I’ll Bet they don’t ask me back….

My presentation before the World Parking Symposium last week in Tel Aviv went well.  So well, there were no questions.  I guess I just did a super job.  I also did something that most likely ‘isn’t done’ in these circles…I found the way some of my fellow speakers presented their subjects objectionable.

With one or two exceptions, a theme throughout this symposium was sustainability. I think that’s great.  We must be good stewards of our planet and if spending more money than we can afford to make garages, cities, and whatnot more environmentally pure, I’m all for it. However, in pitching your sustainable requirements, don’t lie to me.

In a couple of the PowerPoint presentations there were pictures of polar bears slipping off ice flows to their certain demise, satellite shots of hurricanes, garages filled with water, and the like.  All adding to the urgent need to make things sustainable, and save a doomed planet.

I’m all for using all the tools at your disposal to sell your agenda, but don’t lie to me. We all know that polar bears are currently thriving in larger numbers than any time in the past what, 75 years, that we have had a lull in hurricanes for the past decade that is unprecedented, and I’ve been in that garage that was filled with water and know that one of the major reasons was that the garage was built below sea level.

So after my main presentation was over, I popped off about my concerns about the way the presentations were couched, and how if you are going to pitch an idea, just be sure that the backup you use is true.

A few years ago we had an environmentalist speak at PIE. He had all the credentials. He was from Washington state. He worked for the state department of the environment. He loved trees. He also said that much of the ‘sustainable’ activity taken by governments was bunk.  Mayors, Senators, Presidents would start down a ‘sustainable’ road with great fanfare and then simply let the programs peter out. He gave example after example of programs that began much promise, only to simply drift away. Lack of money, lack of interest, lack of …..

I believe that rich countries like the US, and most of those represented at the World Parking Symposium, have a tendency to spend money like we had it, to make the world more sustainable.  But, by doing so, who do we hurt?  We hurt the least among us.  As we drive the price of gas north of $8 a gallon (as in the EU) who really is harmed.  The poor folks that need their cars to drive to work, or sometimes just to work. Remember that half or more of that $8 is tax, not the cost of the gas.

When we sit in our air conditioned homes in clean beautiful university towns and decry the use of carbon based fuels in India, Africa, or China, we simply damn the poor in those countries to lives of quiet desperation. Sure we can afford to spend fortunes to make our lives sustainable, but can they.

150 years ago our cities were horrible: filled with garbage, air unbreathable, disease was rampant. Today we have solved most of those problems or are in the process of doing so. We reached a point where most people have some discretionary income to spend on things other than food, clothing and shelter. As societies become richer, the lives they lead become cleaner, healthier, more sustainable.  Coal fired plants are replaced by windmills, gas guzzling cars with electric Priuses and Leafs.  Our family size reduces as children no longer are seen as needed for survival.

The WPS presentation made by a UN based group on parking issues in Latin America pointed out how the governments there realize that they can’t just wave their magic wands and make automobiles go away. They have to provide rapid transit systems, they must rethink their broad avenues, they must begin to plan where their housing is built. They were also realists and understood that changing a culture is difficult and can’t be done overnight. That, in this case parking, was there to say and simply decreeing that there would be no more parking ( like in Seattle) wasn’t going to work. The process was a long one, and even projects as seemingly as simple as putting in parking meters could be a long haul. Enforcement, a major issue, but a real struggle..

We are fortunate to be able to have events like the World Parking Symposium where we can argue over the design of new parking facilities, talk about moving everyone back in the cities, finding generations that no longer want to live in the ‘burbs but want to work, play and live all within walking distance.

But the UN group’s presentation brought us back to reality. Mexico City is parking disaster, India is a traffic jam of steroids, China has to figure out how to feed its billions, without suffocating them first.  These kids from the UN did the numbers, we have to fix the problems or we will all simply die.

My arrogant solution:  Help the emerging countries to grow. Get their economies on track. Make it so their people are wealthy enough to want to sit on the clean beach, or breath clean air. They will solve their environmental problems, just as we have come a long way to solve ours.

We want to believe that top down directives can solve problems that affect individuals in cities, in neighborhoods. We cannot fix everything, but we can help others to fix their problems.  Give a man a fish, your feed him for a day, teach a man to fish…

You get the idea.  My speaking agenda is open  — any takers?



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World Parking Symposium Underway in Tel Aviv

The World Parking Symposium, Canada’s semi annual fete to the scholarly side of parking, got under way yesterday at Herod’s Hotel on Tel Aviv’s beautiful 14 km long beach. We were welcomed by the assistant mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo and received a virtual tour of this vibrant and beautiful city of nearly half a million people. The metro area hjolds over 1.5 million.

The event got underway this morning with a presentation on sustainability and a piece on the monetary value of our profession. We then had some PR from the IPI, and a bit on the future of information communication technology.

The afternoon papers were on residential parking schemes in Stuttgart, Solving a parking capacity problem using (dare I say it) common sense, a rather complex presentation on vehicle to vehicle communication, and a bit on smart parking revolution (read that pay by cell.)

