Charge your Car? Bah Humbug

As you know, I’m the least PC person on the planet. I think electric cars are great, its just not my job to pay for them or to pay so you can charge them. I will add that the concept of all electric cars is frankly a little batty. A plug in Prius, Volt, or any of the hybrids make some sense, I guess, but all electric, not so much.

I just got a call from Astrid. She is out of power in her neighborhood. (We are having high winds here in LA). Not only can she not charge her cell phone, get on the internet, or run her garbage disposal, she can’t get her car out of the garage. Her comment was — how am I supposed to charge my Tesla (As if she had one.)

I received this from David Fairbaugh, a parking operator somewhere down South. (That probably is responsible for his attitude.)

I just got scolded for not offering electric vehicle charging stations at a garage. This is the first request in 18 months and we park 800 vehicles daily. I marvel at the entitlement attitude of those who buy electric vehicles. They expect that their needs will be met, regardless of cost or inconvenience. I don’t offer a gas pump at my garage, so why offer a charging station? There is more demand for gas than electric. If I’m going to offer anything, it would be something that the vast majority of parkers would want and use. If you buy electric, then know what you’re getting into. Failure to plan on your part does not create an emergency on my part.

Go David!  Where is it written (bad choice of words)… Why is it the responsibility of the parking operator to install charging stations and then pay for the electricity so I can drive my Leaf for free?

There are a number of electric cars in my neighborhood.  A Prius, a Mercedes (little guy, kinda cute) and a Tesla.  They all have extension cords in their yards and plug in each night as they need. As it should be. The Tesla owner bought another vehicle at the same time as the Tesla. She told me that she bought the Porsche Panamera because she didn’t want her family to be trapped if the power went off.  Planning for range anxiety.

If you don’t want range anxiety, or can’t afford a Panamera,  buy a plug in hybrid. You still save on gas, the whales are happy, and when the power is cut off, you can still get around.

Gotta go — have to contact Astrid and explain that the little rope hanging under the garage door motor is a release so she can open the gate manually.


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Google Parking Lot the Next Affordable Housing Tract

Google’s not just a website we go to ask questions about metrics, diseases we are afraid we might have, and how to spell “accommodate” (two c’s and two m’s), it’s also an actual office complex where employees live like kings. Sure they work a billion hours a week, but they get free food, free access to gyms, haircuts, and colonoscopies without leaving the Google compound – OK, I made up the colonoscopy part. Now according to, the Google campus parking structure is the latest in luxury campsites. More than one Google employee has set up camp in the parking area.

One “guy lived in the camper for two to three years. Showered at the gym. Did his laundry on campus. Ate every meal on campus he could. After the two to three years, he had saved up enough money to buy a house.”

It’s an ingenious idea, but not surprising given the heavy amenities at the Google site. The Bay area doesn’t make it easy to pay for housing or commute to work, so it makes sense to pitch a tent near the office. For now, it’s mostly single guys pushing the limits, because nobody wants a family with small children putting up their swing set in parking area, but think of the possibilities.

The company didn’t respond when Business Insider reached out about Brandon’s living situation. The Googlers write that they haven’t been actively discouraged from living on campus.

I know there are lots of campsites out there and in countries like Japan you can rent a little cube to sleep in for the night, but the parking lot sleepover is a whole other thing.

Read the article here.

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Pay by Cell Replaces Gates, Permits on Campus.

I was in a meeting yesterday and one of those present said “I heard a rumor up in Canada that pay by cell would take over how parking is done on college campuses.”

I nodded sagely. I had heard the same, but in Australia. The idea that students, staff, and faculty would use an app to pay for parking and then only be charged for the time they actually parked was alive and well down under. I was told it was easy. Everyone loved it (cost less than a regular permit) AND it freed up parking so there were many more spaces than those on the waiting lists. What was not to like?

Of course, you have to have a bit of enforcement — you need a ALPR vehicle cruising around checking that people have in fact paid with their app, but what’s so hard about that? Think of all the gates, sensors, spitters, permits, signs, and the like that simply go away.

I was told by a pay by cell guy that people didn’t like these ‘open ended’ parking fees, since they forgot to turn them off. Australia told me that they had no, none, zero complaints. The rates are so small that it made little difference, plus students are for the most part born with a smart phone in their hands and turning off parking time was a no brainer.

Will it happen here in the lower 48 as it did in OZ and as rumor has it in the frozen north? Maybe not next week, Emily, but tell me why not soon?


