters. Parking departments can say goodbye to stolen or broken meter heads, lost revenue because meters are jammed, and outdated meter equipment.

Drivers can pay to park their cars just by waving credit or debit cards at a meter. Contactless pay-and-display machines can be purchased, or already-installed pay-and-display machines can be fitted and modified with wave and pay card readers. Feeding the meter and constantly watching the clock while out and about to make sure your meter doesn’t run out are no longer worries. Wave and pay is a keen new way to pay for metered parking and eliminates the carrying of loose change or rummaging through a vehicle to find spare coins to put in the meter.

The move to contactless parking meters is a perfect example of how secure contactless payments can make parkers’ lives simpler, faster and more convenient for those buying everyday items such as parking spaces. Because there’s no machine and no cash involved with the contactless parking meter, the meters never expire and never jam.

Meter users can download an app to their smartphone and simply wave or tap the device on enabled stickers on the meters. The meters have colored stickers that indicate they accept pay-by-phone payments. As part of this system, each vehicle’s vehicle license plate and parking time are automatically displayed on a handheld device used by the parking enforcement officer. A history of transactions is also viewable at any time to the user by logging into his or her online account.

Parkers can pay with Android, iPhone, or BlackBerry devices, and drivers can elect to receive text message reminders 15 minutes before their parking terms expire, with the option to add extra time and reduce the chance of a parking citation.

Retailers love contactless payment because it shortens lines at peak times and lowers the cost of cash handling—less cash intake equals lower opportunity for theft. Because no signature or PIN is required for purchases less than $25, commuters seem to spend more; that’s chalked up to the ease of small transaction purchases.

A bump in the road in contactless payments has been the lack of interest from certain banks. This seems to be changing, however. Visa recently announced that the newest smartphones (Samsung, BlackBerry, and LG) have been added to their list of Visa-­compliant payment products. Mobil has offered its gas customers contactless payments since 1997 via its Speedpass. Since then, numerous other businesses and financial institutions such as McDonalds, Subway, Chase, American Express, Keybank, Citibank, and MasterCard in the U.S. and UK have adopted contactless.

As with all payment devices, contactless cards have a number of security features such as payment limits on single transactions and cards being limited to a certain number of uses before a customer is asked for a PIN. Contactless transactions are also run through the same networks as normal debit and credit card transactions and are protected by the same fraud guarantee as standard transactions, which makes their use even more appealing.

The primary goal of mass transit is to get commuters where they need to be as quickly, efficiently, and safely as possible. Wave and pay improves speed, security, and convenience.

When it comes to meter parking, riding a bus, train, or subway, or taking a taxi, wave and pay is fast, secure, and easy to use—there’s no need to insert or swipe a card into a terminal or fare box, stand in long lines at the fare gate, sign your name, or enter a PIN. It’s the new technology revolution, coming to a meter near you.

Monica Tanksley is special events manager at the University of Rochester. She can be reached at mgayton-tanksley@Parking.Rochester.edu.

TPP-2014-02-Simple as a Wave

The Critical Rear View

TPP-2014-02-The Critical Rear ViewBy Jason Bare

We live in a fast-paced world where everyone is always busy, whether answering phone calls, texts, and emails or trying to get to our next destination in the least amount of time. Sometimes, that split second of turning one’s head to check our surroundings when backing up a car gets lost in the shuffle or is just a bit too quick, and results in an accident that could range from a fender bender to a full tragedy. And so the debate has begun: Should all new cars be required to feature rear-view or backup cameras that allow drivers to see behind their vehicles even when looking forward? The cameras can and do alert drivers when they back too close to an item or person, and might help reduce accidents and tragedies.

MotorTrend recently noted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported more than 300 deaths and 18,000 injuries each year are caused by accidents when cars are in reverse; these are termed backup or backover accidents. Other research has documented that victim age seems to play a role. Forty-four percent of victims are children under the age of five years old, who can’t always be seen in a driver’s line of sight, and 33 percent of victims are older than 70.

This issue has not gone unnoticed. The Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act (H.R. 1216) was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007, after a father accidentally ran over his young son while backing out of their driveway. This bill has given rise to the idea of mandatory rearview backup cameras in all automobiles. NHTSA is involved in thorough research to analyze and determine if rear-view backup cameras should become mandatory in new vehicles.

