Are parking apps dangerous?

If you’re looking for parking, you’re probably driving. So, unless there is another person in the car who can use the app for you, how do you you use a parking app safely?

Cleveland area residents are asking the same question after the city launched a pilot program to make its downtown area more friendly to its ever increasing population. The program includes Parker by Streetline to guide users to open parking spots.

Those who speak for the interests of bicyclists and pedestrians voiced their concerns at a recent meeting.

“By no means do we encourage interacting with the app while driving,” said Britanny  Blasing with Streetline in an email.  “To navigate to the closest available parking, a motorist would enter the desired destination before driving and then follow the voice guidance prompts.”

But is that realistic? The city wants more traffic in its downtown area – and not just those who come by car. An increase in traffic that includes cars, bicycles and walkers, and an app that leads drivers to look at their phone for parking is a recipe for disaster.

Councilman Joe Cimperman vowed to take the concerns raised at the meeting to his colleagues and the city administration.

“How do we do it so we’re not encouraging people to break the law?” Cimperman asked.

Texting and driving is banned not only in Cleveland and the entire state of Ohio. I’m sure there’s a solution out there and I’ll be glad to hear about it when it’s discovered.


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Auditors — Your Business is Changing

I had dinner last night with a parking auditor. His company finds money in parking operations that should be in the bank, and tells owners and operators how to be sure that it gets there. I noted that my experience has been that theft isn’t the main problem.

He concurred, saying that with the advent of alternate payment methods (credit and debit cards, bank transfers, electronic purses, bitcoin?) losses by theft have greatly reduced.

However, he noted that even in the post credit card days theft wasn’t the main area of loss he and his auditors found. The losses came from the inability of personnel all up and down the line, from cashier to garage manager, from asset manager to garage owner to properly track the many different products that are sold in garages and ensure that the money is actually sold.

He told me that garages are moving from a ‘service’ business, that is a business of parking cars, to a ‘revenue transaction’ business, that is the business of conducting a monetary transaction. He noted that really parking had been that since horses were being parked, but that often garage staff stress the ‘service industry’ portion of the business  and neglect the ‘financial transaction portion.”

I concurred. As garages have become more automated, the interface of garage personnel and the parking public has become less and less. I pointed out that I couldn’t remember when I actually saw a live person in a garage helping me to park.

He stressed certain areas where parking operations could review their procedures to be sure that the ‘financial transaction’ was being properly tended to.

1. Monthly parkers — are there 1000 cards active in the system but only 800 active accounts paying. Are the other 200 legitimate ‘freebies’ or are they simply parking for free.

2. Neighborhood valet operations – Does the restaurant across the street that uses your garage for valet operations pay you for all the cars that are parked?

3. Validations – Are validations properly charged and tracked.

4. Monthly contracts – Are ‘time limited’ deals cut by real estate brokers to offer reduced rate parking for a period of time to sweeten a lease agreement raised when that deal is up.

5. Monthly contracts — Likewise, are escalation (cost of living) clauses in monthly contracts properly executed.

6. Daily rates — Are daily parking rates adjusted to meet market demands.

7. Freebies – Are parkers who actually owe for the parking let out for free when then ‘complain?” Plus how many contract cards are given out by owners to be accommodating?

My friend noted that these are only a few of the myriad of issues that auditors need to review when they visit parking operations. He said that he and his staff were also looking closely at the reports and programs that are produced by technology. Just because a report or printout says so much should have been collected, is the report right? A periodic transaction by transaction audit is a good idea to confirm that the machines are not making mistakes or dropping transactions here and there. It happens you know.

Technology, it seems, makes lives more complicated, not less.




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People parking badly

Last fall, a Des Moines man and his wife both lost their jobs at a local hospital for parking in the Emergency Room lot. One of the pair had a permit for a paid lot nearby. The firing came under the category of “misconduct,” and though Mr. Hodges did the parking, Mrs. Hodges was in the car with him at the time.

Mrs. Hodges’ claim for unemployment benefits were recently denied because the judge says the lot was clearly marked, and Mrs. Hodges knowingly broke the rules.

According to the article:

“…Hodges said the car was not hers and she did not have control over where her husband parked it. Hodges, who had worked at UIHC since 2009 and had a permit for a paid lot elsewhere, admitted there were two occasions in which she was a passenger in her husband’s vehicle when he parked in the emergency lot.”