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When Defunct is not Defunct

Yikes — Paul Barter (Reinventing Parking) tweeted that my comment that SF Park was defunct was incorrect. SF Park is up and running, thank you very much.

Well  yes and no. The purpose of SF Park was to develop a system where parkers in San Francisco could use their smart phone to find parking spaces, and thus move quickly to areas where parking was available and find convenience parking. It was also to use sensor data to enable the mandarins at the SFMTA to set rates to reach a Shoupista formula of an 80% or so on street parking occupancy rate.

It seems that if drivers used their smart phones to find parking spaces, they would also use them to determine parking rates and certain areas and then make decisions as to where to park based on that information.

Now we get to the defunct part. The sensors were turned off in 2013 and no on street occupancy data including space by space information is fed to the SF Park app. Therefore a major part of the raison d’etre of SF Park is no long functional.

In addition, the use of sensors to help set rate data is a non starter, so the SFMTA has developed a complex formula for determining occupancy rates to enable rate changes. This is a ‘system’ that frankly had been used for decades to set on street rates. Many meter supervisors could tell by the money collected from meters how occupancy was changing and did in fact make recommendations to adjust rates accordingly. So it seems the $28 million spent by SF Park was to develop a system that had already been developed.

Yes, the name is still in place, and the app does give occupancy information of the city’s off street garages, and does give on street pricing information,  but what’s different about that and what a dozen apps available free do in cities world wide? If you look up ‘defunct’ on-line you find:

no longer existing or functioning. “a now defunct technology that only people over a certain age remember”

Ok Maybe Defunct is too strong a word Paul. How about disused, unused, inoperative, nonfunctioning, unusable?


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Parking Meters Help the Homeless

Four years ago the Downtown San Diego Partnership installed “Donation Station” parking meters to collect money for the homeless. The meters are installed on private property and do not collect parking fees. The number of meters installed has reached 21 and funds collected equal $10,000.

While the total is far from enough money to help the city end its fight against homelessness, the nonprofit organization that operates the donation program says the meters are about more than generating money for homeless services.

“They were never meant to be a huge money-raiser,” said Kelly Knight, homeless outreach coordinator for the Downtown San Diego Partnership’s Clean & Safe program. “They were meant to be an awareness and an education tool.”

Whatever money is collected goes to the Work Your Way Home program and equipment and administrative expenses. Work Your Way Home gives the homeless work and helps them reach family members who can help them recover financially. The program buys them tickets to travel wherever they have family members to take them in.

While critics say the program is only meant to discourage panhandling and relocate the homeless, those seem like good things to me if the relocation is a positive change. You don’t have to encourage or discourage panhandling, it’s a fact of life. But getting homeless people back in homes and back to work are worthwhile goals. Using parking meters to do so is a creative approach.

Read the article here.

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SF to Install Sensors, Then Decide What they are to Do!

I can always rely on San Francisco for blog fodder.  Today they proudly announced that they were going to install sensors throughout the city to begin to move to a “smart city” program. So far so good.  You can read the article here.

But further in the article, they note that they don’t know what the sensors are going to monitor. Doesn’t it make sense that if you are going to spend millions installing sensors, you would want to know what they were going to do? Remember the issues Baghdad by the Bay had with the sensors it installed in parking spaces — and got such a poor response it had to switch vendors in mid stream and even then couldn’t reach their goals. That was SFPark, now defunct, since the Federal money supporting it ran out. Is it time to dust off the Baghdad by the Bay Award?

In addition to other things, parking was supposed to generate revenue. However the city  was unable to generate enough revenue to support the program so it was allowed to expire. But I digress.

Now the wizards in the city by the bay are going to follow another buzz word — Smart City. Seems like a good idea — have your city computerized so everything from streets lights to water to sewage to parking will be monitored and then made more streamlined and effective. However, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have some clue as to what you want to monitor and then what results you want before you spend the money? Oh, sorry, I forgot I was talking about San Francisco.

Experts are even arguing over the definition of “smart city.”  Check out this article.  From the article, two university analysts comment:

While Sadowski and Pasquale have joined a number of social commentators questioning where the smart city phenomenon is headed, they also condemned the broad way the term “smart city” has been defined.