Pros and Cons
The issue of whether or not backup cameras should become mandatory has various considerations. Proponents and opponents discuss the cost and whether the cameras will effectively solve the problem. One major issue that arises is that some backup cameras may take a few seconds to load images after a vehicle has been shifted into reverse, meaning drivers in a hurry would still need to slow down and take a moment for the images to appear on their dashboard or rearview mirror screens.

An article that ran on cartalk.com entitled “The Lost Art of Backing Up,” by Jamie Lincoln Kitman, noted that the auto industry is against mandating backup cameras because of the associated cost of approximately $200 per car that does not also have an in-dash navigation system installed; the cost to add a camera to a vehicle with such a system is around $60. Proponents would argue that $200 is a small cost to potentially save a life and prevent an accident.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said, “There are a number of things to consider before mandating the legislation, which would reportedly cost the auto industry $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion annually.”

Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood said, “The changes would help drivers see into those blind zones directly behind vehicles to make sure it is safe to back up.” Should cameras be mandaded, most would provide drivers with an additional viewing area of 20 feet to the rear and 10 feet across.

US News published an article in April 2013, about Karen Pauly, an Iowa mother who backed over and killed her 19-month-old son. She now lobbies for standard rearview cameras in cars. She told the Des Moines, Iowa, NBC-TV affiliate that she asks lawmakers to, “picture their son, daughter, grandchild, or whoever in their life, when they listen to me talk about the things that I saw that day, when I saw him lying there.”

Congress passed a law in 2008 that required the U.S. Department of Transportation to set standards for visibility in reverse; it included the installation of cameras, mirrors, or sensors on cars. It has not, to date, been implemented. In September 2013, the department added rearview cameras to its list of recommended safety measures in vehicles and said they should cover a 20-foot by 10-foot area and offer an image within two seconds of a vehicle being shifted into reverse. This didn’t meet the law’s mandates, however, and a lawsuit was filed against the department by a group of safety advocates shortly after, claiming the government has taken twice as long as the law required to come up with rules.

Had the 2008 law been implemented on schedule, approximately 10 percent of new cars would have had rearview cameras by September 2012; 40 percent by 2013; and 100 percent by September 2014. At present, it looks like the regulations will take effect by the 2015 model year at the earliest. Currently, the Transportation Department plans to submit a final rule in January 2015, but has delayed doing so at least four times since 2008.

Experts say there are several reasons the law hasn’t yet been implemented, including that drivers will need to change their driving techniques to be familiar with the cameras, that the cost of cars to consumers and manufacturers would increase, and the whole transportation industry would be affected.

This raises the question everyone is asking: will the transportation industry be able to adapt to changes that would require it to install rearview cameras in all newly-manufactured vehicles, as well as install rearview cameras into older vehicles? Manufacturers say they are not opposed to the changes, but consumers need to see the benefit and adapt as well.

In a 2010 USA Today article, Ford Motor Company announced that most of its cars would offer backup cameras by 2011. This provides evidence to the theory that changes would be accepted.

Possible Solutions
NHTSA and the larger transportation industry need to look into a cost benefit analysis to measure the cost of adding back-up cameras to vehicles versus saving lives in parking lots, garages, driveways, and streets. Some will argue that they are superlative drivers who constantly check their surroundings before backing out of a space; however, even the best drivers could be involved in a minor fender bender that is out of their control. Those individuals might not be interested in purchasing a car with a camera or might not be able to afford the additional expenses. Maybe the automotive industry can find a way to include rearview backup cameras in all cars without any additional expenses being passed on to buyers.

We can always blame others for accidents or use excuses, such as saying we couldn’t see past the huge SUVs on either side of us when backing out. But the arguments for the cameras are stronger. Does a shopping cart sometimes roll down the hill when no one is present? Is shattered glass sometimes an obstacle when leaving a sporting venue? Could a child be sitting behind a car, well below a driver’s line of sight when backing up? Absolutely, and with a camera looking behind the car, most, if not all, of these obstacles would be spotted and accidents could be avoided.

