Tag Archives: TPP-2014-04

A Smart Approach to Parking Technology Interfaces

By Steven Grant and Michele Krakowskitpp-2016-a-smart-approach-to-parking-technology-interfaces

The parking industry is at a strategic inflection point. We are in the midst of an avalanche of new players and cutting-edge solutions to enhance or replace traditional parking systems. Owners now realize two things: There is a vast number of parking technologies on the market today that can interact with their core parking revenue control systems, and extracted data from these parking technologies provide information about financial performance and customer behavior to dramatically enhance customer services and revenue.

Technology offerings now include mobile and online applications for alternative access and payment methods, discounts and promotions, loyalty programs, space locators, and pricing. Additionally, there are third-party sales channels and demand-based product applications. Lastly, parking access and revenue control systems (PARCS) technologies, such as license plate recognition and guidance systems are also leveraged to create new offerings that increase customer service, data, and security.

All too frequently, new technology is purchased for the wrong reasons—an executive sees a cool demonstration or wants to be the first to implement something perceived as cutting-edge. Without defined goals, the results are disappointing, with low adoption rates and unexpected operating efforts. Four primary goals for implementing new technology should be:

  • Improve the customer experience. Provide more choices, better information, quicker entry and exits, and more
    payment options with intuitive, easy usage.
  • Increase revenue. Provide more products, demand-based pricing, promotions and discounts within and outside of parking, and third-party sales channels for parking and other products and services.
  • Decrease costs. Reduce labor and maintenance and increase security.
  • Obtain data—data analytics, customer campaigns, product performance, competing market data, pre-registered parkers, license plate regions, and passenger counts.

A Roadmap
Every organization should keep a roadmap of the current and future technology it plans to implement. The timing of each rollout and customer campaigns is critical to prevent customer confusion. Think about how many payment options and related readers are now available. An entry station can easily have seven entry options, which is overload to a customer. Clean, smart
solutions pay off.

  • So what are the challenges posed to owners? They depend on several factors:
  • Maturity of the third-party technology.
  • Requirements for the application program interface (API) components that allow interaction with the core PARCS.
  • Total price of the application, required interfaces, transaction fees, other recurring costs, and operating efforts.
  • Stability of the platform.
  • Accuracy of the data being transmitted.
  • Flexibility of reporting.
  • Payment processing and payment card industry (PCI) compliance.
  • Release process and ability to influence future product features.
  • Support and response times during and after installation.
  • Hosting options (local, remote, cloud).
  • Network and communication options.

The market promotes modular, plug-and-play applications with installation timeframes in weeks instead of months. While today’s products bring much greater ease and speed of interfacing, the elements of implementing technology remain. And while swapping out one application for a similar one can be done more quickly now than ever before, it still requires a degree of planning and testing.

The parking industry is seeing increasing demand to interface with the myriad of software solutions now available. As parking customers demand more access to real-time parking data or software that allows them to make parking decisions quickly, owners are also looking to mine data across their parking operations to better understand that information, manipulate it for marketing and customer loyalty purposes, provide an improved parking experience, and increase revenue and margin. However, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to technology selection and implementation.

Steven Grant is owner of Aberdeen Management Group and a member of IPI’s Consultants Committee. He can be reached at steven@aberdeenmg.com.

Michele Krakowski, CPA, is principal of Lumin Advisors. She can be reached at mkrakowski@lumin.us.com.

TPP-2016-04-A Smart Approach to Parking Technology Interfaces


Garage Ventilation

TPP-2014-04-Garage VentilationBy Frank Nagle

When it comes to capturing energy savings in commercial garages, lighting retrofits have become the first go-to action. That’s for good reason: Lighting retrofits provide an effective means to reduce energy consumption. But, another big savings generator comes in another area that’s also worth serious consideration: retrofitting a garage ventilation system.

All enclosed parking garages in North America are subject to ventilation standards established by the International Mechanical Code (IMC) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-­Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The IMC and ASHRAE stipulate that garage ventilation systems run continuously during building-occupied hours, with an exception made for those that deploy carbon monoxide (CO) sensor-based, demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) systems.

For a garage adhering to IMC/ASHRAE code requirements and not utilizing sensor-based DCV, depending on the type of lighting system in the garage, that means as much as two thirds of the monthly/annual utility bill can be attributed to ventilating the space.

Oceanview Village
Oceanview Village, San Francisco, is an expansive, mixed-used development consisting of condominiums, apartments, and retail shops. The property houses a two-level, 145,000-square-foot, enclosed parking garage for its residents and visitors, as well as an adjacent, single-level, 18,000-square-foot, enclosed garage that serves retail shoppers and other guests. The garage can accommodate more than 450 vehicles.

When the property was constructed in 2002, building designers did not incorporate a CO sensor system in the garage ventilation strategy, so applicable code required the garage ventilation system to operate at its maximum design ventilation rate during building-occupied hours. In this case, that meant running the garage fans at full speed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Detailed power measurements (quantified as kilowatts or kW) prior to retrofit revealed that the garage ventilation system, with four 10-horsepower (HP) exhaust fans, two 7.5-HP supply fans ventilating the residential garage, and two 3-HP exhaust fans supplying fresh air to the adjacent retail garage, consumed nearly 400,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) a year.

At a utility rate of $0.1556/kWh, and taking into account additional charges incurred by running the fans during peak demand periods each day, the annual cost to ventilate Oceanview Village’s garages amounted to nearly $62,200. The owners were stunned to learn that figure represented approximately 30 percent of the entire property’s prior 12 months of electricity spending.

Fortunately, CO sensor-based DCV technology has taken a quantum leap in the past few years, as it converges with stricter energy efficiency and health and safety standards at the local and state levels. As a result, it now provides a real and significant means to generate energy savings in a cost-effective manner.

CO sensor systems have been readily available for quite some time. The prototype that has served for years as the industry standard is commonly known as an on/off or start/stop system, and while it might outdo many lighting retrofits in terms of savings, it has its drawbacks.

An on/off system switches garage fan motors on (to ventilate the garage) only when increased CO levels require it, with the typical CO trip point set at 35 parts per million (ppm). Otherwise, it leaves fan motors in the off mode.

Based on market research and field experience, it’s safe to say approximately 80 to 90 percent of the installed base of CO sensor systems nationwide fall under the category of on/off. It’s credited by some regional utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), with the ability to reduce up to 95 percent of the power (kW) consumed by garage fan motors. But beyond the fundamental question of how energy not being consumed (the motor is off, after all) can be reduced, deployment of on/off CO systems in many environments creates as many issues as it does solutions.

