Tradition vs. Good Business Sense

Its official. The are beginning to charge for parking at the hotels in Las Vegas. Another tradition bites the dust.

It was so great — you drove up in front of the hotel, tossed your keys to the valet, and they parked your car. You were treated like Royalty.  It was a little thing, but a good one. Las Vegas always led the pack with service. There was free drinks at the tables, buffets that stopped traffic, and free self and valet parking.

I always went to Sin City with the idea that gambling was rather like going to a show. You invested a certain amount of money, had a good time, and probably lost the money, like the price of the ticket to see an Elvis impersonator. That way, you never felt bad when you lost. And just maybe, you would win. (yeah right).

But when you left, a tad poorer than when you arrive, you handed your ticket to the valet and there it came, your car was delivered, free,  right to where you were standing. That felt good, and took out some of the sting when you split 10s.

But no more.  Good business sense has taken over. The MGM hotel chain which owns a dozen of the casinos dotting the Vegas Strip, including the Bellagio, MGM Grand, Luxor, and Mandalay Bay has decided that it will charge $10 a day for self parking, more for valet. So who gets hit the most. Yes, those of us from LA who drive across the beautiful desert to visit.

Why? Money, that’s why. Seems the days when all the profits in the hotel trade in Las Vegas came from the gaming tables is gone. In fact, less than half now comes from craps, slots, and blackjack. The rest is from food, hotel rooms, and entertainment…. and soon parking.

Do the numbers.  MGM Resorts alone has over 37,000 spaces on the strip and assuming only half of them are full each night, that would generate $67.5 million a year. That not chump change, even in Vegas. How long will it take the others to jump on board.

So the decision was made. some lucky PARCS company will get a dozen large systems on this go alone. Will MGM be a little sneaky and divide up the systems into two or three parts. Thus motivating the companies to do their best to keep the deal? It worked at Schipol airport in Amsterdam, why not here.

But I digress. Its been tradition that some of the amenities were ‘free’ in Las Vegas. You might not be able to be ‘comped’ for your room, but your car got a place to park. Not any more. Its sad, but then, that’s how business is done.


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Missoula’s, MT new parking meters pose difficulties for handicapped patrons…NOT!!!

When I read the headline that we picked up from the local paper on, I scratched my head. I didn’t think that new meters would cause problems. I was right.

Its almost like the people that write the headlines don’t read the article. The headline above, which refer’s to the new T2 Luke machines installed in the Montana city, is extremely misleading. (I added the “NOT!!!”)

The article points out that handicapped parkers were surprised when they found they had to pay for parking, certainly not something having to do with the Pay by License plate equipment.  It also seems that there was some confusion as how to add time, once again not a problem with the equipment but with the city and its communications.

It also seems that the problems the handicapped were having was no different than the problems with existing meters (difficulty holding on to coin and placing it in the meter).

There is one area that needs to be explored, that is the use of pay by cell in Missoula, and I think that’s underway. The pay by cell would enable the disabled to use their phone to pay and that will alleviate any issues, but once again this is not a problem with the ‘new parking meters’.

I do wish editors would read their headlines as well as their articles before OKing the piece for print. The headlines can give a very different meaning to the article and so often readers stop reading when the type goes to 9 point from 24 point.



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Odd and Even — Will it work in Delhi

Here’s the deal.  Delhi is one of the most congested and polluted cities on the planet. In order to take some drastic action, its government decided to do a 15 day trial of allowing only drivers with odd ending license plates drive on odd days and even on even days. How did it go?

Some things looked up:  Pollution levels were down, although still at an ‘unsafe’ level and traffic was lighter.

However  On day one, false license plates were available. Either a complete plate, or just one number to change the last number. They were selling like hotcakes. (Note: In many countries, including India, license plates are not provided by the government, but are manufactured by private firms on the request of the motorist. They are supposed to provide official documents when the plates are ordered.) Parking facility operators demanded that the city reimburse them for lost revenue.

In addition, drivers were offering rides to those who couldn’t drive on a particular day, but were charging very high rates to take people into town. Taxi rates were also increased.

There was one interesting question — is “0” odd or even. It seems obvious but people need to be given that information up front.

One comment from the local press was that the city was trying to institute rules when most drivers don’t follow the existing ones. This appears to be a major enforcement and cultural issue.

The “odd-even” has worked in some cities including Beijing, Paris, and many cities in Latin America. In most of them, compliance levels has been high since people saw the need and a positive result. Plus there was a high level of public transportation available.