Who do we blame for not having an amendment in place today? Do we blame technology? Do we blame financial considerations? Do we blame public perception? I think all three categories have an influence on the lack of installed rear-view cameras in today’s world. However, with the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007, kidsandcars.org, and a majority of the population expressing interest in rearview cameras to avoid injuries and deaths, I believe a strong push will be made in the coming months to ensure proper safety measures are taken. This would result in rearview cameras in all automobiles.

What can the public and the parking industry do to make the necessary changes to save lives? When will all of the necessary changes take place? From studies, court cases, legislations, rulings, etc., it appears to be within the next two to three years. I hope that necessary changes are made before further lives are ruined.

Every year for the past four, there has been an increase in the number of passenger vehicles that are manufactured. From 2009 with 48 million vehicles produced, to 2012‘s astounding total of 60 million new vehicles rolling off production lines, we are seeing more vehicles than ever in our parking facilities and our communities. Will so many cars have a new improved technology piece soon? Can this be something that is ratified in 2014?

It’s something to think about and voice support for, and will absolutely have a large effect on the parking industry and its safety. As they say, stay tuned.

Jason Bare manages business development for BARE International, Inc. He can be reached at jbare@bareinternational.com or 703.995.3158.

TPP-2014-02-The Critical Rear View

Thinking in Groups

TPP-2014-02-Thinking in GroupsBy Alvin “Aalim” Turner

In almost every aspect of our busy lives during the last few decades, we have witnessed technology solutions grow by leaps and bounds. Who knew that something called an “app” would become such a resourceful and necessary tool in our daily lives?

We continue to live in an age of convenience—an age of smart technology—when we expect everything from hybrid vehicles and electric cars in our parking facilities to hotel rooms where we can order room service, manage the climate in our own space, and control the television all via a touchscreen device or our own smartphones.

Even in the parking industry (and perhaps especially in the parking industry), technology has not stood still over the last several decades. More than 25 years ago, way back in 1988, New York City began testing multi-space meters. At the time, that was a major move forward for transportation in the U.S. Now look: there are approximately 50,000 multi-space meters (MSMs) installed around the country. Looking back at the past 25 years, it’s clear that MSM technology has changed a lot.

I recently reached out to several early adopters of MSMs, all of whom agreed to share their thoughts on why they originally purchased the meters and how their parking systems are different today as a result. It’s an interesting look at how something that seemed so revolutionary has become part of the fabric of our daily lives, and where that might lead in the not-too-distant future.

New York City
I decided to start off by gaining some insight on the evolution of the multi-space meter from the perspective of a current parking operator, and spoke with Phil Oropesa with Laz Parking, who was instrumental in one of the earliest MSM installations anywhere in the U.S. He helped coordinate the first installation in 11 New York City surface lots in 1988.

Oropresa says the primary driving forces that led New York City to move towards MSMs were security of revenue, the desire to increase auditing capabilities, the goal of improving customer service with additional payment options (first with the city-issued Muni Card and then credit cards), and lastly, to improve the streetscape by removing single-space meter poles and reducing sign clutter. An added benefit was improved capacity through the elimination of the standard marked parking space length of 21 feet.

Prior to the installation of MSMs, New York City had single-space meters for decades in both its on-street spaces and off-street lots. The initial MSM pilots saw a variety of design changes to the equipment (including the additions of a bomb-proof flap and a coin sensor guard), and weren’t without some drama; believe it or not, some of the meters were blown up, had water hoses shoved into their coin chutes, or were even ripped from the ground.

In 1993, New York started converting some of its single-space meters to AC-powered MSMs on city sidewalks. At the time, that was a very big move in the U.S. market. Twenty years later, New York is in the process of replacing all of its older single-space meters with more than 13,000 solar-powered pay-and-display meters.

According to Oropesa, New York looks forward to the future with the desired ability to have multi-space meters fully integrate near-field communications (NFC) and other alternate forms of payment options that will help reduce credit card processing costs. The city also hopes to generate additional revenue through advertising and shopper loyalty programs, mesh with integrated technology solutions (ITS) for demand-based pricing based on real time transportation demand management (TDM) conditions, integrate with in-vehicle GPS for block-by-block and zone-by-zone-specific heat maps to indicate parking availability, and for MSMs to perform multiple functions with regards to municipality infrastructure needs, including recharging mass transit payment cards and accepting payment for issued parking violations.

