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Are we speaking to our customers? Shakespeare was on the right track


Actually, this sign is fairly clear. Can’t park from 11-1 on Friday for Street Cleaning. 2 hour parking 8 to 5 Monday – Saturday including holidays, unless your have a district 7 permit and then I guess you can park as long as you want. You can’t even stop from 5 pm to 2  am any day unless you have a District 7 permit,  then you can park during those hours…Now take Sunday…I guess all bets are off on the 2 hour parking restriction, but not on the 5 PM to 2 AM restriction. Except for District 7.

Then there’s the “Once per day per district”. I would surmise that this is District 7. That means that you non permit holders can park in District 7 for 2 hours but then have to move your car to district 1-6, wherever they are, for an additional 2 hours, assuming the same rules apply in other districts.

I do have a couple of questions for the Culver City, CA parking folks.

1. If you don’t enforce on Sunday, why enforce on holidays? One may assume that the same reasoning for not enforcing on Sunday would apply for other holidays? Right?

2. Why not note that you are in District 7? See 4 below.

3. Why note that District 7 permits are exempt? People having the permits know they are exempt, as do the enforcement people. It only makes the signs cluttered and confusing.

4. It would seem that the “Once per day per district” rule was there to ensure that people simply don’t move their car 30 feet and park again for another two hours — turnover. This is a residential neighborhood a block away from a shopping center. The goal might be to keep center employees from parking in the neighborhood and taking space from the residents. By the way — here is the regulation quoted from the Municipal Code:

For any person to park a vehicle on any public street or alley subject to a “Time-Limited Parking Except By Permit” limitation for a period longer than the subject time limitation, unless a preferential parking zone permit therefor has been issued by the City of Culver City and is displayed on the vehicle. For purposes of this Section, successive acts of parking upon any public street subject to a “Time-Limited Parking Except By Permit” limitation, or portion of such street within the same preferential parking zone, shall be deemed a single act of parking, subject to the time-limit parking restriction applicable to that preferential parking zone.

This fixes the move for another 2 hours problem but adds confusion – move after 30 minutes four times and you use up your parking, but only in that zone. This of course begs the question, how the hell do you enforce this. I know, I know — LPR…but does the algorithm take moving after 30 or whatever minutes and add up the time in the zone. By the way, “Once per day, Per District” on the sign doesn’t cover all the possibilities created by the regulation. A judge would run screaming from the courtroom if one tried to explain this when you were challenging a citation.

How about

“You may have one 2 hour (or less) parking session per day per district.”

5. If a resident had a visitor coming for dinner. They could not park on the street, but I’m assuming they have a one day permit that could be placed on the car to notify the towing crew that the car is legitimate.

I could go on and on but your get the point. The sign was written, I think, to please the lawyers, not to communicate with our customers.







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Driving VS Uber

Shelly came to the PT offices for a meeting this week. When it was over, we asked for her parking ticket so we could validate. She said “Oh, I took Uber, the parking here is so confusing.” She would rather pay about $25 for the round trip than pay nothing to park in our building because of the confusing signage. This is a person who is tangentially, at least, in the parking business. (Shelly is our graphic designer.)

I went down and looked at the garage entry and subsequent directions through the eyes of someone who didn’t park here every day and sure enough, the place is confusing. Far better to take a TNC and be dropped off right in front at the curb.

Its not just the technology, or lack thereof. Nor is it the staff, or the lighting, or the cleanliness. It can also be the garage design from 30 years ago, or the confusing signage, or battle going on daily between the two buildings that share the garage.

Is it possible that we get so used to parking in mediocre parking facilities that we don’t see the issues like our guests do? I can sail past confusing signage and around tight corners because the facility has trained me to do so. Is it time for a second look?

A little thinking outside the box and a good graphic designer (can you say Todd Pierce) could turn our place into one that people would want to park in, not just tolerate or use our competitors. As for the cost, how much revenue are we losing? There is a lot of empty space.