Emerging economies are caught in a double bind. They are growing rapidly and the rapid growth often equals pollution.  Coal based power plants are cheapest and work. But regulations don’t require the least polluting be built. The same is true of automobiles, two cycle engines that mix oil and gas, and trucks. The infrastructure isn’t built for the crush of autos that take to the road as the standard of living is increased.

Stopping the development in its tracks isn’t politically popular or desirable, but the resulting air and water pollution is destroying the population.

During the industrial revolution, cities like London were unlivable. It took killer fogs to cause the changes that were necessary (reducing the use of soft coal, for instance) to clean the air.

Cities like Delhi, Shanghai, Beijing, Mexico City, Bangkok, and others will have to shortly make hard decisions. “Odd-Even” is one way to begin, but its not the end all solution. These cities and the countries that surround them will, as their population grows more successful (read that richer) begin to find ways to cut their pollution without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

It took the England 150 years to get to the point where they were forced to clean up their act, these countries will move quicker.  They will make decisions on their own, in their best interest.

Just as the free market is made up of millions of tiny decisions made every day at the lowest level, environmental clean up will be done the same way. The Chinese, Indians, Mexicans and Thais are smart and wise. They will fix the problem. The best thing we can do is offer help when asked and otherwise bug out.



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No More Free Parking in Vegas

My first visit to Las Vegas was part of a family trip to the Grand Canyon. We stopped at Circus Circus for the all-you-can-eat breakfast, and I caught my first sight of a casino floor. My parents were decidedly against gambling and let me know that if I wanted to do something charitable with my money, I should not donate it to the “poor, starving casinos fund.” I never unlearned that lesson, but I like Las Vegas any way. It’s a giant, crazy, over-the-top  carnival for adults. (The Parking Today’s tradeshow and exhibition is happening there in a few weeks.)

The news from Las Vegas is that MGM Resorts is going to start charging for parking at its casinos. It’s a move that David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV, says could be a “historic shift.”

Parking garages in Las Vegas are cavernous. There are thousands of thousands of stalls for tourists who never stop coming. But how are they going to feel about paying for parking after years of enjoying one of Vegas’s best perks? What will they think about a company that’s going to take their money on the tables and at the slots, but still expects them to fork out for garage time?

It sounds like MGM doesn’t have much to worry about. According to the Los Angeles Times:

What happened? To put it simply, competition disappeared. MGM owns a dozen casino hotels on the Strip, clustered at the south end around Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue. Caesars Entertainment, the other mega-corporation on the Strip, owns nine, clustered around mid-Strip. Caesars has been coy about whether it will follow MGM on parking fees.

It remains to be seen how casino-goers will react to the change. If it works for MGM, it’s likely Caesars and the rest will follow suit.

Read the article here.


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Parking Causes Driving

A paper presented at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington DC this week concludes that as parking availability either at the destination or the origin of a trip increases, so does driving. You can read about it here. Of course if you followed  you would already know all this.

It seems that if people are forced to park on street and live in an area where there is a lot of business parking, they tend not to drive because they will lose their parking space. Likewise if there is parking available at work, they tend to drive rather than take other means of transport.

It seems to me that there was a book written about all this a few years ago. Don Shoup call your office.

I don’t see that this is something that requires a world class study. It seems that thoughtful people won’t drive their cars where there is no place to park it (or its too expensive) and they also won’t move their car if they are afraid they will lose their space when they return.

The author of the article referenced above said her family does not drive anywhere on Friday or Saturday because they will lose the space on street near their apartment, because those nights drivers visiting nearby clubs and restaurants take the spaces. The article I quoted in an earlier blog about driving in China noted that one driver commented that he always returned home before 4 PM because the complex where he lived had only 200 spaces for 900 apartments and those filled quickly after five.

Parking availability does affect our actions.

How does this affect policy. If the goal is to cut driving trips to the central city, then the logical approach would be to reduce the amount of available parking.

However, it is also important to replace those reduced trips with something (carpools, buses, rapid transit, Uber, transporters). And that’s not cheap. If one can’t get to work, or to shopping, or to the museum, or to restaurants or clubs, then guess what, those attractions will move to where the people live and the downtown will be decimated.

My favorite law, the law of unintended consequences, kicks in and the very thing you were trying to accomplish, a livable downtown, ceases to exist.