For example, subterranean garages with office, retail, or residential spaces located above have mechanical systems (exhaust and supply motor/fan units, ventilation shafts, etc.) designed to enable the substructure to maintain negative to neutral air pressure in relation to the property above. Why? Two reasons:

It prevents the property’s primary HVAC system—the one heating and cooling the office/living/shopping spaces above the garage—from having to work beyond its design capacity and ventilate the garage, too. Anytime you’ve tried to open the door of, say, an office building and had to pull hard due to a suction-like feel, you’ve experienced what engineers call the stack effect. The property’s primary HVAC system is sucking up the available air in the garage and basically sealing the building.

When the HVAC system seals the building, it enables potentially harmful gases—not just CO, but also radon and other fumes—to be sucked up through elevator and ventilation shafts into the building, creating an unnecessary health and safety risk for building occupants and visitors.

The irony is that, while on/off systems are given credit for saving a lot of energy, they cause other building HVAC systems to consume greater amounts of energy ventilating spaces they’re not designed to support. They also completely disregard some basic engineering designs for proper building operation and ensuring the health and safety of its occupants.

It gets worse: On/off CO sensor systems are subject to peak demand charges imposed by most regional utilities because the time they are most likely to start garage fan motors is in the midst of peak demand periods (roughly from noon to 6 p.m., depending on the region). That’s when most folks leave work, and it’s when cars emit the highest concentration(s) of CO. It takes five minutes of operation before a automobile’s catalytic converter has warmed up sufficiently to be effective.

All you need is a fair amount of cars starting simultaneously for CO levels to exceed the sensors’ trip point and ramp the garage fan motors to full speed. When those fan motors stay on for just 15 minutes, the property owner is hit with prohibitively high peak-demand charges not only for that day but the entire month in some utility districts.

This brings us back to Oceanview Village and the recent technological advances in sensor-based, ­demand-control ventilation for commercial garages.

Choosing a System
The owners of Oceanview Village were pitched various on/off CO systems by a number of vendors, but ultimately chose to install what’s referred to as a variable flow DCV system. As the name implies, the system is designed to keep the garage fans running continuously and vary motor speeds based on CO concentrations in the garage.

A proven effective variable flow CO system is one that designs in or syncs variable
frequency drive (VFD) technology with a control strategy that:

  • Enables the motors to run continuously at low speeds—when CO levels are de minimis—while adhering to code/design ventilation rate requirements.
  • Creates a reservoir of fresh air in the garage so CO concentrations are prevented from exceeding pre-­defined sensor trip points for an extended period of time, minimizing the number of times the motors must ramp to flush out the garage.
  • Incrementally increases fan motor speeds, (the ventilation rate) whenever CO concentrations near pre-set trip points. Said another way, the motors don’t instantly ramp from low to high speeds, but rise proportionally (in speed) to counter CO concentrations with an equivalent amount of fresh air.

The result is that property owners can continuously ventilate their garages in an energy-efficient manner while ensuring the health and safety of building occupants and visitors.

VFDs are used to vary the speed of an electric motor by changing the frequency of the electric power going to the motor. In doing so, they capture significant energy savings. In fact, the engineering law of affinity confirms that a VFD running a three-phase motor at 50 percent of its full load capacity reduces the energy (kW) consumed by that motor by 80 percent.

The percentage of motor speed is relevant because a good portion of the nation’s garages were built before catalytic converter technology became a standard item in vehicles. Prior to the 1990s, the IMC mandated a design ventilation rate of 1.5 cubic feet per minute (cfm) per square foot for commercial garages, so fan motors were sized to meet that ventilation rate at 100 percent motor capacity.

Thanks primarily to catalytic converter technology, the IMC cut the design ventilation rate in half, to .75 cfm/sq. ft. That means older garages not using a variable flow ventilation strategy—including those deploying on/off systems—waste a lot of energy by running their motors at twice the rate or capacity now required.

VFD-driven variable flow systems make it possible to set and manage motor speeds in a manner that captures truly exceptional energy/cost savings. Indeed, it’s not uncommon for a property that runs its garage fans on the same schedule pre- and post-installation to realize kWh savings amounting to 95 percent while reducing peak kW demand by as much as 96 percent.

I also can cite several examples in which garage fan run times were substantially increased—even quadrupled—and the VFD-driven variable flow system reduced energy consumption by 90 percent or more.

Post-installation measurements at Oceanview Village showed this type of system reduced the garage fan motors’ combined consumption by 381,000 kWh—a 95.4 percent savings—with peak kW demand reduced by 95.5 percent.

The annual cost savings amounted to 95.5 percent, lowering the property’s garage ventilation bill by approximately $59,400 a year—from more than $5,200 to just $230 per month. Not including a $30,500 rebate, the system paid for itself in just 12 months!

When considering what’s best for your garage, keep in mind that an industry trick of the trade—simply shutting off garage fans to avoid expensive energy bills—is expressly prohibited in an increasing number of cities and states. Moreover, if you happen to be in a region where on/off ventilation strategies are still permissible, I would recommend heeding the words of the unknown author who said, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

The benefits derived from recent innovations in garage ventilation are too compelling to be ignored.

Frank Nagle is president of Nagle Energy Solutions. He can be reached at frank@nagle-energy.com or 650.854.1992.

TPP-2014-04-Garage Ventilation

Real World Results

TPP-2014-04-Real World ResultsBy Matt Davis and Michelle Wendler, AIA

While communities often add parking to meet existing demand, some forward-thinking areas, such as Pasadena and Baldwin Park, Calif., have flipped their thinking to see parking as a catalyst for redevelopment. Pasadena has a successful track record in its historic downtown of building parking to activate a dynamic dining, retail, entertainment, and residential district—a strategy the city continues to refine. The city of Baldwin Park, on the other hand, had a vision of creating a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban center.

The first step in accomplishing its vision was expanding the existing Metrolink mass transit stop into a transit hub. Because Baldwin Park’s public transit users had been using an overflow parking lot located several blocks away and Metro, Foothill Transit regional bus service, and city-run buses all stopped near City Hall, the hub would create more accessible public transportation while simultaneously attracting developers to the area.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA MTA) funded the majority of the project, while the city allocated $2.5 million of its own Proposition C funding, which provides some revenue from Los Angeles County sales tax to projects that improve transit services, reduce traffic congestion, and improve air quality. Metro contributed $4.187 million for the parking structure and transit center improvements and another $905,000 for a vital pedestrian bridge.

After the city selected a parcel directly across from the station and adjacent to City Hall, it hired Watry Design, Inc. to develop the structured parking solution and site improvements. The location of the hub maximizes development opportunities at the nearby corner of Ramona and Main. Watry used the firm’s Transit Parking Best Practices to guide the design of the project.