I think Mr. Hodges has been duly punished for his crime: unemployed for now and sleeping in the dog house for 5 to 10 years. It’s a harsh penalty for a minor crime – rapists, robbers and drunk drivers get off easier, sometimes. But the Hodges will be more aware of parking signs in the future.


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Don’t let it snow anymore

Winter weather is the theme of many a news article lately. In New York City, residents are up in arms about parking tickets issued for cars actually stuck in place by ice. A water leak created a 3 to 4 inch thick sheet of ice in one neighborhood that’s trapped a city block’s worth of parked cars.

Some drivers were handed $65 tickets — which neighbors called just plain cold-hearted.

“I couldn’t get my car out right away and when I told them that they were like, ‘I already started writing the ticket,” said David Griffith, a 29-year-old, who works in the nightlife biz.

Residents who wanted to avoid the fine spent hours chipping their cars out of the ice and still several more hours griping about the effort and the cruelty of local police.

Beverly Lefhowitz, a psychotherapist who was forced  to wait in her Honda Civic, called it a major inconvenience.

“It’s a hassle. I had appointments today I had to cancel because someone told me they were giving tickets,”  Lefhowitz said.

Whining about the weather never gets anybody anywhere – but neither does a car frozen fast to the ground. Those officers needed to chill out.


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Winter Wonderland a Parking Nightmare

“Dibs” is something my brothers and I used to yell if we wanted our chair back when we returned from the bathroom. “Dibs” was what we said when there was one cookie left in the jar. “Dibs” was for the Star Wars sleeping bag on camping trips. “Shotgun” is for the front seat of the car, but “dibs” goes for nearly everything else. You want it, you gotta say “dibs.”

When winter weather gets rough, Chicago locals take “dibs” to the next level setting out patio furniture and other items to save their parking spaces. They shovel the snow away from public parking spots and then mark their territory with lawn ornaments and garbage cans. This tradition goes back a long way despite the reality that “dibs” is not legally binding, and a local politician has asked residents to try other tactics during this recent cold spell. Read more here.

In an emailed newsletter to constituents Monday, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) asked residents to resist the urge to lay claim to their shoveled-out spaces.

“The extreme temperatures today are causing difficulties for everyone. Please be patient. … I’d also like to remind you that ‘dibs’ are not allowed for shoveled parking spaces,” he wrote.

Waguespack also reminded that as Streets and Sanitation worked to clear the roads they’d be throwing away any random items left in the streets.

The alderman’s office is getting a steady stream of calls from residents complaining about parking issues, including “dibs,” blocked driveways and trapped cars. Leaders promise the roads will be cleared as soon as possible. I’m not sure patience is going to work as well as “dibs” for meeting anybody’s parking needs, but it’s worth a try.

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A Handicapped Solution in Chicago

There are over 300,000 disabled permits (blue placards) issued in the Chicago Area. The new rules say that disabled must pay for on street parking, except those that are physically unable to work the parking meters.  Fair enough. But how does enforcement know the difference.

The bureaucrats in Chicago have come up with a solution. They are issuing an different colored placard to only those disabled who have a doctors note saying they are unable to feed the meters.  that about 10% of the total disabled placards issued.

Now, just what is to keep these placards from being duplicated, stolen, borrowed, etc etc etc?

This is a money deal for Chicago – they had to pay the private firm, Chicago Parking Meters, over $55 million to cover losses generated by handicapped parkers who parked in metered spaces. I think that was the check that hizzonner the mayor said that he would never write.

My solution:  Everyone pays.  Disabled get a separate rate that gives more time for the same amount of money as they need more time to get where they are going and return.

Set up a pay by cell program so they can pay easily in their car and access the lower rate. Or an ‘incar’ meter. or ….

Of course there are many ways technology can solve this problem. Come to PIE 2014 in March in Chicago and find out what they are


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Good Grief — They Couldn’t figure this out?

Seems the city of Scranton, PA, has had a problem. They had a requirement that the parking rules be enforced for 10 hours a day, from 8 to 6. Fair enough.
However the local enforcement staff only works 8 hours a day so they enforced from 8:30-4:30. After all, they didn’t have the funding to cover the entire 8 hours.

Enter the private sector. Republic Parking took over the adjudication of parking rules in Scranton this past year and low and behold, they decided to follow the rules. They staggered the shifts so that the entire 8-6 period was covered.

The city has been loosing two hours (or 20%) of citations and some meter revenue a day, since the savvy local parkers understood that enforcement didn’t begin until 8:30 and stopped at 4:30.