“Major corporate players work hard to push smartness as an ideal and to pull city leaders and investors into the smartness orbit,” they state in their paper. “[They] have worked hard to create this market and to shape it in certain ways. Yet, with this massive growth and capital investment, the label ‘smart city’ is nebulous…. This ambiguity does a lot of work for smart city proponents and purveyors. The label…. [gives] them discursive cover in case they need to distance themselves if something goes wrong or doesn’t deliver on a promise.”

I think the last sentence is telling. Is ‘smart city’ a technology boon, or a political boondoggle.

A couple of years ago we had an environmentalist speak at PIE. He was a tree hugger, but a realist.  He did studies about what cities and universities do relative to environmental projects.  They begin with a tremendous political bombast he noted, but then the project drifts off the front page, and no one ever follows up to see if anything positive came of it. (His studies say that more often than not, nothing did; in fact the opposite occurred.)

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of firing up technology to make cities run better, more efficiently, and become “Fun.”  (Read the article). However shouldn’t the project be thought through before the investment. Shouldn’t some metrics be set up. Shouldn’t it be tracked as it proceeded to ensure it was doing what it was supposed to do. Oh, I forgot. You can’t do that if you don’t know what it was supposed to do from the beginning.

Sigh — I dust off the Baghdad by the Bay Award and nominate the namesake city.



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Airbnb Apologizes for Ad Campaign

A little bad attitude goes a long way, especially when it gets turned into print ads and billboards. Airbnb recently lashed out at the city of San Francisco for enforcing its tax laws and requiring the company to pay back taxes on the thousands of short-term rental agreements made through its website during the past several years. reports that Airbnb paid the $12 million it owed the city and then made its displeasure known with a passive aggressive ad campaign that included statements pointed directly at parking enforcement.

One of Airbnb’s ads read, “Dear Public Library System, We hope you use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep the library open later.” Another said: “Dear Parking Enforcement, Please use the $12 million in hotel taxes to feed all expired parking meters.”

The ads are being withdrawn and Airbnb apologized to the city and to its own employees.

On Thursday, CEO Brian Chesky acknowledged the company’s failure to Airbnb employees, according to internal emails seen by CNET. “Yesterday I heard from so many of you about how embarrassed and deeply disappointed you were in us,” Chesky wrote. “You were right to feel this way.”

Intention matters when you put things in print. When you speak, people attach your words to your body language, to the context and to what they know of you personally. But when you put words on a page and publish those words, people only have your words. Airbnb made trouble for itself because it wanted to exact a little public relations-style revenge by redirecting attention from its failure to pay hotel taxes to the state of public services in San Francisco. The company was legally in the wrong and didn’t want to be gracious about it. The ads were intended to be snarky, and they were perceived as such.

Sometimes people get away with snarky, but it’s only when they are irrefutably correct. Social media has given many of us a disease I call “diarrhea of the mouth,” a condition that includes a misguided idea that we can say all of the things we are thinking. A Facebook post is not the same as a tweet, which is not the same as a blog, which is not the same as a print ad, which is not the same as a press release. It’s more important than ever for businesses to edit their advertising and media relations offerings for content and tone and to consider carefully the platform where they will be shared. Exercising a little extra caution is less painful than making apologies.

Read the article here.

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Uber and Lyft will Destroy Parking — Not!

If we handle it right.

The Uber/Airbnb concept, a web company that can put together people who have a service with people who need a service, is here to stay. There is nothing we can do about it. Or is there.

Cities are beginning to use these services to help in various ways. This Article describes how the companies are providing services often at no charge, when needed. During emergencies, like Hurricane Sandy,  Airbnb members offered lodging free to those whose homes were damaged; Airbnb also used its network to pass information about emergencies to thousands of homeowners and renters.

Uber is working with Amber alert so that its drivers receive the alerts and are on the lookout. In addition in some cities, they are offering free rides to jurors. The cities usually pay for buses but often the rapid transit doesn’t go where people live. Uber does. Seattle, for instance, is surcharging 10 cents per ride and the money is being used to help Uber drivers defray the costs of wheelchair accessible vehicles. I understand that Uber  will even go to the store and do your shopping.  My assistant had to get some medication for a sick cat at 1 AM. Uber took it for her. Saved a ride after midnight.

This only scratches the surface of how cities, companies, and organizations can work with Uber/Airbnb type services. But what about parking? I have been told that some off airport parking operations are looking to use Uber to take car owners back and forth to terminals. Its a beginning.  I don’t know how it works or if it works, but its thinking outside the box.

How about some brainstorming.

