Parking is a niche industry, with many people falling into it by chance instead of by design. As a result, there are unfortunately not many opportunities to share lessons and experiences across the industry as a whole. Larry Cohen (Executive Director, Lancaster Parking Authority), a 40-year industry veteran is trying to change that and kickstart the conversation with the release of his new book, The Quirky World of Parking: Four Decades of Observations, One Space at a Time.
In March of 2021, ParkMobile’s David Hoyt (SVP, Sales) sat down with Larry to discuss the new book, industry trends, and more as part of our ongoing webinar series. These are a few of the top highlights from their conversation:
Parking Industry Lessons Are Often Learned the Hard Way
Larry and David joked early on that there are very few (if any) “Parking 101” courses out there. Subsequently, many people in the industry have to adapt to new challenges and technologies on the fly while juggling the needs of whatever institutions they serve. Regrettably, this forces many parking operators to be reactive, with changes more often than not being motivated by emergencies as opposed to careful planning.
Larry reflected on one such instance in 2008 while working in Galveston, Texas. The devastation of Hurricane Ike upended the parking infrastructure in the city, forcing him and the business community to come together and overhaul the parking technology and systems. The pandemic of 2020 had a similar effect, encouraging many parking operators to adopt new policies and technology in a very short amount of time. In fact, he credited the quick thinking of many parking operators with helping local businesses decide to stay open.
Ultimately, Larry and David hoped that in the future, there will be more of a chance to think proactively about the important role the parking industry plays in supporting local business communities and municipalities.
The Future of Parking Payment is Mobile, But There’s Always Room to Improve
Larry was an early adopter of mobile payment technology but recognizes that enthusiasm and adoption rates are likely to vary place to place. However, as people are increasingly comfortable with paying for everything by phone, he sees mobile payment solutions like ParkMobile as a smart way to reduce capital investment into traditional hardware like meters and kiosks.
However, Larry also hopes that mobile payment will open the door for local businesses and the parking industry to work together. The adaptability of online payment creates the potential for parking and businesses to provide value to each other, for instance by offering parkers discount codes to nearby businesses.
The Risk of Suicide in Parking Garages Still Needs More Attention
One of Larry’s personal missions is to spread awareness and deliver actionable ideas surrounding the issue of suicide in parking garages. Though not seldom talked about, he has done research, consulting, and written several articles on how parking garages can update their policies and training to better deal with this crisis. Today, with mental health increasingly in the spotlight, Larry hopes to make further progress on this important issue.
Embrace the Quirks of Your Parking Operation
As detailed in his book, over Larry’s 40’s years in the industry he’s encountered almost every strange situation you could imagine. He’s seen everything: an attorney who happily paid a daily parking ticket to get the ideal space outside the courthouse, pigeon hunters making sure that the birds didn’t take over local parking garages, even a thief who attempted to steal more than $100,000 from kiosks.
The important lesson: always roll with the punches and learn from the quirks to make better decisions in the long haul. When asked if there was one piece of advice Larry could give to others in the industry, he noted that the ability to stay flexible and adapt to issues as they arise was key.
Want to Hear More?
Of course, Larry and David’s lively conversation covered many more specific situations along with more than a few amusing anecdotes. If you’d like to check out the entire interview, click here to view the webinar on-demand.