Savannah, Ga.
In 2001, the City of Savannah decided to replace most of its single-space meters with MSMs primarily to increase its available customer payment options and boost parking revenues. Changing parking meter systems is always an iffy proposition, but according to Kim Sanderson, then the city’s director of parking services, the transition was smooth after an initial learning curve.

Savannah’s first MSMs were pay and display, and accepted coins, bills, and a city-issued pre-paid parking card. There was no connection to a back office system, so if a meter was out of paper, or even worse, out of order, there was no automatic way to know about the issue.

Now, fast forward to 2012, when Savannah made a giant leap forward by replacing its original pay-and-display meters and moved to an on-street wireless pay-by-space system. With all MSMs connected to a central back office system, Savannah can now remotely monitor its meters and quickly fix any problems. Additionally, instead of having to visit each car to check meter-issued receipts, enforcement officers get the status of all spaces on wireless devices, making their roles much more efficient.

Of course, Savannah still keeps an eye on customer convenience. With their new meters, motorists can pay with credit cards in addition to their original payment methods and they don’t have to return to their vehicles to display their receipts after paying for their parking time. And, with the move toward pay-by-space, the city can easily add cell phones as another method of payment.

Texas Tech
Eric Crouch, director of university parking services at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, recalls that the university did not previously have any single or multi-space parking meters on campus, before making the decision to acquire and install meters in 2003.

One of the primary reasons the university decided to go from unpaid parking to MSMs in 2003, Crouch says, was in part that it was building a new parking garage—revenues from meters would be used to help finance the new structure. The MSMs were configured for pay-and-display and were not connected to a back office system.

With a need to continue to better manage campus parking operations and increase efficiencies, Texas Tech decided to purchase new MSMs in 2009, but this time selected a pay-by-plate configuration. Texas Tech’s bold decision to move forward with this system as a new mode for its MSMs was quite a big step; at that time, most universities and cities were still using either pay-and-display or pay-by-space configurations. The main driver in the decision was the desire to electronically manage the parking program (both permits and meters) via parkers’ license plates. The back office that manages the MSMs is integrated with the university’s license plate recognition (LPR) system for fast, efficient enforcement (see the July 2013 issue of The Parking Professional).

According to Crouch, “In 2009, Texas Tech decided to select Parkeon’s Strada Multi-Space meter in pay-by-plate mode, due in part to the university’s tough budget times. The university was faced with some key financial decisions: if we reduced or eliminated the cost of parking permits and decals, with the added controls and increased customer service of managing the campus parking ops and campus parking enforcement LPR, then our parking programs would become more cost-effective and cost-efficient.”

Crouch went on to say that the positive effect of moving away from permits and decals was that it freed time for staff to focus on other key components of the university’s large parking operation. And with LPR in place on campus, fewer personnel hours were needed to deal with permit and decal applications.

Where Do We Go From Here?
From unconnected to connected, from AC power to solar, from pay-and-display to integrated pay-by-plate: all of that happened in just 25 years, and it’s amazing to see how far the multi-space meter has progressed. It’s exciting to think about where the technology will go in the next 25 years. I’ve seen vendors advertising that their MSMs can reload contactless smart cards, accept payment for parking citations, and even call a taxi cab right to the meter. I suppose the sky is the limit with this technology.

The evolution of the multi-space parking meter: exciting, ­never-ending, and progressive. Parking is an exciting place to be.

Alvin “Aalim” Turner is CEO of PREMIERE Consulting Group. He can be reached at aturner@premierecg.biz.

TPP-2014-02-Thinking in Groups

Paying Power

TPP-2014-02-Paying Power
By Amie Devero and Brett Wood, CAPP

The parking industry has seen a technological revolution during the past few decades, especially in payment processing and flexibility. This quickly-evolving landscape stands in contrast to our not-so-distant past, when a cigar box and a smile were all the tools frontline parking professionals possessed (or needed) to serve their customers. But as technology within the industry has progressed, so has the demand for better customer service through enhanced payment options, as well as for greater management and operational efficiency with respect to processing and collections.

