I'm Mad as Hell...And I'm not going to take it anymore. Well, perhaps not in the manner of the signature role by the late actor Peter Finch in the movie Network -- maybe I'm only mildly piqued. But as I drove through the parking garage near the World of Concrete trade show in New Orleans last month and passed empty reserved space after empty reserved space, then passed the rental car company's empty floor, and finally up three more floors to find a space, I was a bit, to put it mildly, frustrated.
Now I know that owners and operators should be able to run their establishments any way they like, but I hope the owners were getting more than $300 a month for all those empty spaces, because that's the equivalent of what I was paying.
I put myself in the position of a transient parker -- maybe because that's what I was. I drove in, took a ticket, and then went looking for a parking space. Now, this was an older facility, so aisles were narrow and ramps steep, but I understood that. What upset me was all the empty spaces I had to drive by to find a space.
A nice article in Time magazine last month featured the fact that parking facilities were, dare we say it, adding new services to parking operations. They focused on Apcoa Standard, a longtime advocate of these new amenities. They quoted Apcoa Standard VP Mike Wolf and were laudatory in their praise of the new parking concepts available to customers -- everything from lending libraries to car washes to dry cleaners to a cup of coffee.
Now don't get me wrong -- I have been supporting this amenity concept since I first got an umbrella from then Standard Parking's Mike Swartz five years ago. But when Standard began the amenity program it was after they cleaned up the garage, added good signage and wayfinding, brought more staff on board to help parkers, and, along with then General Parking, upgraded their facilities so that a person could easily and quickly park. These Chicago guys really led the way.
What I am saying is that people first want a clean, bright, well-signed, and safe place to park. Then they want a cup of coffee and a car wash. If operators want to fill their garages, then they need to consider parking from the parker's point of view. Many have -- but there are thousands of garages out there that haven't.
We are moving to a service economy. Ours is a service industry. We need to provide the service, not just the space.
Whew! Maybe I should just take a cab.
Now the second part of my mild pique -- politics. Not good old Dems vs. Reps roll-in-the-gutter politics, but bureaucratic politics. The stuff you can't see, the stuff you don't know about, and most likely the stuff that affects you directly.
In this case, it's the 300-foot rule. There are three articles in this issue concerning the rule that keeps private cars from parking within 300 feet of an airport terminal and is costing operators and airports alike millions. Well-researched and well-written, these stories cover the ground very politely and well. I don't have to be so polite.
The bureaucrats at the FAA and other government agencies haven't thought through the problem. They simply got out a measuring tape and then drew a line. Then they allowed cars to drive right up to the terminal, but not park.
This makes about as much sense as the government railing against smoking but subsidizing the tobacco farmers. Either it's bad or it isn't.
We have seen that terrorists have no concern for their own lives. What is to keep them from driving up with a car full of plastique -- or fertilizer, for that matter -- and setting the thing off while it's still rolling. All the 300-foot rules on earth can't stop that.
But I have another question. Why would a terrorist want to blow up Terminal 3 at You-Name-the-City International? Why not the city hall, or the tallest building, or a national monument? It seems to me that if a terrorist wants to make a big splash, they are going after big fish -- the ones that don't have fences, security, and the like. Why not a major bridge or freeway interchange or public building?
If we are going to spend billions protecting Terminal 3, why not spend trillions to protect every major building, bridge, dam, power plant, etc., etc., etc.? Get the point?
These guys in Washington are covering their behinds with the 300-foot rule, not ours. They are putting rules in place that do little good, but cost us billions if not more. That's not only in lost revenue, but also in major construction costs. All of which will do little good.
Thanks to Dick Beebe, Mark Postma, Tom Butcher, Dale Denda and others who preferred not to have their names bandied about. Their input, both in their articles and personally, has been invaluable.
We are going to spend a bit of time discussing this issue at PIE in Chicago in April. Perhaps we can come up with a way to communicate with these folks in Washington and show them that common sense is -- most of the time -- the best way to solve a problem. Simply throwing money at it is not.