Transportation Now and Then : An Interview With Bernie Wagenblast

 

This week, Shuja Uddin, Parkaze Marketing and PR Coordinator, caught up with Bernie Wagenblast, a leader in the transportation communication industry. Based in New Jersey, Bernie is the editor of the Transportation Communications Newsletter, the AASHTO Daily Transportation Update, TransCentral, and the ITS Michigan Newsletter. Apart from that, you may have heard his voice through NYC subway announcements.

In this excerpt of the interview, Bernie shares his insight on the current state of the transportation industry and how Parkaze can play a positive role in COVID-19 parking woes.

How did you actually get started in the transportation business? How did it all happen?
Transportation originally was not what I was interested in doing. My main interest was working in the radio. One of my first jobs after graduating college, way back in 1979, was being one of the original voices and reporters for this company that came to New York called Shadow Traffic. Shadow Traffic was a traffic reporting service that was on the air on a variety of different radio stations in the New York City area. And for five years or so, I was one of those folks who would tell you every morning what traffic backups were like at the Brooklyn Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel, and on the BQE. That was my introduction to the world of transportation. With that introduction, I then ended up having a career in transportation, even though I had absolutely no training or education in transportation other than what I learned on my own, so to speak.

How did you start Transportation Radio that has such a big following?
I started the Transportation Communications Newsletter in 1998. That was sort of just the beginning days of the Internet. I had always thought “Wouldn’t it have been really cool to have been involved with television or radio back when they were starting in the 1920s or the 1950s?”. Well, in the 1990s, it was the Internet that was a new medium, and this was my opportunity to be a part of it. So first, I created the newsletter, and around 2014, I created Transportation Radio, again, the idea being “Why not use some of my broadcasting skills in this new medium of podcasting and try to combine both my knowledge and love of communications and transportation doing audio interviews?”.

What was the parking industry like, particularly in the East Coast, right before COVID-19?
When I think of New York City, I think of parking as something that is in very limited supply, but high demand. Therefore, it is something that is very high cost, as the value of land in and around New York City is quite high. That is also true in the Boston area or in Washington DC. So, the need to find alternatives to the traditional parking models that we have had for so many years is something that I think was becoming more and more evident. And obviously, technology was presenting more of an opportunity to present itself as a means to address some of those issues. But then, we also started seeing things that came along because of technology, like Uber and Lyft. And how did those affect the parking industry now that we have COVID-19? People are going to be perhaps hesitant about taking not only shared-ride vehicles but even mass transit. What is that going to mean for parking? I do not think anyone necessarily knows just yet.

So where do you see the parking industry now amid the outbreak?
I think parking is definitely going to be underused in terms of what’s available versus the demand for it. I think a lot of people because they have been working from home for so many months, are probably going to, at least on a limited basis, want to continue working remotely. And that is going to lessen the demand for traffic, or for parking, I should say. But I think there is also going to be again, opportunities for people to be entrepreneurs, to be inventive, and to come up with new ways of trying to serve people, and particularly those who use parking.

At Parkaze what we’re doing is economically empowering people with technology to monetize their parking while providing cheaper, safer solutions to drivers. So how do you think a company like Parkaze can add value to today’s current parking situation?
I think one way Parkaze can contribute to making a difference is continuing what you have already been doing in terms of identifying underused or unused locations where people are able to park their vehicles. I believe there are going to be new places that will become available that perhaps have not been available in the past, because of the disruptions that COVID-19 is causing. So, I think that’s one of the ways that Parkaze is going to make a difference; by identifying new opportunities, and by using technology to better take advantage and manage these opportunities. It is not the big parking garage necessarily that is going to be the way forward in the future. It may be some of the more localized smaller facilities that people have overlooked in the past.

What is the new biggest innovation in parking right now? In a previous conversation, we talked about electric cars, and how that’s going to be a differentiating factor in the coming years in terms of parking spaces.
I think it’s parking with electric charging going to become prominent. More and more people are turning to all-electric vehicles or electric hybrid vehicles, I think is going to make this type of parking much more attractive. It is something that people can charge a premium for if they have something like that, which is more than just space, but something that is an added service. And I think maybe you’re going to see some of the other things that we’ve seen in the past where they’re using technology, where packages, deliveries can be put in the vehicle while it’s parked. So again, being able to know where those vehicles are, and to better manage the location of those vehicles through technology—whether it’s GPS, or apps—are all ways and means that I think are going to change in the future.

Make sure to Follow Bernie’s Twitter updates @TransportComm, and his podcasts at www.transportationradio.com. Keep coming back to our blog for the latest updates on all things parking in Boston.

shujauddin

I’m your average upper middle class guy from Karachi, Pakistan who has witnessed shootouts outside his school, attended his best friend’s funeral and gorged on delicious Pakistani food at his secret crush’s wedding. Nothing to see here, folks. So to make sense of the crazy life around me, I graduated with an MFA in Screenwriting from Boston University and I can be found writing for films/TV, practicing my standup routine, fine tuning a copy or just trying to tell stories because stories connects all of us.

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