With all the options available, navigating this sea of change often leaves parking professionals guessing which payment platforms to implement and how to best manage and monitor the terrain. Unfortunately, there are no silver bullets or one-size-fits-all solutions that can be prescribed across the industry. But as professionals, we can arm ourselves with as much information as possible to make the best decisions for our own customers, community, campus, program, or facility.

Finding the right single solution or mix of payment approaches can improve the customer experience, streamline the management of payments and transactions, and increase revenue potential. To realize those many benefits requires understanding both the external factors that influence payment platform implementation and how those choices interact with the other concerns of our enterprises, such as staffing, equipment, and security, to meet the needs of the entire system. Here, we offer general guidance for examining those factors and finding the right fit for your own environment.

Payment Options
Since the 1990s, options for payment acceptance and processing have expanded tremendously, allowing more flexibility than ever before. There are generally five categories of payments:

  • Cash.
  • Credit/Debit.
  • Mobile/App.
  • Near-Field Communication (NFC)/Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).
  • Smart Card.

Each of these payment types requires specific equipment, although several available options are able to handle multiple payment options. For example, a parking meter can be configured to handle all five payment methods when appropriate.

Table 1 provides general guidelines for equipment considerations, as well as national average transaction rates and the potential percentage that your revenue collection might increase should you add that type of payment.

Implementation Considerations
Whenever you consider adding or changing payment platforms, it is critical to look beyond the equipment needs or immediate cost and focus on the ramifications the change may have beyond the obvious. New payment options can affect and be affected by multiple aspects of program management and operations. Some of the areas that can come into play or be affected by a new payment method include staffing, security, communications, and various external influences that will change the way we do business in the future.

Implementing new payment platforms could very well lead to new staffing demands. Existing staff may have to shoulder additional responsibilities; alternatively, a payment change could require adding more staff power or specialized skills to your personnel mix. For example, cash/coin payments require staff that is experienced with secure handling of physical transactions, while credit/debit payments may require more numerate employees who can account for the variety of transaction fees and be able to reconcile records. Payment platform upgrades could also require changes to policies and procedures for enforcement staff, including education and training on how to use any new technologies required for the enforcement operation. Maintaining any new or updated equipment may also call for additional personnel or training to bring current staff up to speed.

In some instances, a big change in methodology for payment processing can make existing management or accounting procedures somewhat obsolete. This may call for the addition of professionals who can audit transactions and ensure that program revenues are secure; alternately, it may be a good idea to hire a comptroller whose responsibilities include monitoring credit card processing and/or transaction fees. Finally, whenever we demand behavior changes of our customers, as we do with new payment equipment or methods, it is critically important to educate the customer. To do that effectively may mean engaging ambassadors or public relations staff to help introduce new payment procedures and technologies to the end user.

Table 2 provides general guidance for staffing requirements for different payment platforms.

You may have noticed the column in Table 2 entitled “Security.” As it turns out, most payment platforms have their own unique security considerations to ensure that transactions are secure and that customers are able to engage the payment platform without risk of exposing themselves to fraudulent activity. Security is an important topic as you consider changes in your payment options. The following list expands on these considerations and provides more details for consideration of security standards.

PCI: Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards are information security standards for organizations that handle cardholder information for debit, credit, prepaid, ATM, and point-of-service (POS) cards (see the June 2012 issue of The Parking Professional). PCI compliance is done annually by an outside qualified security assessor. When choosing a payment platform or equipment provider, it is essential that PCI compliance standards are met and that the company and equipment hold current certification. The most current compliance requirement is PCI DSS 3.0, issued in November 2013.

EMV: Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMV) is a joint effort between the three named credit providers to improve and ensure security and provide global inter­operability of chip-based payment cards (see the August 2013 issue of The Parking Professional). While EMV standards are not fully integrated into the U.S. parking industry at this time, it is essential that payment considerations you make today have the ability to meet EMV standards as they are implemented. Acceptance of EMV payments began in 2013 and the full liability shift is expected in October 2015.

