January 9, 2017

Consultant’s Corner: Parking Politics

Unfortunately, agencies often find themselves treading water in a bureaucratic swamp making it an arduous task to pass projects of change. Who thought it would be so hard to spend money in order to make money. As I have come to realize, the issue is magnified when it comes to the issue of parking within agencies. Completing that final step and receiving signature to perform parking related changes is quite a chore and these chores come in different shapes and sizes.

When working with government agencies, parking related challenges are likely to occur, no matter the size of the operation. As I witnessed with one agency, the agency’s staff currently handle parking and related day-to-day parking issues and thus far, have been able accomplish a significant amount without coming upon any agency roadblocks. This customer’s current project is an absolute need for the agency’s parking future as a whole, changing of roadways and the parking landscape for a designated area in order to improve the safety, navigation, accessibility and parking for a heavily visited and traveled area. The challenge in itself comes not from the project and its intentions but with a specific group related to the agency.

This leads into our current political arena today, as it is not surprising to see political officials riding the coattails of issues and topics that they may be able to utilize as a platform for their own political success. Coming across more of the same in way of this agency’s project should not have come as a surprise. In brief – a newly elected official, attempting to make a name for one’s self, catches knowledge of ongoing project in district and seeks to change project scope and direction; as a result, dramatically shifting the project description by mitigating the real issues, all in an attempt to gain support of the community. If this sounds all too familiar, that’s because it is. As a result, the timeline to fixing the existing issues has been elongated.

The frustration is much less personal but more to do with those agency staff and employees who have invested a tremendous amount of time, energy and not to mention, agency’s budget, in order to set the stage for the modifications that are needed. Moreover, it’s unfortunate to witness those with an otherwise little background on the issue for the mere purpose of creating their own political soapbox. Above all, this type of motive is a disservice to those fellow colleagues within the agency as well as to the community at large, who are seeking actual change and improvement.

In similar fashion, convincing taxpayers that their money is being allocated to issues responsibly and of real need is difficult. The burden government agencies often face to determine the correct distribution of money across a multitude of issues is not to be minimized. However, there are some issues that present the unique opportunity for an agency to not only recover the initial financial investment but also have it become a source of ongoing positive revenue for that agency – paid parking. Regrettably, paid parking is often a black-eye on the face of an agency in the public’s perception. Convincing the public to agree with spending money in an area that takes even more money out of their pockets is a challenge often faced by agencies.

For other agencies, the issue of paid parking is not an issue. Paid parking is commonplace in large cities and more often in smaller cities as well. One agency I have come across in particular, it comes as little surprise that the agency has already implemented paid parking for some time now. To the contrary of many municipal agencies, this particular agency has recognized the substantial issues that are affecting the area and realizes the need for change. Provided this understanding, by applying a degree of stakeholder engagement and minor concessions, the roadblocks facing this agency and its own project roadmap are minimal.

To say that a grade of political influence and contribution is never needed would be a disservice to my profession. I often find myself in front of those political powers that be and presenting to them a case for change on behalf of the agency’s parking operation. Attempting to help them understand that allocating appropriate funds toward parking related issues is a true need for their agency and its community. Coming full circle, I myself tread the same bureaucratic, swampy water of so many agencies and their staff. As they say, the topic of parking is always a heated topic. Parking is a topic that is fighting to find a spot to fit in without hitting to many other bumpers along the way.

Read the entire article here.

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