The big surprise of the day was the panel on parking tax. I found out five minutes before the panel that I was on it.  Boy did they get their money’s worth. Lorne Persiko from the city of Toronto took the side for the tax and yours truly against, at least to the point that the discussion was mute anyway because politicians are going to tax us not matter what we say. Australia’s George Brown moderated and kept blows to a minimum.

I ducked out at noon and ran up to Jerusalem and had lunch with architect Maurice Segal and his lovely wife Bonnie. We met at the famous Jerusalem Theater and then dined at the original train station that was the terminus of the line from Cairo, built in the 1890s.  The capitol city is about 45 minutes inland from Tel Aviv but has a feeling centuries older. It’s also 2500 feet above sea level and a whole heck of a lot less humid.

Tonight its dinner with my buddy Amit Kadem, CEO of Tel Aviv’s Central Park. He is helping me celebrate my birthday (its one of those innocuous in etween ones of which you don’t care to know the number) at a restaurant designed by his architect brother.

Tomorrow the group, small, around 40 in attendance including 20 speakers, is going to learn everything I know about Public Private Partnerships. I have stolen all the info from Stephanie Farmer of Roosevelt University in Chicago about the Chicago fiasco, and about the successes at Ohio State from Sarah Blouch and Indianapolis from Xerox’s  Matthew  Darst so I have at least a bit of credibility.

Tel Aviv is a wonderful city.   Vibrant and full of life.  The majority of people here are under 40 and they are loving it. I dined last night with Meta Rothenberg, Marketing VP for HTS at a wonderful restaurant on  Tel Aviv’s ‘new’ harbor.  The old one, Jaffa, is the oldest working harbor anywhere, going back thousands of years.  They say that Jaffa was where Jonah set off on his ill fated bout with that whale.

I will just about close the symposium tomorrow, then head out to Ben Gurion Airport and the flight back to LA. Only two full days here in Israel. Next time more.  This place is just super.


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The Dead Park for Free

There’s always a lot to say about the abuse of disabled parking placards, and usually, it’s about the low-down, rotten people cheating the system. This article gives adequate attention to the cheaters, but makes a good point that the system is quite an enabler.

According to the article on SFgate.com, California, disabled parking placards are automatically renewed whether their intended uses are alive or not. People die and the placards keep showing up in the mail year after year. One woman says she tried to do the right thing and still kept receiving a placard for her dead mother.

“I cut up her disabled parking permit, wrote a letter reporting her death and mailed it to the DMV,” she wrote. “The spring of 2011 I received another permit for her. I was so annoyed. Then two years later I received another one. I will let you know if I receive one in 2015.”

Another person who tried the honest route found the red tape to cancel a disabled parking placard was too thick to negotiate and just throws the placards in the trash. But not everybody is so honest.

Sometimes people cheat the system, sometimes the system cheats the people. The system needs to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

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The Sign Says “Read Sign Carefully”

A Los Angeles website that claims to highlight the best and the worst of LaLa land has published a photo of a 1-minute parking sign. LAist.com reports the sign is in the Brentwood area and that officials have been notified and they promise to correct the problem.

They’ll be replacing the sign, but it’ll take them a couple weeks because they need to remake the sign first.

Nowadays, you can’t trust pictures because there’s this thing called Photoshop and all these people with too much time on their hands using it to make up things that don’t really exist – like women with not a single physical imperfection and strange animals like the dogalope.

Still, if it’s a real sign, it’s pretty entertaining to people like me and must be to the people who read LAist.com. As a writer, I know how easy it is to make typos, misspell words and completely miss the mark on grammar, but the things I write rarely get set in stone or concrete or laser printed onto street signs and posted for all to see. Phew.

See the photo here.


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Shocking: Melbourne Announces Plan that will Reduce Parking Income

I heard from a friend in Melbourne, Australia, that the city is installing a system of pay by cell phone. In addition to embracing the program completely the city government is sweetening the deal by telling the citizenry that they will receive a text on their phone when they are nearing the time limit they paid for. They can either ‘top up’ the meter from their phone or go move their car.

The Mayor has acknowledged that the program will cost the city upwards of a million a year in lost citation revenue but he said that the goal was to make the city more responsive to parkers, not penalize them.

Wow! What a refreshing approach. When city after city are trying to find ways to stick it to their constituents to raise money, hearing someone actually planning to make it easier for parkers NOT to get citations is stunning.

My contact tells me that promotions like this, led by a very popular mayor, has brought thousands of Aussies into the pay by cell fold and enabled the city to expand the program throughout its suburbs.  A nice spinoff has been that with so many people paying by cell, they don’t need as many pay and display machines so they are reallocating them to areas that has planned to add pay parking and not having to buy new machines. He expects that 20% more spaces can be handled by each machine.

Melbourne has a number of areas where angle parking is in the middle of the street. You park, and then have to hike to a P and D machine, then return to your car, all the while dodging traffic.  By making these areas pay by cell only, the city is increasing the safety of its parkers, another benefit of the system.