Just Sayin…


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Inanimate Objects

Do inanimate objects take on a life of their own? If not, why does your car run better after a car wash? Doesn’t you cell phone work better after you have given it a good cleaning? Does you laptop run faster after you yell at it? Did you ever notice that the air conditioning seems to work better on some days than on others?

I have a 14 year old car. I have taken good care of it and done all the maintenance and only used factory replacement parts when needed. It has about 160,000 miles and the internet tells me that it is ‘only broken in.’ It runs very well. However…

Come on, its been almost a decade and a half since I have driven a ‘new’ car. Technology has moved on. For some a car is transportation, and my car fills that bill well. For others, cars are fun, exciting, and let’s face it, thrilling. I guess I fall into the second camp.

I went out the other day to look at a new car. It will be a one for one replacement of my existing vehicle. I drove to the dealership and parked in front. The salesperson showed me a car that had the same model number as my old one. Except it was a turbo and brand spankin new. I drove it around the neighborhood and damn, that sucker got up and went. A tap on the accelerator kicked in the turbo and wham, I was police ticket material. I loved it.

When I returned to my car, I fired it up, checked the mirrors, and touched the accelerator. It zoomed off with more pep than I had ever felt before. It was like it had a new engine with a turbo and all the trimmings. It didn’t stop then. In the five days since the test drive, the radio has sounded better, the pickup has been stalwart, and the ride has been smoother than ever.

I know, I know. You are saying that its all my imagination. But I’m not so sure. Is my nearly 15 year old IS 300 trying to tell me it doesn’t want to go? Is it telling me that its only middle aged and not ready for the wrecking yard? Or was it saying “don’t sell me to a stranger, we have been through a lot together.”

Sure the new car has bells and whistles my old car can only dream about. But do I really need that back up camera and sonar? I wonder what a $150 detailing and a bit of touch up would do?

Now what – that analog clock in the new car was really nice.


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Living in a Bubble

I have written before about how where one lives and works can affect how they see the world. Nothing can exemplify this more than Silicon Valley.  The folks up there are surrounded by technology, EVs, and a constant barrage of news and discussions about how the world is going to be changed by their good works.

They believe in their hearts and souls that the entire world is going to work, play, and live as they do in the San Jose, Palo Alto, Cupertino , Santa Clara, and the San Francisco Bay area. It is anathema to them to consider that 100 miles away in Fresno, or a thousand miles away in Salt Lake City, or 1500 miles away in Dallas people live differently, drive differently, have different wants and needs.

This came rocketing home to Mark Lawrence at SpotHero a few years ago when he attempted to raise money in the VC money wells in Silicon Valley. The following quote is from the Business Insider:

But in 2015, when looking for Series B funding, Lawrence found what he describes as an “annoying echo chamber” among venture capitalists. “They would say to me, ‘But no one is driving anymore,’ or, ‘The future of parking is valet,'” Lawrence said in an interview with Business Insider. “I said, ‘That just isn’t the case in the rest of the US, and we have the data to prove there is a market,’ but they weren’t interested…They thought the solution to mobility was to actually add more labor to the process,” he added. “All those valet companies they wanted to back have blown up and the bubble has been proven wrong.”

So Mark returned to his home in Chicago and between there and New York, has raised a total of over $117 million, the most recent amount, $50 million, virtually all from non-Silicon Valley sources.

The United States is the third most populous country, after China and India on earth. Americans come in every background, color, shape, size, and income level. If “one size doesn’t fit all” means anything, it reflects this country.

There is no question that the wizards in Silicon Valley have produced magic that touch all our lives, but in many cases, its just that, “touch.” They don’t control, and certainly don’t change how many people in areas outside the Bay area, the west side of LA, Seattle, and the DC/NYC/Boston corridor view the world. They would do well to follow Mark and find out what is going on in the rest of this most diverse country on earth.


