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Street Repair as an Allegory for Life

As you know, My neighborhood has been going through the rebuilding of our streets. This has been going on for a year.

We were told that we had to replace our curbs before the streets could be done. That project started a year ago. We had new curbs and old streets, with driveways disrupted — the new curbs didn’t fit the old streets. Things were worse than before they started, and that was last summer and fall.

Then they began rebuilding the street.  First trimming the first layer of asphalt off, then actually replacing it with a temporary covering (they said they wanted the streets to be nice for us over the Christmas Holidays).

It seems we also needed new water mains, so the street work stopped and the water folks started (so the new street surface would cover the cuts in the street.)  They dug a ditch, installed the mains, filled the ditch and paved over it.  They then cut the street again in front of each house and hooked up the mains to each service, replacing the meters with ‘smart meters.’ And paved those cuts.  That took a couple of months.

Construction then began in earnest. Huge machines were brought in and all the pavement was removed. Road graders reshaped the ground under the streets and a first layer of asphalt was laid down — Another six weeks passed.

Note that it seemed that between each part of the process, the city had to stop and take a breath. Crews disappeared. Machines left and then a week later returned.

Finally the big day came. The base was finished. The next day, the road surface was installed. It took only one day to lay down the actual roadway. But an entire year to prepare for that big event.;

I guess life is a lot that way. We spend years preparing for an event (college graduation, the Olympics, the Super Bowl, that new job, marriage, having children, retirement) but the event itself is over in the blink of an eye.

The adventure isn’t the new road that we now drive on every day, it was the year of preparation, the complaints, the joys, the frustrations. Its almost like the road construction, like that pole vault at the Olympics, is over in a moment.

From my point of view, the journey through life is what that is important. Like the construction of the roadway, its all in the preparation. That preparation is life.

We watched the crews and learned a bit about how roads are made. We marveled at the machines that took up half a block. We laughed at what seemed to be complete folly, as the street was scraped, paved, cut, filled, and then scraped and paved again. And we cried a bit when cars backed into open ditches and had to be pulled out.

Today the crews have moved on to another neighborhood to start all over again. Today life continues. Lunch with a friend, frustration with a broken sprinkler, a cut that takes forever to heal, damn Microsoft, Verizon becomes Frontier and service sucks. Like my street, just more weaves in life’s rich tapestry.





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Anything Can Happen in a Parking Lot

There’s no end to the list of unusual things that happen in parking lots. Babies delivered, deer hunted, murder, and the occasional proposal of marriage. Something on the happy end of weird recently occurred in a parking lot in in Anchorage, Alaska: a baby moose was born.

According to and.com (Alaska Dispatch News), the mama moose settled down in a Lowes parking lot and gave birth. Alaskans are used to seeing moose, so they weren’t surprised to find one in the parking lot, but they were very excited to witness the baby’s arrival.

Anchorage wildlife photographer Coby Brock, 38, drove out to the Lowe’s at the Tikahtnu Commons shopping center on Muldoon Road after hearing about the newborn on Facebook. He said the pair were sitting in the shade in front of a Jeep, and the baby was still pretty wobbly.

The moose paid the price for her choice of delivery location by having to give birth in front of 100 cell phones, but both she and her calf looked to be doing well. Lowe’s staff put up a few barriers to block foot and auto traffic until the moose and baby left the area.

For the rest of the article, including pictures, click here.

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Women in Parking — It is Sexist?

I am working with Colleen Niese on the WIP issue of Parking Today. Melissa Sterzick wrote an article for the edition which pointed out that one of the problems women have is that they are trying so hard to be the same as men, but they aren’t.

She noted that Australia has a garage with “pink” parking spaces reserved for women. Some, including some women, consider this sexist. She titled her article “Different but Equal.”

An article I read about special parking bays for women made me contemplate how I really feel about accommodating the differences between the sexes. The Pier Street Car Park, in Perth, Australia has designated 28 parking spots just for women. The spots are painted pink and labeled and the area includes upgraded lighting and extra CCTV cameras. Compliance is optional and the parking garage’s management hopes the honor system will handle enforcement for them.

When I try to think about it objectively, my opinion is that men and women need different things to succeed and they need different things to be safe. Fulfilling those needs is a good idea.