The city says that it’s impossible to determine how much money was lost since they started charging for parking in 1987.  Hmmmmm. I wonder what would happen if you simply figured the amount of revenue collected during the “off” hours now that the private sector is running things and the did a little simple math.

If a government body doesn’t see that there is commercial interest in collecting fees and fines, then they simply don’t see a reason to be efficient in doing it. Private companies understand that if you are owed money, you need to collect it.

Good Grief!


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Airport Employee Parking Not Secure

I wonder as I wander, no wait, Christmas is over. I wonder as I mosey through the security line at the airport, if everyone who provides security, meals, janitorial service, maintenance and mechanical support for the airport subject to the same examination as the traveling public.

There are so many nooks and crannies to an airport, it’s easy to imagine the many ways someone with a dangerous agenda could sneak in, or just walk in. In Tampa, employees at Tampa International Airport have expressed concerns that security fencing and identification procedures in the employee parking area are not adequate.

“Any whack job could get on the employee bus in Tampa,” said Florence Andrea Roberts, a Delta flight attendant who flies out of both Tampa and Orlando international airports. “Someone could pull out a gun and run rampant on the ramp.”

Airport officials have responded with a promise to address the situation, because nobody wants whack jobs on the runways. The author of the article pointed out that employees, like Ms. Roberts, could be sharing their stories with the local media in reaction to a recent rate increase for employee parking.

Tampa International officials, alerted to the issues that employees raised in more than two dozen interviews in recent weeks with The Tribune, said Tuesday that they will pursue improvements.

“It’s important that the people who work at the airport and use our employee buses feel safe,” Janet Zink, assistant vice president of media and government relations, wrote in an email.

That will not require any increase in parking rates beyond those recently imposed, Zink added.

The moral of the story is … I wonder.

Read the article here.

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A Post Christmas Message

Time seems to have caught up with me and I didn’t get around to blogging about this greatest of holidays until today. So there.

We hear so much about the ‘commercialization of Christmas” and the evils of ‘gift giving’ these days. To all that I say Bah Humbug.

The process of giving gifts is as important as the gifts themselves.  In the few minutes it takes us to select a gift on line or the hours slogging through stores are moments we are thinking about the people who will be the recipients of our largesse.

Yes, we could open a college fund for the kids and put a few bucks in their names into it, but what will the kids think?  Gee that’s great that Grampa send me a letter with a receipt in it for $100 rather than a train set…  Right.

LA radio commentator and philosopher, Dennis Prager, was holding forth on this topic on Christmas Eve.  He thought that the tradition of gift giving was right on and if it was the heart of the celebration, so be it. When we give we also receive something in return, even if we never see or talk to the person who got the gift.

A women called in to the program and noted that as she walked through the stores, she heard many conversations that went like: “This is the perfect thing for Max, he will love it.” or “This color will look just right on Mary.” In these little conversations the gift giver was thinking about the person involved. What are their preferences, what do they like, what colors or shapes would look good on them.

Wise person, that woman.

Yes, Christmastime is magic, its mysteries and traditions have survived two millennia. When things last that long, why buck the tide?  Not only is Christmas filled with tradition, it is filled with wisdom. And part of that is the tradition of gift giving.

We had a wonderful family Christmas celebration. And I wish all the best to you and yours…

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Portland Says Good Bye to Free Disabled Parking

This is really strange — I don’t know if they are just trying to be PC or really don’t understand the problem but in this article they talk at length about how they are going to begin charging folks who park in disabled spaces. Fair Enough.

But not once in the article or seemingly in the discussions, is the problem of placard abuse mentioned.  If you have a ‘wheel chair’ disabled placard, it will still be free, but all the rest will have to pay. The article did acknowledge that on a given day, over 1000 spaces in downtown Portland were occupied with disabled permits, but only 21 were wheel chair permits.

The article goes on and on about the amount of revenue that will be raised. but says nothing about giving disabled access that is denied due to placard abuse. There are over 90,000 handicapped placards issued in the Portland area, 2000 of which are for those requiring wheel chairs.  I wonder how that number will change  when the new law goes into affect.

The only reasonable way to stop placard abuse is to charge for parking. Disabled people tell me they don’t want free parking, they want and need access.  Seems reasonable to me.

Let’s remember to follow up in Portland in a year or so and find out how many disabled placards are on file.


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