When you attempt to alter behavior beware. You may get what you ask for.


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It has Begun. Self Driving Vehicles will Reduce Govt Income

This article, posted on, expresses the concern by the State of California over the fact that self driving vehicles may (will?) reduce the revenues the state receives from fines, fees and sales taxes. Seems these critters will follow the rules better than human drivers, not park as often, and in the end they will reduce the number of vehicles sold, thus reducing sales taxes.

The article offers no solution to this shortfall, which could be billions of dollars a year, but laments the poor governments at all levels that will have to exist on less money.

Is there any thinking person on the planet who believes that will happen?

Logically, fewer cars would mean less wear and tear on streets and highways, and therefore lower maintenance costs. Fewer accidents means fewer casualties, less hospitalization, fewer repair bills, and lower insurance costs.

That seems like a good thing.  However the government at all levels reducing income seems like a good thing, too. But wait.

Governments have been relying on fines and fees more and more as people push back against higher taxes.  If those fees go away, what will they do?

Lower costs? Oh give me a break. It is true where public agencies have been forced to ‘make do’ with less money the services continue and in many cases even do a better job than before. Humans are clever that way. But notice I used the word ‘forced.’ If the government can find a way to collect money,it will.

In Oregon, for instance, they are ‘experimenting’ with a road use tax. You pay based on the distance you drive. How many nano seconds do you think it will take states to follow that lead. It seems fair until you remember that you already pay taxes on gasoline to cover road use. That little pesky fact won’t stop them. More money will be collected.

The States and Feds are already bellowing about lower gasoline prices. I thought that was a good thing, but if you are collecting money based on a percentage of monies spent for gas, and the prices per gallon is going down (plus more fuel efficient cars means less gas purchased) then your revenue goes down. How long do you think it will take for some legislator to come up with the great idea of raising gasoline taxes to cover the shortfall.

There is an irony here. The government has forced automobile companies to develop more fuel efficient vehicles and they have done so. Now the government is complaining that their revenues are down because people are using less fuel.

Ah yes, that law of unintended consequences. “A” seems like a good thing, but one of the results of “A” is “B” which isn’t so good.

Remember my posit a few weeks ago that before a law is passed or a tax is raised, a study needed to be done to determine the results of that law or tax and just who is helped and who is harmed by it. Sort of an “Environmental Impact Report” on legislation. Seems to me that here is a good place to start.




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It’s about Freedom

We hear almost daily that millennials are abandoning their cars and moving to the central city. They walk, take Uber, or take rapid transit.  If they need a car they rent one. Really…

I’m not so sure.  What does car ownership mean, in the end. Does it mean status, or does it mean freedom. I vote for door number two.

In this article, posted on, we are told that in spite of a dearth of parking space, residents of large Chinese cities are buying cars like hot cakes and then fighting over the places to park them. The author, a Chinese citizen, says that the reason is status. People want others to see them in sitting in their cars, even though they can get where they are going cheaper and faster on the metro.

I beg to differ.

I think that automobiles offer the Chinese something they have little of. Freedom. When they are in their car, they are their own boss. For that few minutes they set their own destiny. They can go where they wish, when they wish, and as fast as they wish (traffic allowing).

We know this freedom, and take it for granted. I am not certain the Chinese do.

If you drill down through the demographics, you will find that even though it ‘appears’ that central cities are the destination of the young, automobile purchases are strong.  The numbers in the US have been hovering around 7.5-8 million per year (Except for during the recession) for the past decade and are expected to double by 2020.  (Aging car fleet).

There are a heck of a lot of people who want to drive. We want to feel that we can go and do when and where we want. We aren’t restricted by timetables and rail lines.

I think the Chinese are getting a taste of that, too.  And their auto sales, no matter how difficult it is to park there, show it. Don’t see your garage just yet.



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New Technology Requires Hand Holding

In Missoula, Montana, old manual meters have been replaced with an automated, credit-card capable Luke system. City leaders have recognized that there might be a few users who struggle with the new concept, reports Interim Parking Commission Director Goeff Badenoch, reminds residents that the meters still take coins, but that they don’t take bills. Credit cards work, but no pennies. He’s also offered the personal help of any parking commission staff member and an instructional video.

“It is a new system and it is technology-based and people may be a little intimidated by it, but it’s possible to go on You Tube and there’s a tutorial if users just go to the Missoula Parking Commission, you’ll find the information there.”