Audit Trail: An audit trail is a chronological set of records that provides evidence of revenues and transactions for a program’s payment processing, ensuring full transparency and limiting (or eliminating) the risk of fraudulent activity.

CCTV: The use of closed-circuit television (CCTV) to monitor payment processing activities at the point of sale allows for off-site monitoring of activity and a secure record of transactions.

LPR: License plate recognition (LPR) technology allows for enhanced enforcement and management of transactions through the use of license plate recording, allowing for specific transactions to be tied to specific vehicles making the transaction. That information is important, and adds intelligence with which to manage the program’s or facility’s payment operations.

Another important consideration in the implementation of a new payment platform is efficient communication with customers, which usually takes the form of static and/or dynamic signage. New payment and equipment configurations can be confusing for patrons, resulting in a frustrating experience that could dissuade them from returning to your community or campus. To avoid upsetting or confusing customers, it is essential that signage explaining new payment choices be crystal clear.

It’s a good idea to run prospective signage by informal focus groups, especially in situations where populations may not be technologically astute. Test your signs on grandparents, older residents, or your least-­sophisticated customers, and make sure what you think you are saying is what they read and understand. Along with being clear, signage should be simple and easy to read, with contrasting colors and uncomplicated fonts and designs. It’s also a good idea to use both graphics and text, as different individuals find each most effective. And don’t try to say everything on a sign. Save the details and nuances for a website or brochure.

Other Considerations

Beyond specific program considerations, you should also stay aware of external influences and cultural changes that will make a difference to the future of payment in our industry. One such ongoing change is the proliferation of mobile device activity and the resulting changes in customer expectations. The use of mobile platforms for everything—including payment—has increased considerably in the past 10 years, and the expectation is that the trend will only accelerate. Recent data shows that more than 80 percent of Americans own cell phones, and more than 50 percent of those people use smartphones. These numbers are only expected to rise, with the mobile payment industry projecting a $600 billion market share by 2016. This increase in mobile transactions engenders a change in customer expectations. Many customers want to be able to manage and pay for transactions through smartphone applications, whether linked electronically to a bank account or through NFC transmission.

General Recommendations
As you consider the many payment options and what to add in your own environment, there are some general rules of thumb to consider:

  • Always think about who your customers are and what they are likely to be doing when encountering your payment scenario. Is the customer going to work? Entertainment? Class? Is the weather always sunny or do you have snow that covers street markings and makes walking to a pay station treacherous? Will the customer have the time and ability to stop and follow instructions, or will there be a line of cars waiting? Will lighting be appropriate for reading instructions? Do most of your customers understand technology or are they less sophisticated? All of these points create a profile of the customer and what might serve him best.
  • What is the setting? If you are looking for payment options on-street then you must give thought to enforcement and how your current enforcement team will be able to do their jobs efficiently. Are you replacing an old technology or simply adding a new one? Are you expanding the responsibility of your enforcement team and if so, are you going to provide training and additional time? For garage or deck parking, you may need to analyze the access control system you have as you look at new payment options. Are they compatible? Will the payment provider offer integration? Is integration possible? What will it cost?
  • Take time to complete a project life-cycle analysis, determining in advance all the costs, changes, and needs (staffing, training, signage, advertising, PR, collection, etc.) for every stage of the project and every stage of the use cycle. In other words, map out every step of implementation starting from the creation of your purchase order or RFP (if needed). And do the same for the parking cycle. What will happen from the moment the equipment is turned on through the first transaction, enforcement, citation, adjudication, collection of funds, settlement of funds, reconciliation and final reporting?

With these concerns addressed, you should be able to make sound choices about which payment options to add and which to leave alone for now. And of course, your peers at the International Parking Institute (IPI) and the members of the IPI Technology Committee are always available as sounding boards and subject-matter experts should you find yourself in a quandary.

Amie Devero is president of Solutions 4 Cities, Inc., and a member of IPI’s Parking Technology Committee. She can be reached at adevero@gmail.com or 813.835.0044.

Brett Wood, CAPP, is a parking planner with Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc., and a member of IPI’s Parking Technology Committee. He can be reached at brett.wood@kimley-horn.com or 602.906.1144.

