Tag Archives: TPP-2014-06

A Path to Profitability

TPP-2014-06-A Path to ProfitabilityBy Saloni Vastani

Your latest financial forecast shows modest improvement over last year. Most economists are predicting a 2 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014, which is lower than the 3.7 percent increase we experienced during the second half of 2013. How will you increase profitability and improve revenue in a relatively flat year? You’ve heard of companies increasing their revenue by more than 5 percent through the use of revenue management, but what does that mean, and how can it be applied to parking?

Revenue management, also known as yield management, means selling the right product to the right customer at the right time and the right price. In the parking industry, this can be translated to selling the right parking space to the right driver at the right price. It assumes the same product can be sold at different prices at different times to different customers. For example, you might sell to a business customer who values convenience and is willing to pay more for it at one time, and later, sell to a leisure customer who is more likely to be price-sensitive.

For many years, the travel industry has successfully deployed revenue management and yield management concepts to increase revenue. The airline industry took the lead in implementing the revenue management discipline and developed sophisticated methods to maximize revenue potential. In the 1990s, airlines increased their revenue by 8 percent by implementing the principles of revenue management. Airplane seats were divided into different fare classes based on restrictions, and capacity was released based on timing and sales. Robert Crandall, former CEO of American Airlines, said the company made $1 billion in incremental revenue by deploying revenue management.

Revenue management is used in many industries. Hotels, car rentals, cruise, and cargo companies in the travel and tourism sectors have successfully deployed and implemented revenue management strategies. Other industries, such as energy, health care, golf, and restaurants, are also using the same principle to increase revenue and profitability. Parking, too, has a fixed, perishable product with a variety of different segments of customers with some level of predictable demand, making it a prime candidate to benefit from revenue management techniques.

A Growing Industry
Parking, says the International Parking Institute (IPI), is a $30 billion industry that’s growing increasingly sophisticated in its use of technology. Customers can pay online, check availability and prices online, and reserve parking spaces ahead of time. Apps allow parkers to pay for parking meter charges using their smartphones. According to the results of an industry-wide survey conducted by IPI in 2013, increased demand for ­technology-related innovations accounted for half the industry’s top 10 trends that year.

Increasingly, the parking industry is applying technology to improve customer experience and profitability. For many off-airport parking operations, more than 30 percent of revenue now comes through online channels. This rise in technology has resulted in more data being available to parking operators. According to Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, our connected world generates as much data in just days as it previously had since the dawn of civilization. That’s almost five Exabytes (1 Exabyte= 1018 bytes) of data generated every two days and growing.

Because such data are available to parking operators, the use of analytics can be transformed to drive profitability and revenue. Revenue management techniques can be implemented with a higher level of knowledge than ever before.
Broadly, revenue management revolves around three basic concepts: demand forecasting, price optimization, and capacity allocation. The three concepts are closely linked and can be adjusted and optimized to realize the highest revenue potential.

Demand Forecasting
As shown above, we are in the midst of a data revolution. Analytics software can handle massive datasets, including unstructured data such as text messages, emails, tweets, images, and more. These unstructured data are often referred to as big data and can be used to generate accurate forecasts that facilitate resource management to generate higher revenue or lower costs and improve customer experience.

Using historical data to predict the future is one way to predict demand. However, several factors, including the economy, competition, supply in the market, and special events, affect demand. All these factors are constantly and rapidly changing, making it difficult to pinpoint the demand signals to plan resources. In spite of these challenges, most industry experts are able to predict demand for up to 12 months with reasonable precision.

Simple statistical techniques can be applied to forecasting demand; the autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) and econometric forecasting models can predict demand to within 2 percent to 3 percent accuracy, 12 months out. Factors such as local nuances, holidays, and GDP can all be considered potential variables. Once the models and variables are determined, statistical software packages can be used to build and run models. Analytics software can crunch and correlate data from millions of transactions to generate your forecast.


As Warren Buffet says, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” A recent survey conducted by ­McKinsey and Company indicated that corporations left 2 percent of potential revenue on the table by pricing incorrectly. Pricing is a strategic element that should be an integral part of an overall strategy of business, driven by an understanding of customers’ needs, parking processes, competitors’ capabilities, and the fundamental strengths of the company. Pricing is a key lever to increase profitability.

When looking into optimizing price, factoring in the overall pricing strategy is an important part of understanding the value to both buyer and seller. Proximity of the lot, additional value, added services, and appearance all need to be factored in while considering price competitiveness. One way to start this exercise is by establishing current price bands based on transaction level data. Looking at transaction-level detail will also offer a good sense of the true price realization; it helps identify where price leaks occur, where discounts are given, when they should be avoided, and where a charge for additional revenue is missed. Companies can pick a period of time—a week or month—and study the transaction-level details using software tools to identify discrepancies.

Creating a pricing waterfall is another way companies can see where the loss in price realization is occurring; see Figure 1. One of the management traps here is separating planned loss in revenue and unplanned loss in revenue. Planned discounts and lower rates are fine as long as they generate additional revenue to offset their inherent losses. However, unplanned discounts need to be closed in the systems.

Once you’ve set the prices, the next step is to strengthen the price realization capability within an organization. Clear communication, both verbal and written, to field staff at regular intervals is necessary to ensure higher price realization. Finally, it is important to consider the competitive landscape and potential competitor reaction when planning any price changes. In a price-competitive industry with similar products, price decreases can result in wars to the detriment of the entire industry.

Capacity Allocation
You know how full the lot will be or what the demand will be on a particular day, and you’ve established what you will charge. The next step is calculating how many spaces to sell at each price point.

Segmenting your customer base can help further identify expected demand at each level. Ideally, you want to block enough spaces to sell to customers who are willing to pay the highest price and sell other inventory at lower pricing tiers. Customers can be segmented based on demographics, purpose, purchase channels, time of day, day of week, or even length of stay. You can then allocate inventory at each pricing tier based on expected occupancy. With reservations increasingly originating online, dynamic inventory allocation is also possible.

