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Economics, Mr. Trump, Carrier, and a Parking Garage

I love it when those not schooled in parking try to use our business as an analogy to some other business.  Justin Wolfers, a professor at the University of Michigan and writing in the New York Times gives it his best shot, but I think misses the target.

Basically his column says that President elect Trump’s actions with Carrier is useless in the intergalactic scheme of things.  It will make no difference. Here is how he compares it to a parking garage:

Think of the American economy as a 10-level parking structure or garage, where each car represents an active firm, and the seats in the car are the jobs available. A well-managed business like this is usually pretty full. But it’s also in a state of constant flux, with new cars entering as some people arrive, and previously parked cars leaving as others head home. Every hour, around a tenth of the cars leave the lot, just as a tenth of existing business establishments close each year and leave the labor market.

The deal at Carrier is akin to Mr. Trump’s intercepting a driver on his way to his car, and trying to persuade him to stay parked a little longer — perhaps by pointing to the enticing Christmas specials at the nearby stores.

It’s an approach that no parking business bothers trying.

But you might look at it another way.

Prices in parking garages are set based on how long a parker stays, and often on when they entered or left. They purpose is to attract parkers to stay based on their self interest. If someone knows they are going to stay all day, they park in a garage that has a lower all day rate (perhaps an early bird.)  The garage owner may want cars that are long stay, to keep his facility full.

In another garage, the charges may be based on the availability of space at a certain time. If the garage is empty, the price goes down, if it is full, supply and demand pushed the cost up and perhaps parkers go there because there is no alternative.

These pricing techniques are like labor costs, taxes, energy costs incentives, labor availability, unions, and regulatory policy.

The deal at Carrier is like Mr. Trump adjusting the pricing to entice more parkers into the garage when there is space available (perhaps a space being a worker). If we were at full employment, there would be no need to cajole companies to keep their factories where they are.  However we used incentives (different types of pricing) to get customers into our garages. Sure in the global scheme of things, its a drop in the bucket, but perhaps its representative on a tiny scale of what can be done. The goal must be to provide an environment where companies WANT to stay.

It seems to me is that the government has many tools at its disposal to jump start the economy and keep jobs parked in the USA.  A bully pulpit is only one. Its useful, political, and important, but there are others needed too.  A less onerous tax code, favorable regulations, and an educated and engaged work force can help too.

But what do I know – I don’t teach at a major university.


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Parking Strategies a Good Model for Government Policy

You have to be careful talking about politics these days. Unless you’re sure the person sitting across from you shares all your views and opinions, you could be preaching to the choir or throwing water on the Gremlins. Nobody can deny that the political climate in our country right now is charged, heated, overexcited and occasionally rabid, but a recent article on nytimes.com has appealed to the intelligence, instead of the emotions, of its readers. And it just so happened to make an interesting analogy about the job market and parking industry practices.

The article compares a modern economy to a parking garage. In terms of the job market, fluctuation is inevitable and acceptable as long as overall numbers are consistent or growing. The author explains that trying to keep cars in the garage is known to be a waste of time – turnover is inevitable and desirable. Inspiring regular parkers to return and attracting new customers are the best way to ensure profitability. Making and keeping jobs in the United States is about making the country a productive and supportive place to do business – we’re talking perks and amenities that make the experience positive.

The economics of parking contain a big lesson for the Trump administration: A parking garage stays full, and an economy stays healthy, only if it’s constantly refreshed.

It will come as no surprise that the article is critical of the president elect, but it offers that criticism with sanity and uses a metaphor that many, in the industry and out, comprehend easily.

Our country is going to need all the help in can get in the year to come – there are no perfect people or perfect solutions to our challenges. It’s good to see a topic so familiar used to shed light on an important issue.

There’s also a very cool picture of a 1937 multi-level car storage tower in Chicago.

Read the article here.

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It Depends on How You Want to Pay for It

Columnist Mark Wilson is writing a series on what the country will look like under our new president. He quotes another naysayer:

Urbanist journalist Greg Lindsay imagines a darker scenario in which all public transit is handed over to private corporations. Imagine Uber running trains with surge pricing on your way to work each morning. Individual neighborhoods might be tolled on entry, effectively cutting off parts of the city to people without the means to pay. Consider having to pay $2.50 every time you go shopping in Tribeca or commute to your job in SoHo—perhaps through an RFID-powered deduction system that tolls users seamlessly across the city.

Oh My Goodness.  It would seem that Mr. Lindsay doesn’t understand that everything we do costs money. The only discussion is how we collect and pay for it, and in dealing with cities, how much we want to subsidize certain services.