TPP-2014-02-Paying Power

Lessons on Leading from Nature

TPP-2014-02-Lessons on Leading from NatureBy Julius E. Rhodes, SPHR

Every year sees more and more books published on the subject of leadership. From the playing fields to the battlefields to daily life in homes around the world, the ability to lead is discussed everywhere. While this is not surprising to anyone, I would like to approach the issue of leadership and setting an example by looking at lions and geese.

The Animals
We call a group of lions a pride. Pride is a symbolic word that creates a lot of visual imagery. Known as the king of the jungle, the mighty lion is usually identified as the leader of the pride, but let’s take a closer look. The male lion is afforded the luxury of eating any food that is captured for the group before any other animal. He is polygamous, with loyalty usually only reserved for himself, and because of his despotic rule, is subject to frequent challenges until he eventually loses power. None of these things sounds like a leader to me; pride comes before the fall.

Now, let’s take a look at an animal many people overlook: the goose. Groups of geese are called gaggles, which is a funny moniker that makes me think of “giggle.” A giggle is often a sort a precursor to a full-out laugh but is usually more of an involuntary action or at least one that is often suppressed. So what can we learn from a gaggle of geese?

The Flying V and Beyond
Geese work to support each other in all sorts of ways, starting with their flying V formation. Each member of the team assumes the lead for some portion of the journey so that no one team member is left to take the force of the prevailing headwinds. Each gaggle member has a chance to demonstrate leadership capabilities and is happy to do so when needed.

The commitment to the greater group continues on the ground. If one member of the team is sick or hurt, another goose stays with its weakened colleague until he either recovers or, in the worst case, dies. Geese can move between gaggles, choosing to join different groups where they might better fit in or have more opportunities to lead.

Geese display explicit trust in their social groups—it’s clear they understand and act upon common goals that benefit the entire gaggle. It is not important who gets the so-called lion’s share of the glory; rather it is essential that every member works toward and receives credit for helping accomplish the team’s goal. This reminds me of the saying that it’s amazing what one can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit; I will add that also amazing is the chance to share in common success.

Next time you’re pondering leadership, think about the kingly lion and the humble goose. It’s clear that pride, left unchecked, can and will lead to one’s downfall. On the other hand, when you place yourself in a group of people who are willing to sacrifice and work together while you do the same, goals that seemed far away will be realized sooner rather than later, and with much more ease and satisfaction. Many hands make light the load and nature really is the best teacher.

Julius E. Rhodes, SPHR, is founder and principal of the mpr group and the author of BRAND: YOU Personal Branding for Success in Life and Business. He can be reached at: jrhodes@mprgroup.info or 773.548.8037.

TPP-2014-02-Lessons on Leading from Nature

Automated Facilities Sustainable Problem or Solution

TPP-2014-02-Automated Facilities Sustainable Problem or SolutionBy Vicki Pero, SPHR

Believe it or not, the first automated parking facility, in which the customer leaves his or her vehicle at the entrance for facility equipment to park, was built in Paris in 1905. These structures have become very popular in Europe and Japan in more recent years because they require much less real estate than comparable traditional parking structures. As they gain popularity here in the U.S., it’s fair to ask if, from the standpoint of the environment and sustainability, automated facilities are part of a problem or the solution.

For the sake of this discussion, it’s worth noting that it is possible to build an automated parking facility at a cost that is comparable to a traditional structure. Construction costs vary depending on the type of structure being built, but that is a topic for another article.
Let’s consider the question from the standpoint of the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit.

There are three criteria to consider when attempting to answer the question from the standpoint of people. The first is safety. We’ll put a check in the pro column for this one, because customers leave their vehicles at the entrance of the facility and there’s no need to wander the aisles of a structure looking for one’s parked car. The risk of vehicle break-ins is also reduced because the facility is secure and inaccessible to pedestrians.

Two additional considerations are time and convenience. When automated systems work perfectly, they can be much faster and more convenient for customers who no longer circle the aisles and park for themselves on the way in or wait in a line to exit. On the other hand, if the highly-specialized facility equipment malfunctions or a significant number of people wish to park or exit at the same time, these benefits become system negatives.