The three concepts of revenue ­management—demand forecasting, pricing, and capacity allocation—work together to create a revenue management vehicle to increase revenue. Companies that have implemented these disciplines have increased their annual revenues by 5 percent to 8 percent. The parking industry is at the brink of taking advantage of these same techniques. Companies using sophisticated IT systems are not only changing customer behavior but are able to implement revenue management techniques and dynamic pricing and develop high-fidelity revenue forecasts.

Technology and sophisticated systems are now available to make sense of the data and implement solutions that can increase revenue and profitability with every ­t­ransaction.

Saloni Vastani is director of revenue management for Park ‘N Fly. She can be reached at svastani@pnf.com or 404.364.8144.

TPP-2014-06-A Path to Profitability

Charging Up

TPP-2014-06-Charging UpBy John Hipchen

When their new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations officially went online last November, administrators at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFUMS) in North Chicago, Ill., said they had taken another big step toward walking the walk when it came to their commitment to a sustainable campus.

“We first made a formal commitment to sustainability in our 2007-2011 Strategic Plan,” says Vince Butera, the university’s director of materials management. “Since then, we have placed a big emphasis on green initiatives and energy-efficient technology. When plans started to be developed for our new Rothstein Warden Centennial Learning Center and we looked at the new parking lot, we truly felt an obligation to investigate the addition of EVs and charging stations. It just seemed like a natural progression of our sustainability program.”

Located in a northern suburb about 35 miles from downtown Chicago, the university was not exactly the epicenter of excitement surrounding EVs. However, its administrators were aware of reasonably good EV sales in Illinois and the Chicago area and of the projected positive growth for EVs. To find out how the students, faculty, and staff felt about an investment in EV charging stations, the university surveyed its constituency and received an overwhelmingly positive response. Bob Jackson, director of facilities management, says, “Once people found out we were going ahead with the charging stations, they kept asking me, ‘So Bob, when will I be able to plug in?’ Some people actually finalized their decision to purchase an EV once they knew for sure that we were installing charging stations.”

Picking the Right Equipment
As the university embarked on a study of EVs and charging stations, it quickly learned there were many options and that the emerging market was still sorting itself out. To gain understanding of the nuances, RFUMS connected with Telefonix Inc. in the neighboring city of Waukegan; the company recently expanded its line of electronic equipment to include EV charging stations.

The university’s facilities management team identified several key decision points that needed to be addressed internally:

  • Charging level. EV charging stations are available in three levels: Level 1 charging occurs at 120 volts AC; Level 2 at 208 to 240 volts AC; and Level 3 is DC charging that is often called “fast charging.” Level 3 charging has the highest power transfer capabilities, while Level 1 offers the lowest.
  • Access control. Optional equipment on the charging stations can restrict access to only those authorized by the university.
  • Collection of fees. If the university decided to recoup the energy costs for EV charging, then a method to process those payments would be needed. If it determined that payment should occur right at the charging stations, credit card readers or other forms of electronic payment would have to be integral equipment included with the charging stations.
  • Vehicle compatibility. It was important to the university that the charging stations work with as many models of EVs as possible.
  • Safety. The university was concerned about cords lying on the ground and potential tripping hazards. Any type of cord management system was of interest to project managers.

It took several meetings for the university team to properly address all of these concerns. “We wanted to make good decisions up front that would work well for a long time,” says Jackson.

Level 1 vs. Level 2
Because Level 3 charging brings a battery to 80 percent charge in as little as 20 minutes and comes with a rather high price tag (typically more than $25,000 per unit), the decision for most commercial facilities boils down to Level 1 or Level 2. When the facility management team at RFUMS delved into this discussion, they found the answer was related to how long vehicles would be parked on their campus. Their research showed that the typical owner of a plug-in vehicle leaves home every day with a fully charged battery and commutes fewer than 20 miles each direction. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 93 percent of all daily commutes are 35 miles or less.

Administrators concluded that because most vehicles are parked on-campus for at least half the day, it made the most sense to install commercial-grade Level 1 charging stations. Even at 120 volts and only 12 amps of current, EVs recoup about five miles of range for every hour of Level 1 charging. If a vehicle’s on-board charger will allow charging at higher Level 1 power levels, then as much as seven or eight miles of range can be gained per hour of charging.

After it was satisfied that Level 1 charging would sufficiently serve its plug-in drivers, the university turned its attention to energy use and energy costs. Again, Level 1 charging made the most sense. The university wanted to avoid any sudden spikes in energy use, and the low current draw of Level 1 charging would have no effect on its peak energy demand.

The electricity rates large facilities pay are often determined by the highest amount of energy they use at any given time during the day—called the peak energy demand. At manufacturing facilities, for example, where the peak demand is in the morning when equipment is started up, a large number of EVs plugging into high-current charging stations could be enough to move that facility into a higher electricity rate.

The primary concern for RFUMS was taxing the grid and potentially costly upgrades that might go along with a decision to use higher current, Level 2 charging.

To Pay or Not to Pay
After agreeing that Level 1 charging was the right choice for RFUMS, the management team next addressed questions about restricting access and charging fees to recover the cost of energy. To answer those questions, the team calculated the exact costs that would be incurred from EV charging. “The math is really simple and we realized that the energy costs were surprisingly low,” says Jackson.

In the area where the university is located, electricity rates for facilities their size range from $0.075/kWh to $0.12/kWh. Looking at the worst-case scenario of a vehicle charging at the maximum power level of 1.92 kW (16 amps x 120 volts) and paying the high-end of the electric rate at $0.12/kWh, the energy cost for four hours of charging is 92 cents:

(1.92 kW charging rate) × (4 hours of charging)

= 7.68 kWh energy used

(7.68 kWh energy used) × ($0.12/kWh electricity rate) = $0.92 energy cost

Understanding that the actual charging rate would be closer to 1.44 kW (vehicles typically draw about 12 amps on Level 1 charging) the university realized that the per-vehicle cost for charging would rarely exceed $1.

“The actual cost of the energy was so low that it just didn’t justify any of the costs associated with the collection of fees or the accounting that would go with that,” says Jackson. The end result was a decision to allow free charging for plug-in vehicles on campus.