These are decisions that cities wrestle with daily. Can they continue to raise taxes to pay for services, or do we charge individuals to use those services based on what it costs to deliver them. A private entity (like Uber) will charge enough to cover costs and have something left over. That how capitalism works. They will be as efficient as possible, and also ensure that the infrastructure they install will be properly maintained so their investment will be protected.

Consider WAMATA – the DC Metro. A large portion of it is closed, unusable since it was not properly maintained and there is no money to maintain it now. This is also true of water mains in Los Angeles. The city is in a drought, but thousands of gallons of water is lost daily to leakage.

Is it possible that the city didn’t charge enough for the use of the Metro, or for water, to ensure that the systems could be maintained? Ya Think.

Mr. Lindsay’s concerns are already in place in London, where you cannot drive into the central city during certain hours (congestion pricing) without paying a healthy fee. Yikes.

Wilson, Lindsay and Co worry about folks having to pay for services that in the past were subsidized by the government. Do they realize that we are paying for them now, just in a different way (taxes)?

It has been said that those in the UK, for instance, pay a 20% sales tax, but they don’t realize it, since its included in the price of the item. Here in the US, sales taxes, where they are collected, are added separately. Wonder what would happen if the city tacked a 20% surcharge on all items bought and you saw it every time you bought a candy bar ( or a car). Can you say torches and pitchforks?

The new administration seems to be made up primarily of business folk. I’m not sure whether this is good or bad, but it certainly will be different.




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Musings on 2017 and Parking

In January, wags are supposed to enter a list of predictions as to what is going to happen in the upcoming year.  I thought I might preview my thoughts here on the first Day of December.  Its usually a pretty safe thing to do, since no one really goes back and holds you to what you said.

I looked back in the PT archives and found that I haven’t given any predictions for the past couple of years. Probably lazy, or perhaps I’m off the taste of crow. I think I can come up with a few, since I’m supposed to know all and tell all. Here goes:

Venture capital will continue to flow into the parking industry, but will focus on companies that involve Apps, the IoT, connected vehicles, and alternate methods of payment. Look to Apple, Google, and other giants to be sniffing around these companies.

I attended a seminar put on by a major legacy company this past month, and the speculation was on “who are we going to buy?”  We are going to see more consolidation as companies grow and want to become more pervasive. Think Amano Mcgann, Tiba and Skidata and how they are buying up their dealer networks. Look for more of that in the future.

Innovation will be in the forefront. As you attend PIE and the other trade events, you will see ticketless parking, an expanded use of License Plate Recognition, Shopping Centers providing apps for parkers, the use of many different types of payment methods including Apple Pay, credit and debit cards, and pay by cell.

Speaking of Pay by Cell, at least one and maybe two of the companies you see swimming in this part of our market will either close up shop or be purchased by a competitor. You read it here first.

Parking will expand into transportation and ‘smart cities.’ If you don’t have your toe in this pool you neglect it at your peril. The really successful companies will coordinate and consolidate technologies cities and transportation divisions can deal with one vendor, and not a dozen or more to solve their “smart city” issues.

Innovation to watch:

  • Controlling off street parking using ticketless entry and exit
  • Automated Parking Systems will be featured in more and more developments, but will remain relatively small
  • Lighting will be changing to LED in a big way. It’s a no brainer, and provides huge cost savings
  • On Street enforcement will continue to automate. In street sensors will be popular but will give way to video in tracking whether a space is empty or full. This technology may take a few years to grab the interest of major cities.

OK, that’s enough – I think this is general enough so that no matter what happens this coming yes, I will be right


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The temptation to write the typical anodyne piece about Thanksgiving and all we have to be thankful is overwhelming. Its easy, quick and readers will smile and feel warm and fuzzy.

I thought I would make my life difficult and take a different approach. As you sit around the table tomorrow and make lists of those things that you need to thank the good Lord for providing, take a moment and consider just how much you were involved in the process.

There’s a story about a man who was caught on a roof top during a flood.  He prayed to God to save him.  A few minutes later a log floated by but he said, no, I’ll wait for God. Then a rescue boat, same response.  Then a helicopter and the local fire department. Same response. The water was rising and finally he fell off the roof and drowned.  When he met his maker, he asked why God didn’t save him — “What do you mean, I sent you a log, a boat, a helicopter and the fire department. All you had to do was get on.”

I wonder at this time of year if we don’t give thanks for the wrong things. We give thanks for the bounty, but not for the creative and hard working people that gave us the bounty. We give thanks for good health, but gloss over the scientists and doctors who worked endlessly to bring us that health. What about all those fancy electronics that connect us to the world, or keep planes in the air, or allow you to read this drivel.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the Maker provides the raw materials, and sometimes logs, boats, helicopters and fire departments, but we have to make wise use of them. We can’t sit by and wait to be saved. We must take action, or at least some must take action.

