Observations and Musings from the Last Ten Years

Observations and Musings from the Last Ten Years

A number of month’s back I reached the nine-year employment marker with T2 Systems [originally through Digital Payment Technologies] and it got me thinking… I realized that I could no longer allow myself the padded landing of ‘I’m new’ as I am currently in my tenth year.  Ten years as a Parking Professional.  Ten years of receiving blank stares from the airport customs agents when I provide my job title upon request.  A decade ago I likely would have laughed at this; let’s be honest, who grows up with this dream in mind!  I definitely did not.  Nonetheless, it is now my reality and I am proud of it and excited for what the next ten years has to offer me.  Therefore, I thought I would take a minute and put to paper some rambling thoughts and musing of lessons learned over the last ten years.

Yep… it is a Real Industry

I am sure we have all encountered the same types of looks that I referred to above, from either our family or friends, or from other professionals we find ourselves in conversation with.  I was first introduced by a friend of mine who was a Regional Sales Manager for Digital Payment Technologies [any guesses how I ended up working there myself?!] and our group of friends had many conversations behind his back about how he couldn’t actually be in ‘parking’… there wasn’t actually an industry for that right…?  He must be a spy!  CIA!  IRS!  He worked odd hours, didn’t seem to report to any real office, travelled all around the US without much rhyme or reason… Plenty of ammunition to suspect he was hiding a dark secret.  We in fact teased his wife that perhaps he was trying to cover up a secret family down in Miami; wife, 2 kids, dog… the whole gamut.  Not sure she appreciated the ‘joke’.  In fact, I learned quickly that we are not only a ‘real ‘industry, but a booming one to boot [pun intended].  Some recent data I pulled from the web stated that due to a projected YOY [Year Over Year] CAGR [Compound Annual Growth Rate] of 12.1 %, our industry revenue worldwide is set to hit over seven billion dollars by the year 2018.  This is staggering… and certainly earns us the ‘real industry’ kudos.

Bring on the High Heels

Christian Louboutin?  Jimmy Choo?  The forever-dependable Nine West?  It matters not.  I recall the first trade show that I attended in 2008 [IPI in Dallas] and remember feeling like an anomaly on the trade show floor.  Most other vendor representatives were male, and a high proportion of the staff and executives of each organization we spoke to at our booth were also male.  I had a good inkling when I took the job that I was going to be in a male dominated industry but I really had no idea of how much, until this first experience.  Since then, each year I see more and more females stepping up into both sales roles and high-level executive roles within Municipal, University and Private Operator’s organizations.  Some of our greatest thought leaders are female and parking professionals all over are looking to them for guidance.  This is a very exciting time for everyone in the industry.  While I am a proponent of having the best person hired for any particular job, and not necessary to tick a required box, I believe [generally speaking] that men and women have inherently different and unique strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, the more diversity and balance we bring to our work life, the better off we are all going to be for it.  Looking around the trade show floor at IPI this year, I would almost bet that there was a 60/40 ratio now, which is so encouraging.  We are definitely moving in the right direction.

Looking into the Crystal Ball

The parking industry in North America has historically been a bit slow atadopting technology trends.  In 2008 when I entered the scene, I would hazard a guess we were positioned somewhere in the mid-90’s at best, when compared to other industries.  Ten years ago, Pay by Plate [PBP] was hardly considered and the lack of organizational structure often led to the inability to deal holistically with available technology.  Cash still ruled the day in mostcases and mobile payments were just starting to show their face.  Today, PBP is the benchmark to achieve, mobile payments are offered in almost every parking environment, unified data houses with open API’s and easily accessible key performance indicators are shaping the way our departments are working with each other internally and externally and outside forces such as Uber and Lyft are changing how we plan for the future.  With the prevalence of software-based solutions, we wonder what effect it will have on parking hardware in the future?  With shared and autonomous vehicles being our next reality, parking revenue for Municipalities, Universities and Private Operators will be affected.  The ripples will hit us all whether we work in the private or public sector.  I unfortunately don’t have a crystal ball handy to project exactly how we will all navigate this new world [I know, the title of this paragraph was misleading] but I have no doubt that it will be an exciting ride for all of us involved.

Network, Network, Network

It’s not only technology advancement that has given our industry the reputation of being old school.  I have come to witness time after time the fact that our industry model’s foundation is based on face-to-face interactions.  Relationships built on trust, mutual respect, the good old fashioned handshake and eye to eye contact.  Although there is the occasional situation where WebEx meetings and Skype calls can accomplish a needed dialogue, our successes mostly land from in-person communication.  Due to this, we have a magnitude of opportunity to learn from our counterparts and enhance our own job performance.  I look at my own personal social media and notice more and more, ‘parking people’ are taking shape on my contacts and friends lists.  Does this mean I need to be a bit careful of what I post?  Sure.  But I try to live on social media as if my mother was always watching…because… my mother is always watching!  Whether we are looking to move to a new organization or brainstorm with other thought leaders to solve a problem in our own organization, the network and relationship building opportunities that that Parking Industry provides us is bar none in my opinion.  Regional Associations provide an amazing opportunity for this type of networkingactivity.  Getting involved with geographically similar minded people can broaden our own set of experiences, which in turn can help us do our job more effectively.