Anyone who has lived on this planet for more than a few years knows that men and women are different. Not only in their physical abilities, but also in how they think and how they live their lives. So its not unreasonable for an organization to be founded with the idea that there are differences, and that both sexes need to have those pointed out and considered.

There is no question that women are most often targeted for crime. Its also a fact that women shy away from parking structures and would prefer to park in an open lot. They know inherently that a surface lot is safer than a huge structure. So why is it unreasonable to have spots with extra security, lighting, and locations near elevators and exits.

It is also true that as Melissa points out, men and women need different things to succeed. A woman might need more information to move forward with a project than a man. Not that the man is smarter, but a woman is wired to want to be as knowledgeable as possible. Lets face it, men often succeed by simply ‘muddling through.”

But often those additional tools a woman needs to succeed aren’t apparent. Having a mentor (From Women in Parking, for instance) to help her overcome the frustrations of lack of information isn’t only handy, it can be essential.

There have been few studies done to ‘prove’ women multitask better than men. In one study there was the following conclusion:

Men and women under time pressure had to juggle simple mathematics problems, answer the phone and decide how to find something lost in a field. During the study, the women were found to be calmer, better organized and planned more carefully than the men. But even if this difference is real, we still don’t know whether it is biological or culturally imposed.

And frankly, do we or should we care (Biological vs cultural). Its it there, its there.

I think Melissa has hit it on the head.  Different but Equal. Read her entire article in the upcoming July issue of Parking Today, powered by Women in Parking.


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All Hail, Parking

Storm season isn’t over in the Plains states. Another ugly bunch of weather is circling the region right now. Reading about the tornadoes, hail and floods hitting the middle part of the country reminds me of my years in Texas and the seasonal fear of possible damage to myself, my home and my car. I’ve seen what hail can do to a car and I remember well the rows of Cadillacs protected by covered parking at dealerships where I lived.

Car dealers in Texas and other areas hit by hail recently are trying to sell off their damaged stock, some of which was damaged by hail, repaired and then hit again in a subsequent storm. According to automotivenews.com:

San Antonio is the latest victim, with a storm last week piling on more damage after one in mid-April that the Insurance Council of Texas declared the costliest hailstorm in state history.

More than 110,000 vehicles throughout the storm zone were pelted by large hail, causing about $560 million in damage, the group said. The April 25 storm was less intense, but that was no comfort to dealers already scrambling to deal with thousands of dented vehicles.

That’s a lot of dented cars. Because these storms are infrequent and impossible to predict, dealers take their chances showing cars out doors and buy insurance in case the worst happens. They call this rush to sell damaged inventory “hail mode” and some are willing to point out the silver lining.

“It actually is not always bad,” Islam Hindash, general manager of Mission Mitsubishi in San Antonio said, “because people want to take advantage of the dollars.”

If I were selling cars for a living in Texas or anyplace where golf-ball-sized hail is an option, I’d want them under covered parking, or better yet, indoors.

Read the article here.

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The IPI Convention — Where everyone who is anyone in Parking Goes to Meet

Yes, this week is parking week in the US, and ground zero is Nashville. the IPI has planned an exciting event for members and non member alike. If history is any gauge, this one should be a humdinger.  If you want to learn about it, go here.


Nearly 300 suppliers and Lord knows how many people will converge on the home of Country Music to teach, learn, network, and just have a good time. It looks like Shawn and Bonnie have again done a super job.

Parking Today Media will be there in booth 1923 and will be showing off our brand new web site (check it out here.)   Plus find out everything about parknews.biz , Parking Today, and the Parking Industry Exhibition 2017.

I’ll be around, plus Astrid and Marcy will be adding excitement to our presence and maybe to the conference as well.

We look forward to a great week in Nashville, and to seeing old friends and making new ones.

Plan to drop by.





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Uber and Lyft and Airport Parking – Shocking

Suzannah Rubinstein over at Spot Hero’s Parking Exec has done yeomen’s work investigating and comparing the cost of parking at an airport vs. taking Uber or Lyft. You can read about it here.


She found that in 80 percent of the cases, it costs less to drive and park than to take Uber or Lyft.  The further away you live, the more you save by driving yourself.  We are running the entire article in PT in July.