Vehicle Compatibility
With the decision to invest in EV charging finalized, the university wanted to be sure its equipment would charge all the different models of plug-in vehicles. They learned that the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) established and published a recommended practice under the title J1772. Almost all U.S. manufacturers of EVs, as well as manufacturers of charging stations, follow the standards and practices in J1772. Only the Tesla, at the high end of the EV market, uses a different coupler/connector configuration, but all Teslas come with an adapter that allows them to use a J1772 charging station.

The end result of this investigation was a decision by the university to purchase J1772-compliant EV charging stations. J1772 compliancy ensures that charging stations will work with all current plug-in vehicles.

“The thought of cords lying on the ground and people possibly tripping on them was a big concern for us,” says Jackson. “But fortunately, Telefonix Inc. had a robust cord reel in their charging stations that seemed to be designed for this exact application, and they were only about 10 minutes away.”

Telefonix realized about two years ago there was a need for retracting cables in EV charging stations. After designing a cord reel for Level 2 charging with expectations of selling that cord reel to manufacturers of charging stations, they learned there was a bigger need for commercial Level 1 charging. The team at RFUMS decided that was the right equipment for the campus. They also took advantage of the option to customize the units with the university’s name and logo.

Government Incentives
RFUMS extended its budget by taking advantage of a rebate program offered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The program offers rebates up to 50 percent of the installed cost of qualifying EV charging stations.

“I couldn’t believe that the people at the State of Illinois were so easy to work with,” says Butera. “The form was easy to complete, and we already received our rebate check.” Because the Illinois program is ongoing, the university is considering the installation of more EV charging stations later this year.

The big question: At the end of the day, would the university follow the same path again? Jackson says yes. “We know that we’ll have to,” he explains. “But I do believe we’ve made it easier on ourselves going forward. Everyone I talk to who owns an electric car seems to love it. So I think charging stations are something that we’ll be dealing with for a long time.”

John Hipchen is presdent of Excel Consulting Group. He can be reached at johnh@excelconsultinggroup.com or 847.912.1219.

TPP-2014-06-Charging Up

Parking Plus

TPP-2014-06-Parking PlusBy June Williamson

Parking has been an essential part of suburban development in North America since the Ford Model T was introduced in 1911. More than a century has passed, and it is high time for parking needs to be rethought, just as automobiles themselves and the fuels they run on have been radically re-conceived.

Rethinking parking is part of a broader project to incrementally retrofit conventional suburban development types—products of the 20th century such as shopping malls, office parks, and the acres of asphalt that surround them—to the challenges, opportunities, and constraints of meeting the needs of 21st century urban populations. What better place to do it than on Long Island, considered by many the birthplace of suburbia ever since the little ranch houses of Levittown sprouted on former potato fields an hour from midtown New York City.

Recently the Long Island Index, a project of the Rauch Foundation, unveiled designs that resulted from the ParkingPLUS Design Challenge. The challenge was initiated to encourage transformative thinking about parking structures in suburban downtowns and how they could be re-imagined to better address downtown needs and desires. The Long Island Index project was launched a decade ago to track various indicators in this populous-but-dispersed suburbanized region of 2.9 million people and cut through an often less-than- productive political atmosphere of highly localized discourse. The mission was to provide and disseminate solidly researched, unbiased information directly to policymakers and residents.

My previous consulting effort with the Index in 2010 produced Build a Better Burb, an open-ideas urban design competition. That project spawned a companion website that is now an award-winning online journal of suburban design, ably edited by Long Island Index staff. In addition, I published a book in 2013 titled Designing Suburban Futures: New Models from Build a Better Burb.

The ParkingPLUS Process
Serving as consultants to the sponsors of ParkingPLUS, Kaja Kühl of Brooklyn-based youarethecity and I conducted a national search for four prominent, innovative architectural firms with a track record of interest in the suburbs to commission unique designs specific to parking lot sites in four Long Island communities: the villages of Rockville Centre and Westbury in Nassau County and the village of Patchogue and the hamlet of Ronkonkoma in Suffolk County.

The architectural design teams were chosen from dozens invited to submit qualifications through a highly competitive search process. Each was paired with one Long Island community where civic leaders expressed interest in exploring new solutions for integrating beautiful, high-performance parking structures into their transit-served downtown areas. Parking garage feasibility analysis expert Gerard Giosa of Level G Associates was engaged as an advisor to all four teams, some of which also had their own parking consultants.

The four firms we selected are Utile, Inc. Architecture + Planning of Boston, whose Civic Arches was designed for Rockville Centre; dub Studios of New York, Toronto, and Los Angeles, which proposed Main Street Brackets: Shared Parking in Patchogue; Roger Sherman Architecture + Urban Design (RSAUD) of Los Angeles, whose scheme Parks and Rides: a Horizontal Skyscraper was designed for Ronkonkoma; and LTL Architects of New York, which designed Train Terraces: Incubating Urbanism in Westbury.

During an intense six-week design period in the fall of 2013, the architects were challenged to explore the premise that good design of parking facilities—in this case, “boring” parking garages—can be economically, environmentally, and socially transformative to their settings. They were also asked to envision “PLUSes,” which are additional uses that would enliven these structures, provide amenities for their respective locations, and suggest potential financing strategies for maintenance and operation of parking. The challenge also included analyses of costs to build and maintain each of the parking structures, how to finance them, and economic benefits.


The selected architects and their consultants were asked to imagine how these suburban communities could address issues of downtown vitality and potential for growth by focusing on how and where they park their cars. This might seem counterintuitive to some, especially urbanists who champion cities and harbor disdain for suburban car dependency. However, we felt strongly that reforming parking and people’s attitudes about it are essential early steps toward achieving any other changes.

Each of the selected places contains a fairly large supply of downtown surface parking lots. And yet, the general perception is that there is not enough parking, for residents, commuters, or shoppers. These downtowns were previously identified in GIS-based research sponsored by the Index and conducted by the Regional Plan Association as “Places to Grow.” More than 150 other downtowns on Long Island were similarly identified, and more than 4,000 acres of surface parking lots were mapped. These mapped areas, located within a half-mile walking radius of Main Streets and commuter rail stations, are viewable on the Long Island Index’s Interactive Map of the region.