  • What if I drove to a meeting downtown and then went out for drinks afterwards.  I shouldn’t drive home. The parking operator could have an agreement with Uber to facilitate a ride home, and then back the next day to pick up my car.
  • What if a company could use Uber as a carpool. None of the employees in the pool would have to drive their personal vehicles and Uber would handle the transportation each way. Car pools typically get reduced parking rates. Why have to bother with them?
  • The parking operator could offer Uber type services to parkers who have their cars in for repair or who need short term travel to the doctor or other appointments. Its a hassle to park at each end. Why not leave your car at work and Uber to such meetings.  The parking operator could coordinate and receive compensation for that activity.
  • Let’s say I’m the designated driver and park in your lot. Unfortunately I belt back a few and not cannot drive. Why not provide Uber to handle the problem? And get additional parking fees.

People still want to own and drive cars. But there are times when driving is inconvenient. Why not offer an Uber style service in those times, and still have a person park in your garage.

The idea is to get your company in the middle of the process and get paid for it.  Granted Uber users have smart phones and an Uber app, but what if they don’t?  They know they can go anywhere there is an Uber logo and get a ride. You as an operator can use your app, pay for the ride, and charge the rider the price of the ride plus a surcharge for handling the transaction.

Could Uber pick up kids from school and bring them home?  Moms wouldn’t have to queue up outside the campus to get the kids. Perhaps the same drivers would have to be involved in this one.

I got that list by sitting at my computer for five minutes.  I’m sure creative parking owners and operators can come up with dozens of more ways to use Uber type services, and get paid for doing so.

Make parking easy and more convenient, offer the Uber service to those that need it, and pocket the profit.

Or you could do nothing, whine about Uber, and end up beside the road. Parking isn’t going away. But it is changing. Be a part of the change.



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Ethics Problems in our Industry? I’m Shocked

I don’t know why I am surprised. Ethics and our industry became a hot topic at the Temecula Group and I was shocked SHOCKED that these shenanigans were going on industry wide.

We are an industry that was originally built on not reporting income. It was a cash industry and money disappeared, sometimes at alarming rates, at all levels. Cashiers were driving fancy cars, garage managers owned islands, garage owners were receiving paper bags of cash left on their doorstep, bagmen were causing traffic jams as they delivered ill gotten gains to government and union officials. Once in a while, money actually got into the appropriate bank accounts.

As time went on, the graft got more complex. Credit cards took a lot of the cash out of the system and made it more difficult to adjust income levels.  But there were still ways — Monthly cards could be sold at a discount for cash. Owners could be billed for expenses that were also billed at a different location. Parking operations with a 17% lost ticket ratio were considered “under good control.”

With this type of activity pervasive, one can expect that the slippery slope was working overtime. The losses were considered a ‘cost of doing business.’ Does this still go on?  You tell me. But with this attitude, something must be happening.

Two instances where insiders took money to ensure a certain vendor got a lucrative contract made headlines. But is there more to this iceberg?

One seems to be “pay to play.” If a vendor wants access to decision makers, they need to first pay a price of admission. In other cases, the customer demands double billing, kickbacks, or even an annual fee to get into the game.

There are stories of ‘minority’ and ‘women owned’ companies selling their services to vendors so they can meet some government requirements and get a few extra points in the bidding process. Or “Hire our consulting firm so we get the right spec written.”

One of the Temecula Group pointed out that if a company engaged in any of the above practices and was dealing with a foreign entity, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act kicks in and if a company is found bribing foreign officials, or even a subsidiary of such company, the fines are heavy and the senior officers can go to jail.  Why shouldn’t such rules apply to business done within the borders of the US? Why not indeed.

Discussions about these practices are held much like the Watergate Scandal, in hushed tones, with people sworn to secrecy, often in dark places like the third floor of a parking garage.

“What’s the big deal?  Some might say. Who is hurt by such practices, I mean really. It seems to me we all are:

  • The owner ends up paying more for a product or service than he needs to, and perhaps not getting the quality or features needed for the project, because the sale is guided to a different supplier.
  • The Vendor is caught in a trap. They lose all control over the project and their product. They are told what to do, when to do it, and can be forced to supply substandard products because their profit is taken in the nefarious process.
  • The Operator can end up with substandard products or services, and even thought at a corporate level they considered themselves ethical, find their employees tempted to adjust bidding processes for private gain.
  • The public suffers because the operator and through him the owner, must charge more for what they are supplying because they have to cover the cost of the unethical activities.

