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Point of View

Parking Rangers, Brooklyn, and Cellphones

John Van Horn

I just love it when folks get what they want and then it turns and bites them right on the rear. Hereís to a shopping area in Brooklyn. They got their streets refurbished, their parking meters removed and their business in the dumper.
OK, they didnít ask for the meters to be removed. The city did that as part of the refurbishment. I guess the meters probably will be replaced, someday. In the meantime, the merchants are screaming bloody murder. It seems you canít really enforce parking limits without meters. You know, a charge.
Their business is down, most likely because when the meters were removed, all their employees started parking on the street in front of their shops, taking the spaces that would be used by customers. The customers, not finding space to park Ė space, by the way, that they had been and were more than willing to pay for Ė went to places where parking was plentiful, and probably costly.
All the stories along these lines simply underscore the need for charging market rates for on-street parking to maintain the resource and to make sure that the people who want to park have a place to park. Simple? Yep.
***
If we in parking are going to fix the poor reputation we have with the community, we need to do it on the front lines. Parking enforcement officers must have some flexibility so that when a husband is dropping off his critically ill wife in a no-parking zone, he can get a pass. But it should go further than that.
I believe enforcement officers should be able to change a ticket to a warning at any point in the process, even after itís written. If a person walks up just as the officer is placing the ticket on the car, the officer should be able to convert that ticket to a warning.
The major argument against this is that it could be fraught with graft. That is, if a ticket is worth $40, the driver could give the officer $20 to ďfix itĒ on the spot. Also, sometimes a little cleavage or a well-turned ankle could do the same.
Simple statistics could handle the officers who were taking backhanders. Although I donít see why there would be a backhander. If a person walked up when the ticket was being written, it would be voided. No bribe needed. If the ticket was voided half an hour after it was written, then thatís another matter and could be dealt with administratively.
With proper publicity and signage, the plan could work. Scofflaws would get their tickets; honest citizens would get warnings and would do better next time. And that great resource known as parking would have tenders Ė enforcement officers Ė whose job it was to make parking safe, and plentiful.
Of course, there is a stumbling block. There would be a decrease in revenue generated by parking fines. The city would have to come to terms with the fact that parking fines were an enforcement tool and not another way of taxing the citizenry.
Monies generated from parking should be used for improvements in the area where the parking was located. New sidewalks, curbs, lighting, flowers, parks, etc., etc., etc. Maybe even more police patrols. It should not be a way for the city council to balance the general fund.
Rather than be ďParking Nazis,Ē the enforcement staff would become welcome members of the community. They would provide a service, and at the same time provide a public relations bonanza.
***
OK, I admit it, I do answer my cellphone in public places, but when I do, I whisper into it. The people on the other end donít even notice. but it ensures that I donít raise my voice 10 dB when I answer the call.
I was at breakfast the other morning and the fellow behind me was talking quietly to whomever was joining him for his meal. About 10 minutes after I arrived, he answered a call on his cellphone and his voice became ďbooming.Ē People were turning around all over the place looking at him. He talked on his phone for 15 minutes, by my watch, and then hung up. He returned to the quiet voice he had used before the call.
What was I to do? I really didnít want to confront the guy, but frankly I was upset. Then I got an idea. When I got back to the office, I printed up some business card-size notices that said:
CELLPHONE USER
Iím sure you donít realize it, but when you talk on your cellphone, you raise your voice at least twice as loud as you do when you talk without the phone. It is very intrusive to all the folks around you who really donít want to intrude on your privacy.
Your cellphone is designed to work very well with soft voices. You might give it a try. If your caller canít hear you, they will let you know and you can adjust.
Thanks.
Iím going to hand these cards to folks I hear using cellphones in loud voices: in the supermarket, at the theater (sigh) and in restaurants.
OK, Iím not stupid. Iím going to hand the card to them and walk away before they have a chance to read it.
Letís face it: Cellphones should be used for what they were intended Ė to pay for parking.

Article Abstract from September, 2007




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