No wonder Melbourne has been named the most livable city on the planet.


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Phoenix Raises On Street Prices, Goes Variable

Joining a number of other cities including Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, Phoenix has decided to jump on the Shoupista band wagon and institute demand based pricing.  It essentially raises prices during peak hours and when special events (sports, theaters, etc) take place.  Fair Enough.

However when you read the article, I found on Parknews.biz, I wasn’t too surprised. The only reason for the change was to help the city meet a budget shortfall. The change joins water bill hikes to increase the lucre in the city’s coffers.

There was not one word about how the new pricing may make more parking available, or how new meters will make it easier for the citizenry to pay.  Not a syllable about protecting the resource that is parking, or how the monies may help the city build infrastructure.

There was certainly nothing about cutting expenses in the Phoenix government. But then, politicians assume that their constituents know that they are working hard to save every penny. Right.







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Here’s a Neat Solution for Disabled Space Cheats

As i was looking through Park News today an interesting article caught my eye. It was datelined Dubai:

A locally-made device will help Dubai Police crack down on illegal parking in the emirate.

The new device is fitted with a sensor, a video, a still camera, 3G internet and a warning device that will combine to issue fines to those who park illegally in disabled parking spaces.

The monitoring device, created by Dubai Police, will be installed at every disabled parking place in Dubai by the end of the year.

Each device will monitor one parking space. When a vehicle enters the space, the sensor detects it and starts beeping for 20 seconds. If the vehicle is still there after that time, the devices takes a picture and checks with the police database, via the 3G, if there is a valid parking permit for  disabled parking. If there is no permit, a fine is automatically issued.

Not too shabby. However I’m sure the development wasn’t cheap and putting one in each space could also be costly, but then, if you are mega rich and money means little, then it can work.


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Under overpass parking eliminated in Birmingham

In Birmingham, Alabama near the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, some 700 parking spots are about to be eliminated. According to Al.com the Alabama Department of Transportation has mandated that the parking lot under Interstate 20/59 be closed due to safety issues.

Apparently, the freeway is carrying twice the weight its structure was designed for and is showing serious signs of wear. Birmingham leaders were caught off guard by the announcement.

“Of course, we knew this was to be an eventuality with the rebuilding and repair of the corridor bridges, but we were not prepared for the sudden closure, due to extenuating safety hazards,” said Councilwoman Kim Rafferty. “It is not a decision I argue with but the city administration, the BJCC, the council transportation committee, ALDOT, and other interested parties should have been called to a joint meeting to begin work on mitigating the loss of the 700 parking spaces.”

Maybe a combination of disorganization, politics and complicated schedules have complicated the decision making in this situation, but I say, if the department of transportation tells you it’s not safe to park under a freeway, go ahead and believe them. Everyone seems to be doing all they can to handle the unexpected change in plans.

BJCC Executive Director Tad Snider said his facility would work to find alternative parking and let customers know the locations. Snider said the BJCC would immediately begin a process to inform customers of the change. Signage and social media are all tools that will be used, he said.

Click here to read the article.

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Theft is a Wake Up Call

Some people take the concept of “profit sharing” into their own hands. An employee is believed to have stolen $336 from a Jeanette, Pennsylvania city lot that only recently began charging for parking. That’s not a lot of money, but any theft shows your revenue control systems are failing. According to triblive.com:

The employee raised suspicion by giving “at least three conflicting stories” about the money’s disappearance, Mayor Richard Jacobelli said.

Jeanette’s petty parking lot thief said the office safe wasn’t secure so he put the money in his backpack to protect it and then he walked through the most dangerous part of town where the money was stolen from him. Somewhere along the way he attended a funeral. The matter has been turned over to police. Triblive.com reports that this is not the first time the city has suffered for its weak approach to auditing:

A 2012 audit revealed the city lacked internal controls and used a sloppy accounting system that raised the risk of errors and fraud. It allowed employees to withdraw cash without prior approval, opening the way for potential theft, according to auditors.

Earlier this year, a contractor was sentenced to probation for keeping $65,000 from the city in 2005 for a recreation building that was never delivered.

Let’s hope Jeannette officials realize there are many ways they can protect their money and start implementing those methods soon. Click here to read the article.

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An Adventure In Parking

There’s a lot of parking news out there – and even a special place for the best of it to be gathered at ParkNews.biz. Between all the technical and legal stuff I found this particular piece and it is highly entertaining.

William O’Reilly writes for Newsday a humorous account of paying $662 to park for a day in the Big Apple. Having lived there, I can picture the scene with detail. He describes a scenario so completely over the top, yet so typical of the real parking environment in NY, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Pedestrian New York, where I lived for 35 years, is a conveyor belt of conveniences. Vehicle New York is Hades. It’s smash-your-head-into-your-own-steering-wheel awful, and it seems to be getting worse by the day.

The truth is, New York City doesn’t want you to have a car. That’s why is full of taxis and connected by a hundred subway tunnels. But if you dare drive there, be prepared to pay like Mr. O’Reilly.

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