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Snow Days, Parking Violence, and Miami Beach

John Van Horn

The recent blizzards in the Central Plains and the Northeast have caused the cities to institute parking bans. Since I’m from Southern California where the snow we get falls in the form of rain, I have little understanding of such things. However, I can assume that the reason is so the snow plows can get through and clear the streets. It makes perfect sense. When there is 6 feet of snow piled up on the streets, how would a plow driver know if there is a car there or not?
I asked the following question in my blog: “Where the heck do people put their cars when a snow day ban is on?”
I received two opposing answers to my question: First, this one:
Some cities allow free parking in municipal lots during a snow emergency, or have deals with private garages that offer discounts. I never understood the point of snow emergency parking bans if there’s less than about 2 feet of snow. With that depth, there’s never a question of whether plows and emergency vehicles will get through, and the result is a plow berm a few feet from the curb, which means people park further into the street. If cars had been parked during the storm instead, there’d be car-shaped holes next to the curb, so people would park exactly as close to the curb as they always do. Signed Anonymous
And this one:.
I disagree with Anonymous. We had a couple of inches, then a couple more inches, and then for good measure, a few more inches. Those “car-shaped holes” are quickly collapsed when the car is removed.
Remember, to get out of a spot you have to move forward or back. Cars do not move straight to the left. If cars are not moved, the plow has to plow around them. That means the “berm” is 1 to 2 feet out from the car, making the driving lane more treacherous.
To answer the question “Where do the cars go?” – They do find off-street parking. They store the good car for the winter and drive the beater around in the snow and salt. They leave the car on the road and let the city tow it away and never pick it up (never registered it, and it was the $200 corner car lot special). It proves that there is parking, but people use the free parking the city provides because it is free and they don’t want to walk a block for the off-street parking.
I guess it goes even further than that. If there are places to put your cars when it snows, what about the rest of the year? People complain about on-street parking availability, but during snow bans, they find somewhere to park, don’t they?
OK, OK, I know that winter can be hell. I mean, we are going through a major storm here in LA as I write this. May get up to an inch of rain, and it will close many intersections, but I digress ... It just seems to me that there can’t be much of a parking problem if people can find places to put their cars off-street during a snowstorm.
***
There have been two incidents of violence reported recently concerning parking spaces. The first, in Pennsylvania, tells of a woman who was struck by a car when she was saving a parking space. The second concerns a man in New York who was struck in the face by ice when he tried to take a space that had been shoveled out by another.
OK, I’m as much against violence and parking as the next guy, but there reaches a point where people crack.
In the first case, we all know, I mean it’s an unwritten law, that you don’t save parking spaces. Period. When the car arrives, it gets the next space. The concept of the wife finding and saving a space by standing in it is simply not on. Fortunately in this case the woman was not seriously hurt. The driver of the car that hit her was booked on aggravated assault.
I can imagine he was aggravated. How would you feel? You just spent 20 minutes cruising the lot looking for an empty space. You spied the space up ahead, and when you arrived, you found Mazie standing in the space waving you off. Aggravation is the least of it.
As for the guy in New York – frankly, I have no sympathy for him. Having shoveled out a space or two in my time, I gotta tell you that gives you every right to the space.
A few years ago, a friend of mine shoveled out a space filled with 6 feet of snow at the Mammoth Mountain ski resort in California. He then went to get his double-parked car. When he returned, another driver had taken the space. When the errant parker returned, he found his car filled with snow. Now that’s justice.
By the way, the fellow who threw the ice is still at large. I’m sure the NY cops have a task force out looking for him.
***
Sigh – The Miami Herald reports that Miami Beach is preparing to let hybrid owners have discounted parking and reserved spaces. The newspaper article is filled with outrage from folks who live in the area. The biggest argument – many vehicles get better mileage than hybrids – many smaller cars such as Minis, Civics, etc. get more than 35 miles per gallon, and many hybrids, particularly SUV’s, get much less mileage.
The folks are hollering “discrimination” and “where is the ACLU when you need them” and “most greenhouse gases come from politicians.” I love that last one.
Once again, it would be so easy to solve their parking problem – raise the parking rates, use the money to build more spaces if they need them, and get on with their lives. All this other nonsense solves nothing and simply causes recrimination.
Miami Beach will have a hundred reasons why I am wrong, but they all relate to the city not having the political will to really solve a parking problem. I’m making up the following, but it would be great if someone would set me straight:
They have 100,000 cars coming into the area on weekends and 17,000 city-owned spaces. Well, duh. Private industry would solve that problem in a New York minute if they didn’t have to complete with 17,000 very low-priced city-owned spaces. If you raised the rate for on-street parking higher, much higher, than off-street parking, it would make commercial sense to build more parking, or for people to set up shuttle services, or complete the local rapid transit into the area, or walk.
As long as private industry has to compete with the local government, it will simply go somewhere else.

Article Abstract from February, 2008




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