Fines are fine

In Helena, Montana, parking officials are considering charging a $20 administrative fee for drivers who don’t pay their ticket fines within seven days, according to The city ticket charges are $10 for expired meters and $25 in timed parking areas. The Helena Parking Commission is trying to recoup $50,000 in unpaid fines and the late fee revenue would go toward the cost of mailing invoices for those unpaid fines.

Between 285 and 400 notices are sent out each month to those who have failed to pay parking fines, it was noted during the parking commission’s meeting.

I think Helena should increase the cost of its initial ticket fines and add a late fee. People don’t take a $10 fine very seriously in the first place, and if there is no added penalty for paying late (or not paying at all) lots of people just pretend the whole thing never happened.

Helena is taking other steps to intimidate bad parkers. In past years, the city has allowed drivers with unpaid ticket balances to pay down their fines with donations of food during the holidays. Now, those who owe more than $75 in fines will receive a few warnings and then the dreaded boot.

As usual, city leaders and city merchants don’t exactly agree on the way to treat people who break parking rules. Business owners want to minimize stress and inconvenience for their customers, while city leaders are trying to keep downtown-area business employees from using up all the most convenient parking. But it sounds like they are all being very civil about the discussion

I’m fine with fines – as long as I know what they are and how to avoid them.

Read the article here.

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Veteran’s Day – They just did it — It was worth it

Yes, it’s today.

As I was growing up, virtually everyone I knew had been in the military. Most had served in WWII or Korea. They were the fathers of my friends. They didn’t talk a lot about it. They just had done it.

I find that most people don’t really talk about their service. It never seems to come up. But they did it.  They sacrificed years of their lives, in some cases their very lives. They spent time away from lovers and family. They endured heat, cold, jungles, deserts. They didn’t really complain that much. They did it.

I find that when I go up to veterans in uniform say in the airport and thank them for their service, they are almost embarrassed. They don’t expect praise. They don’t expect to stand out.  They are doing a job they want to do.

Don’t get me wrong. You and I need to express our thanks, any way we can. Its important that we acknowledge what they are doing. They are putting themselves in harm’s way for us. They can take a little embarrassment.

There were a number of soldiers on a plane I was on the other day. About 20 in uniform heading somewhere for something or other. When we landed the flight attendant asked if we could keep our seats and let the soldiers off first. The left to thunderous applause.

I noticed that they seemed to stand a little straighter, hold their backpacks a little tighter, and smile acknowledgements as they walked down the aisle. I’ll just bet they think about that applause as they lie in their bunks getting to sleep. They may think,  “Its worth it.”

Happy Veteran’s Day – to those who served, and to those who acknowledge their debt to them.



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But its just a “Gig”

The “Gig Economy”  Ahh Yes – we really needed something new to worry about. For all those luddites that don’t know what it is, the Gig Economy is that part of our economy where the workers work for themselves and sell their time to companies.  Uber, Lyft, graphic artists, web site designers, consultants in many fields, musicians, writers, valets, maybe even waitstaff and cooks.

They set their own schedules, negotiate their pay, provide their own tools, and go to work. They buy their own health insurance, pay their own taxes, and live, it seems to me, a pretty nice life.  Most of the Uber drivers I meet seem happy with the ‘gig’. It fits their lifestyle. Many are young, a few are retired, supplementing their income. What’s not to like.

You know what’s coming next. Out of thousands, a handful didn’t get paid on time. No health insurance, egad. What about working too many hours, shouldn’t they get overtime?  Someone has to protect them. Guess who?

The government, that’s who. The ‘gig’ economy has been going for decades. But its been below the radar.  Musicians, software engineers, valets, and their ilk have been happily working, often as second jobs, their ‘gigs.’

But all that’s about to be destroyed. Uber has brought the ‘gig’ economy out into the sunlight. And the nanny staters are ready to pounce.  Rather than let the workers and companies decide how to make this a mutually beneficial relationship, it seems (in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and a number of other cities) that the ‘gig’ workers need to be organized, need to be protected, regulation has to be put in place, and you know the rest.

