Magazine

Point of View

Valium, Wig Shops, Dubai, and Feeding the Meter …

By John Van Horn

A Bellevue, OH, woman allegedly tried selling a prescription drug in order to be able to pay for her parking fees at a local hospital. Susan Hardy, 47, was charged with misdemeanor attempted drug trafficking after her arrest at University Hospital, according to the local newspaper. Hardy allegedly approached a person in the emergency room and offered to sell one diazepam pill (a generic Valium). That person then told University of Cincinnati police. Hardy then allegedly told the officer she was trying to sell the pill so she could get money to get out of a parking garage.
I can sympathize. Sometimes you are cash poor and there is no solution except to go into business for yourself. However, one should be a bit more discerning about what you are selling. She probably didn’t know that she could get out of the garage by simply telling the attendant she had no money and would be back later to pay. She might have to leave her tire iron, but hey, she would have been on her way.
People trust you when you tell them the truth. Funny how that works. On the other hand, if she had just filled a Valium prescription, she may have been under a lot of pressure and wasn’t thinking too clearly. It was perhaps better she wasn’t driving.
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When I read about downtowns such as the one in Evansville, IN, it just ticks me off. Gadzooks, they built a mall on the outskirts of town and, guess what, people went to shop there. I wonder why? There were a lot of stores with neat stuff, restaurants, bars, probably covered and air-conditioned. Why would someone want to go there when they could go downtown and visit empty storefronts, wig shops and the odd used-book store.
It took 40 years for a bit of a change to come and it’s beginning in Evansville, but it will move slowly. There are loft buildings being converted to condos and apartments so people can actually live downtown. A few shops and bars and restaurants are opening up, and maybe they will succeed.
Oh, get off it. If you build it, they will come. The downtown needs a 10-plex stadium-seating theater, a bunch of shops and restaurants, places for people to meet, walk, sit, and watch the passing scene (you know, like at the mall). How ‘bout evening concerts, dances, art shows, antique-car exhibits – you get the idea, like at the mall.
People will go downtown in droves if there is a reason for them to do so.
Fund it? Simple. Charge for parking and use the money to clean up the area, provide the services, lower taxes, new infrastructure, etc. They did it in Pasadena, CA; they can do it in Evansville.
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PT’s sister publication, Parking World, is on the streets in Australia and New Zealand and will soon be expanded to the Pacific Rim. I actually haven’t seen it at this writing, but I am told by our staff in Oz that it’s “awesome.” You can check it out on line at www.parkingworld.com. Don’t be too critical of the website, Suda and Andy are working hard on it. It’s a complete redesign, so we can quickly and easily add and change content to keep up with the worldwide parking news. Congratulations to Aussies Michelle and Jolyon on their fantastic first effort in Parking World.
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The Road and Transportation Department of Dubai, UAE, was to turnoff parking charges for the Eid al-Fitr holidays. It will be interesting to see the results. In November, I am speaking just up the road in Abu Dhabi and hopefully some of the Dubai folks will be there and I can ask them about their “gift” to the community. My guess is that this will cause chaos in the city, there will be a dearth of parking spaces, and next year people will be demanding that charges be kept in place. We shall see.
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A system of sensors monitoring on-street parking has been installed as a test in Fort Worth, TX. Some citizens are upset because, among other things, the sensors “reset” the meters when a car leaves the space. This means you can’t use the time left over from the previous parker. And since the sensor knows when you arrived and when you leave (if you leave), the rule that you can’t “feed” the meter actually can be enforced.
One fellow called the new technology “a crock.” He also was someone who worked downtown and liked to park his car on the street, feed the meter, and take up valuable space that should have been kept for merchants’ customers.
In addition to meter resetting, the sensors provide statistical data as to length of stays and the actual amount of tickets that are never written (people who overstay the meters and aren’t caught). And they give the city solid information to be used for pricing and the like.
These systems are springing up across the country, in large cities and small towns. San Francisco and Los Angeles have tests going, and small towns on the Jersey Shore are using the sensors to justify keeping parking charges during the off-tourist season. With good statistical data, the parking chiefs can go to the city council and prove that parking needs to be controlled during times that simple observational data would note that it doesn’t.
The problem with on-street monitoring is that unless the spaces are covered with a sensor that tracks just how long a car is in place, there is virtually no way of knowing how long people park, and during what periods the parking is full or there are spaces available.
Observation doesn’t work. When you observe a car present, you don’t know whether it “just arrived” or had been sitting there for hours. In addition, unless you observe the car leaving, how would you know when it left?
The sensors track all that data and then upload it to a central database through the handheld PDA’s carried by parking management personnel or, in some cases, a wi-fi online network. The data then can be reviewed by the parking staff and used to make knowledgeable plans.
In one case, a mayor demanded that the downtown parking be extended to four hours. He commented that people needed that time for theaters and lingering lunches. The stats provided by the sensor system showed that the average “dwell time” of cars on-street was about 50 minutes. The one-hour rules were kept in force.
A local wag noted that the mayor’s wife ran a quilting class downtown that lasted four hours. Funny how these things happen.
Have a most happy Thanksgiving.

Article Abstract from November, 2008




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