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Point of View

Wills and Kate, Writing on a Catamaran, the PPA and Carpools in LA

By John Van Horn

I have always been a proponent of women, for more than the obvious reasons. Now that the British Commonwealth has “adjusted” royal male primogeniture to remove the male, my take is that the so-called glass ceiling will come crashing down, if it hasn’t already.
Yes, that’s right, if Wills and Kate have a girl first, she will be queen. All this nonsense about the first-born male child is thrown over the cliff. The decision, supported by Queen Elizabeth II, was announced by UK Prime Minister David Cameron at a Commonwealth conference in late October in Perth, Australia.
Coming on the heels of IBM’s announcement that a woman, Virginia Rometty, would lead the computer giant beginning in January, this decision pretty much puts a nail in the “women as second-class citizens” rant, unless you happen to live in the Middle East (Israel excepted).
OK, I understand that Rometty will be one of only 15 distaff CEOs in the Fortune 100, but things are moving. Hell, the parking industry, long a male-dominated bastion, now has professional women running the NPA and the Canadian Parking Association, and has had a number of females as chairwomen of the IPI, including Chair-elect Liliana Rambo and Immediate Past Chair Cindy Campbell. There are even “women in parking” groups springing up to mentor women in our industry.
Nothing but good can come from this. Successful organizations realize that women are a tremendous resource and pass over them at their peril. Congrats to the Commonwealth, to IBM, and to women everywhere.
***
I was scurrying around pestering my sources for this month’s “Cutting-Edge Technology” issue of PT. One of the main articles was written by Skidata’s Harald R. Raetzsch, an expert on “cloud computing.”
I dropped him a note, and a day later got an email back that he was on a catamaran bouncing around somewhere in the Pacific. He said that if the “wind and waves” behaved, he would attempt to get me an article in a few days. He didn’t mention the clouds – I assume he was in control of that.
A day later, I received 15 fully annotated pages of perfect text with a note complaining about how hard it was to upload at 24 KB/sec. “It took ages,” Raetzsch said. Now this is impressive. I spend weeks harassing some authors just to get them off the dime, and this chap interrupts his vacation on a small boat in the middle of the ocean to get it done.
Maybe I should insist that some of my authors spend time in obscure places — how about a week in Tibet, Machu Picchu, a boat on the Ganges, or maybe hanging from ropes on the Matterhorn. I understand that K2 is great this time of year. They could ride a bicycle across Manchuria, or maybe post from their iPad from atop a camel in Egypt. Whatever floats their boat.
***
I guess my unmitigated harassment of the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) has gotten some legs in the City of Brotherly Love. They are retraining their officers so they will become nicer and more helpful. To wit, also from CBSPhilly.com:
“The PPA is spending $24,000 on sensitivity training for all its employees on differences in religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity. [PPA Director Vince] Fenerty says it comes after an incident this summer in which a parking enforcement officer was fired after being accused of gay-bashing.”
I don’t know a lot about hiring enforcement staff, but wouldn’t you attempt to weed out the ones who cared about the differences in religion, race or gender identity? Aren’t there typically ongoing training programs – I’m told the only good training program is one that keeps going and going and going – in organizations where public contact in stressful situations is endemic?
Aren’t these programs a minimal management tool that goes on day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year? I get the feeling from the report that this is a new idea in Philly. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure the problem exists everywhere (after all, in LA, some of the enforcement staff were posing in porn movies). Doesn’t PPA management understand that this is something that’s done?
My congratulations to the PPA and its management. They are taking positive steps. That’s a good thing, and they are to be congratulated.
***
The keynote speaker at the UCLA Zinman Center Automated Parking Structures Symposium in mid-October was Consultant Richard Katz, Chairman of the Metrolink Board of Directors and Board Member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in Los Angeles.
Katz gave an informal speech about rapid-transit projects and freeway expansions in the city. My guess is that the projects he listed had a price tag in the tens of billions of dollars. Fair enough.
The problem is, just what good are they doing? Katz spoke, for instance, of the Metrolink train that basically runs along the congested I-5 freeway from Orange County to LA. About 22,000 people a day ride the train, but the freeway is still congested. Then he made an interesting observation:
It seems that during the 1984 LA Olympics, which locals feared would be the first “Carmaggedon” and choke the freeways, traffic was, during the fete, much like Sunday at 10 a.m. Light and airy. Katz asked the audience to guess what the percentage reduction in cars was during that period. Most thought 50%. Nope, he said, it was only 5%.
OK, assume the MTA gets its numbers off by a factor of 2, so it was 10% less. That means if we take 10% of the cars off the freeway, traffic congestion goes away. Of course, we have a lot more cars now, but we have a lot more freeways than we did nearly three decades ago.
Here’s my suggestion – instead of spending billions widening the existing freeways, installing light-rail (which few ride), and the like, why not invest the money in programs that promote ride-sharing and carpooling?
Let’s say the MTA and all the other agencies that spend on highways and transport took part of their revenue, say, 10%, or about $100 million a year, and invested it in marketing and technology with the goal of getting 10% of the cars off the freeways during rush hours through ride-sharing programs.
Instead of investing in electric cars and trains to nowhere, why not actually get cars off the roads?
My plan needs fleshing out, but perhaps a PR program to heap guilt on drivers would work. Maybe a grand technology website where I can find people around me with similar work hours and work sites. How about coffee klatches where people can meet informally so I know those in my carpool aren’t throwbacks to “Jack the Ripper.”
Think what a huge marketing budget could do. Nike spends $500 million worldwide on marketing. Think what that kind of money could do focused on the LA or Houston or Atlanta markets.
Of course, you would have to figure out a way to privatize it. If it were run by the city or the county, it would be just another bureaucracy. But if you set up a for-profit operation, I’ll just bet it would work.
Think about it – change the habits of only 10% of the drivers, and we would have no more gridlock, no more traffic jams, less smog, fewer accidents, shorter commute times.
LA is the heart of the marketing beast. We have all the talent and skills of Disney, major ad agencies, the movie industry.
Of course, to start, Mr. Katz might have to figure out a way to get his own staff to carpool. They get free parking, so why carpool? Katz said he can’t start charging for parking because it’s in the union contract. Of course it is.

Article Abstract from December, 2011




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