Magazine

Point of View

Thieves, Kalamazoo, BlackBerry, Fresno and Rage

John Van Horn

Here’s proof positive that thieves are not the brightest bulbs in the chandelier.
In Massachusetts, a man went into a number of stores at a very tony mall and lifted considerable merchandise. These are high-end stores, and he did it in broad daylight. Of course, he was caught on a myriad of CCTV cameras in the stores and on cameras in the mall when he passed his lucre to a female accomplice.
Mall security broadcast a description of the man and woman, and he was stopped in the mall. Now here’s the interesting part: She was caught with two other women when they asked a policeman to help them find their lost car in the mall’s parking structure. The officer recognized the woman from the broadcast description and arrested all three. When the cops found the car, it was brimming like Santa’s sleigh, only much higher-end. There was even a purse that retailed at 10 grand.
All will spend Christmas in the slammer.
***
Don Shoup and I have been talking for years about how zoning parking requirements destroy downtown development. Well, even though we should believe Dr. Shoup and his research, Kalamazoo, MI, has gone a long way to confirm the thesis.
City planners have set up a downtown district where developers can build without having to meet Kalamazoo’s stringent parking requirements. What they discovered is that although development is booming downtown, areas right across the street from district are lying fallow. They are now about to expand the district to attract more development in the area around the core of the city.
It’s only logical. Developers aren’t stupid. They are going to build their buildings and renovate older ones where they have fewer restrictions and where parking requirements are reasonable. They know their building will not be attractive is there isn’t enough parking, but the civic planners usually place requirements that go far beyond the needs of the development. This is costly and often stops the project.
Way to go, Kalamazoo
***
I got a BlackBerry about a month ago. I had fought the urge for years, but my wife prevailed and I purchased a BlackBerry Curve. It’s a tad smaller than the original BB, but it has a full keyboard and more features than I can possibly ever use.
The best part is that I can check e-mail and respond from anywhere. This is important for quick trips, or when I’m out and about. No need to carry the laptop and find a hot spot. It’s great.
It is, however, addictive. Now I won’t go anywhere without it. I can check my e-mail, get phone calls, and even find maps and get directions to where I am going, all instantly and on line. I’m sold and have become an advocate.
A recent cartoon in The Wall Street Journal had two businessmen talking: “What’s the point of having a high-speed Internet connection, instant-messaging and a BlackBerry if I waste 45 minutes a day looking for parking?”
Nuff said.
***
The Peter, Paul and Mary song of the 1960s was prophetic for Fresno, CA, this past month. Here’s the story:
The city had meters in its Chinatown area for years until 1999, when they were removed. They found that for some strange reason, company employees and government workers were taking all the spots, so they put the meters back in 2001. Now, six years later, the merchants are crying and want the meters removed again. The city, as an experiment, is taking them out.
It would seem to me that they did the experiment in 1999 and the result was so bad they had to replace the meters two years
later. What has changed that makes anyone think that this time it will be different? Isn’t one definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over expecting to get a different result?
It seems to me that the problem is that the city collects about a million dollars a year from parking, but the local merchants see none of it. If the million was put back into the neighborhoods with new sidewalks, street lights, events, parks and the like, I wonder if people would come down to the area in droves, whether or not they had to pay.
As for the concern that people have to “feed the meters” – it seems to me that rates could be set so that feeding was unnecessary. Maybe sell parking in hour increments, so they can buy three or four hours after-hours or around lunch.
Of course, upgrading the meters to take credit cards and the like would help, too.
Lots of alternatives, rather than just doing the same thing that failed six years ago.
“When will they every learn…”
***
This is rich. A NY dentist lost it when a driver blocked his access to a parking lot. Unfortunately, this was in front of a TV studio and a camera crew had just walked out on its way to an assignment. It’s all on tape and all over the Internet.
There is the dentist’s side of the story, but frankly, after the push he gave the girl in the video, I didn’t have a lot of sympathy.
Dr. Joyce Brothers had an interesting comment. She said that most of this rage was based on some other factors in the person’s life and it becomes manifested in the parking rage. In other words, the dentist in question was taking out his frustration on a minor problem, but the frustration was major. Her comment is telling: “I wouldn’t want to be a patient of this dentist at this time.”
Is there anything we can do about this, as an industry? I doubt it. There have been incidents of such rage worldwide. But when in considering the hundreds of millions of people who interact over parking spaces daily, a few incidents a day isn’t a lot. Put it in perspective. Some guy loses it and suddenly the world is focused on “Parking Rage.”
We live in a video world. Remember one thing our dentist friend forgot. Don’t do anything in public you don’t want to see on the evening news, or on YouTube.

By the time you get this, it will be the New Year – have a happy and
prosperous 2008.

Article Abstract from January, 2008




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