Best Practice #1
Understand Transit Context
It is important to understand the specific type of transit to be served by parking to design the best solution. In a transit village, the parking should be located to encourage transit parking patrons to walk by the commercial areas and stimulate activity. Because use patterns for each type of transit station are different depending on whether the main transit mode is bus, train, light rail, or a combination of those modes, parking solutions will vary for each individual transit station.

During the design process, the team worked with the City of Baldwin Park, FTA, LA MTA, and Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA)/Metrolink to develop a clear picture of the station’s unique needs. The parking structure serves City Hall visitors and employees, bus patrons, and train riders. In addition, the project includes a pedestrian bridge to connect the structure across the tracks to the Metrolink Train Station, a rest area for bus drivers, and a large area for city storage.

Best Practice #2
Program Mixed Uses
Mixed uses, such as retail and residential developments, play an important role in activating transit stations and creating a more secure, lively environment around each one. Mixed uses increase train and bus ridership, encourage walkable communities near transit, reduce auto use, and enhance multi-modal access. By providing mixed uses such as retail, a destination is created that will improve the quality of the parking experience for all users. A residential mixed use is a prerequisite for transit villages and reduces automobile congestion along with costs associated with travel to and from work. For the Baldwin Park station, careful consideration was made for the planned nearby development rather than integrating mixed use into the parking structure itself.

Best Practice #3
Access Demand Issues and Supply Solutions
The first step in planning a new transit station or village is evaluating the demand for parking in the area through demand studies. A parking management plan (PMP) should be prepared to describe how the parking supply will be managed. As part of developing the PMP, it’s important to evaluate the effect charging for parking has on parking demand and ridership. During preliminary planning, the Baldwin Park team determined that a 500-stall parking structure would meet the initial needs of the transit hub and future development, and that 200 of these stalls would be dedicated to commuter use.

Best Practice #4
Integrate Walkability
For transit parking to be successful, a network of safe, direct, and attractively landscaped paths must connect the residential, retail, and transit components over a reasonably sized, walkable area. The close proximity of these elements is required to be considered walkable. At Baldwin Park, this translated into a number of design solutions.

Sited on the opposite side of busy Bogart Avenue, a safe crossing to the station needed to be created for pedestrian and cyclists. A pedestrian bridge provided the solution and created an architectural connection to the station. In addition, a public park connects the hub to City Hall on one side, and a pedestrian path provides connectivity to the future mixed-use site on the other. A pedestrian connection for the bus stops on Ramona Avenue was also included in the project.

Best Practice #5
Mitigate Modal Conflicts
Among the biggest challenges in developing a transit station or village is the list of inherent conflicts between pedestrians, autos, buses, trains, and other modes of transit. It is imperative to design to protect pedestrians and provide an atmosphere of safety. In addition, each mode is more efficient when effectively isolated and separated from the others.

A pedestrian walkway should be protected from vehicle traffic with bollards and/or landscaping. At Baldwin Park, the pedestrian paths were separated from transit and car paths by careful planning that included the use of a pedestrian bridge.

Best Practice #6
Provide Clear Wayfinding
Clear wayfinding is a requirement for all transit stations and villages. Informational kiosks and plentiful signage are a must. When a parking structure is present, stair and elevator towers work well as passive signage when they are clearly visible instead of being hidden away. Colors and symbols used to express various parking levels can be used as effective wayfinding and enhance a station’s theme or character. At Baldwin Park, a transit board was incorporated that directs patrons to their transit connections.

Best Practice #7
Design for Low Maintenance
Because many transit stations are built with funding that doesn’t include money for maintenance, designing for low maintenance is imperative. Durable materials, materials procuded with galvanizing or powder coating, low-­energy and low-maintenance lights, drought-­resistant and low-maintenance landscaping, and the use of anti-graffiti coatings and materials that are naturally resistant to vandalism help lower costs over time.

Incorporating alternative energy sources such as photovoltaic (solar) systems will help reduce ongoing electric costs, which are usually the most costly part of a parking structure’s maintenance budget. The Baldwin Park Transit Hub uses low-maintenance materials that include aluminum screening, anti-graffiti coatings, and low-maintenance landscaping. The project also includes a photovoltaic system that provides approximately 80 percent of the structure’s energy.

Best Practice #8
Include Revenue Concepts
There are a number of options to generate revenue at transit stations. The inclusion of mixed use, such as retail, paid parking, coffee bars, snack kiosks, cell tower antennae rooms, and advertising opportunities, can be effective revenue-generation options.

Many agencies are taking innovative approaches to boost overall revenue. At this time, Baldwin Park has employed pay-on-foot stations for transit users, who are directed to park on the top level for convenient access to the station via the pedestrian bridge.

Best Practice #9
Incorporate Appropriate Security Design
Security is a prime concern in all parking structure environments, especially transit stations. Passive security or crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) such as glass-backed elevators, open stairwells, and the elimination of hiding spots behind walls can be very effective at deterring crime.

In addition, active security measures such as code blue emergency phones and video surveillance systems should be considered based on location. The Baldwin Park Parking Structure employs all of these measures.

By using a list of best practices, the team designed an effective, popular, and financially responsible transit station at Baldwin Park.

Michelle Wendler, AIA, is principal/architect with Watry Design, Inc. She can be reached at mwendler@watrydesign.com or 408.392.7900.

Matt Davis is senior project manager, associate, with Watry Design, Inc. He can be reached at mdavis@watrydesign.com or 408.392.7900.

TPP-2014-04-Real World Results

Lightening Up

TPP-2014-04-Lightening UpBy Ken Sapp

Plug-in electric vehicle (EV) pioneers Nissan and Chevrolet are in their third model years producing cars with this relatively new technology. Ford, Fiat, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Tesla have all introduced EVs, and BMW is launching two luxury EV models this year. The popularity of long-range EVs means sales of electric and plug-in hybrids could eventually reach 1 percent of the giant annual new car market; that means approximately 150,000 more EVs on the road every year.

As the technology matures, infrastructure improves, and more and more automakers enter the market, EVs will continue to become more affordable and attractive to consumers. With President Obama and the federal government committed to getting 1 million low- and no-emission vehicles on the road by 2015, proponents say EVs are on their way to becoming mainstream.

Many parking facility owners are contemplating offering EV charging amenities for employees, tenants, and visitors. EV drivers usually charge up at home while they sleep but will expect to be able to top off their batteries at the places they spend their waking time: at work, while dining or shopping, and while enjoying recreation and entertainment events. This means investing in EV infrastructure could offer a very real competitive differentiator in attracting the EV driver population, retaining customers and occupants, meeting government regulations, and, ultimately, improving profitability.

Get Charged Up
There are several considerations when it comes to investing in electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). Affordability is one such consideration. Many local governments and public agencies support acceleration of EVSE, as well as their own rebates and incentive programs. For example, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced a $120 million commitment to fund the construction of a network of 10,000 EV charging stations across 1,000 locations throughout California. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Charge NY, an initiative to create a statewide network of up to 3,000 public and workplace charging stations in the next five years.