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More on Why they Hate Us…A Missed Opportunity

There is a discussion going on over at the IPMI message board concerning bike lanes and how to keep people from parking there are blocking the lanes for Bicyclists. Fair Enough.
It seems, however, that the District of Columbia has adjusted its rules so PEO’s can choose to give citations or mail them – I quote:

These infractions often happen with people that are in their car (waiting for someone wile parked in the bike lane). So the law has been changed and the officers will have the choice to either print the ticket and serve it to the vehicle, or to document the ticket and flag it for service by mail. By serving these tickets by mail, the officers won’t risk a confrontation with the driver, and they will be more inclined to enforce these infractions.

So let’s see – we are so disliked that we don’t want to even discuss the violations with our customers, and so afraid that they will go off on us that we often let them get away with infractions so we don’t have to even talk to them. We hide and write the ticket and then mail it out.

I understand that the PEOs’ life is a difficult one, and I can see that they would want to avoid confrontations at all cost. But…

How about an alternative. When the PEO comes upon someone in a parked car that is in violation of something or other, rather than issue a ticket, they chat with the person, explain the violation, and issue a warning. No confrontation, no fine. If we find out later, the person is a scofflaw or repeat offender, mail them a ticket (that could be part of the conversation.) “By the way, we will check our records and if you have more than 1 other parking violation in the past year, we will mail you a citation for this violation.”

If the PEOs aren’t writing tickets anyway, what harm could a polite conversation and a warning have. Who knows, it might just create an environment where PEOs are respected rather than hated.


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It’s Labor Day and PT is Hot Hot HOT!

It’s Labor Day Weekend. The traditional end of summer. Time for BBQs, a quick last mini vacation, and to prepare for the year to come. The Dog Days of Summer are past. It’s time to get back to work and solve the problems that have been put on hold over the past few months. OMG Football is just around the corner. What could be more exciting than that?

It’s difficult to concentrate during the Dog Days. People are on vacation. You can’t get answers when you need them. No one really wants to have “that” discussion. “We can revisit that after Labor Day” is the word. Well, come Tuesday, its “After Labor Day.”

I would like to invite you to join us here at PT and kick off the season with some exciting projects.

First, we are selling exhibit space at PIE 2020 in San Diego at record levels. We have already sold nearly as much space as we sold at PIE 2019 in Chicago, but we are fortunate to have 50% more space available to us at the San Diego Convention Center. Our new layout means that there are some really hot spots left. Contact Marcy NOW at marcy@parkingtoday. She will be your guide to the best exhibit spaces at PIE 2020.

Second, we have a fire sale going that is giving super discounts to those who can plan this early to attend PIE. Save big bucks and register now. The sale ends soon.

Third, we are proud to have announced that David Zipper will be our keynote speaker. You can find out all about him at the PIE web site. This guy is HOT!

Fourth, I am looking forward to the Veteran’s in Parking edition of Parking Today coming out in November. Todd Tucker is editing and already has nearly a dozen articles written by Veterans who work in the parking industry. The goal is to learn how the skills and wisdom learned in the military can be transferred to the parking sector.

Fifth, we are traveling this fall, Astrid and I will be in Las Vegas for SWPTA, she is heading to Australia and their parking event at the end of November, and I have been asked to host the speakers at Gulf Traffic in Dubai in December. Plus, I’m speaking at MAPA in Baltimore mid-November.  Of course, we will be exhibiting at the NPA conference in October in Orlando. If you are close, please drop by any of these events and let’s talk parking.

We have been working with Lester Macon on podcasts interviews and his Parker-X project. We did one yesterday and it was a BLAST. You will find them on our web site soon.

The Parking Today world is sizzling and we are looking forward to working together with you after Labor Day. The Dog Days are history. Excitement is building. Join us in person, as a reader, or as a writer as we work toward The Parking Experience. Go deep, our team has a heck of a game coming.