By re-imagining parking, Long Island can turn acres of asphalt into vibrant places, and the region can begin to capitalize on the enormous potential of its downtowns. Parking garages, when exceptionally well designed, can contribute to downtown revitalization. Also, structures for parking can incorporate desired local amenities—they can be so much more than just parking. The ParkingPLUS challenge asked designers to integrate new uses that would benefit local downtowns, from civic plazas and recreation space to apartments, office space, and biking and transit infrastructure. These “PLUSes” can be added to parking decks or they can be sited on land currently occupied by surface parking that would be freed up by structured parking.

We intended the Design Challenge to spark a vibrant conversation on Long Island and nationally about new ways of thinking about downtown parking structures and their relationship to downtown suburban settings. And so, while the designs are custom-designed to particular locations, they are also designed as prototypes and intended to help generate a broader discussion about the ideal attributes of future parking structures.

The Design Challenge brief was to develop—and graphically communicate to a predominantly lay audience—innovative designs for structured parking solutions that support downtown revitalization and transit-oriented development. The designers were asked to demonstrate how structured parking supports a larger strategy that encourages better land utilization, promotes transit accessibility, and improves the downtown experience.

The goal of this initiative is to help promote new thinking about Long Island’s mass transit-served downtown and transit hubs by using the power of good, innovative design and the visualization of fresh ideas. The work was conceived and presented in a manner intended to connect the dots about land use, transit, financing, public space, and parking in ways that professionals, elected officials, and the general public may not have seen before.

June Williamson is associate professor in the Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York; she is author of Designing Suburban Futures: New Models from Build a Better Burb (Island Press, 2013) and co-author of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solution for Redesigning Suburbs (Wiley, 2009; Updated Edition, 2011). She can be reached at jwilliamson@ccny.cuny.edu or 212.650.5655.

TPP-2014-06-Parking Plus

Warm and Fuzzy Parking

TPP-2014-06-Warm and Fuzzy ParkingBy Jeff Petry

Can a municipal parking program be thought of as warm and fuzzy and still deliver necessary parking services? In Eugene, Ore., we have been on a five-year journey to create a municipal parking service that reflects our community’s values. Our progress toward this goal was recently noted through an unlikely source: a local newspaper editorial piece.

The author of a weekly column is a member of an architects association that held its regional association picnic on top of a parking garage. The author noted that holding an event on top of a parking garage is not the typical day-to-day business of municipal parking, but the fact that it happened reflected a government working with the community without delving into needless bureaucracy. So how does a parking program earn such kudos in the media? We did it through a lot of little steps that add up over time.

Take a Small Business Approach
In Oregon, public parking services can be handled through administrative action, including citation adjudication. We recognize that enforcement, adjudication, off-street parking management, and on-street meters and time zones can be wholly contracted out and performed by the private sector. By doing that, we run our parking program like a small business that focuses on our customers. We understand that we operate on behalf of our community, and we look for the added value of public employees performing the parking service.

Thousands of Daily Customers
How many businesses have thousands of daily customer interactions that determine their perception in the community? Parking does.

A rough calculation of our municipal parking program, which includes eight downtown parking structures with 3,000 stalls; 1,000 downtown on-street spaces; 650 on-street spaces around the University of Oregon campus; some 5,000 residential parking zone spaces, and jurisdiction over enforcement throughout the city, shows that our program has more than 1 million parking interactions each year. As such, our goal is for our community members and their visitors to have a wonderful experience and want to return and recommend us to their friends. This guides how we enforce and present ourselves.

Goal: Zero Tickets

In 2008, I heard a talk from John Shaheen, then at Washington State University, about how he purposely reduced the number of parking tickets issued on campus by changing the university’s parking infrastructure to create fewer ticket opportunities. What a great idea!

We adopted this goal in Eugene because issuing a ticket never creates a positive customer interaction, and the process of enforcement through adjudication is very expensive. Since 1991, our service delivery area has doubled, but the number of parking citations issued has been cut in half. While parking tickets are still written, we look for issues that may create parking conflicts and mitigate them to encourage a better and easier overall parking experience.

Names and Looks Matter
We removed the word “enforcement” from our parking program last summer. We also stopped using the term “enforcement officers” and embraced “parking services officers” and “parking services technicians.” Our focus is service, not enforcement, and our new job titles better reflect that.

We also re-imaged our parking officers. Instead of dressing them to look like law enforcement, we went for a friendlier, resort-wear uniform. Our officers wear light blue shirts with badges on their belts instead of their chests, and they sport casual name tags. Within days of switching out what officers wear, one received a hug from a community member in appreciation for his help.

Customer Contact Cards
Our parking enforcement team created business cards that are placed on windshields. The cards include a checkbox list of items, such as parking too far from the curb, not displaying a monthly permit correctly, or other frequent parking issues. They also offer an officer’s contact information and ask the driver to give the officer a call. Depending on policy, it may be in addition to a citation or not. The customer contact card provides a gentler path to better parking.

Block Parties
Each summer, our residential parking zoned neighborhoods hold a block party, and we send our parking team out with our parking lemonade stand (see the January 2013 issue of The Parking Professional). The stand offers an opportunity to talk with residents and sell our annual residential parking permits. Residents appreciate the ability to talk to us and the ease of picking up their annual permits. It also helps promote the event!

Students Are our Future
We recognize that a parking ticket may play a small role in long-term decisions made by the tens of thousands of students passing through our community’s universities and colleges. We want parking to be part of the reason Eugene is a cool place to start their next company or move back to later in life. Therefore, we don’t target students for tickets and meter revenue, but use a parking ticket as a simple lesson in life responsibilities. We personalize the parking experience with our students to build a better community in the long run.

Housing Fair
Each spring, the University of Oregon invites off-­campus housing property managers to set up in a vendor hall so students can learn about their housing options. The city’s parking program sets up a booth to help educate students about their on-street parking options, parking on front lawns, and general questions about living off campus.

We attend the fair because there are a limited number of on-street residential parking permits available and students are not aware of the limitations. When they ask their prospective landlords about parking, they are often told that the city will give them permits, but then arrive in the fall to find permits are already sold out. What a horrible message for me to deliver when they are so excited to start a new year.