With such support available, it may be more affordable than ever for building owners and operators to purchase and install EV charging stations. However, there are other factors that can dramatically affect the cost of an installation. For example, can your existing electrical infrastructure handle the increased electrical load brought on by EVSE?

Most commercial charging solutions today are Level 2 stations, which means the electric vehicle draws about 6 kWs per hour while charging. Next-generation Level 3 (DC fast charge) stations will be available by the end of this year. Level 3s provide very rapid charging, which makes them ideal for public charging situations. But with these chargers, EVs will draw at a rate of 20+ kWs per hour.

Thus, EVSE will increase your electrical draw and could overload many current electrical systems, as well as significantly raise the cost of your electricity. If your property was built prior to the 1980s, your electrical infrastructure might be outdated and unable to handle the new load without a complete retrofit. This could add greatly to the cost and scale and negatively affect your decision to embark on an EVSE project.

Lighten Up
Fortunately, there are innovative solutions to this challenge. One of the most popular and cost-effective options is to reduce the overall electricity load of the facility before EVSE installation through a lighting upgrade.

Older facilities often have old fluorescent light fixtures and magnetic ballasts that house inefficient T12 or high-pressure sodium lamps. Typically operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, this outdated lighting can really drain the grid, as well as make energy costs skyrocket.

The first step is to swap out older light fixtures with state-of-the-art, high-efficiency lighting and replace outdated ballasts with electric ballasts that allow light levels to be programmed to dim during nonpeak hours. There are several high-efficiency, low-maintenance lighting options available, including:

  • HID. High-intensity discharge (HID) lamps use less power and are much brighter than most fluorescent and incandescent lamps. These are typically used when high levels of light over large areas are required and when energy efficiency and light intensity are desired. HID bulbs are fragile and need to warm up, and this lighting is susceptible to aging and wear.
  • LED. Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting doesn’t have a filament to burn out or break. Designed to have a 50,000-hour service life, these lights are very durable and require minimal maintenance. They are also instant-on, which makes them convenient for on-off cycling.
  • Induction. Induction lighting is an electrode-less lamp that uses light-generation technology that spreads light evenly over surfaces. Because it does not use traditional electrodes or filaments, there are no parts to wear out. It offers five to 10 times the life of HID lighting and is designed to last an average of 100,000 hours.

These are all good high-efficiency lighting options, but each has advantages and disadvantages that must be considered carefully before being used in a lighting project. Contact a professional lighting or energy solution consultant to determine the best type of lighting to optimize results for a facility.

Take Control
While upgrading the lights will provide impressive energy improvements, this alone might not offload the circuit enough to support charging stations. To deepen the energy reduction potential and reduce peak electrical demand, the new lighting needs to be paired with an advanced lighting control strategy that includes:

  • Wireless controls. Automated controls allow facility managers to pre-determine lighting system requirements based on area, peak and nonpeak times, daylight, occupancy, or a combination of these factors. Facility managers can adjust the lighting system to behave differently for specific times of the day or week and holidays.
  • Occupancy detection. Occupancy detection senses when areas of a building are occupied and allows facility managers to only light occupied areas. Sensors recognize when a person or vehicle approaches an area and signals the lighting to turn on automatically. Once the person has left the area, the lights turn off or dim after a pre-determined time period.
  • Daylight harvesting. Daylight harvesting leverages natural daylight to reduce the need for artificial light while still providing an even level of light in an area. Sensors recognize the difference between artificial and natural light and where and when daylight is present, so ambient electric lighting is automatically reduced.
  • Bi-level tuning. This control device allows facility managers to establish different light levels by space type or area. This is especially good for stairwells and other dark places, as lights can be set to dim but not go off and then brighten automatically when motion is detected.

Why wireless? Wireless lighting controls offer the same or better functionality as traditional wired controls systems but at a lower cost and with easier installation. Wireless systems generally don’t require modifications to the existing electrical wiring or addition of new control wiring, and can be easily modified to adapt to changing space needs, schedules, or energy-reduction strategies through reprogramming. These systems also provide a centralized, web-based dashboard for facility managers so they can track and monitor energy use and adjust controls in real time over the internet from any computer, anywhere.

Using an automated lighting control system, lights are only on during peak hours and when needed instead of 24/7. This locks in energy savings and maximizes load-shedding capabilities. The combination of upgraded lighting and wireless controls can:

  • Reduce total lighting electricity use by up to 50 percent.
  • Reduce peak loads.
  • Reduce annual energy costs.

This frees up electrical capacity that can then be used for EVSE requirements, while reducing utility costs. Added benefits of this approach include reduced maintenance and inventory costs and improved facility safety and security. And there is a usually a quick return on investment (ROI).

Proven Solution: Oakland
Oakland, Calif., has one of the most ambitious energy efficiency efforts in the country and is always looking to reduce overall energy use.

With most sporting old and obsolete lighting fixtures, the city determined parking facilities were among its biggest energy wasters and targeted the garage at 1250 Martin Luther King Way for a modern energy makeover. The city also wanted to install EV charging stations to support sustainability efforts, but the garage didn’t have the power capacity for that. And, as with most government projects, organizers wanted to accomplish all this without increasing the city’s operating budget.

Working with consultant ABM, the city implemented high-efficiency lighting and wireless lighting controls and reduced energy use by 45 percent. The energy savings offset the electric grid enough to allow for the implementation of EV charging stations without rewiring the facility’s existing electrical system. And by leveraging federal and local energy incentives and creative low-interest financing, the city was able to pay for the entire project with its utility cost-savings. There was no upfront capital required, and the project contributed a positive cash flow to the existing budget.

Making It Happen
Garage owners may find that an EVSE project is within reach and easier and less expensive than expected. However, the EVSE market is rapidly evolving and can be challenging. To reduce confusion and potential risks, it is best to work with an expert who can not only provide EVSE advice but also suggest innovative ways to reduce your electrical load. Look for a full-service vendor with a proven track record of installations to help you:

  • Evaluate EV infrastructure needs and energy-saving opportunities.
  • Make budget through flexible financing options, rebates, and local, state, and federal incentives.
  • Determine requirements and provide the proper equipment.
  • Install, service, and maintain the EVSE equipment.
  • Design, install, and maintain high-efficiency lighting and controls.

Ken Sapp is vice president, energy solutions, for ABM. He can be reached at ken.sapp@abm.com.

TPP-2014-04-Lightening Up

Resetting Public Opinion

TPP-2014-04-Resetting Public OpinionBy Frank Ching

Santa Monica, Calif., is more than a quintessential Southern California city—its status as home to the world-famous Santa Monica Pier and a vibrant downtown area make it among the most celebrated beach cities in the world. Each year, more than 20 million vehicles transcend on 8.5 square miles, and nearly 12 million of those vehicles park at the city’s parking meters.