Perhaps this Thanksgiving we could list those who made the bounty possible. Police and firefighters who keep us safe, military who keep us secure, farmers who grow the food and energy workers who provide the power to get it to us and yes, maybe even our families, spouses, partners, and friends who work tirelessly so we can have that bounty.

Don’t get me wrong. We must remember the good Lord. Without God’s having our back, its doubtful if we could make the bounty happen. Hey, I guess one could say we make a pretty good team, God and us.

Please have a safe, wonderful, and Happy Thanksgiving. From all of us here at PT Media, All the Best.



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“Smart City” — Not Just Another Buzz Word

I have been browsing through Parknews.biz. I entered the phrase “Smart City” in the search box and I found that Editor Astrid had put up over 40 stories about this term in the past few months. She thought it was important for us, so I began to read.

For those of you living in a cave for the past few years, the term refers to collecting data from tens of thousands of sensors within a city, and then using that data to make the city more efficient and livable. This includes, traffic, water, electricity, waste disposal, sewage, and parking.

This is all well and good.  A city suddenly has a gillion bits of data. They are all sliced and diced on a dashboard.  Now what. This is what concerns me about all this “big data” stuff.  What is being done with it?  Wen and Diego at Smarking visit your company, insert their software and voila, you have a ton of data.  But what are you doing with it?  How is it affecting your business, your customer service, your bottom line/ Who is responsible for using that data to its full effect. (We have a seminar at PIE on this very topic.)

I’m told every large city in Australia has hired an expensive (over $250K) manager to oversee Smart City data. Stories posted on Parknews.biz tell us that Kansas City, MO, has hired a “Chief Innovation Officer” to make sure the money they spend on “Smart City” stuff is spent wisely.

Just what are some of the results of using Smart City Data.

A city in India is monitoring the water supply and is able to send a text message to the citizens telling them when the water is safe to drink. (There is some irony in that sentence but I digress.)

Another city monitor’s traffic and texts when a certain street is jammed so drivers can select alternate routes.

A third monitors street lights and is able to dim then when ambient light is high enough to take over.

OK, fine. But where can this go in the future…

If we include video, the city can know where crowds are and perhaps schedule more buses into the area. Perhaps it could notify merchants that foot traffic is up in their area and they could prepare for more potential customers.

We are already seeing electric and water meters read ‘on line’ (although I haven’t received a water bill since my new meter was installed six months ago.)  Street cleaning can be monitored so parking citations could be written ahead of the sweeper, but not after it passed. Traffic signals could be ‘adjusted’ to take care of jammed streets. Sensors could tell the city when water usage seemed too high (it could indicate a leak in a water main.)  The list is endless.

However, it seems to me that a city needs to determine what it is going to do with the data, and then cost justify the high expense of installing sensors and data collectors, before it jumps in to the “Smart City” world. High powered “innovation officers’ need to be on line before the first dollar is spent.

We need to be sure that becoming a smart city isn’t just a buzz word a mayor uses to get reelected or a company uses to sell software to a municipality.

There is value in knowing what is going on in your city and certainly using ‘Smart City’ software is a way to get it. We need to be cautious that we know what we are doing before we begin to swim in terabytes of data.



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OMG — We are Doing Something that Affects You, Directly!

We here at Parking Today Media constantly strive to keep up with the times. Innovation is our middle name (actually its “Today” but you get the idea.) This month we have made a substantial change in our annual People in Parking Directory (PIP) that affects you. Unless you are an employee of a supplier listed in PIP, you will not be listed in the print edition of People in Parking.

We have had our webmaster develop a program that enables you to search our database of parking pros and instantly find their name, organization, and phone number. You can also send them an email through our system. Here is the email you should have received last week:

You should be receiving our annual People in Parking Directory in your mail shortly. We would like to tell you about a major change we have made in the directory.

In the past we have listed all parking pros in our data base in the ‘white’ pages of the directory.  This year we are listing only those employees of parking industry suppliers in the printed version. When you want to find and contact ‘non-supplier’ personnel, go to  http://www.parkingtoday.com/epip.php

Enter the name of the person or organization you wish to find.  You will see the person’s name, organization, and phone number.  There is also a facility for you to send them an email.

This quick, easy approach not only saves many trees, but also allows us to provide email service (without giving out individual email addresses.)

Once again, Parking Today leads the industry in providing real time services to our readers.

We are attempting to make your lives a tad easier by putting the parking world on your desktop. Once you reach our search page ( http://www.parkingtoday.com/epip.php ) bookmark it for future reference.

If you find errors you can fix them on line or drop us a note and we will fix them for you.

Let me know what you think.


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Nobody Wants to be Responsible for Parking Lot Crime

Every time I drive I am aware of the risks involved: mechanical problems, accidents, falling trees, wayward pedestrians, and so on. My hope is that the odds will be in my favor. It’s the same when I park. I do what I can to park safely and in safe places. But I know there is no guarantee.