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Considering a Merger? Read this:

Over at Power 2 Go, Keith Jones expresses concern that mergers and acquisitions and the influx of venture capital money into the parking operations world may affect the way operators see their customers. His concern is that once VC money arrives, a company’s concern may move from customer service to focusing solely on the bottom line. He has a point.

Naturally, being an operator, his concern deals with operators and operations. I would take it a step further.

A friend who runs a parking department in a million plus population city has expressed concern about VC money entering the supplier marketplace. She has had firsthand experience with companies losing their customer centric mojo when acquired or have had a major influx of capital. In one case, she has had to replace expensive equipment due to lack of attentiveness after a buyout.

Obviously this doesn’t happen in every case. However it is typical in acquisitions that the acquired company’s founder doesn’t remain but is gone after a few months. His or her focus on the product and the customer can be lost when it is blended into a new environment. Acquiring companies need to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

Its difficult, however, when fund managers sit on your board, and are often the majority. They are looking out for their stockholders, and rightly so. They are expecting the bottom line numbers to reach agreed goals. It’s only natural that in this situation a company’s management will focus on that bottom line at the cost of everything else. The thinking becomes very short term.

Keith feels that all the M and A and VC activity may be a tad early in the parking industry’s development. He says:

Personally, I feel the whole thing is ten years too early. Another decade would provide an operational cushion, of sorts, to manage the heavy pressure of the purchased companies to hit SoftBank’s (a VC that turned a parking startup into a Unicorn) goals and KPIs while progressing undeterred toward better—and beneficial—customer experiences.

Like Keith, I’m not opposed to VC or acquisitions, however companies need to be aware of the pressures that they will receive when new management, often with conflicting goals, is in place.


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Just for the sake of Clarity

We receive news releases daily. More and more they are using complex terms in an effort, I think, to obfuscate. See I did it right there. I used a complex word (obfuscate) when a simple one, like blur, muddle, confuse, would have worked just as well.

In this case, the news release was filled with words like “cloud based mobility infrastructure platform”. It continues using “ecosystem of value driven services” and “unified platform through which they can consolidate and analyze their disparate management information.”

I love this phrase: “extensible architecture and cloud-based platform truly revolutionize the industry by providing customers and mobility partners comprehensive real-time, ecosystem data and sophisticated management tools.”

At the bottom of each news release is a paragraph that describes just what the company that sent out the release does. This line summarizes: “a future-ready philosophy that manifests itself in a smart ecosystem of solutions, products, and integrations that work together to improve mobility.”

The last line sums it up: “robust real-time data services provide efficient, secure transactions and business intelligence for organizations of all sizes and industry spectrums.”

There is not one hint in the entire 500 word release that tells you what the company does (I know that it creates reliable, high tech cloud based parking revenue control systems.) I note that the release comes from a PR agency and not from the company itself.

Is someone is trying to impress someone with their ability to use complex terms or are they simply trying to communicate? I will go with the latter.

Our world, it seems, has become a complexity of Twitter, Smart Phones, and computer games. Nothing is simple. A tree isn’t green, its Hunter, or Pine, or Sage. The Sky isn’t blue, its Azure. Things don’t move fast; they move at light speed. Something doesn’t happen quickly; it happens in a milli-second. Everything is an ecosystem, done in ‘real time’, is ‘cutting edge’, and ‘future-ready.”

This has become a part of our world. The author of the news release isn’t to blame, they are simply following the lead they see on their phone, display, or TV. Hemingway is spinning in his grave.

Hopefully this trend is changing. We hear that some are dumping their smartphones for flip phones and using them for, can you believe it, talking to people. People are leaving Instagram because they are beginning to understand that it is a haven for the self-centered and bs.

Let’s make a pact. Strive for clarity. Let your 10 year old read it. If they can’t understand it, the odds are that no one else can either.