While I can’t disagree with Suzannah’s research, there is one thing. Its more convenient (and perhaps quicker) to take Uber. Load the bags at your front door, unload at the terminal. Likewise, there is something to be said for having the freedom of your own car. You can stop at the office, pick up something from the store, or just park at the beach and unwind.

However, that having been said, isn’t it time for our industry to start promoting this information. We as an industry panic at the slightest push back, but when we learn the facts, we shrug and let someone else promote.  Could not someone reach out to the off airport parking operators and generate some bucks to make this happen? Wouldn’t the airports themselves be interested in such a program.  (Christine and Shawn call you office.)

Airports are allowing promotion of Lyft (see picture above). Strange they are competing with themselves, but there you are. My friends say that its only $35 to take Uber to LAX. Of course that doesn’t count if there is surge pricing, or if they need a larger car (you have bags after all.) But remember, says Suzannah, you take Uber two ways — suddenly its $75, or $100 bucks.

Take a look at Suzannah’s article. The numbers are shocking, shocking I say.



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Parking Official Gives Himself a Ticket

In Groveland, Florida, Police Chief Melvin Tennyson is out $45, but he has saved himself piles and piles of trouble. According to orlandosentinel.com, Tennyson parked illegally, his car blocking a sidewalk near city hall. A member of his department pointed out the infraction, so he wrote himself a ticket and paid the fine the next day.

“The sergeant brought it to my attention and I paid it.  It was the right thing to do,” Tennyson said Wednesday. “How can I have my officers write tickets and completely dismiss it?”

A resident took a photo of the chief’s vehicle parked illegally and it was circulated widely on Facebook in the hours after, though Tennyson says he was not aware of the buzz on social media until after he’d paid his fine.

Whether he knew about the attention his parking was getting online or not, Tennyson’s payment of the fine saved him a firestorm of bad publicity. People hate it when municipal officials break laws and get away with it. Tennyson was headed for a public relations mess, that he avoided by using a really smart tactic: honesty.

By honesty, I mean, he took responsibility for his actions and paid the consequences. I’d like to think the ticket and quick resolution of the fine were not a pre-emptive move by the police chief. I want to believe that he truly understands that he deserves a ticket just as much as anybody else who parks illegally. And I want to believe that he means what he says about doing the right thing.

Read the article here.

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Smart Cities — A Mystery to City Dwellers

Every time we turn around we in the biz are bombarded by the term “Smart City.” I discussed it in an earlier post. Clearly its not a difficult concept to grasp — Using technology, cities will provide their populations with better life through upgraded delivery of services including water, electricity, garbage collection, crime prevention, and yes, parking. Many of our ‘start up’ companies are high tech — Smarking, SpotHero, Inrex, Paybyphone, Passport, Parkwhiz, Parkonect, MobileNow, and the rest see their future in the Smart City Genre.

But according to an article in the UK’s electronic Weekly –see parknews.biz trending   – only about a fifth of the population could describe what a “Smart City” was or how it was something they could or should embrace. Many thought it was a city that had a university.

What is happening here?  Are our “betters” developing things that will affect our lives, but not really keeping us in the loop. It seems like this is happening more and more around the world. If the street department in Los Angeles can’t keep one neighborhood updated on when the streets will be torn up, when parking enforcement will be lessened, or when the street will be resurfaced, how can something as far reaching as “Smart City” be communicated to the great unwashed.

Or for that matter, should it.

Well, I for one think it should. If a city wants a program as comlex and expensive as “Smart Cities” to be a success, the population needs to be kept up to speed on what is happening. Planning such a program behind closed doors (or at a community meeting held at 2 PM on Thursday attended by policy wonks and no one else) is fraught with disaster.

Some say that this is too complex for the average citizen. This is an average citizen who uses technology daily simply to survive (pump gas, send letters, read books, watch TV, do their banking, keep their house warm or cool, go shopping, drive their cars, and the rest). I don’t think that exposing the average Joe or Josephine to an interconnected city is beyond their reach (Can you  say ‘internet’)

The question is how to do it. Maybe I’m a tad backward, but I didn’t know that they were putting in an on line device when they replaced my water meter the other day that would keep central informed of my water usage. That’s part of “Smart City” folks. And its in my front yard.

