Magazine

Point of View

The Future, Revenue Control, San Francisco, and Celine…

By John Van Horn

It’s the new year, and I’m supposed to have some predictions. Specifics are difficult due to the current economic jumble, but I will say the following:
2009 will not be a bad year for parking. Companies that seize the moment and boldly reach into the new year will find that money is out there and that people are willing to buy. Now is the time to promote, brand, and sell, sell, sell. Those who do will have a great year.
Those who believe the headlines, cower in their offices, cut back, retrench and “wait it out” will have the year they expect. Slow, dreadful and harrowing. Parking Today has had its best year in history, and Andy and Marcy tell me 2009 will be as good or better. Hope yours is as well.
***
This is our Revenue Control issue, with a myriad of articles about this most important subject. Our readers tell us that this is their No. 1 concern, and much of PT every month is devoted to technology and the controlling of revenue in our business.
My numbers haven’t changed. About 30% of all revenue in parking facilities is not collected. This could be for a number of reasons, but most have to do with lack of attention by those who are responsible for collecting the money.
A few years back, I made this statement and was called on the carpet by operators who told me I was “full of it” – the number just wasn’t true. Period. Earlier last year, the very company that attacked me was audited and found that, well, my number was low.
Of course, there are operators that do an excellent job and there are garages that collect every penny. Experience says, however, that they are in not the majority. We all need to be diligent – owners, operators and consumers – to ensure that we have our business house in order.
Assuming my numbers are correct, that means that over the country, nearly $4.5 billion are not collected annually. That’s not chump change. Hopefully, the articles you find in this issue of PT will help lower that number.
***
Last month, I blogged on San Francisco’s attempt at controlling parking through a Shoupista market-based program. I recently lunched with the good professor and got a personal update on the program. Dr. Donald Shoup is consulting with the city. He says they have a problem that didn’t get noted in the San Francisco Examiner article.
Literally tens of thousands of handicapped parking permits are issued in Baghdad by the Bay. Each one allows its holder to park on-street for free. What is happening is that although parking spaces are jammed in the city, a great minority – if not a majority – of them are filled by people who don’t pay. Handicapped Permits give on-street parkers a free ride.
Since the market is out of the picture when it concerns a very large number of parkers, it makes sense that the city’s approach will make little difference with traffic, cruising or use of motor vehicles.
Don told me an interesting story. A few years ago, he was in Sacramento and noted that around the capitol building there was a street whose parking spaces were full of cars with handicapped permits. When Don asked a local officer what percentage of these permits were bogus, either counterfeit or issued improperly, he smiled and said: “100%.”
My guess is that San Francisco may be moving into the same position. Since parking with a permit is free, it’s to everyone’s advantage to get one any way they can.
The solution? Charge for all parking. Handicapped people need the space because they need access. They don’t need “free” parking. The new system could provide reduced fees for handicapped parkers with a special permit or whatever if that’s necessary.
Charging for all parking would make the handicapped permits less desirable and would open up space for legitimate handicapped parkers to use. The irony of it all is that the city allows charging for off-street handicapped parking.
This is a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences kicking in. San Francisco will spend millions for the new program and it will fail because of another program that is already in place. Good people making decisions to help some that actually ends up hurting everyone.
I’ll keep you posted.
***
Fights Break Out After Celine Dion Concert (from Milwaukee 620 WTMJ Newsradio):
Fans said the Celine Dion concert was wonderful, but it was after the show where crowds got unruly and into a case of “ramp rage.” Milwaukee police were called to the parking ramp across from the Bradley Center on Monday night after people became enraged while waiting to leave the structure.
Phil Vollrath said fights (on the ramp) started to erupt about an hour after the show. “They got out of their cars and were shouting and waving their fists at each other, calling 911,” said Vollrath. “One car came driving down the ramp at a good rate of speed with its horn blowing.”
One woman ended up in a car accident when, she said, someone tried to cut her off. Another person called police because people were pounding on her vehicle.
The city blames the problems on the fact that the parking garage was filled with cars.
I thought Celine Dion was one of those soft, loving Canadian singers who followed the poem of William Congreve:
Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast,
To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.
Well, I think Celine needs to work on her soothing. Her multiyear-long gig in Vegas must have roughed her up a bit. Also, the local constabulary needs to work on its ability to affix blame. Reread the last sentence in the article I quoted above – duh!
In case you were wondering, Congreve also coined this gem:
Heav’n hath no rage like love to hatred turn’d,
Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.
And you thought I had no culture.
***
I know, I know – I’m hammering this home. Gasoline prices are down again, Under $2 a gallon for the first time in recent history. I thought pump prices were going to blow us out of the water and destroy our economy. I thought people couldn’t afford houses because they had to fill their car. So what happened?
The market happened. People starting using less fuel, the supply went up, the price went down. The price of oil is a bit more complicated, but it works the same way. A barrel of oil is one-third of what it was three months ago. The rising dollar has helped.
Where are all the naysayers?
We at PT began holding “webinars” in December. Our first was Dennis Cunning on this very topic. More than 500 people attended the online event, with more coming online and downloading it daily.

All the best in 2009.

Article Abstract from January, 2009




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