This high demand for metered parking, coupled with limited personnel and financial resources, are my greatest challenges as city parking administrator. With only two meter technicians to service nearly 6,000 meters, the city needed a cutting-edge parking solution. I turned to technology to solve our parking challenges and formulated a comprehensive public relations strategy to garner public support for the city’s initiatives.

Employing Technology
Following a successful trial of smart parking meters and in-ground vehicle detection sensors, we installed 6,000 single-space meters and 6,000 sensors—one of the largest deployments of such systems in the U.S. Each smart parking meter is wirelessly linked to a sensor installed underground. The system uses magnetic-based sensing technology to detect the presence or absence of a vehicle via changes in the magnetic field immediately around the sensor. The sensor then communicates directly with the meter, and data is transferred using the available cellular link inside the meter.

In addition to providing real-time revenue and occupancy data, the sensor/meter technology we chose from IPS was selected for the unique capabilities it provided to implement the reset function and anti-meter feeding function, as well as the ability to export real-time occupancy data to parking guidance devices.

We implemented the reset capability on the meters so any remaining time on a meter at a vehicle’s departure would zero out before a different vehicle pulled in to use the space—commonly called meter resetting. The ability to generate turnover is essential for our downtown businesses, and the sensors allowed us to enforce anti-meter-feeding policies by preventing motorists from feeding the meters and circumventing maximum-stay limitations. This greatly helps free up parking spaces in high-traffic areas. Additionally, we provide users with a parking availability application for their smartphones or computers that provides real-time data on parking availability and displays location, rates, and number of spaces available in a map format. The city’s parking application interfaces with the smart parking meter and sensors and does not require any additional infrastructure. Therefore, our parking system is directly interacting with motorists.

Using Data to Garner Public Support
Many cities have begun using sensors and real-time apps. Our approach is unique because we incorporate the data gathered from the sensors into our decision-making process to improve operational efficiency. Without using sensors, we never would have realized the severity of demand for metered parking. The system’s data on occupancy and turnover provided the justification we needed to implement the anti-meter-feeding and meter reset capabilities.

We also use the sensor data as a foundation for studies on time limits, and input it into a formula developed by our consultants to analyze and adjust parking rates if necessary. Armed with this information, we are able to make data-driven decisions and explore dynamic rate structure options, new enforcement hours, and other changes and new policies to generate higher turnover and enhance customer convenience. All of this takes the place of investing in additional (expensive) infrastructure.

The success of the pilot and subsequent installation of meters and sensors earned the support of key stakeholders and politicians. However, the battle for the public’s support required a comprehensive, proactive publicity campaign that aimed to disseminate as much information as possible in a transparent and consistent manner.

Believe it or not, the sensors provided benefits that we capitalized on in our PR campaign. For example, occupancy data from the sensors provided us with statistics that allowed us to explain to the public the need to generate turnover to accommodate the nearly 12 million vehicles that park at the city’s 6,000 meters each year. Additionally, the enhanced payment options and greater meter uptime meant that fewer citations were issued for nonpayment or overtime limit violations, which also helped gain public support for the program.

At the same time we shared this information, we held update sessions to educate the public on success stories and distributed promotional items that featured a QR code that linked motorists to free parking availability applications on their smartphones. The city regularly monitors social media to stay abreast of current public opinion regarding parking initiatives and partners with the local business improvement district to respond to complaints or concerns raised by the public.

Recommendations for Success
The City of Santa Monica is one of the largest successful deployments of meter sensors in the U.S., but the same principles for success apply to cities looking to introduce the technology on a smaller scale:

Be prepared for challenges by establishing project principles—and sticking to them—at the outset of the program.

Use traditional and social media to your advantage. The media needs compelling stories to write. By redirecting them to positive stories, you offer reporters a story angle while also shifting the focus away from any potential negative press concerning the sensors. However, it is important not to avoid any hot button issues that may arise, for example, revenue ­increases­­, which are usually a contentious issue. Instead, address the issue head-on, highlighting that while revenue may have increased since deploying the sensors, citations revenue decreased due to the additional payment options and anti-meter-feeding capabilities.

Above all, be transparent and highlight the benefits of your program, using data and testimonials as you can.

Looking Ahead
The successful deployment of cutting-edge meter and sensor technology in the City of Santa Monica can be regarded as a model of how parking data can be used to guide and implement parking decisions to meet the evolving needs of the city and business community and how parking data, in combination with a proactive and consistent message, can help the city garner public support for parking initiatives.

Frank Ching is city parking administrator for the City of Santa Monica, Calif. He can be reached at frank.ching@smgov.net or 310.458.8299.

TPP-2014-04-Resetting Public Opinion

Escaping the 60’s

TPP-2014-04-Escaping the 60's By Bill Smith

When the parking industry was still in its infancy in the 1950s and ’60s, just a handful of companies worked to manage demand for spaces, and business in general tended to be done through relationships with a handshake. Little thought was given to marketing beyond taking prospects out to dinner and putting together proposals.

Over the years, as the automobile came to represent part of the American dream, the parking industry grew to unimaginable heights; today, the parking industry is estimated to bring in more than $35 billion per year in revenue alone. Factor in the revenue that’s generated from the design and development of new parking facilities, the creation of parking equipment, and the introduction of new parking technologies (just to name a few significant influences), and it’s clear that parking is no longer the insular community of the past.

However, while parking has evolved into a vital, lucrative industry, the marketing strategies of most parking organizations haven’t evolved in an equal fashion. Many parking organizations—from municipalities to private parking owners to consultants to parking equipment suppliers—still approach marketing as if they are living in the 1960s.

According to Brent Robertson, a partner with Fathom, a marketing consulting and web design firm in West Hartford, Conn., in today’s economy, marketing is essential to the success of any business.

“With the rate of change, the parking industry is getting more competitive and will continue to get more competitive,” says Robertson. “There are a lot more players in the space, and parking organizations need to know how to stay ahead of the competition.”

According to Robertson, the key to staying ahead is having a strategic marketing program. He says leaders need to understand the challenges their organizations face and build their marketing programs to overcome those unique challenges.
“You need to be able to reach your most important audiences, whether they are customers or parkers or strategic partners,” says Robertson, “and you need to be able to communicate effectively to those audiences to differentiate yourself from your competition.”

The Digital Age
Robertson says the digital revolution that has seen substantial advances in web design and exponential growth of social media platforms is good news for parking organizations looking to get the word out about their products or services.