Remember “SFPark” = Its was a “Smart City” program for on and off street parking in San Francisco. You can argue about how successful the program was, but you can’t argue about the success of the public relations program that promoted it.  I would be surprised if there was anyone in Baghdad by the Bay that hadn’t heard of SF Park and knew a little about what it was doing.

It would seem to me that the first step in moving down a Smart City path would be to involve the citizenry in the process.  Reach out to the local communities, attend Farmer’s Markets, go to PTA and Rotary meetings. Tell the world what is going on. Ask for input.

William F. Buckley once said that he would rather be governed by the first 500 people in the Boston phone directory than by the elected officials in Washington DC. Not to stress his point too much, but perhaps input from the average citizen would be helpful.

Who knows?



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Planning and Public Transportation 20/20 Hindsight

I know, I know, I’m an expert in 20/20 hindsight.  But planning isn’t my job.  I would have thought that the planners who designed the light rail systems in cities like Los Angeles that are spread over a gazillion square miles might have realized that there would be parking problems around the stations. See parknews.biz for the story (Scroll down or search for Azusa)

Here’s the deal – They extended the rail line out the San Gabriel Valley and the areas around the stations are jammed with cars. Local merchants are having folks towed, neighborhoods are up in arms. Gee, who would have predicted that?

The problem is, of course, that there is no way for folks to get to the stations except drive. So they drive and search for places to park.

The planners say that the real solution is to entice (force) people to live near the stations so they can walk to the trains. That’s fine if your city is vertical like New York or Chicago. But what about horizontal cities like LA where people like to live on their own 10,000 square feet of dirt and drive their Belchfire 800s.

Planners need to get out of their ivory towers and take a look at successful transit systems. Amsterdam, San Francisco, Boston, are good examples of cities that combine light rail with bus and trolly feeders. The trolleys run down the major boulevards and people simply walk out to stops a few blocks from their homes, hop on the car, and ride either to their work or to a station where they can take light rail to their eventual destination.

Why is this so difficult to do?  The street systems are much less expensive than light rail so they can be located in more areas.  If you don’t want to install rail, what about electric buses. String some wire and paint a few stations, and you are in business. OK, its not that simple, but its certainly easier than the construction of a billion dollar a mile subway or surface light rail.

The Azusa (Gold) line in Los Angeles worked too well. When it opened riders flocked to the stations, but they drove. If you want folks to use an alternative, you need to give them an alternative.

Planners seem to work from a blank slate.  Isn’t it time we took into consideration what currently exists and work with it?




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The Power of Parking

Oakland A’s fans are angry because their regular “Free Parking Tuesday” game isn’t going to come with free parking after all. According to ktvu.com, the free parking promotion won’t be honored this Tuesday because of the NBA playoff game going on at the nearby Oracle Arena. But not only is parking not free, it’s also not the regular $20 – this Tuesday it’s $40.

“Because of the dual event with the Warriors postseason game, parking is $40, the cost of parking for the arena event. This is standard procedure and occurs for all arena events. We found out about the dual event on Friday evening when the second round of the NBA playoffs was determined. We alerted fans at that time and throughout the weekend via dedicated emails, media press releases, social media and during our broadcasts,” A’s Director of Corporate Communications Catherine Aker said in a statement to KTVU.

What I found interesting about this scenario is that there are A’s fans who attend games on Tuesdays specifically because the parking is free. The parking perk makes their decision for them. It shows the power of parking when people make their plans around its cost and availability. Despite the efforts of the team’s communications group to publicize the change in a timely way, fans are voicing their displeasure at the abrupt cancellation of this promotion.

“Little bit like a bait and switch,” said lifelong A’s fan Gary Silverman of Concord. He said he couldn’t believe it when he found out that the Tuesday free parking was suddenly cancelled. “We actually purchased tickets for Tuesday knowing that it was free parking and then a couple days before hand.to take that away, not very fair,” Silverman said.

There was probably some fine print somewhere that could have given A’s fans an idea their free parking Tuesdays were not guaranteed, but who reads the fine print when football and free parking come up in the same sentence?

Read the article here.

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