Competition is Healthy…

If you are in the public side of our business, then this might not ring true to you.  Skip down to ‘Work hard, Play hard’.  But if you belong to the private sector, that of a parking operator or vendor, you may relate to what I’m saying next.  With the exception of a few players that don’t like to share space in the sandbox [or worse yet, pick up the sand and throw it?], I have come to determine that there is place for us all and in fact we all make each other stronger and better.  There are keen rivalries in our industry; we all like to ‘win’.  However, after the close of business I have witnessed many competitors at a company level or at a sales representative level come together over a drink and share stories.  There are many situations where, as competitors, we need to work together with integrations to enhance a client’s environment.  Where we need to collaborate and share the business for the greater good.  It shows integrity to have such relationships and integrations in spite of the competitive nature that is all around us.  With technology changing us each day, as competitors we inspire and push each other to new heights in order to best serve those around us.  It’s hard work, but…

Work hard, Play hard

Trust me; we play just as hard.  I’m sure anyone reading this has experienced highs and lows in their chosen position and organization.  Some weeks we are putting in twelve-hour days, seven days a week and feel completely overwhelmed.  Turn us all loose at a SWPTA Scavenger Hunt or at a Minute-to-Win-it games night at TPTA and it will become abundantly clear that we are a fun loving and social group.  We are able to find balance for those long days given the numerous opportunities to play within our industry.  Regional Associations are more often than not hosting annual conferences that are highly interactive and focus a great deal on building relationships and creating learning, in fun and active ways.  I have witnessed many public organizations with a strong sense of community that plan outside of work events to kick back and let loose.  I know the same can be said on the private side…

As I am now hitting the ten-year marker, which must allow me to wear the official ‘parking nerd’ hat, I realize I could ramble on about parking and our chosen industry for hours.  I will therefore use some self-control at this point and sign off.  Whether you are brand new to the industry and a little scared of what is coming next, a ten year Parking Professional like myself, or a seasoned veteran who has experienced it all, I hope this has created some spark of excitement about where the Parking Industry sits today and the future we have to look forward to.

Carmen Sevrens

T2 Systems

Regional Sales Manager

Special Event Parking Services on a University Campus

On-campus parking is a commodity for faculty, staff and students. Accommodating additional parking for visitors attending campus tours, fine arts performances or large sporting events can be quite challenging.  At the University of Arizona, Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) coordinates parking for over 250 campus events each year. The Special Events staff assists with parking advice, suggestions and arrangements for events, banquets, workshops, ceremonies, meetings, performances, and conferences.

When planning an event on campus, where your guests will park is an important part of the planning process.  Most campuses offer different options for visitor parking such as meters, short term visitor lots and visitor parking in pay parking garages.  Most of these locations have a limited number of parking spaces and do not guarantee the stall will be available to visitors as they drive up without prior reservations.  When considering whether there is a need to make prior arrangements, we request that events bringing 75 or more vehicles to a specific location contact Special Event Operations.  In most cases, we can discuss parking reservations, lot monitors, pre-paid parking passes, and alternative options for your group. In some cases, non-traditional areas will be used as parking locations for your events such as off-site lots, lawns, unused sporting fields or concrete pads.  For an additional fee, we can add to the experience by providing a large van or golf cart shuttle service to escort your guests from their parking location to the event.   

How We Prepare a Reserved Parking Area

Event parking isn’t regular parking.  Most of the time, the areas used are lots and spaces that regular or permit holders use to park.  To prepare for large groups of vehicles parking in lots or garages, there are courteous notifications given to “regular” parking permit holders.  It may be in the form of an email blast to the permit holder, flyers on the windshield or simple signage on message boards or signs on stanchions at garage and lot entrances.  It is especially helpful when notification is sent several days in advance.   This helps to notify regular parkers to clear the section needed due to the event and also to give them extra time to get to another parking location.  

When signage messaging is clear, it will reduce the number of calls inquiring about the displacement.  It is imperative to be clear and consistent in your messaging and methods of notifying customers.  It is also important to provide customized directional signage for lots and garages on event days for guests.  These signs should provide parking directions, instructions for restricted or closed parking areas, and if a permit or fee is required. 
If an event chooses not to make prior arrangements for their guests, it is still great customer service to provide the event with alternate methods of getting to campus, how to use visitor parking locations and providing visitor maps and an informational website address for their guest.  We inform the event planner to be aware of events already happening on campus and the potential traffic obstacles their guests may encounter.  