“Having a web presence is really important,” says Robertson. “Ultimately, before customers or clients will hire a company, they want to see what that company is all about—what its values and experiences are. A good website will demonstrate a company’s expertise, accomplishments, and approaches, but more importantly, it will also convey the values of the organization and its people.”

Robertson points to the website of Fuss & O’Neill (fando.com), a civil engineering firm in Manchester, Conn. In addition to offering examples of the firm’s projects and introductions to its people, the Fuss & O’Neill site focuses heavily on answering the questions, “Who are we, and what do we stand for?”

“If you looked at a number of civil engineering websites and stripped the logos off them, you’d find that they are pretty much all alike,” says Robertson. “They only talk about what the firm does—what services they offer and what projects they have done. They don’t talk about who they are, what they stand for, and how they strive to make a difference in the world.”

“Fuss & O’Neill’s website works because it takes a completely different approach. Its theme is, ‘Our dedication to our work is connected to our desire for a better life. We are committed to helping create a better world, and this is how we do it.’ It’s a message that resonates with municipalities, developers, and other potential clients.”

According to Robertson, there are parking organizations that know how to use the Web effectively. He says that the SP Plus site (spplus.com) stands out.
“SP Plus’s website is effective because it’s abundantly clear who they are and what they are up to,” says Robertson. “Aesthetically, it’s well put together, and their passion and attention to detail really comes through.”

As important as web presence is, it’s far from the only way the digital age is revolutionizing marketing. Social media can be particularly useful for both public and private parking organizations. It provides the means for communicating in real time with key audiences, which can benefit municipalities wishing to keep parkers, business owners, and residents up to date on parking policies and developments. It can also be a great way for parking businesses to share the latest developments with customers and prospective customers.

“In the past, marketing was about speaking to the public,” says Robertson. “Now, because of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, organizations can carry on a dialogue with the public.”

Social media use is nearly universal. Facebook alone has well more than 1 billion users. The trick is knowing which tools to use and how to use them. Social media strategy begins by asking a number of questions:

  • What are my challenges?
  • Who do I have to reach, and where will I find them?
  • Who are their influencers?
  • Where do they spend their time?

The answers to these questions can help organizational leaders decide whether to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or one of the many other social media tools. They’ll also help determine what messages will be most effective.

A final digital approach that has gained traction in the parking industry is the e-newsletter or e-blast. For many organizations, e-newsletters have replaced traditional paper mailings, providing a more convenient and less costly alternative for reaching clients, prospects, and industry leaders.

Walker Parking Consultants’ experience with e-blasts demonstrates the potential this technology offers. Walker distributes monthly blasts offering overviews of recently completed projects and news about company milestones.

“The e-newsletters are a great marketing tool for us,” says Laura Stinnett, a marketing manager with Walker Parking. “They give us an opportunity to showcase our projects through attractive photographs and show how the garages benefit the communities where they are located.

“They also provide a platform for keeping in touch with thousands of contacts throughout the world, and they let us measure how many of our contacts are reading the newsletters,” continues Stinnett.

Traditional Marketing
For many parking organizations, traditional marketing approaches can also provide valuable results. Public relations, particularly publicity, can be especially useful for reaching key audiences that include clients, prospective clients, strategic partners, and industry leaders. Stories arranged in print and broadcast media can reach large numbers of people, and there may be no better way to raise an organization’s profile.

Walker Parking has used PR for more than 20 years to staff and showcase its projects, and it continues to publicize the firm, its projects, and its people in parking industry press, media serving other industries in which it is active, and in local media throughout the United States where the firm has a presence or does work.

“We value public relations very highly,” says Steve Cebra, senior vice president.

“Our PR program is geared toward supporting new business development, while at the same time, helping us maintain a high profile among current clients and the industry as a whole.”

While Walker Parking relies on PR to maintain its profile in the industry, other companies use it to refresh their images. Sentry Control Systems is one such company. Sentry has long been known as a leading provider of SKIDATA technology, but it is less well-known for the other solutions it offers, which include parking guidance, license plate recognition, cloud-based validation, enforcement technology, CCTV, 24/7 technical services, and professional services.

“SKIDATA has always been an important part of the Sentry story, but it’s just one of many solutions we offer,” says Whitney Taylor, executive director of marketing for the company. “We needed to find a way to tell our whole story.”

According to Taylor, the company’s marketing team chose to pursue a comprehensive strategy that combines web marketing, social media, and public relations. Through this program, the company completely revamped its website and will launch the new site in the coming weeks. It also recently began public relations and social media campaigns. The campaigns are designed to complement each other, using the three different approaches to raise the company’s profile and communicate key messages to its most important audiences.

According to Fathom’s Robertson, Sentry’s approach is a recipe for success. It is important for the individual elements of a marketing program to be designed to complement each other. Individually, marketing tactics can play an important role in helping parking organizations achieve their business goals. However, when marketing approaches are combined, their effectiveness increases considerably.

Parking has evolved significantly during the past 50 years, from an insular community to an international multi-billion dollar industry. When it comes to marketing, however, many parking organizations are still stuck in the 1960s. Many could benefit from strategic marketing programs that utilize a combination of traditional marketing approaches and digital marketing techniques.

Bill Smith, APR, is principal of Smith-Phillips Strategic Communications and contributing editor of The Parking Professional. He can be reached at bsmith@smith-phillips.com or 603.491.4280.

TPP-2014-04-Escaping the 60’s

Giving Back

TPP-2014-04-Giving BackBy Michele Wojciechowski

For Tim Haahs, founder and CEO of Timothy Haahs & Associates, Inc., a design/architecture/engineering firm that specializes in mixed-used facilities and parking, being involved in the community is of the utmost importance. In fact, it’s even part of his company’s mission.

His desire to help his community and get his employees involved started with a life-changing moment that happened nearly 20 years ago: Haahs faced death and lived to tell about it.

Having a Heart
When Haahs was in his early 30s, he had a great job and a great wife. He thought his life was set.

All that changed one day when he suddenly passed out while driving, his head falling onto his arm. When he came to, Haahs realized his car was sitting in the middle of the highway. He managed to drive himself to the hospital. After testing, Haahs recalls, “They told me that the only way I was going to survive was to have a heart transplant.” His heart muscle, they said, was basically dead and would not regenerate.

For the next two years, Haahs lived thanks to medications and a pacemaker and defibrillator actually installed in his body. For the last six months before his transplant, he was so ill, he stayed in the hospital; the final month, he was unconscious.

Facing death made Haahs think—a lot. He and his wife prayed together, and he read the Bible and thought a lot about life. He remembers saying to God that if he got another chance at life, “I want to rededicate my life to serving others, those who are in need.”

After his transplant, Haahs spent a lot of time thinking. The thought that kept coming back to him was that he wanted to find a way to help others. But he knew his true passion was managing projects. So when he established his company, he made sure he could give back through his work and that his employees would share in this mission, too.