Remember, the money for these transactions comes only from one place, from the buyer. A vendor isn’t going to take money out of its pocket for a payoff, they are going to build that price into the cost of the product or service. And in the end, such activity forces prices up, and the owner and through them the consumers pay more and delivery and service suffers.  Once vendors understand that good products and service makes no difference in who gets the deal, why would they be motivated to do a better job.

Members of the Temecula Group add to my comments first this:

 The foundation of consistently practiced ethical behavior relies upon a strong culture and the (right) daily decisions of the people involved – however it will come as no surprise to learn it isn’t just in parking. I received the Weekly Briefing for the Chronicle today, and the top headline caught my eye. “Missed Classes, Changed Grades, One Disillusioned Adviser.” (The article covers how athletes at UCLA were gives passing grades while never attending classes.) The specifics of the alleged infraction are different than those we discussed – the symptoms are similar in that once upon a time a (no doubt innocent) intention has grown into a subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) practice of modifying rules or best practices for gain. The solution regarding how to stop it is what is so elusive.

And this:

I would wager that every one of the companies that we do business with, whether an operator, real estate owner, vendor or municipality, has a ‘corporate’ ethics statement as part of the HR paperwork you have to review and sign when you join. Larger companies, e.g. Boeing, will include a section in the contract/subcontract that points to either a copy or a link of their ethics statement. It forces everyone to acknowledge it every time a contract is signed, thereby keep it fresh in everyone’s mind. Nevertheless there are corporate principles, Internal HR compliance, inclusion in contracts. However in the end, Boeing executives went to jail.

So, I’ve just argued for inclusion of a Code of Ethics/Conduct for companies and suppliers and then just negated it by showing that, at the end, regardless of what a company does, it still comes down to individuals.

And this:

Issues like minority interests, where individuals or small “shopfronts” are established to qualify for a particular status in a tender that is problematic. If its genuinely established to develop opportunities for minorities and structures than maybe, but how could it be that the shopfronts aren’t audited? Buying groups “constructing” tender responses so they can skim the cream off the top are a surprise to me. I understand buying groups and I understand rebates but I don’t understand the back rooms deals and the complete absence of transparency. I was very surprised to learn that these two structures in particular are widespread and largely accepted. It would seem to me that the fault (and blame) rests with ultimate purchaser of the good s and services. If a Government purchases anything it is using taxpayers funds. The onus is on them to ensure transparency and fairness and to have the appropriate checks and balances in place so they can prove that reasonable measure are undertaken at all times to ensure the systems are working.

The next point I would like to make is that is that I believe the greatest threat to potential thieves is the fear of being caught. In recent months we have had two very public incidents of thieves being caught out. Karen Finley has pleaded guilty and faces five years jail for her role in the Reflex bribery in Chicago. The party who took the bribe also pleaded guilty.

With both cases the authorities have the opportunity to realign their values and state their values to all the stakeholders. Chicago should place a 15 year ban on Redflex. The State of Illinois should also have an agreement between all Municipalities in the State so that when a ban is placed on a vendor by one municipality for proven corruption, it is upheld by all. Keep in mind the theft was undertaken by the CEO for God’s sake. In the Chicago Parking situation, the companies involved should reinforce their position with their staff and community of suppliers and they should ban the suppliers for considerable duration. If they don’t take action, what signal are they sending?

I think we should not rely on the judicial system to process the individuals that are caught, municipalities should also impose penalties ( bans) on these corporations, so boards and executives know that being slack on check and balances and paying lip services to values and ethics is no longer acceptable.

The Temecula Group had many more examples, but some hit very close to home. Don’t panic. I’m not dropping dimes on anyone. I know of a number of situations where in each case, one or more of the above happened. I have documented it all and its sealed with my attorney,to be released upon my disappearance.


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Where Were You when 3M Closed?

It’s been an amazing year for our industry, and PT December brings you all the news in review. 3M Closes Parking Division – A Major Operator was Hacked – This was the Year of EMV and PCI 3 – Mobile Apps Came Raining Down on us – Plus there were over 75 Bits in Parking News, and that’s only through March. PT December will review it all


December is our Consultant’s issue. We will showcase their finest projects and their outstanding staff members.

This issue will be one of the ‘most read’ of the year. The Ad deadline is November 10. ( and if you have editorial, Deadline is November 1 (

This will be a super Parking Today – you will want to keep it.


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