Shanghai, A Prez, Towing and Hybrids
September, 2005Why Shanghai?
Why should we care about parking and traffic issues in Shanghai? They have their problems, and we have ours, right? Well, yes, but since China is the largest country on earth and since they are growing by leaps and bounds, it seems reasonable that they should appear on our radar.
China is proving the theory that as soon as a country's per capita income reaches a certain point, the citizenry demands that the environment be cleaned up. An article in the Los Angeles Times points this out. The Chinese population is beginning to demand that its government clean up the air and water. They have actually had riots on the subject. When folks reach the point that they are generating enough money to cover more than food, clothing and shelter, they want to be able to spend some on a vacation. And they want that vacation to be at a beach or park that's clean and fun. Capitalism will out.
My buddy Peter Guest holds forth on parking and traffic in Shanghai in this issue of PT.
You gotta love this guy
The new president of the University of Colorado, Hank Brown, got rid of 10 administrative positions and his own free parking space before noon on his first day in office. That will save the university about $800,000 per year. No one was fired; some of the positions were open, others were retiring. However, it's the sentiment that counts. Brown is obviously setting the tone for his administration at a school that has been rocked by scandal over the last few years.
Let's face it -- if all the administrators and high-paid professors at a college or university had to pay for their parking spots and jockey for spaces on the top floor of the parking structures as everyone else, parking at a university might be a lot different.
Robert Townsend, the CEO hired to take Avis out of trouble a few years ago, and the one who came up with the "We Try Harder" slogan, got rid of his and all reserved parking spaces. His comment: "If you want a spot near the door, then get to work before everyone else. Also," he noted, "you meet the nicest people in the parking lot."
Townsend was something. He had no secretary; he opened his own mail, answered his own phone and used the steno pool. When he traveled, he had a big rubber stamp made and gave it to the mailroom. When any letter came in for him, he told them to open it, read it and then stamp it. They were then to send it to whomever they thought should deal with it. The stamp said: "Deal with this and don't tell me what you did." Worked great -- he had no mail in his in-box when he returned, and over his tenure at Avis, Townsend never had a problem with this policy.
Tow 'em now
Folks seem to be concerned that tow truck drivers are overstepping their bounds by towing vehicles that violate parking regulations. There are the cases of a car being towed while a 4-year-old slept in the back seat; of a man dying when he ran beside the tow truck trying to get his car back; and my personal favorite, of a church's delivery truck being towed from its own lot.
I love the story about the guy whose daughter's car was being towed, and he blocked the tow truck with his car, so they called a second truck to tow his car. What started the problem? She had parked in a private lot reserved for "Mazies Pet Store" and went to the bank. Sorry, but I'm betting Mazie paid a lot of money for that lot for her customers, and the bank paid nothing. Therefore, it seems to me that Mazie has the right to reserve the spots for her customers.
My eye doctor is located next to a pet store, and the sign in the lot says: "Pet Store Parking." I usually go into the pet store and buy some treats or whatever for my herd when I visit the doctor. See how it works: I could park in the doctor's lot, but then I would have to enter a garage and pay $5. But because the pet store pays for the surface lot next door, they get the $5 and I get some kibble. This doesn't seem so complicated. I know the Shoupistas wouldn't like this, but so be it.
My guess is that the church noted above contracted with the tow company to keep its lot clear of overnight parkers. As for the fire lanes -- give me a break. I wonder what the residents of the building would say if the fire department couldn't get to their apartments because some dummy left his car blocking the fire lane "for only a few minutes." I'm sure they would understand.
The feds are involved and passing laws right and left to regulate towing companies. I don't see why we need such laws. If the car was towed properly, so be it. If not, then arrest the tow driver for grand theft auto. Seems pretty simple to me. The tow guys would be careful, and parkers would park where they should.
Free Parking for Hybrids
OK -- The new highway bill proposes that we allow hybrid vehicles into carpool lanes. Let's see -- the purpose of the carpool lanes was to reduce the number of cars by enticing people to carpool. Reducing the number of cars greatly reduces emissions. In fact, it reduces emissions 100% for the vehicle not used. It also, by reducing cars, you reduce traffic, traffic jams, etc etc etc.
Under the new plan, you don't reduce a car, you simply take a car that was getting 25 miles per gallon and replace it with a car that gets what 35 MPG (that's what the hybrid suv's get.) No traffic savings, no vehicle reduction. and only a 10 MPG savings -- OK so you drive a Prius and you get 60 MPG. So you get a 35 MPG savings. We would still be a lot better off if you didn't drive at all and carpooled with a gas guzzler that was going you way anyway.
As for free parking for Hybrids (some cities now offer on and off street free parking for these cars.) Bull hockey. I can see giving a reduction in parking fee for a smaller car (it takes less space) and charging more for a Navigator (it really takes 1.5 spaces), but free. Nope. Doesn't do it for me. Its essentially the same issue -- you are still taking up a space. That space cost someone big bucks. You should pay for it. If you charge a different amount based on size, it makes sense. If you let someone in for free, it makes no sense. (Sorry Jim).
The auto companies will sell a lot of hybrids, probably more than they can make, because people want to save some money on gas. Trust me, that motivator works just fine. I think tax breaks (the first 60,000 produced by each company gets the buyer a tax break) aren't the way. A quality hybrid, that gets good gas mileage and can at least keep up with the other cars in the race, will sell just fine.