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Point of View

Gambling, Parking in Space, Apps and Stewards …

By John Van Horn

The PT Blog headline read: “Roll the Dice, Park for Free.” OK, that headline was a bit misleading, but just a little. The CBC News story (“Parking a gamble for Halifax woman”) was about a Nova Scotian who works near a downtown casino.
If the woman goes into the casino and plays $10 in the slots, she can park all day for free. The best regular parking deal she can get is $10 a day or $150 to $200 a month. So she decided to experiment. She’s not a gambler but understands that mostly you lose.
So she goes into the casino every day and gambles her $10 and gets her parking. She never gambles more than $10. So far, it seems to be working. She parked most of February and is down only $80. The casino garage is a five-minute walk to her office. Even if she were down $140, she would be money ahead. Now that’s thinking.
***
Shoupistas in space? It appears from a Discovery Channel report that there may be a parking problem at the International Space Station. When the space shuttle Discovery pulled up in late February, it faced the following:
A European freighter that arrived two days earlier, joining Japanese and Russian cargo ships and two Soyuz crew capsules. It sounds like “Babylon 5.” Add a few Minbaris, Narn and Centauri, and who knows?
I wonder if there is a charge for parking your space ship? And who gets the money? Wanna bet it goes into the general fund?
***
I’m not really to into “apps”, or applications, that can be downloaded onto your iPhone or ‘Droid or BlackBerry. There are supposed to be millions, and they usually cost about a buck ninety-nine.
However, there is one app that should be on everyone’s phone. Called Parking Mobility, CBC News said that the iPhone app “not only helps users find accessible parking spots, it also lets them report the cheaters who misuse them.”
You can snap a pix of their license, their front window (to show there is no handicapped permit) and of the offending car in the parking space. The app automatically correlates all this info, adds the GPS coordinates and a time stamp, and sends it off to the local authority so they can mail a ticket to the S.O.B.
Parking Mobility was developed by a pair in Vancouver, Canada, one of whom is disabled. The Vancouver government is taking it under advisement, but with all that photographic data, maybe they will yield. The only thing I would add is a small pad of notices so one could be slapped on the vehicle saying something like, “You have been caught and will be receiving a citation in the mail.”
I hope it takes off like the app that allowed you to tell your friends where the enforcement officers were working so they could move their cars before he got to their street. This new app could really help in our ongoing campaign to “get” those scofflaws who take disabled parking spaces.
***
Parking Manager Brandy Stanley, from the city of Manchester, NH, has agreed to help keep me on an even keel as I periodically post on PT’s Blog about how we in the parking industry may be able to change the perception of our profession. Here we go:
First, what is our goal as “stewards of parking” – I’m not sure what it is, but I know what the goal should be.
A municipality, a university, an airport, a hospital, a business complex all have a limited number of parking spaces at their disposal. In each case, our goal should be to maintain and allocate those spaces, as appropriate, to the workers (students) and visitors. The question is, of course, how do we do that?
In hospital, business and airport settings, it’s fairly straight forward. We control access and people decide if they want to pay a fee to park. The fee enables us to maintain our parking resource and, in some cases, limit who can park. The fees can be arbitrary and often provide substantial income to the entity (airports, particularly).
Municipalities have a different type of problem. Historically, parking has been inexpensive or free, the ideal being “free” parking. Folks got used to that, and as we began to charge, raise the rates, and place restrictions on where and when they can park, enforcement began to take on importance. How do we ensure that people follow the rules?
Our goal is to alter parking behavior – from free to paid. From parking all day to per hour. From parking in handicapped spots to not parking … You get the idea. There appear to be two ways to alter behavior – a carrot or a stick. We have been using a stick – If you break the rule and get caught, we will give you a citation and fine you.
There is a problem – we write only about 10% of the citations that could be written. There just aren’t enough enforcement officers or enough hours to cover all the possible violators. So most people are trained to believe that the chances of being caught are slim; after all, there is no theft involved, no murder or mayhem. No one is really hurt if they don’t feed the meter or if they park in a reserved spot. There is no moral code, no commandment broken when you overstay your parking.
Some parking managers will say that increased enforcement will cause people to change their habits. After all, who wants to be hit with an $80 or $100 ticket. Better follow the rule than take a chance.
They will say that with increased enforcement, the incidence of violations will go down. But is that our long-term goal? We want them to follow the rules, but really, deep down, don’t we want to collect the revenue off the citations?
Every day there are headlines that cities can’t meet their budgets and that more money is needed from citations to do so. This money is going to the general fund. Often, so much is taken that the parking department itself is left budget shy. A customer reads the newspaper and begins to look over his shoulder. Are they coming after me?
We enforce our rules with citations and fines. We attempt to get people to change their behavior. But we send mixed messages. On one hand, we say we are being stewards of parking. On the other, we are collecting money for the general fund. Which is it?
What do you think, Brandy – did I overstate my case? You can see her response on PT’s Blog, starting with the March 2011 posts, by going to www.parkingtoday.com and click on Blog.

Article Abstract from April, 2011




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