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Looking for Work? Read This

Help Wanted –Advertising Sales

Parking Today is increasing its extremely successful sales program. We are seeking an experienced salesperson to work with our Advertising Sales Manager. Experience in the parking industry helpful. Experience in advertising is not necessary. We will train. This position may be part-time but can work into full time. The successful candidate will receive specific vertical markets and product lines in which to operate. We are committed to your success. Geographic location not important for the right candidate. Send resume and cover letter in confidence to marcy@parkingtoday.com.


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Why The Customer Experience Is A Human Experience

The following post will be reprinted in the September issue of Parking Today.

My technological epiphany can be quantified like this:

  • Five hours on the JFK tarmac
  • One screaming two-year-old
  • One screaming four-year-old
  • Zero cellular or wifi reception

I was in a tight situation, literally and figuratively. I couldn’t find out how much longer we would be delayed, nor alert my wife back in San Diego, nor lock down a hotel and uber if the airline decided to cancel the flight.

Here we sat in what’s largely considered the greatest city in the country but I couldn’t so much as get a single bar of signal to make the best decisions for my family. And there was nothing I could do about it.

As a customer, nothing could have been more frustrating.

It dawned on me that the best solution to our situation wasn’t some new technology but good, old-fashioned service. I didn’t need tech to give me salvation, I needed the flight attendant to give me information.

A complementary gin and tonic wouldn’t have hurt either.

The Problem With Putting Tech First

By over-prioritizing technology we put the cart before the horse. And oftentimes, we tend to put both before the people on board, i.e. our customers.

Because new technology is often seen as a necessity, we’re quick to replace what we have with something we may not have a need for. Sure, it makes us feel good, our flashy new investment… but is it really a solution if you have to create a problem to solve?

For airlines, investing in apps that feed passengers real-time flight info sounds great. But flight attendants are highly trained, personable, and fully capable of relaying the same information without the costly price tag… and they don’t need wireless bars to do so.

Speaking of wireless bars, right now engineers are working toward the next big leap in mobile communication, and yet the technology available to us today is still far from perfect.

Why start piling on new options and features that don’t strengthen those we currently and widely use? For airlines and wireless companies alike, the brands who are going to win are those who have the best internal infrastructure and policies in place to elevate their customer experience.

The same goes for parking companies.

We face this sort of tech-based dilemma regularly. The parking-free future promised by those behind the ambiguous wheel of autonomous vehicles, valid or not, has driven many in our industry to fight fire with fire, tech with tech.

Balance Is The Best Solution

Perhaps one of the most common examples of “over tech-ing” the customer experience is the automating of attendant roles.

Overnight, garages and lots replace human attendants with error-prone electronic ticketing machines. Suddenly, the process customers were familiar with is replaced by something if not complicated than at least unexpected.

Already, the customer experience is disrupted. But if a credit card doesn’t run, if a customer has a question, if a ticket is damaged and doesn’t read… if any of a thousand technical issues occurs, that which would otherwise be solved by a helpful attendant now diminishes the customer’s experience, satisfaction, and likeliness to return to your grage.

At Ace Parking, we try to rollout new technology on our customers in a manageable way. When implementing automated attendant systems, for instance, we either staff our facilities with helpful ambassadors for a transition period or keep staff on during peak egress and ingress times.

This allows us to flex our payroll while maintaining the personal service our customers have always appreciated. Having a live person on hand helps us resolve problems quickly and personably, reducing consumer aggression towards technology. Because the thing is, whether it’s a user problem or a tech problem, to the customer, it’s always your problem.

Keep It Coming Back To The Customer And The Customer Will Keep Coming Back To You

In always focusing on customers, we are always measuring their experiences as accurately and effectively as we can. We constantly analyze and tweak, analyse and retweak until we get it as close to perfect as possible.

By no means was my tarmac “technological epiphany” akin to the kind that trickles out of Silicon Valley startups. I hadn’t conceived the next mobile app phenomenon or digital solution, but what I came to was something equally as valuable. Potentially moreso.

Keith B Jones

Ace Parking

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