Being aware of all events on campus allows PTS to better manage the limited parking available. Whether reservations are made or not, parking information is provided to staff on the special events calendar and in an internal weekly memo.  The weekly memo is shared with all of our parking employees, UA departments and various campus neighbors.  The information provided in the memo helps our garage, field, and enforcement employees to be aware of increases in motor vehicle traffic, pedestrians and visitors.  This memo also helps the campus police to recognize when there is unauthorized event activity in lots, garages and lawns.

Lastly, parking event monitors are scheduled to secure reserved spaces and to provide information on alternate parking locations for those required to relocate.  The monitors offer person to person interaction and peace of mind to the event planners by knowing their guests will have accommodations when coming to their campus event.

By Elisa Tapia, University of Arizona

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

It’s no secret that there are a lot of emotions on display these days – unfortunately most of them are not happy ones.  The recent election process andthe events since its completion have proven that we are a nation deeply divided and honestly, nobody is pleased with the way things are going.  Regardless of which side of the issues you’re on, you’re probably experiencing turmoil.  

Unfortunately some people are taking that emotion out on our employees, especially if you are in any way associated with government.  Those racist rants you see making their way around Facebook?  Or the anger turning to violence against innocent people going about their business?  If it hasn’t happened to your employees yet, it probably will.  It has hit us here in the City of Las Vegas pretty hard and we have had to figure out how to support our employees while still serving our customers.

On two occasions in the last month, our enforcement officers have been assaulted in the field doing their jobs.  The first was an Uber driver who shoved and yanked around the officer giving him a citation for parking at a red curb.  The second was a man in a neighborhood that objected to being cited and shoved the officer around.  Both men had prior records of assault, and one had an outstanding warrant.  And it’s not just parking – a city code enforcement officer was threatened with a shotgun recently.On top of this, a man came into our office to address a parking ticket and ended up going on a loud, long, racist rant, telling the staff they were going to be deported, they didn’t belong in this country, he couldn’t understand them because they couldn’t speak English – just like those rants you see on Facebook. The staff ended up in tears because of all the really awful things he said.

Those of us in parking are pretty used to angry customers.  We are appreciated by some people, but usually those who work alongside or elsewhere in our organizations.  The general public doesn’t look too favorably on us, and we’ve developed a pretty thick skin and ability to let the anger slide off.  While it is a necessary skill in our industry, it also, I think, does us a disservice when confronted with these types of situations.  We don’t push back, we let people have their say without getting into arguments, we retreat when faced with aggression and just all around don’t stir the pot.

But in the face of physical violence and racist, personally hurtful language, we don’t know what to do, really.  Our skills, so carefully developed, don’t diffuse or prevent escalation in these cases.  Both officers that were assaulted refused to press charges and our office staff didn’t call for backup.  So what should we do as employers to protect our employees?  We hire and train for the skill set that screams at us NOT to take action or call for help, so is it reasonable to expect our employees to all of a sudden ignore that instinct?  Not without a lot of discussion, reassurance, training and organizational support.


These situations are where I believe managers and employers need to step in and prove their worth.  We called a meeting with our law enforcement folks at
the highest levels.  We looked at state and local laws to see if there was legal
 action the City could take against those who assault our employees or harass them in the office.  We came up with a plan and spent a lot of time coaching our employees – and we will continue to do so.  Most importantly, we need to make sure we back up our talk.

Here’s what we did:

  • Charges are being pressed against the two people who physically assaulted our officers – by the city, not by the officers  
  • Our law enforcement officers are doing 3 times daily visits to our customer service office
  • All of our staff attended verbal judo classes – the ones taught to police officers that dive pretty deep into human psychology and help us predict reactions and use some “mind tricks” to keep us safe
  • We revised our panic button policy – previously employees were told they should only activate their panic buttons if there was an active shooter or they felt physically threatened – now, they are told to give a customer using foul language, racist or threatening remarks one warning and then get help
  • We stress over and over again to everyone that it is NOT okay for people to treat us that way.  If we don’t do anything, we are essentially telling them they can continue.  And what will happen when they come into contact with another city employee?  What about the people around that hear and see us treated that way with no consequences?

As managers and employers, we have an obligation to do our best to create a safe and positive workplace.  We need to support our employees who do such emotionally difficult jobs.  Remember, we’ve taught them skills that make it very difficult for them to make a stand and the onus is on us, not them, to make the change.

