I was honored to be asked to speak at the Southwest Parking and Transportation Association a couple of weeks ago in Las Vegas. Their incoming President Julie Dixon said she wanted an ‘interactive’ presentation. So I decided to interview the audience.
I went armed with questions and after five minutes of self serving promotion about Parking Today I began.
“How many parking citations that could be written, aren’t?” That is, what percentage of drivers that break parking laws get away with it. The responses covered the gamut from 10 to 90 percent. Of course we don’t know the exact number, but most enforcement officers agree that 90 percent of tickets never get written for a number of reasons.
This began a free flowing discussion of whether or not we SHOULD write 100 percent. We could — it would take an investment in staff and equipment but we could. The consensus was that we shouldn’t. That parking citations aren’t meant to be punitive, but are a tool to be used to alter parker’s behavior. Fair enough.
Other questions had to do with technology. Do we need a professionally trained IT person on our staff? Most agreed we did, however, some commented that it was difficult because many organizations (cities, Universities, hospitals, etc) have IT departments and that senior management often says “use what we already have.” This is difficult since most parking people don’t speak in “IT” and getting things done can be problematic at best. It was suggested that someone schooled in IT be hired, but that perhaps their position could be “technology coordinator” or the like. They could act as a translator between parking speak and ‘geek’ speak.
The most interesting discussion came when I asked what ‘kind’ of background each had before they were in parking. The answers ranged from park ranger to dental office manager or restaurant manager, from police to managing the environmental issues in the city (trash collection.)
They told me that they like to hire people who had experience in serving the public. Facetiously I commented that they would then hire a front line server from MacDonald’s. I was immediately told that I was right. People who had to deal with the public, take abuse, make quick decision, and keep a smile on their faces where perfect candidates. One woman said that she would hire a clerk from a dentist office. “After all,” she said, “you are facing someone who has cotton stuffed in their mouth, perhaps a little blood on their lip, and half their face paralyzed with Novocaine, and your job is to collect the fee before their leave.” That comment brought down the house.
Its good to get out of our ivory towers and talk to the folks in the real parking world. They are tough, funny, and really smart. They know their jobs and have a wisdom that is beyond many professions.
These folks at the SWPTA are focused, engaged, and tell it like it is. My hat is off to them.