Magazine

Point of View

Watching Paint Dry, Poaching, Intelligent Design (no, not that kind) …

By John Van Horn

When I started Parking Today nearly a decade and a half ago, I had one rule: I wasn’t going to run articles that told you how much lime to put in concrete to ensure that it hardened properly. I just didn’t think that details such as that needed to be in a parking magazine. You hire consultants and engineers and contractors to give you advice on such.
That having been said, I just reviewed the articles in this month’s construction and maintenance issue and sure enough, it’s not about concrete. But there is an article about devices that are used to ensure that precast T’s don’t fall when the temperature rises, and another one on metal screening used on garage exteriors. What have I done?
In some defense, owners and managers need to know enough to be dangerous. They need to be able to ask questions that require their consultants and contractors to sit up and take notice. They need to understand that you do need to be involved in the construction and maintenance of your garage.
These tidbits will help give our readers a leg up on their support groups. But let’s not get carried away. An article in PT doesn’t replace years of experience gained through designing, engineering and building our parking structures. It will, I hope, make some of the decisions made a tad more clear and easy.
***
I met recently with Sander de Wildt, General Manager of the Westfield Century City here in Los Angeles. It’s one of the most up-market shopping areas in LA.
Sander told me that the Creative Artists Agency had moved into the remodeled building across the street. The gazillionaire actors who visit their agents were upset that they had to pay for parking under the building.
CAA’s solution? There is now a sign there telling them to park across the street in Sander’s shopping center (three hours free). Sander was laughing and shaking his head. “Maybe they’ll come upstairs and spend some money while they are here.”
***
The city of Indiana, PA, seems to have a problem. They bought pay-by-space machines, and according to what I read in the local paper, they haven’t done a very good job in training people how to use them. I repeat the instructions given in a letter to the editor in the local paper here:
• Check the number on the street as you are exiting your car or on the sidewalk next to your car.
• Go to the meter and get your money ready. Do not put the money in yet.
• Press your number. Read if there is time in the lower window. If there is time, determine if you need more time. If not, go on your way. If so, go to next step.
• Press your number again. The number should be flashing and the instructions should say “Insert coin.” Insert your coin(s) now. The time it is giving you will show in the bottom window. Absolutely do not re-push your number while the number is flashing. If you re-push your number, the meter will reset and your money will be lost.
• If you want to check if the meter recorded your time, wait until the screen again says, “Welcome.” Then push your number and look at the time window.
• If you feel you have received a ticket in error due to a faulty meter or some other reason, you may appeal the ticket by filling out a form at the office in the borough parking garage.
• The red meters are 20-minute meters. This means that no matter how much money you put in them, you will only receive 20 minutes.
Confused? Well, so am I. First of all, this shop owner is telling her patrons how to cheat (see the second item listed). Aside from that, my guess is that her description of what to do is probably correct. This means that the equipment is not intuitive and hard to use. I have no idea whose equipment it is, but it would appear they need some help in product design.
Don Shoup and I went to Pasadena, CA, to take some pictures for last month’s PT and he attempted to use the pay-by-space machines. He became confused. This university professor and parking expert couldn’t figure them out. (Well, OK, I can understand that.) However, they were difficult. I’m guessing that if you were more than 15 years old, you had no chance.
Can you imagine the frustration of this merchant in Pennsylvania? Her clients weren’t coming downtown because they couldn’t figure out how to use the parking meters.
Come on, vendors. If you want to provide a product, it has to be intuitive. You should be able to use it without knowing anything in advance. Instructions must be clear and they must be easy to read, even in full sunlight or dark shadows.
***
Ah, journalists. You gotta love them. They make up a theory, and then try to write a story that backs it up. They continue the story even when the facts in their own article prove them wrong.
This story begins with the premise that “Massive layoffs for businesses in downtown Des Moines could mean less money for the city from parking revenues.” It then goes on to quote parkers who are finding it easier to park downtown.
However, when they quote the city, they find that the parking revenues are up 6.8% and are up 0.8% even if you remove the rate increase put in place last year.
So, what has happened? They raised parking rates. Dailies are going for $1.50 an hour, up from $1.25. I’ll just bet that if you do a quick study, you would find that folks aren’t parking quite as long as they did before the rate hike. This means more spaces in the garage and easier parking.
The point is this: So-called journalists should research their articles and then come to a conclusion based on the facts. Not just make a statement and let it stand in the face of facts in their own articles.
They note “massive layoffs,” but they give no numbers as to how “massive” they are. They tremble that revenues will be down when they are actually up. They write headlines that contradict each other.
The first headline says: Job Cuts Cause Parking Lot Glut
The subhead says: Downtown Garages Less Empty These Days
This is from a TV broadcast, but don’t they have editors? Doesn’t anyone read these before they go out? I’ll bet the writer who created this gem will scratch his or her head and wonder why the news department is losing money and they were laid off. They will blame the Internet, or profit-mongering moguls, or sunspots.
It will never occur to them that the problem might be the crap they are spewing and calling it “news.”

Article Abstract from March, 2009




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