Point of View
Ahhh, the Future – And Those Damned LEVs
John Van Horn
I was trying to write a piece about the future, and have erased it three times. They were filled with clichés, references to “1984,” and the fact that my father was 20 before he saw his first airplane and lived to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.
Things change, and the time it takes them to change is becoming more compressed every day. Technology begets technology at an ever increasing rate.
When I bought my first laptop less than 20 years ago, my concern was 32k or 64k. Now I hold a memory chip in my hand the size of a postage stamp, and it has 32 gigabytes in it. And that’s the small one.
We take all this for granted, but do we need to consider what will most likely be happening in 30 or 40 years? Why should we care? Most of us won’t be around then anyway. But the projects we start today will be.
Parking garages, for example, have a life of 50 years. The funding (read that, mortgage) is usually 30 years or more. Public-private partnerships are running 50, 75 or 99 years. Should we not concern ourselves that we are making decisions that have a life maybe longer than the market or demographic will support them?
When things moved slowly, we probably didn’t care a lot. However, when things change at light speed, perhaps sitting back and taking a long view is the right way to go.
We have two articles in this issue of Parking Today, one by Mary Smith and one by David Feehan, that speak to this topic. They have similar themes – Mary is a tad academic and David philosophical – but the result is the same:
The face of our industry may be entirely different in a generation.
Read their articles. Consider what it means when you sign that next long-term contract or build a new facility that has a life time of just 50 years.
I like to sit on my back deck in the evening and watch the hummingbirds and listen to those noisy parrots screech overhead, while the city noise is a few blocks away. However, my grandchildren seem to want to move back into the city, live cheek by jowl, and walk everywhere.
If they do, and cars become sort of automatic critters that pick us up and drop us off at will, how does that affect parking?
The buggy-whip makers that learned how to repair flat tires and fill cars with gas survived and flourished; the ones who fought the tide did not.
Think about it.
Christian Schneider, who wrote a guest commentary (“Let the Parking Wars Begin,” May 28) in the Milwaukee, WI, Journal-Sentinel, is my new best friend. I’ve never met him, but based on this one opinion piece, we could certainly get along on at least one topic. The Madison freelance writer is good, and I have excerpted some of his paragraphs here.
Schneider rails about a new store in his neighborhood that has elected to reserve a number of close-in convenient parking spots for “LEVs.” That’s “low-emission vehicles” for you knuckle-dragging dimwits who drive Belchfire V-16s and have polar bear rugs in your living rooms.
He starts slowly:
But exactly what hardship are we ameliorating by giving prime parking to Toyota Priuses? Are hybrid drivers oppressed by having to buy half as much gas as the rest of us? They already carry around the self-satisfaction of saving the environment (just ask them, they’ll tell you) — being given front-row parking is just an extra ego boost. (It’s particularly ironic that these people use energy efficient vehicles to shop at a store that uses as much gas and electricity as Luxembourg.)
He then asks a logical question:
Further, when we talk about “low-emission vehicles,” you have to ask: low-emission compared to what? Any car manufactured in the past decade is infinitely more fuel-efficient and burns cleaner than the environmental “widowmakers” of the 1950s. I’m pretty sure that in the 1970s, in his car that got roughly a half-mile per gallon, my dad had to stop for gas on the way to get gas.
Of course, there’s this:
And there still appears to be a question about whether the city can even impose fines for parking in a spot reserved for a green car. According to the Madison police, a business has to call and complain before a $30 private parking citation can be issued — as opposed to handicapped spots, which police can issue “on sight” because such spots are mandated by city ordinance. Madison’s parking enforcement supervisor, Stefanie Niesen, told the Wisconsin State Journal that the city has never gotten a single complaint for unauthorized parking in a spot designated for an LEV.
And Schneider does a big finale with this:
I can think of a dozen classifications of people I would give preferred parking to over electric car owners: veterans, single moms, people who don’t pay for groceries with checks, those who refuse to wear sandals with socks, etc. But further segregating the parking lot based on which among us are worthy is an exercise in parking eugenics — the unwashed are forced to trudge long distances to buy their microwave mac and cheese. Soon, it will be like “Game of Thrones,” with each group going to war to claim their territories within the asphalt expanse of the parking lot. ...
Am I living in some alternate universe? Aren’t we seeing every day that (1) “climate change” and “global warming” are being disproved by peer-reviewed articles; (2) there are more polar bears terrorizing the Inuit in Northern Canada than in the last, what, 100 years; or (3) with one exception, electric car makers are going out of business faster than a heater store in Miami?
Don’t get me wrong — we need to be good stewards of our planet, but the best way might be to take the folks from India and China for a walk on the beach. It seems they are polluting the environment, and if the U.S. simply ceased to exist tomorrow, it would make no difference. It’s a matter of scale.
People are buying Prius hybrids faster than Toyota can make them. Why? The cars make sense. You can drive them on gas, or charge them up at home – your choice. There is no “range anxiety,” and they aren’t too expensive.
Why do we need to attempt to bribe people into buying them and EVs and LEVs by giving them special parking spaces? That makes no sense, and after reading Schneider’s piece, it could cause the next major urban conflict.
Article Abstract from July, 2013