– Brandy Stanley, City of Las Vegas

Snapchat and Impact on Mobile Technology

 Nathan Berry, Passport

From the “pretty” filter to the flower crown- – there’s no doubt that Snapchat is greatly holding the the queen bee reigns of social media platforms.

Being able to document your every move in real-time, while throwing in a perfectly curated geofilter, is significantly influencing how we move and document our short-term content. A day trip to Charleston? There’s a hot pink and lime green geofilter that illustrates the landscape. Heading to an Ellie Goulding concert? Don’t forget to add the tour-themed geofilter for a chance to get backstage passes. Everything is changing for social media, and in turn, for mobile technology. Users are quickly adapting to the major shift in tech.

As mobile technology changes the game for the growing social media platform, we’ll continue to see an increase in mobile payment usage. According to Accenture, millennials and higher income families are leading the mobile payment usage game — at 23% and 38%, respectively. From Venmo and PayPal to Apple Pay and Google Wallet — mobile apps are making it a piece of cake for users to handle their transactions from the palm of their hands. Oh and did we mention you can now pay a user via the Snapchat app?

Well, with Snapcash you can.For the transportation industry, users are adapting to handling their parking, transit, and permit experience through their mobile device. Move over kiosks and loose change for the parking meter – let your phone do the work. From being able to pay for parking to paying for your Metro fare via mobile app – the way and how you move is drastically changing. We’re a little biased, but we think for the better. As the Internet of Things makes headway in 2017, the way we interact with our environment and mobile devices will be significant to our everyday lives, particularly the way we move.

As for Snapchat, users are given total control of the way they interact with their movements. With advancements in technology, mobility will significantly be altered by apps- for now, Snapchat is leading the social media pack.

SWPTA Shop Talk – Spring 2014

Communication: how to answer the question really being asked?

When used properly communication is the most efficient tool in our arsenal. When communication is not sent or received in the manner intended it can be the most frustrating of hindrances. Often times we are asked a question in the course of our work and provide an answer to the customer. While the answer is directed to the question it is not really the answer the customer is looking for. Join us in our roundtable discussion to explore this topic and provide anecdotes to ensuring the question being asked is the information being sought.

Join us on March 28th for an informal discussion amongst your colleagues. Look for an invite through AnyMeeting soon!

SWPTA Shop Talk

 

“Troubleshooting Office Communication Problems”

 

Having problems with up or down communication around your office? We all have these challenges! How do you address them?

We all have issues with communication around the office. They can range from part-time staff not communicating with full-time staff to full time staff not communicating with each other. What happens when you run out of product to be able to run your business efficiently due to poor communication? Join us to provide helpful information on common communication concerns. Your participation could help change others office problems and possibly save a few hairlines.

 

Success for SWPTA 2013!

Photo Credit:  Stefan Perner

LAS VEGAS– October 27th – 29th, the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas was overrun with parking professionals from as far away as Anchorage and as nearby as The City of Las Vegas.  With 108 registered attendees, SWPTA 2013 had the second largest conference attendance in the history of the organization.  With record attendance came record sponsorship, and the event was productive and full of useful information.

Todd Pierce, SWPTA’s 2013 President, announced that the 2014 Board of Directors will be expanded from nine members to eleven.  With the new addition of available seats on the board, in addition to several terms ending at the close of 2013, there are many opportunities for members interested in leadership and serving our community.

 

SWPA to become SWPTA!

The Southwest Parking Association is excited to announce we have renamed our organization, now becoming the Southwest Parking & Transportation Association (SWPTA). The name change symbolizes how parking and transportation are connected systems that, in concert, facilitate the diverse mobility needs of the public.

In today’s municipal and university environments, parking is continuously becoming more integrated with transportation. Transportation Demand Management (TDM), Urban Planning, Technology Integration and Sustainability are each impacting our mobility. The way in which parking systems interface with every mode of transportation not only shapes our industry, but affects how people move throughout the world.

SWPTA is a proud ally of the International Parking Institute, and is dedicated to serving the networking and professional development needs of both parking and transportation industry members. In the spirit of inclusion, we make no distinction between institutions and corporations or between CEOs and front line staff. We exist to provide a platform for discussion to enable the spread of information,  methodologies and best practices for the parking and transportation industries. SWPTA invites you to join the conversation by becoming a member and/or sponsor, regularly visiting and contributing to our website http://www.southwestparking.org, and attending our 11th annual conference, October 27th – 30th in Las Vegas!

Leader of the Brand

 

It’s all in the Name! Sixteen years ago, the city of Portland, Oregon arrived at an innovative idea: to develop a brand identity for its municipal parking operations. In 1993, Portland Public Parking became SmartPark. And since then, parking in downtown Portland hasn’t been the same.

To read more of this article by Todd Pierce, click here