Point of View: Why I Love Parking, and Taylor


Point of View: Why I Love Parking, and Taylor

October, 2023

John Van Horn


Bill Smith wrote a great piece in the September issue of Parking Today on why he loves parking. I would like to add my two cents.


Parking can be a complex process. Sure, you can just open the gates and let people park, but that’s a disservice to your asset, and to the parkers themselves. The fun part is finding out just who is parking in your facility, determining how you can serve them better, and while you are at it, increasing the bottom-line revenue.


I love parking because when it works well, it is seamless. People don’t spend hours talking about how good the parking was at a certain place, but they certainly spend hours talking about how bad it was. I may talk incessantly about how good the food was at a certain restaurant, or how great a certain concert or movie was, however you will seldom hear me talk about how great the parking was. If it was great, it was invisible.


However, if it sucked, bring out the torches and pitchforks.


This is what I love about the industry. If we do a good job, no one notices. That is a good thing. Lack of parking, or difficulty in parking means that we have failed. It is important that we think about what we do, and predict when parking will be difficult. Then we must set out using our ‘little grey cells’ to fix the problems before they occur. Simply shrugging our shoulders and saying – “there are too many cars and not enough spaces” doesn’t cut it.


There is a stretch on Interstate 405 in California that has been a terrific bottleneck, with traffic slowing to a crawl. There was seemingly no reason for that phenomenon. I was puzzled. Then I noticed that next to the freeway was a huge billboard with a scantily clad woman hawking beer. A few weeks later the billboard was changed to a pitch for dog food with everyone fully clothed. The bottleneck mysteriously disappeared. In the future, the traffic engineers asked to approve the advertisements along that stretch. Problem solved.


It’s fun solving those kinds of problems. And parking is full of them. The event ends and cars back up five levels in the structure. The street can’t take the cars fast enough. If you step back and look at the problem, you see that the traffic light on the corner is holding the cars back. If you increase the ‘green’ light there by one minute, you find that cars are pouring out and the structure is emptied in half the time. A quick and fun solution.


We installed a central pay system in one garage. When the parker got to exit, they were to put the paid ticket in an acceptor, the gate would open and they were off. We were concerned that they couldn’t get the ticket into the acceptor quickly enough so we put staff in the lanes to ‘help.’ You already know the problem. Long lines developed. We stood back and watched the exit and the solution was obvious. We removed the ‘helpers,’ had one person hiding behind a column to assist when needed, and sure enough the exit lines disappeared. Problem solved.


Parking is fun. It’s sad when ‘we have always done it that way’ doesn’t work. But working through the problems, getting folks moving, can be exciting, and yes, fun. I love it.




On Taylor Swift


When I mentioned Taylor Swift in my blog, little did I know I was talking not about a singer, but a phenomenon. It seems she is taking the country, and the world, by storm. When Swift comes to town, the economy in the area takes a quantum leap, To Wit:


The Philadelphia Federal Reserve has noticed and has concluded that Taylor Swift’s concerts and her fans are single-handedly rescuing the hotel industry. Hotel revenues are their highest since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. No pressure, Taylor.


The Philadelphia Federal Reserve released its Beige Book Wednesday. The Beige Book’s findings report that hotel bookings were at the strongest growth level in years, thanks to the Swifties.


“Despite the slowing recovery in tourism in the region overall, one contact highlighted that May was the strongest month for hotel revenue in Philadelphia since the onset of the pandemic, in large part due to an influx of guests for the Taylor Swift concerts in the city,” officials wrote.


The Beige Book is released eight times a year. It summarizes how the economy is performing in cities throughout the country. The summary of Philadelphia’s economic boost by Taylor Swift concerts might just be an interesting coincidence if it was a single finding. But, it’s not. Cities around the country are experiencing the same thing. Philadelphia is just one example. NBC News reported that when Swift’s tour was in Cincinnati for concerts on June 30 and July 1, the influx of fans brought more than $2.6M into downtown hotels and $5.3M to hotels in the surrounding area.


It’s called the “Swift Effect.” When she sang in Chicago, the three nights of concerts brought in over $39 million in hotel revenue. In Denver, the Taylor Swift concerts are billed as the biggest concerts in Denver, evah. Tickets were going for $1,000 and $3,000 for seats on the floor.


If you couldn’t get tickets, you came to the parking lot anyway, “just to be part of the experience.”


It was a Taylor Swift concert outside of the Taylor Swift concert.


“Yeah, this is crazy! All these people are here who don’t have tickets, just to be here,” said Danielle. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”


“I think it’s really cool! You can hear her perfectly and all of these people are really nice. They’ll trade bracelets with you and sing with you. It’s fun,” said another fan.


I wonder how you charge for parking if the person’s goal is to attend a ‘scene’ in the parking lot? Is there a “Taylor Swift” surcharge? Do you charge more for spaces closer to the venue? What if you want to simply hang out and not park a car? How much do do charge for “The Concert outside the Taylor Swift Concert?” Go Taylor.


Astrid reports over at Park News that a United Airlines Pilot grabbed an ax and took out his frustration on a parking exit gate at Denver International Airport. Although the reason the gate didn’t open is unclear, what is clear is that a number of cars were being held in the parking lot.


The pilot is on video marching up to the gate with an ax and removing the gate arm. He was grabbed by security personnel and later released without charges. He is quoted as saying he had reached the limit of his frustration.


First of all, I’m happy we could provide a release for this pilot. I would hope that his frustration wouldn’t be released in the cockpit of a 757. That having been said, perhaps this is a clarifying moment for JVH.


I commented earlier this week on a system that removes gates and uses LPR to enforce parking fees and permits. (It seems that perhaps the problem here was that some folks were attempting to leave on expired permits. They could stop expired permits on entry, or let expired permits exit and sort them out later.) As was pointed out to me it certainly would have been better for those scofflaws at DIA to be allowed to leave than holding up countless others who had just been off a 15-hour flight from Japan.


This might be a learning experience for airlines. Perhaps they could provide a ‘frustration’ alleviating experience for their flight crews, maybe an ax throwing booth or a sparring ring where blows could be exchanged with a dummy and frustration cleared.


I do know one thing. The vast majority of people watching this video are cheering on the pilot, not the gate.


Just another weave in life’s rich tapestry.

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John Van Horn
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