We use the housing fair, as well as other communications, to get the message out to students planning to live off campus the following year.

The Art of Parking

Eugene’s home-grown parking and public art program has been featured in local and national media, including The Parking Professional. The key to our successful art program is partnerships with local artists that allowed them to incorporate our parking assets into their art.

We have poetry and stories in our stairwells, yarn bombs on our meters, zombie signs on metal gates, student designed and manufactured bike corrals, painted multi-space meters, and digital light art events on top of parking garages. It has been piecemeal development but adds to a creative and distinct downtown Eugene!

Poetry in Motion
On the first day of each month, we create a poem that can be left on customers’ windshields reminding them to display their new permit if we see the previous month’s permit displayed. The poems are not perfect (or even that poetic!), but they are fun and we’ve heard that some customers now purposely withhold their permits to get the new poem each month!

We work with customers to find solutions to their parking pinch points on a daily basis. A downtown business wants to hang a sign reading, “Customer Parking, Next Left” on a city light pole to help direct its customers to a few designated spaces in a private parking lot? We will work with the city traffic engineer to develop a pilot program to do it. A furniture store receives custom-ordered pieces once per month via semi-trailer but has no options to park the semi and unload? We work with the city traffic engineer to develop a temporary traffic control plan to enable their deliveries.

Always bear in mind that parking programs exist to enable commerce, not create roadblocks.

Town and Gown and Parking
The City of Eugene and the University of Oregon parking programs work closely together to address any parking issues in neighborhoods around the campus. We are working on sharing our resources, such as the city contracting with the university to sell residential parking permits for the neighborhoods around campus in their parking office.

We regularly attend neighborhood meetings together. We continue to look for opportunities to bring our programs together in the interest of our customers.

Our program’s goals are to encourage and enhance economic activity. We are fortunate to manage off-street parking, on-street space, and enforcement. As a result, we are able to assist downtown development activity both in the short and long term. We are able to meet with neighbors in residential areas to assist with their specific issues. Our enforcement team acts as the welcoming committee for thousands of visitors every day, and our administrative staff talks or meets with concerned customers every day.

On Valentine’s Day this year, a parking services officer was performing his normal duties downtown. A citation was issued for an expired meter. A group of young men, dressed in suits, came running up to him right after the ticket was issued. He educated them on the parking rules and pulled the ticket. The group was so thankful they asked if they could sing him a song, as they were a performance group. They did, and an interaction with a customer-oriented parking program resulted in an impromptu music performance on the street!

Can a parking program be warm and fuzzy and make your community better? It absolutely can!

Jeff Petry is parking manager for the City of Eugene, Ore. He can be reached at jeff.t.petry@ci.eugene.or.us or 541.682.5079.

TPP-2014-06-Warm and Fuzzy Parking

Lean Smart Parking

TPP-2014-06-Lean Smart ParkingBy Christopher Dance

On-street parking sensors are working in cities from Los Angeles to Moscow. The benefits of data from such sensors are undeniable. As guidance apps move from cellphones to in-car systems, drivers will rely on sensor data to quickly find nearby spaces. Comparisons of sensor data with meter data can guide enforcement officers to parking violations. Finally, such data enables reliable decisions about prices and time limits, as well as retrospective evaluation of policy effectiveness (see Figure 1).

Many additional cities would love to use such sensors but rightly ask, “Do the costs of sensors outweigh the benefits of the data they collect?” Clearly, there is a trade-off here (see Figure 2), and the best choice usually does not involve installing a sensor in every stall.

Here, we focus on understanding this trade-off based on data from cities where we have 100 percent sensor coverage. We begin by describing two new methods that can reduce data-collection costs by more than 50 percent while still ensuring high-quality data:

Spatial sampling, where one installs sensors in a fraction of the available spaces.

Temporal sampling, which uses mobile cameras coupled with computer vision algorithms (Bulan et al, 2013) to look at different streets at different times.

We refer to the use of these methods in guidance and policy decision-making as lean smart parking.

Both of these methods can exploit payment data from meters to fill in the gaps, although because payment rates vary highly within a city due to varying levels of placard use and abuse, for example, the utility of payment data as a substitute for sensor data is very variable. Furthermore, we might sample in both space and time, for instance by moving in-street sensors from one location to another, and we might use ultrasonic sensors rather than cameras. The considerations of this article also apply to such alternatives.

Finally, we discuss the key questions of what high-quality data is and the accuracy of sampling methods to illustrate the tremendous potential of lean smart parking.

Where Should Sensors Go?
There are 12,870 different ways to put eight sensors in 16 stalls. So if we want to do spatial sampling, which arrangement should we choose? Shouldn’t we have more sensors on longer block faces?

Fortunately, “everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things” (Tobler, 1970), and the extent to which things are related in parking can be quantified in terms of the correlation between occupancy as a function of distance (see Figure 3).

This spatial correlation can be used to calculate the error in predictions of occupancy for any given sensor arrangement using a method from oil and gas exploration called kriging. We can then search over all possible sensor arrangements and pick the arrangement that minimizes this error.

Where Should Cameras Look Next?
Temporal sampling methods work by maintaining a belief about each block face’s occupancy based on past observations. The error in this belief is reduced when a block face is observed. If the block face is not observed, the error increases because people’s behavior changes unpredictably.

This situation is analogous to the tracking of multiple military targets (block faces) with a limited number of radars (mobile units) to minimize the error in our belief about all the targets. It turns out that a near-optimal solution to this problem is given by the Whittle index policy (Whittle, 1988).

This policy even allows us to use payment data from block faces that are not being observed. So, if payments indicate that the occupancy of a block face has changed considerably since the last observation, our method will tend to choose to observe that face next. Similarly, we can ensure that places where payments are closely related to occupancy receive fewer observations.

What Is High-Quality Data?
Even decisions based on data from a sensor in every stall will sometimes be wrong, resulting in a loss of utility to drivers and policy makers. This is because such decisions are based on predictions of future occupancy in the presence of unpredictable changes from minute to minute and month to month.

