Over and Under 60 - Experience Gives its Opinion
The Old: The Significance of Parking Problems
When trying to understand parking issues, it is important to realize that parking was not considered an “industry” for decades. It was managed, if the word can even be used, by individuals and groups who inherited the responsibilities and did what they thought was best.
As parking issues and problems grew, parking authorities were created by cities beginning in the 1940s. But not until the 1950s and 1960s were organizations founded to share information, hold conferences to address parking problems, and begin to educate staff members of public, private, and institutional parking organizations.
Modern parking management concepts came even later, as the 1980s saw the rise of single responsibility centers for parking.
Other offerings were created by those with expertise in electronics and data analysis, but little or no understanding of parking.
For many years, parking problems were considered too small or insignificant to warrant substantial investment in solutions. Not until real money was involved did owners of off-street parking pay attention to their leases or operating contracts, how their spaces were being used, how money was being generated and protected, and whether the facilities adequately served the populations that wanted to use them.
Huge investments in parking and revenue control systems at airports, large garages, and institutions sometimes resulted in reluctance to change the systems. Cognitive bias resulted in decisions to keep the investments and continue to try to get them to work. This was successful in some cases, and not in others.
Fast forwarding to more recent years, there has been continuing entry of new hardware and new software into the industry.
Some companies and their products have had lasting influence and life in the industry, but many examples existed for a very short time and disappeared from the market or were consolidated into larger and more stable companies. Some hardware and software was created by those with long experience and expertise in the industry. Other offerings were created by those with expertise in electronics and data analysis, but little or no understanding of parking, human behavior in parking, political realities in the various venues, or the training and expertise of parking organization employees.
A colleague with superior expertise in hardware and software who has been in the parking industry for decades estimates that about 40 percent of managers and/or operators never learn to use the data produced by their existing parking and revenue control (PARC) system.
They may never understand the system they have, but that often does not deter them from purchasing the latest new hardware or software that they believe will solve the problems they encounter.
Henry Ford wisely suggested that “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.” It is very easy to become fascinated by the latest shiny new thing in hardware or software. However, deciding what you want to know and why is really the challenge. In our industry, many individuals and organizations have never learned to analyze “little data”, let alone “big data”, to provide insight on their operations, customers, revenue, and trends.
Further, it is very important to realize that issues are extremely different across the spectrum of parking locations. Looking at the largest organizations and their trends is missing the point for many smaller and different venues.
Solving the “cycle of parking” is a movie -- not a photograph. The issues will not be “solved”, they will change and must be addressed starting with thoughtfulness, discussions of policies, consideration of possible success and failure in the outcomes, awareness of cognitive biases, consideration of cost/benefit, attention to politics (inherent in any situation, not just government), and ability to manage what may be coming. Technology, whether hardware or software, is a tool. Without the other “thinking” required, it is not an answer.
Barbara Chance is retired CEO of Chance Management Advisors, Inc. She is of a certain age and can be reached at email@example.com.