Several studies have indicated that carbon dioxide emissions at automated parking structures are 83 percent less than in comparable traditional facilities. Similar reductions in nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds are also realized. Because vehicles are not running in automated structures, fuel use is also reduced. In addition, the facilities use less energy in their lighting and ventilation systems.

Automated facilities can park the same number of vehicles as traditional garages using half the space. In addition, they can be built more vertically, allowing for more green or open space.

It cannot be overlooked, however, that automated facilities use a significant amount of electricity to operate the mechanical systems that move the vehicles. This additional energy usage does offset some of the benefits highlighted earlier in this section.


Because automated facilities can park twice as many vehicles as same-sized traditional structures, revenue opportunities are much greater. Some operating costs, including labor and total electricity, are also lower. In addition, the growing popularity of this type of facility in the U.S. is an indicator of profitability.

On the downside, maintaining these sophisticated systems can be expensive, as can repair costs when components break down.

As you can see, the answer to the question of whether automated parking facilities are part of a sustainability problem or a solution is not entirely straightforward. There is demand for these structures that is sure to continue to grow as space is further constrained in urban areas, so exploring this discussion further is worthwhile. Like many things, analyzing the areas where these facilities present challenges may reveal opportunities for change that will eliminate them and help ensure automated parking facilities are part of the solution as we move into the future.

Vicki Pero, SPHR, is principal at The Marlyn Group, LLC, and a member of IPI’s Sustainability Committee. She can be reached at vpero@marlyngroupllc.com or 800.825.6310.

TPP-2014-02-Automated Facilities Sustainable Problem or Solution

Hiring an Expert

TPP-2014-02-Hiring an ExpertBy Patrick Wells

While the argument is out there for construction companies to be more diverse and have more variety in their pursuits, I have found that there is tremendous value in searching out and hiring a true specialist for new projects.

Coming from the construction industry and having experience with a firm that pioneered post-tension in the midwest and constructed more than 75 parking structures, I have seen many changes in our business, and the pace of that change has become increasingly dramatic over the last five years. Competition is fierce and opportunities have shrunk, causing many construction firms to seek out new markets.

Sadly, I have seen well-respected architecture and engineering firms struggle with garages because they lacked the unique knowledge set necessary to drive a smooth design and achieve a more cost-effective parking project.

Adjusting with the Times

We consultants (I am intentionally including many of my current long-term competitors here) have benefited by making necessary adjustments during the market downturn. It hasn’t been easy. Many of the opportunities we initially competed for during the last several years were lost because either our fee was slightly higher than others or we lacked an office close to the project site. As a result, the owners of those properties failed to capture the value of a true parking consultant and, likewise, failed to avoid future headaches that result from either poor functional or structural designs.

In light of the above, and as our economy continues to improve, I urge owners to consider the following before making a decision on a consultant for your next parking expansion or renovation:

What value lies in the fee? A construction project can get expensive both in the field and on the drawing board. Having an experienced parking consultant on your team can save you thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars in materials and labor. This consultant will also help you decipher the best structural system for your project with a professional unbiased opinion about what materials or systems to use. For example, both systems offer excellent solutions pending your project schedule, the season of construction, and the availability and competitiveness of materials at the time a project is built.

How important is the office location? A true parking consultant is a specialist who brings unmatched value to the process. Years of experience and sacrifice have made these firms what they are today. They can’t physically be present in every major city across the land, and are sometimes penalized in the RFP process for not being local. Why is this an issue now, when we have excellent technology with which to communicate and collaborate?

Do we respect the deck? A parking structure doesn’t always offer the glitz or glamour often garnered by the larger project of which it is a part. It is often viewed as a simple structure and not given the attention it merits in terms of its effect on site traffic flow/functionality, employee convenience/satisfaction, and long-term project maintenance costs. However, when an inexperienced firm is awarded the assignment, issues in both design and construction can become overwhelming. With good choices, the parking facility can be a very exciting project!

At the end of the day, take caution sacrificing experience for dollars. Or at least keep the famous quote by author Kurt Vonnegut in the back of your mind: “In this world, you get what you pay for!”

Patrick Wells is regional director of business development with Desman and a member of IPI’s Consultants Committee. He can be reached at pwells@desman.com.

TPP-2014-02-Hiring an Expert