Therefore, we describe data as being “high quality” if the loss of utility due to spatial or temporal sampling is less than the loss due to inaccurate predictions given full data.

Measuring the Quality of Sampling Methods
Data from cities where we have 100 percent sensor coverage are perfect for evaluating the effectiveness of sampling methods. After eliminating holidays and other atypical periods, we simply treat a fraction of the data as observed, use the data to estimate the occupancy for the remaining fraction, and compare these estimates with the full data.

Figure 4 compares the data quality from the following sampling methods:

  • Minute: observe one minute on distinct days.
  • Day: observe all minutes of distinct days.
  • Week: observe days from whole weeks.
  • Spatial: permanently observe 50 percent of the stalls.

It also shows the size of typical month-to-month variations as a guideline for high-quality data.

The figure shows that 50 percent sensor coverage (blue line) gives lower errors than the typical month-to-month variations. Thus, the error due to partial sensor coverage will be less than the error faced by a system using 100 percent sensor coverage due to month-to-month variations.

Regarding minute/day/week observations, there is big variation in demand between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on any given day, thus many minute observations are required to do as well as 50 percent sensor coverage. Also, there is correlation within a week, so if Monday is busy, the other days of the same week also tend to be busy. Therefore, five single-day-observations from different weeks provide better estimates than weeklong observations.

The results presented here made no use of payment data. They paint an appropriate picture of the performance of sampling methods for places where payments are not strongly related to occupancy or a conservative picture for other places.

The best choice of lean smart parking technology depends on the city. For instance, in cities with long block faces, cameras can be more economical than in-street sensors because they observe multiple stalls at a time. Also, the extent to which payment data is a good substitute for sensor data varies considerably between and within cities.

Although lean smart parking requires some work to determine the best solution for each city, our experiments clearly demonstrate that spatial and temporal sampling promise considerable savings, often of more than 50 percent, while ensuring only a small loss in the utility of the data relative to a 100 percent sensor installation. Several cities are currently deploying these first-of-a-kind technologies, so it is likely that lean smart parking is coming to a city near you soon!

O. Bulan, R. Loce, W. Wu, Y. Wang, E. Bernal, and Z. Fan, Video-based real-time on-street parking occupancy detection system. Journal of Electronic Imaging, 22(4):041109, 2012.

C. Dance, S. Clinchant, and O. Zoeter, Approximate Inference for a Non-Homogeneous Poisson Model of On-Street Parking. NIPS Workshop on Sustainability, Lake Tahoe, 2013.

W. Tobler, A computer movie simulating urban growth in the Detroit region. Economic Geography, 46(2): 234-240, 1970.

P. Whittle. Restless bandits: Activity allocation in a changing world. Journal of Applied Probability, 287-298, 1988.

Christopher Dance is research fellow at Xerox Research Centre Europe. He can be reached at dance@xerox.com or +33.47661.5050.

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Building the Nation’s Future

TPP-2014-06-Building the Nation's Future

Ray LaHood was U.S. Secretary of Transportation from 2009 to 2013. There, he held responsibility for the oversight of air, maritime, and surface transportation in the U.S.; 55,000 employees; and a $70 billion budget. He developed a reputation for being devoted to safety and fighting distracted driving.

Previously, LaHood was a U.S. Representative from Illinois, where he was a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and House Appropriations Committee.

He is currently co-chair of Building America’s Future, a bipartisan coalition of current and former elected officials working to raise awareness about the need to re-invest in roads, support transportation infrastructure, and keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent.

LaHood recently sat down with The Parking Professional to talk about the future of transportation and what role the parking industry will play moving forward.

The Parking Professional:
The transportation world is seeing great change from the introduction of technologies such as driverless cars, highway sensors, and automated road systems. In terms of infrastructure over the next five to 15 years, what do you see as the hot buttons or technologies that will most affect those who manage and use America’s transportation systems?

Ray LaHood: Before we can get excited about the country adopting the newest transportation technologies, we need to make sure that we are on par with what the rest of the world has been doing for decades. We’ve been falling behind our competitors in so many ways.

For example, the United States must invest in high-speed rail. We have to follow Europe’s lead and provide the next generation of transportation by building high-speed rail networks across this country. Likewise, driverless cars for everyone on main roadways are still years away, but we have the technology now to make the cars we drive ourselves better and more fuel-efficient.

I’ve said it before: All families will have some kind of hybrid or electric vehicle by 2025. The future is now for these technologies, before automated systems and driverless prototypes become more road-ready.

TPP: Building America’s Future is focused on improving the U.S. transportation infrastructure to improve overall quality of life. What are your first priorities in that area?

RL: One of the most important reasons for investing in American infrastructure is ensuring that the United States remains an economically competitive and viable global leader. Over the years, we have been passed by developing countries who manage to invest more capital into their roads, bridges, aviation, transportation systems, and ports than we do. We need to ensure that our country remains economically competitive, and crumbling infrastructure makes investors less inclined to invest here.

Infrastructure investment is intricately linked to quality of life for these reasons; infrastructure and economic growth go hand-in-hand.

TPP: A significant percentage of congestion in urban areas and cities is caused by drivers looking for parking, and most cars spend more than 90 percent of their time parked. The parking industry has embraced new strategies and technologies, such as sensors, reservation systems, and navigational apps that take drivers directly to available spots to try and combat congestion. What role do you see parking playing in the greater overhaul of the transportation system? How can parking and transportation administrators and planners best work together?

RL: You are right—congestion in urban areas is amplified by a scarcity of parking options. In cities, cruising for a parking spot can slow down traffic to maddening levels. To mitigate these troubles, private parking companies must be encouraged to continue growth in downtown areas, while high-volume roadways should work to create fewer free or short-term parking spaces that lead to excessive cruising.

As you mentioned, private companies have been leading the charge in creating new technologies around making parking easier in urban areas, and they must be allowed to continue to do so through public investment in parking and transportation technologies. Transportation and parking are interrelated, and the government should help to mitigate congestion by encouraging further innovation by these private enterprises.

TPP: You recently joined the board of directors of a company that manufactures electric buses. How important is it for the parking industry to embrace sustainable measures such as electric vehicle (EV) charging/alternate fuels, efficient lighting, and automated systems that reduce idling?