Today, employees of Timothy Haahs & Associates, Inc. have been involved with charities such as Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Red Cross, and Switchboard of Miami, Inc., among many others.

“We really are born to help each other,” says Haahs.

Tons of Food
Like Haahs, many people in the parking profession are reaching out to help make a difference in their communities. The Parking Services Department at the University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA) has given tons of help—literally.

In 2009, UAA Parking Services partnered with the university’s Human Services Club in its Ton in Ten food drive, which has the goal of collecting a ton of food in 10 days. While the club had run the program for a few years prior, this time someone proposed that students be allowed to pay for parking tickets with jars of peanut butter and jelly.

“It sounded crazy enough to work, so we tried it,” says Glenna Muncy, MPA, director of parking services. The food drive, which takes place in early November each year, started when the department recognized that students—particularly those with families—were struggling with food insecurity due to college expenses. The UAA on-campus emergency food cache (which supplies students who need it with a three-day supply of food) is just one of the beneficiaries of the drive.

“The program has been very popular with students especially, but staff and faculty have also taken advantage of the ability to save money and support a good cause,” says Muncy. “People tend to be less upset about being issued a ticket if they have an alternative means of recourse to paying out-of-pocket. From the first year to last year, we have just about tripled the number of citations being settled in the 10-day period.”

Besides helping needy people in the community, Muncy says the food drive has also improved the public perception of her department and introduced people around campus to its office and staff.

“Because most of our services are offered online, many students have no idea where our office is located or what access they have to alternative transportation programs offered at no charge. This program showcases our location because it requires people to come in to make the donation to settle the ticket,” says Muncy. “We also see a better return on other outstanding citations. If a customer has several tickets, they can settle up to two with a peanut butter and jelly donation. Usually, that translates to fewer tickets that get sent for collection at the end of the semester, more late tickets being paid so student accounts are current, and ultimately, labor saved from having to track citations that otherwise would have been ignored or procrastinated until after final exams.”

While it may mean a little less revenue over time, Munch says the benefits far outweigh the costs: “I love this program!”

Rewarding Good Behavior …and Parking
Dulce Gomez, parking enforcement supervisor for the City of Palmdale, Calif., knows drivers aren’t usually happy to see people from her department. She and her staff decided they wanted to change this reaction. In 2011, they brainstormed about what they could do to reach out to the community and have a positive effect. The result was the city’s Good Ticket campaign.

Each year since, from Thanksgiving through Dec. 24, parking enforcement employees patrol, but in this case, they’re looking for something different: people who demostrate good parking habits.

Parking can be difficult almost anywhere during the holidays. But at malls, it can be especially problematic, and Palmdale’s Antelope Valley Mall is no exception. Gomez says her officers specifically look for people who take the extra time to park correctly between the lines, for example, rather than speeding into a space and taking up a couple as a result. The staff members wait for the people to finish parking and then approach them with a good ticket and a gift.

“We tell them, ‘I observed that you made an extra attempt at trying to park legally and correctly, and being courteous of your neighbors,’” says Gomez. The staff member then gives the person a Good Ticket, along with a choice of a gift card to the mall or local restaurant; a pair of tickets to a local playhouse or to DryTown, a city-owned waterpark; or a free breakfast buffet.

Besides patrolling the mall, officers also patrol schools and reward parents who park, use the crosswalk to pick up their children, and then return to their cars with their kids and put on their seatbelts. She admits that when they first began to approach parents, drivers immediately thought they’d done something wrong. They’re shocked and pleasantly surprised when they are rewarded. “We say, ‘Good job! You did a good thing today!’” says Gomez.

Helping Needy Children
For more than 10 years, the City of Boston has held a Toys for Tickets program. According to Gina Fiandaca, director of the Office of the Parking Clerk, the city chooses three days of parking ticket issuance in early December and then allows people who have received tickets for non-public-safety violations to pay with a new unwrapped toy that gets donated to the mayor’s needy children drive.

For example, if someone receives a ticket for parking overtime at a meter, the fine is $25. That person can bring in a toy with the receipt and the ticket, essentially paying the ticket with the toy.

According to Fiandaca, Toys for Tickets began because the city always has a shortage of toys for children who need them and the number needed grows every year. Other campaigns, such as Toys for Tots, can’t keep up with the demand. So her department stepped in and began collecting toys instead of tickets. During the last two years, the Boston Red Sox sponsored the drive and donated toys for everyone who brought in tickets that day. Fiandaca says the drive collected between $4,000 and $6,000 worth of toys.

What also makes this program different is that transportation department personnel deliver bags of toys to the needy families after the drive is over.

“I think it makes people feel good to know that they have to pay this ticket anyway, they can pay it with a toy and bring some joy to a child at Christmas time. That makes them feel better about parking illegally and getting a citation,” says Fiandaca. “People are very, very generous. Most people donate a toy well in excess of the cost of the ticket. We get people who will donate a $100 hockey stick for a $25 ticket. The outpouring of support is really very encouraging.”

Involving the Campus
Like in Boston, Texas Tech University’s (TTU’s) Department of Transportation and Parking Services holds a Toys for Tickets campaign. Anyone who has an unpaid parking citation can bring a new, unwrapped toy (or even a few toys that make up the value) that’s worth at least the amount of the ticket, and have their citation dismissed. One way the program is different from Boston’s is that any unpaid parking citations are eligible, even those that are overdue.

For the most part, students and employees of TTU participate. And they donate the gamut when it comes to toys. “A lot of students like to donate toys that they got when they were kids,” says Stacy Moncibaiz, the department’s marketing coordinator. “We get a lot of Barbies, baby dolls, Lego sets, and stuffed animals.”

In addition to the Toys for Tickets drive, parking services also holds three free car clinics each year for students, employees, and visitors. A local mechanic brings staff and equipment to go over a maintenance sheet with attendees and check off anything that needs attention. They will also top off their fluids. Moncibaiz says they also provide free food and drinks for people and even give them a prize as thanks for attending.

Finally, the department holds two bicycle clinics each year, which are free to students and employees. Like with the car clinic, professional bike mechanics (from the campus’s Outdoor Pursuits Center) are on hand to conduct diagnostic exams on bikes and provide small fixes on site. Attendees get free drinks and prizes. Other groups with an interest in cycling both on and off campus attend and man tables.

“We have a strong commitment in our department toward community service, and we really do like to give back to our customers and our people on campus,” says Moncibaiz. “It does help cultivate good will for sure. But it’s something we like to do, too, and it allows us to visit with our customers.”

Michelle Wojciewchowski is a freelance writer. She can be reached at wojowriter@comcast.net.