I’m not sure the people who have trouble with an automated parking meter are the type to check out YouTube for instructions, but I like the approach. Click here to read the article. Users need all the support they can get. I’ve met several parking meters that intimidated me, and I don’t mind saying so. It’s not the concept that eludes me, but the procedure. Faced with a box covered with buttons, switches, knobs, inserts and tiny text, it’s easy to get lost on your first attempt.

City leaders in Cold Spring, New York could learn a little from the leadership in Missoula. Cold Spring has just signed a contract to install its very first parking meter – actually, a pay station, reports

The solar-powered station, which is expected to be operational by spring and will be owned by the village after the lease is paid, will accept cash and credit cards. Rates have not yet been determined. Trustee Cathryn Fadde said that visitors who extend their stay will be able to make additional payments with a smart phone.

From no meters at all to one that takes cards and offers smartphone options is a real leap for users. Written instructions near the meter, an attendant during the first few days and maybe even a video on YouTube are all methods for helping people get used to new technology.

Click here for the entire article.

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Two Decades and Going Strong

As we begin 2016 I am honored and gratified to have been at the helm of Parking Today since its inception in 1996. The two decades have been challenging, but also rewarding, not necessarily financially, but in the depth of the friendships that we have developed with our customers and readers of the years.
We started our first year printing every other month, then grew to 10 times a year, then every month and never looked back. This would have been impossible without the support of the industry, both consumers and vendors.
When you sit in an office and create content, often out of whole cloth, you forget what an impact you can have. I began to realize that people actually read our stuff when one advertisers told me that he knew when PT was on the streets. His phone began to ring. Another event was when a major error crept into our pages, and I was called about it 10 minutes after our on line edition went up, before the print edition was on the press. I was able to make the correction and all was well.
Creating a magazine every month is the best job there is. We can have one that is suitable for lining a bird cage one month, and win a Pulitzer the next. We can start over every month. If we blow it, we can fix it.
Throughout the next year I will be reminiscing here about some of the good, bad, and ugly events that have combined to make us who we are. I look forward to another two decades sharing the news and information that our industry has to offer.


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Check Out The Speakers at PIE WOW!

I’ve spent the last few days pulling together articles for PT February. It doubles as the program for PIE and I am becoming very familiar with the speakers and sessions. The names are icons in our industry — Tom Wunk, Dennis Cunning, Brandy Stanley, Julie Dixon, Mark Braibranti, Thomas Hartley, Mike Harley, Matt Darst, Barbara Chance and those are just the ones that wrote articles in PT Feb.

In addition we have Dale Denda, Mike King, Bob Harkins, Bob Kane, Mark Lawrence, and Graham Arndt, flying in from Australia. Plus many more.

It promises to be an exciting and excellent learning experience for all, attendees and vendors.

Be there as Barbara untangles “Spaghetti Technology,” or Mike tells you how to apply dynamic pricing like hotels and airlines use to parking. Matt calls upon his philosophic side with a presentation entitled C’est N’est Pas un Pipe. I’m told its in English, but with Matt, who knows.

Dennis takes off his gloves as he delves into the murky world of Management Agreements. Come find out why operators break out in cold sweats when he is around. Tom reprises Technology Camp. And he good at it. He should be, I hired him once, in another life.

Julie Dixon and her crew put on a number of seminars focused on the ins and outs of on street parking and enforcement. She has the chops to do it, she was hip deep in SF Park, ran enforcement for West Hollywood, and now is practically everywhere cities need parking help. Don’t miss this one.

Brandy has been pressed into service leading one of their CPP seminars. With her background in operations plus having run two major cities, currently Las Vegas, she is the perfect pick.

Big Data raises its head in two seminars as Blake Laufer from T2 discusses its use in on street and enforcement applications, and how it factors into transportation will be discussed by a group led by Phil Silver of Cubic Data System.

Ex Disney employee Thomas Harley brings his customer service experience working for Mickey combined with his his current gig running parking and transportation at Florida International University to his seminar on customer service and parking.

Of course, no PIE would be complete without Dale Denda holding forth on the economy, construction, and the financial health of our industry.

And that only scratches the surface.  Add seminars on onstreet technology, speed networking, a fantastic birthday bash to celebrate Parking Today’s 20th anniversary, and parking talk forever.

PIE 2016 is the happening place for our industry for this year. See you in Las Vegas, Feb  28 thru March 2. Or click here: Parking Industry Exhibition.

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