A rash of parking lot crime at a Marriott hotel in Orlando, Florida, inspired clickorlando.com to provide its readers with a list of ways to keep their cars safe this holiday season. Thanksgiving and Christmas travelers will be leaving their cars in airport lots for days, not to mention time spent in mall and hotel parking lots, and that gives criminals a lot of opportunities to make trouble.

In Orlando, the article reports, a hotel near the airport offers park and shuttle services for guests and non-guests. During the spring and summer, around 30 cars were vandalized. The hotel offered to pay for broken windows, but not stolen items. Naturally, car owners blame the hotel for their troubles, hotel management say it’s not their fault, and the bad guys walk away. Car owners think the fee they pay to park should cover security and damages, hotel management says their signs state they cannot be held responsible for theft, and the thieves laugh loud and long.

In most cases, when it comes to crime, the parking lot or hotel is not liable. Laws can vary state to state, but often, the operator of the lot only has to make reasonable steps to make the area safe. That can include posting lights or security patrols.

The article suggests car owners protect themselves by locking doors, parking near lighted areas, hide belongings, and keep their interiors clean. I lock my doors reflexively and repeatedly – it’s a little OCD thing I have going on. But if criminals are looking for messy cars to burglarize, mine’s nice and cluttered. They won’t find much besides miscellaneous papers and overdue library books, but there’s plenty to go around.

I think everybody involved is responsible, although mostly the crook, who obviously doesn’t care. At the end of the day, parking lot owners have to give it their best effort and car owners need to be prepare for the worst.

Read the article here.

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Duluth to Prepare Residents for Yard-Parking Ban

In Duluth, Minnesota, a decision to enforce laws prohibiting residents from parking in their front yards has been put on hold. At duluthnewstribune.com it has been reported that enforcement will be delayed until next year to give the city time to inform residents of the regulations and to give homeowners and renters time to address their parking needs.

According to the article, many, but not all, of the front-yard parkers are college students who rent and were not aware of their parking options when they signed leases. Compliance will be expected by June 1, 2017. The new deadline coincides with nearby universities summer break and the end of most student leases.

Keith Hamre, Duluth’s director of planning and construction services, said both drivers and landlords need to be held to account.

“What we wanted to do is impress upon the landlords that they’re responsible for the operation of a business. They’re responsible to meet their customers’ needs. So that’s where we stepped up this year and said: This isn’t just tenants and this isn’t just homeowners, because we also issued warning tickets to homeowners who were parking in their front yards too, which is against the city code,” he said.

I’m going to go out on a limb and congratulate Duluth officials on a great plan to disallow yard parking and for a taking sensible approach to enforcement. I don’t care if people think I’m a snob, but whether the grimy impression created by a lawn stacked with cars is real or imagined, it’s widely acknowledged. Nothing says “I don’t care about my house or me neighborhood” like a front yard full of vehicles – in any state of repair. There’s a hoarder house on my street and it looks really bad, so that’s a close second, but cars in the yard is the kind of eyesore that affects home values.

I’m a little conflicted because I support the rights of property ownership, but because I don’t and wouldn’t park on my lawn, I don’t feel much like my rights are in danger.

Read the article here.

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World Series Parking a Hot Commodity

World Series fever has residents in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago firing up their entrepreneurial spirit. As the tournament plays out, parking in the area around Wrigley Field is scarce, so people who live there are selling their parking spots to the highest bidders – some go for as high as $150. The Chicago Tribune reports that Wrigleyville residents create a small economy of vending, parking, souvenirs and ticket sales during the regular season that is only getting bigger as the home team competes for the series.

I don’t know much about baseball, I can admit, but I understand the concept that ordinary people can make a profit on extraordinary events. What I love is that municipal leaders support the effort – with limits. The article states:

Residents can sell as many as three private parking spots per individual owner without a license, per city code.

“There’s a little gray area there,” said Bennett Lawson, chief of staff for the office of 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney about residential parking proceeds. “It’s still income, but it’s up to them how they report it.”

Wrigleyville residents have to follow a few rules, besides facing competition from taxi and ride-sharing services, but they’re allowed to do what makes sense to any reasonable person: rent out a resource that is temporarily in high demand with low supply.

When I hear about cities that require permits for yard sales and lemonade stands, I think about moving to Canada, but that’s not going to happen, so I just shake my head and fear for the future of our country. Nobody wants a free-for-all because that’s not a healthy setting for capitalism, but our government has gotten so top heavy. It starts to seem like every aspect of our lives is legislated and regulated.

Maybe I’m not much into baseball, but I’m into creativity, innovation, hard work and good ideas. These kinds of stories make me feel good about being American.

Read the article here.

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