RL: It is crucial to implement sustainable measures and increased environmental awareness across all industries, and the parking industry can work to be a leader in this field.

EV charging in parking structures can help to encourage citizens to buy electric vehicles, because they see how convenient the charging stations can be. EV is undoubtedly the future of transit; it is cost-efficient and good for the environment. Having accessible charging stations is one roadblock to getting more EVs on the road; therefore, having the parking industry lead the way in providing convenient charging stations is vitally important.

Automated systems can help to lessen emissions and work to make the parking experience more efficient, which, in turn, leads to a more satisfying parking experience overall. Drivers want the most efficient, quickest parking experience possible, and these advancements help to keep car owners satisfied and happy with their parking experience in the 21st century.

TPP: A priority of IPI’s has been to secure a seat at the urban and transportation planning table for parking professionals, so that parking becomes part of the first steps of infrastructure planning and not an afterthought. From your perspective, is that an important role for parking? If so, how can our industry promote it as a priority to others?

RL: Absolutely. Parking affects air and water in many of the same ways as other infrastructure development projects and should therefore be thoughtfully included in initial infrastructure planning processes. Holistic inclusion of the parking industry can radically reduce parking woes later on down the line.

TPP: It’s often said that one of the top stumbling blocks to getting drivers out of their cars and onto mass transit is that they simply like driving themselves. How can we overcome that to encourage more efficient commuting?

RL: A fact that commuters know all too well is that time and money are precious. Each year, the average D.C.-area commuter spends more than 60 hours sitting in his or her car, stuck in traffic. The congestion cost per driver from all this sitting in traffic adds up to nearly $1,000 in extra gasoline expenditures for the average commuter, not to mention the costs of maintaining a car.

All this wasted time and money could be spent with or on their families, or at work being more productive. If these numbers can be driven home for these commuters in areas where public transportation is so much more viable, affordable and, above all, faster, commuters can be encouraged to pull out of this terrible traffic congestion and try something much more efficient in every way imaginable.

TPP: What is your overall vision for the future of parking and transportation? Where are your biggest priorities?

RL: My biggest priorities include fixing our pothole-riddled roads and crumbling bridges all across America.

Each day, millions of Americans drive across structurally deficient infrastructure, and yet infrastructure investment is not a priority in Washington. Modernizing American infrastructure to an internationally competitive level is my biggest priority. Investing in infrastructure plans that have smartly integrated parking blueprints is a crucial part of modernizing infrastructure and stopping urban bottlenecks.

By increasing availability of parking options near busy destinations, we can help slow the sprawl of congestion. It is necessary and forward-looking to integrate parking policy and transportation policy in urban planning projects.

TPP: From a personal perspective, what makes for a great parking experience?

RL: Finding a spot right in front of the place you want to go, of course!

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Metadata and Parking

TPP-2014-06-Metadata and ParkingBy Leonard T. Bier, JD, CAPP

The defection by Edward Snowden from the U.S. to Russia spotlighted the metadata intelligence gathering of the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) Prism Program. The general practice of collecting and analyzing telephone metadata by the NSA and the federal government significantly intensified after Sept. 11, 2001, and the NSA has requested, received, and stored data from every domestic phone call since 2006.

The intelligence gathering of telephone metadata disclosed by Snowden has been the subject of acrimonious public debate. The Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, in a well-reasoned and readable decision by Judge William H. Pauley III in the matter of ACLU v. James Clapper et. al, ruled that the collection and analysis of telephone metadata by federal security agencies is constitutional.

Why is the gathering and analysis of metadata of concern to public and private parking operators? To begin with, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), amended in 1998, permitted the federal government, under certain conditions, to issue an order to produce records related to entities in the business of public transit, accommodation facilities, storage facilities, and car rental. The Patriot Act later allowed the federal government to secure an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to review any business record. The government recognized that knowing where a person was flying, temporarily residing, renting or parking a car, or storing materials can have national security value.

After Snowden’s well-publicized flight from the U.S., I received a number of emails from IPI members who use pay-by-license plate or cell phone and multi-space meters, as well as on-street license plate recognition (LPR) systems, asking what they should do with the license plate data they have accumulated and stored. These technologies allow operators to store data that include license plate number and the GPS location or meter zone where vehicles park, along with the duration of each stay.

Parking managers were concerned that by retaining license plate information, they accumulated metadata and could be infringing on their customers’ constitutional rights. Since 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court in Smith v. Maryland has stated that individuals have no expectation of privacy when they voluntarily give up telephone information to a third party (the phone company) by placing phone calls. The phone number from which the call was placed, the number called, and the duration of the call are business records of the phone company and available to law enforcement. License plate data collected by public and private parking operators is similar to phone records and would fall in this category.

The U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Jones reasoned that short-term monitoring of a person’s vehicle movement on public streets does not violate a person’s expectations of privacy, but the use of longer-term GPS tracking devices does. Later, in U.S. v. Katzin, the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, ruled explicitly that GPS tracking devices cannot be attached to a vehicle by law enforcement without a search warrant.

The accumulation of license plate metadata by public and private parking operators does not involve placing any tracking device on a vehicle and should not be construed as a trespass on the vehicle or a warrantless search of the operator. The parker voluntarily enters vehicle information into a cell phone app or pay station to park in the public right of way. Entering a facility with LPR is no different than going through an EZ Pass toll booth, which records the vehicle’s transponder and license plate.

License plate data without analysis are benign.The fact that a public or private parking operator captures license plate data violates no constitutional rights unless and until the data is used to track a specific vehicle’s location. At that point, a parking manager will need legal advice as to whether license plate information is available to law enforcement with or without a warrant.

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

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Every Effort Counts

TPP-2014-06-Every Effort CountsBy Jody Miller

Sustainability is a hot topic in nearly every industry, political agenda, and even consumer purchasing pattern. Once a fashionable trend, sustainable practice is now an expectation. Everyone has an eye on what organizations are doing in support of economic, social, and environmental sustainable practices.

