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Universities in the UK, NCIS, Vegas, and Having Money

By John Van Horn

I attended a seminar at BPA-sponsored Parkex in late March and found that, in the UK, “University Parking” is fairly backward.
At Birmingham University in the host city, for instance, they have 3,000 parking spaces for 40,000 students and staff, and readily admit their parking systems simply don’t work. Their biggest problem is poachers that visit the local hospital and for some reason park for free on campus, rather than pay to park at the hospital.
They also acknowledge that their parking controls are being driven by a sustainability program, and not by any real desire to set up a system to control parking per se. After all, they receive grants from the government based on their carbon reduction programs. Sound familiar?
Although I’m certain they will catch up quickly, I would guess that higher ed parking in the UK is a good 15 to 20 years behind that in the U.S. There are a couple of issues they must overcome, including the facts that they don’t want to charge for parking on campus and are loath to build any parking structures.
They do have some fee-based programs on a few campuses in the UK. In one case, the cost is predicated on the salary of the vehicle owner, with those making more, paying more. This is a system to “equate” incomes, but frankly it makes no sense to me. After all, if people make more money, they can afford a higher fee and will simply pay it. The idea of restricting parking because it costs something simply goes away.
They do readily admit that parking is subsidized when there is no fee charged (Don Shoup, call your office) and have computed that subsidy as something between $6 and $12 a space per day. However, they are considering a fee of from $3 to $8 a day.
And they are attempting to get people to take the train, but the round-trip cost is considerably more than the proposed parking fee. The solution, of course, is to subsidize the rapid transit fare. And, of course, then the government will tax the subsidy.
At about this point, I lost interest.
They had opened the Parkex session with a quote that could fit any seminar on University Parking anywhere: “A university is a diverse community held together by common complaints about parking.”
***
I think I beat our Pop Culture guru Isaiah Mouw with this one. A recent episode of “NCIS” opened with parking enforcement officers. Andy says that it points out at least a dozen – well, maybe half a dozen – issues with parking enforcement.
The issues I see are: First, I think they would be leading the street sweeper, not following it. Second, two officers in the car? Third, old-style enforcement vs. new-style customer-based reactions. Fourth, debasement of PEOs (meter maid, rent a cop). Fifth, “They broke the law, and for that they must pay.” Sixth, call the “real police.” Plus, the PEO admits the “job” cost him his soul.
Not bad – the show’s writers got all this in 60 seconds.
FWIW: “NCIS” is the No. 3-rated drama on TV, and that week it was the sixth-most watched show, and it was a rerun. It came in behind two “American Idol” shows, two “Bachelor” shows, and one “Criminal Minds.” (In the drama department, “NCIS” was beaten out by “House” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”)
***
I was in Las Vegas for a night a couple of weeks ago. I guess I’m just confused.
Most people park their cars in those huge garages out back behind the hotels. A friend told me that the line of garages (2,000-4,000 cars each) behind the hotels is called “battleship row.” They do look like hulking battleships, tied up, waiting for something to blast out of the water.
Once you park out there, it’s a mile walk from your car to the showroom, casino or restaurant you seek. But there you go.
If you like, you could valet your car. Drive up to the front entrance, hand your keys to the valet, and walk 50 feet into the main entrance and your destination. When you leave, you simply give the valet your claim check and wait a few minutes. If it’s really crowded, you might have to wait 10 minutes.
The Friday night I was there, the wait was about three minutes. You tip the valet, and you are off. Oh, by the way, the valet at virtually all hotels is free.
Why would you self-park? Many tell me that they “don’t want someone else driving their car.” Well, OK. But do you know the liability rules? If you self-park and something happens to your car, you pay for the damage. If you valet, the hotel pays for the damage. Seems like a good deal to me.
Plus, in Vegas, you have all that extra time to lose your money.
***
Variations of this tale date back more than a few years:
A woman in a Mercedes was patiently waiting for a car to clear a parking space so she could park. Just as she was ready to pull in, a fellow in a tiny car zipped in front of her and took the space.
“Why did you do that?” asked the woman.
“Because I can,” said the fellow.
So the woman promptly put it in reverse and smashed into the tiny car.
“Why did you do that?” Cried the fellow.
“Because I can afford to.”
Some days it pays to have a lot of money.
See you at the 2011 IPI Conference & Expo May 22-25 in Pittsburgh – it’s going to be a good show. Looking forward to chatting with you.

Article Abstract from May, 2011




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