TPP-2014-04-Giving Back

Raising Awareness Through Publicity

TPP-2014-04-Raising Awareness Through PublicityBy Bill Smith

Publicity is one of the most powerful tools available to help parking organizations meet their organizational goals. By publicizing an organization through the media, parking organizations can reach huge numbers of people with key messages. That could mean informing local residents of municipal parking plans and regulations, communicating about a product or service to prospective customers, or demonstrating a particular expertise to potential strategic partners.

Publicity revolves around generating coverage in the media. Unlike advertising, stories in newspapers, magazines, and online publications, as well as on TV and radio, don’t cost anything beyond the time and resources required to arrange and complete them. In addition to being cost-effective, stories arranged in print, broadcast, and online media also carry much more weight and credibility than ads.

When developing a publicity strategy, parking organizations need to first determine what they want to accomplish. For example, a municipal parking system may wish to attract drivers to public parking facilities or keep the public informed of parking rules and regulations. A parking technology vendor, on the other hand, may want to inform the industry and potential clients in other industries why its technology is superior and about the unique benefits it can offer. A consulting firm may want to raise its profile among potential clients or strategic partners.

In addition to offering opportunities for free coverage, publicity offers extraordinary reach. A feature story in The Parking Professional, for example, is read by thousands of parking professionals, including the industry’s leaders. A story in a local newspaper or on television news can be an effective way to disseminate information throughout the community. And a story in a national media outlet can reach tens of millions of people. Additionally, when stories run in a publication or on TV or radio, online versions also tend to run on those outlets’ websites. There’s really no better way to reach large numbers of people to raise awareness of a parking organization, product, or service.

How to Get Coverage
Every parking organization has news to announce. It could be a new policy or facility for a municipality; a new client or project for a consultant; a new product or service for a supplier; or a milestone, such as a new hire or an award. Press releases are the perfect tool for getting basic news out to the public. Make sure you keep the release short, to the point, and not overly promotional. Keep in mind how the release would read if printed in the media as-is; if it reads more like an advertisement than a news story, tone it down. There are a number of websites that offer free press release templates.

One of the most effective ways to use publicity is to arrange feature stories about your organization, someone within your organization, or a product or service. Feature stories are usually arranged through pitch (or story idea) letters or personal briefings. Successful pitches can revolve around industry trends, common challenges and solutions, or timely and interesting issues, and should always be presented in terms of why the reader (or listener or viewer) will be interested in the story. Editors don’t care if you find a story idea interesting; they only care if their readers will. Like press releases, pitch letters and verbal pitches should be kept brief and succinct.

Another type of publicity that can raise awareness of an organization or its product is the bylined article. These are stories that are authored by an expert and printed in industry press or general or business publications. They typically offer overviews of common challenges and solutions, examples of best practices, and/or case studies demonstrating a particular solution. They can’t openly promote the organization but provide enormous benefit by demonstrating the author’s valuable expertise. Bylines are also typically arranged through pitch letters or personal pitches.

Depending on the needs of the organization, a publicity program can be low-key and simple or a full strategic program that’s part of a larger PR effort. A strategic publicity program can be a valuable part of any PR and marketing effort and a terrific way to get the word out to your most important audiences.

Bill Smith, APR, is principal of Smith-Phillips Strategic Communications and contributing editor of The Parking Professional. He can be reached at bsmith@smith-phillips.com or 603.491.4280.

TPP-2014-04-Raising Awareness Through Publicity

Beyond the App for That

TPP-2014-04-Beyond the App for ThatBy Amie Devero

There’s an app for that! It’s become the go-to answer for many modern municipal challenges. But often, that quick solution fails to address the real issue, and sometimes adds new problems for customers and municipal professionals alike.

In cities around the world, technology is being used to add efficiency, sustainability, better service delivery, and convenience. Public parking, especially under city umbrellas, is not immune to the fascination with all things tech. And like their departmental brethren, parking leaders can sometimes be overly fascinated with bells and whistles at the expense of addressing a challenge in the most comprehensive and strategic way. We’ve all seen the scenario in which a well-meaning parking department adds new access control and revenue collection equipment that solves a problem at a particular garage or street corner but fails to work with the existing citation equipment or can’t interface with the city’s finance department software. Revenue goes up, but tracking and reconciling it becomes a nightmare.
These challenges typically cascade throughout an entire city enterprise, adding work and inefficiency even as they are intended to solve existing problems.

The reverse is also common. An enthusiastic city hall adds a new public works 311 app but fails to integrate it in such a way that department heads (including parking directors) can track repairs or maintenance requests generated by customers using the app. The solution creates a new problem even while the local newspaper lauds its coolness. Customers report issues, but only the reporting—not the response—is automated. Everyone, including the customer, ends up frustrated.

Stepping Back
Obviously, addressing the whole issue—including cross-departmental integration and enterprise-wide inclusion—is an expensive and a longer-term undertaking. That makes it daunting and less instantly gratifying. Our alternative is to keep doing things the same way, with a knee-jerk impulse to solve all problems with technology and without regard to the bigger picture. Leaving behind other departments and abandoning potential integrations that might ultimately produce genuine, enterprise-wide, long-term efficiency defeats the goal of sustainable growth and operations.

The more difficult, but better, approach is to take a step back and look at how it might be possible to accomplish a sustainability or efficiency goal from a systems perspective. To compound the basic challenge of viewing things this way, everything in municipal government structure argues against that approach, as does everything in the commercial interests of service providers. For example, strategies are typically planned at the departmental or operational level without regard for the role of that function in the whole system. Procurement is also organized around functions and specs rather than overarching system cohesion. This reality is something every municipal leader confronts.

The status quo can be further reinforced by some vendors and their influence on the purchasing departments to which they sell. Because most vendors offer solutions within one or several functional areas, it is onerous if procurement specs demand a systematic solution, especially when the hope is for a multi-vendor, integrated architecture. Request for proposal (RFP) processes and the means by which vendors respond to them lack the flexibility to facilitate that kind of approach. No one is at fault. The problem is complex, and self-interests are at odds with the optimal way of approaching these needs.

For parking directors, the problem makes the task of adding sustainable improvements doubly hard. While everyone wants to add functionality and improve performance in his own area of responsibility, doing so without accounting for the entire system is short-sighted and can deepen the separation between silos. Resolving this tension between the view of the department and the entire municipal future needs to be front and center for all of us. Whether we are technology vendors, parking directors, consultants, purchasing agents, or city administrators, staying aware and committed to a cohesive, integrated, and connected future needs to be our watchword, even at the expense of short-term improvements. Going forward, we need to consider, discuss, and inquire into this issue. How we balance that commitment to integration and connectedness with our innate push for progress in our own areas goes to the heart of what it means to think about sustainability.

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

TPP-2014-04-Beyond the App for That