Optimism of Youth, Transportation, and Bots…


Optimism of Youth, Transportation, and Bots…

I have been to two parking trade events so far this year, the IPI and PIE. I’ll tell you about the IPI in a minute, but first I want to comment on a feeling that seems to be in the air.

I felt it first at PIE. There was an indescribable buzz that permeated the event. People seemed up and engaged. They were excited about their industry. Change is in the air in parking. And people know it.

The IPI Expo this year was huge. Not that there are many more companies exhibiting, but the exhibits themselves are larger, and innovative. Booths that are 20 feet wide and 60, 80 or 100 feet long cover the floor.

The influx of venture capital has been felt in the way products and services are presented. There were cocktail bars in booths. Equipment seems shinier, colors brighter, and one booth even has a second story. This place has a European/Intertraffic feel.Shawn, Bonnie and Co. at the IPI deserve the congratulations they will receive. The parking industry trade show business in the U.S. has come of age.

But more important than the exhibit hall and the technology spread around was the excitement generated by the young people in attendance. And they were everywhere. I don’t know the average age, but I’m guessing it’s definitely under 40, and may be nearing 30. These are hard charging people who party til 2 AM and are on the go the next morning. They are bright, innovative and engaged. They are full of new ideas, and not afraid to tell you about them. But…

Do they think through their bright ideas? Do they have the wisdom that failure brings? Will they be around next year? Time will tell.

The excitement and optimism of youth is rolling over us like a tsunami. We can only pray that some of those who have dozens of trade shows under their belts temper that youthful vigor with wisdom.

Let’s just hope that these young startups are in it for the long haul and have not worked out their exit strategies and sale to Google.


I was wandering around my local metro stop taking pictures for the cover of this issue of PT and was struck by how important it is that parking blend seamlessly into rapid transit. Cars are as much a part of the transit infrastructure as are trains, buses, scooters, Uber, bicycles, and feet. We are just ignored. And it’s time something was done about it.

The July issue of PT is our “Transportation” issue. In researching this topic, I have attended events in Amsterdam, the UK, Las Vegas and Atlanta. One focused on the collection and transfer of money, another about Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and two more with speakers who think they know about transportation. In all cases Parking was greatly underrepresented.

However, if you go to Rapid Transit stops in suburbia, and even some in downtown areas, there will be considerable parking. The goal, it would seem, should be to make the parking part of the commute as seamless as the train, bus, or Uber part so commuters are attracted to rapid transit and out of their cars for the long haul. It may be difficult to get them out of their cars for the 20-minute drive to the station, but perhaps easy to entice them onto the train.

To do that, you need to work with the parking industry to create an environment where drivers want to park and ride. Which brings me to the topic of this piece:

As they said in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, “Don’t Panic.” PT is not dropping our main topic, that is parking. What I hope to do is place parking where it belongs, as a part of the transportation infrastructure. Whether its technology, operations, or the planning that must go into parking as a part of transportation, it’s time we moved from an afterthought to a headline. 

Some think we know a bit about parking here at PT, but what do we know about transportation and how it relates? Well, not a hell of a lot, but we are learning fast. We are attending trade events, listening to presentations, asking for content, and hopefully beginning to understand just why we are outsiders, and how to get inside.July will be our first attempt – Let me know what you think. Is this a good idea? Or should we dump it on the scrap heap of history and like the wise shoemaker, “Stick to our Last?”

Street droids will make house calls for mail, groceries, and supplies, while fleets of flying drones handle bigger orders. At the end of their shifts, the delivery bots return to the mothership—a self-driving van.

Combine this with social media, your TV and voila, there is no reason at all to ever leave the house. The joy of walking to the store and picking out just the right plum or the exact steak for the BBQ – wait, no need for a BBQ since there will be few if any places to put a BBQ anyway.

I remember back in the dark ages that the Ralphs Market in the Marina was the best place to meet women. You could look into their shopping basket and know if they had pets, what kind of wine they liked, and if they ate meat or fish. It was a great place to start a conversation. (And get slapped if you weren’t careful.)

No need for that anymore, there is a “bot” or social media for that.

When I stroll around my neighborhood or walk over to the bodega nearby for something to finish the latest culinary creation, I also meet my neighbors and chat about this and that. No need with flying delivery and a bot “mothership.”

Will we become so insular that there is no need to leave the house at all?

Let’s face it. The seat you have on your sofa for that Dodger game is much better than the one at Dodger Stadium. Unobstructed views, close ups of the right fielder scratching his nose, and it’s a lot cheaper. Of course, there are no Dodger Dogs and beer, no athletic peanut vendor tossing the bags of nuts just right, no idiot behind you yelling at the ump.

Granted I love the fact that I can get commodities on Amazon. But I love going to Best Buy just to touch the stuff.

Will we take the “experience” out of life? Dear Lord, I hope not.

Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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