What this basically means is that the drivers for Uber will get less money because Uber will have to charge more to deal with all the rules and regs, and then fewer people will ride in Uber because the prices are too high, and the drivers will make less money. How does that make sense?

An Uber driver told me he makes between $15 and $20 an hour net. That’s after his costs for gas, insurance, etc. That’s about $40 K a year on an 8 hour day. Some who want to make more work longer hours, some who see this as a great supplement, work less. Its not one percent money, but in a two income family (and who isn’t these days) you can live pretty well, and set your hours, pick up your kids, be home for dinner with the family. What’s not to like.

But mark my words.  Big Brother will ruin it. After all, we can’t have those evil owners (shareholders?) at Uber make all those billions. Its just not fair.

This isn’t robber baron territory. 12 hour day, six day weeks, pennies an hour, mercury and asbestos everywhere. These are ‘gigs’ that the individual decides to take based on their individual talent, time, and situation.

I’m guessing that many of the gigs are transitional.  But many are not. So be it. The marketplace is working as it should. There was a minor revolution at Uber when they began dynamic pricing, as immediately when the prices when up, the number of calls went down. Drivers reacted.

Management has a problem. Its hard to ‘manage’ a gig worker.  They have to be more creative. Work to the workers tempo and needs.  The successful ones will adjust and make it work.

At PT Media we have had ‘gig’ workers for years.  They write columns, they edit, they work in graphics. We are a small company that can’t afford full time staff in those areas. So a couple of mothers of two, a retired copy editor, a consultant looking for a little extra, an artist with a home business, they all work gigs for us, and others, too.

But I can see the day coming when our ‘betters’ will pounce. It will be a sad one for all, gig workers and employers alike.

But its progress, right.



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Old Parking Meters Now Collectibles

People have been collecting antique industrial items for years. Street signs, printing press forms, and old tools are all collector’s items. In Saskatoon, Canada, pay stations were recently installed, and now, according to, residents are lining up to buy the outdated parking meters.

Greg Doering, sporting a massive beard and a pair of black Ray-Ban sunglasses, was among the shoppers. He said the meter has symbolic importance for him.

“My dad, as a young man, happened to get a parking meter one day when they were replacing them and I kind of grew up with one in the house. It’s in my brother’s studio now, and now I want my own,” he said. “It’s kind of nostalgic.

City leaders are surprised by the interest in the meters, which have been partially disassembled and are only decorative. They say they are pleased that the meters will be salvaged.

The City of Saskatoon is still calculating how many of the meters it has sold overall, but the most recent count recorded on Tuesday evening indicated 51 double-head meters and 55 single-head meters had made it into the hands of the public, raising about $2,630.

I’m not at all nostalgic about the times I’ve spent feeding quarters into a coin meter – quite the opposite – but I understand the allure. That’s because I’ve got a box full of cassette tapes in my garage.

Read the article here.

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Parking Lot Attendant Imposters Strike Atlanta

In Atlanta, parkers were made painfully aware of the effort criminals will make to steal their money. According to, a crew of criminals posed as parking lot attendants took parking fees and booting fees from unsuspecting tourists. Now, tourists are usually unsuspecting, but these had little chance of discovering the scam before they were swindled.

“There were signs saying event parking and there were gentlemen by the road and another in further here at the parking lot waving us in,” Barbara Wright of Asheville, N.C. said. “When we got to the second guy he said park right in here.”

But later, once they spotted the boots on their vehicles, the victims began to suspect they had been hustled – paying $20 each for special parking and $75 to get out of the special parking.

It’s pretty generous of Ms. Wright to refer to the thieves as “gentlemen,” especially because there is little chance she’s getting back her money. Most of the victims reported being surprised by the elaborate set up. I can understand their feelings. One perpetrator can do enough damage in a parking lot, but a cast of criminals is a new thing. Not only that, but the crooks staged their heist in broad daylight – a heist that lasted long enough for “patrons” to leave their vehicles for whatever activity they had planned and come back to find their cars booted. That’s brazen for you.

The victims said there’s got to be a better way to catch imposters using real parking lots.

I’m curious what that “better way” would be. There is no protocol for identifying “real” parking lot attendants. Maybe there could be.

Read the article here.

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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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