With the world as its audience, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) adopted Agenda 21 of the Olympic Movement in the late 1990s and became a leader in promoting sustainability through sport. Agenda 21 does not solely focus on sport but also on key supporting functional areas, including transportation and parking. You can’t have a snowboarding competition without a terrain park, but there would be no competition at all without athletes at the mountain to compete. Because parking and transportation are key contributors to the success of an Olympic Games, as well as to the overall carbon emissions figure, the industry is front and center in the sustainability conversation.

Core Values
The Organizing Committee for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games was the first committee to identify sustainability as a core value. Vancouver 2010 made a commitment to sustainability early when it became the first organizing committee to track and record direct carbon emissions during the seven-year planning period and the first to secure a formal carbon offsetter sponsorship. This sponsorship opportunity was repeated by London 2012 and, most recently, Sochi 2014 and is evidence of a tangible way organizations have adapted to balancing necessary activities with the need to address social perceptions.

Welcoming 10,568 athletes, with a regular population of 8 million people, and with 8 million tickets available for sale, London 2012 wanted to do more than just track and offset carbon emissions; the committee wanted to map the event’s potential carbon footprint and use those estimates to assist with planning. The Organizing Committee completed a study and created a “reference footprint” to identify areas of concern and better determine the environmental effects of event operations. It was determined that 17 percent of the London 2012 footprint came from spectator travel. This data altered planning assumptions and assisted in reduction planning.

Parking is necessary to support the promotion of multi-modal transportation options for large-scale events. The train you board, the bus you ride, the taxi you hail, and even the bicycle you pedal—every transportation mode, owned or borrowed—needs a place to be when not actively used. Sochi 2014 oversaw a major overhaul of the region’s transportation network and invested billions of dollars in roadways, tunnels, and trains. Even so, venue design for those Games proved sustainability was not an afterthought. The compact nature of the layout allowed the organizing committee to innovate by going simple and focusing on one of the most basic and refreshing modes of transportation: the bicycle. So instead of athletes riding buses as in the past, competitors were seen riding bicycles. Venues boasted designated bicycle parking on an electric drive that was powered by solar energy.

The Rest of Us
For the rest of us who aren’t operating on Olympic-size platforms, a brilliant part of implementing sustainable practices is that we don’t have to aim to ace the LEED scorecard or change the world in one motion to make changes that support sustainable initiatives. Thanks to changes at large-scale events, consumers are watching, and small steps in lighting options, landscaping, waste removal, communications, and even the kind of sealants we use all reduce our carbon footprint. Whether your audience is the world, students, passengers, patients, residents, or shoppers, it’s clear that every effort counts.

Jody Miller is vice president, operations, of Click and Park, and a member of IPI’s Sustainability Committee. She can be reached at jody@clickandpark.com or 321.251.9144.

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Identifying Untapped Potential

TPP-2014-06-Identifying Untapped PotentialBy Trevyr Meade

With Green Garage Certification officially launched, our industry has come together to showcase the untapped potential that lies in the parking spaces we own and operate. Our work has developed an industry-specific standard that communicates to cities, campuses, and commercial real estate the contribution parking can make to institutional sustainability programs.

Green Garage Certification, produced by a collaboration of more than 200 parking professionals, aggregates more than 40 best practices that promote garage sustainability. This work was vetted by a review panel of sustainability, parking, real estate, and technology experts and refined by beta garage evaluations of Hines, Brookfield, The Ohio State University, Houston Airport, Monday Properties, Cleveland Clinic, and others’ facilities.

“This process has strengthened Green Garage Certification with collective insights and perspectives from both inside and outside our industry,” explains Rachel Yoka, LEED AP BD+C, CPSM, a board member of both IPI and the Green Parking Council (GPC, an affiliate of IPI), and co-chair of the GPC’s Certification Committee. “It’s been really amazing how much enthusiasm there is for developing this program, not to mention market potential.”

Parking facilities connect mobility and the built environment. Green Garage Certification’s practices and technologies leverage this unique position to deliver enhanced value, increased efficiency, and revenue diversity to parking assets. The program demonstrates how garages deliver sustainability by embracing energy efficiency, sustainable construction, mobility choice, green purchasing, and social connectivity.

“I often point to our work at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) garage in Golden, Colo., as an example of how sustainability can be accomplished in a parking facility,” explains Stephen Rebora, president of DESMAN Associates. “It’s wonderful that there is now a template that can be shared with clients that outlines how garages can achieve sustainability”

The Focus
Certification focuses on three approaches to ways existing and new garages can be sustainable: management, programming, and technology/structure design.
Garage management focuses on techniques that bolster operational effectiveness while limiting environmental effects, including:

  • Facility recycling.
  • Green cleaning.
  • Sustainable purchasing.
  • Credentialed management.

Garage programing is a collection of facility attributes that increase the efficiency of the parking process and equip patrons with sustainable mobility choices. Green garage programing includes:

  • Rideshare.
  • Carshare.
  • Bicycle sharing and parking.
  • Enhanced facility wayfinding.
  • Reservations systems.

Finally, garage technologies/structure design are physical features of the garage that promote sustainability:

  • Efficient lighting.
  • Efficient ventilation.
  • Recycled and repurposed construction materials.
  • Electric vehicle charging.
  • Automated payment systems.
  • Renewable energy systems.

High-performing parking facilities that successfully embrace these and more than 20 additional sustainability initiatives will earn designation as Certified Green Garages. Certification recognizes garages owned and operated by organizations with a strong commitment to quality, innovation, and social responsibility.

“Our clients have been deploying sustainability initiatives for years,” says Gary Cudney, PE, president and CEO of Carl Walker, Inc. “It’s very exciting that there is now an opportunity for them to be recognized for their achievements.”

The launch of Green Garage Certification June 1 demonstrates what we can accomplish as parking professionals when we come together in a collaborative environment. As certification brings to light past successes and fosters future green innovations, people beyond our industry will gain a greater understanding of how parking has and will continue to better our communities. For more information, visit greenparkingcouncil.org/certification.

Trevyr Meade is a staff associate with the Green Parking Council (an affiliate of IPI) and a member of IPI’s Consultants Committee. He can be reached at trevyr@greenparkingcouncil.org or 203.672.5891.

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