On the Green Level…

Sometime PT correspondent Jeff Pinyot wrote a blog for the IPI site which peaked by curiosity. He seems to relatively successfully hold both sides of a controversy. Here’s the blog in toto — and my comments following:

If you want good dinner conversation, place at least one liberal and one conservative together at a dinner table, insert a bottle of Pinot Grigio, a nice appetizer, and perhaps the suggestion of Global Warming as dinner conversation.

Being that the parking industry is so often referred to in discussions of the impact of environmental change, it seems that we have the right to have an opinion on the subject. When our company is asked what environmental impact our lights have on carbon emissions, we often equate it to X numbers of cars being taken off the road. For a company that does business with parking garage owners and operators, it actually seems a little stupid to tell Denison Parking that if they use our lights, it will be like taking 50 cars (paying customers) off the road. I know it really doesn’t impact the number of cars in actuality, but it does seem like a stupid analysis given the facts. Perhaps we should talk about the impact as X number of new trees planted.

So, I digress….Why is it that every celebrity believes that they are an authority on politics, global warming, hunger, health plans, etc. Is it because some of them have played Presidents, Senators, Scientists, Doctors, etc. on TV and the big screen? Could you imaging George Clooney saying this: “In Gravity, I played the role of an astronaut, which means that I would have probably gone to Purdue University, which means that I should probably be pretty smart, so, yes, I have no real reason to say this, but I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, Global Warming is for real…I think.”
In reality, here is exactly what he did say about Global Warming: “If you have 99 percent of doctors who tell you ‘you are sick’ and 1 percent that says ‘you’re fine,’ you probably want to hang out with, check it up with the 99. You know what I mean? (not really George) The idea that we ignore that we are in some way involved in climate change is ridiculous. What’s the worst thing that happens? We clean up the earth a little bit?”

While I have no idea what he is saying exactly, at the end, he does come back down to earth. George Clooney and I agree on his last statement, “What’s the worst thing that happens? We clean up the earth a little bit?” YES, let’s start with common ground! Who can argue that his statement is not true? The way I say it is similar… This is me talking… and I am quoting me… “Whether Global Warming is true or not doesn’t really matter, the bottom line is, we should leave the world in at least the same shape as we got it, no worse or preferably, better. We should try to get our Security Deposit back!”
Don’t hug a tree, climate!

Jeff Pinyot

Let me say that I agree completely with Jeff’s last two sentences. We should leave the world in better shape than we got it.  But at the same time, I disagree with George Clooney when he says “What’s the worst than can happen.

Here’s the problem – We can do a lot of harm. Emerging countries where people are freezing in the dark want to give their citizens a fighting chance. But if everyone from the UN on down fights them as they try to develop, there is plenty of harm. Here at home,  people that get hurt aren’t the gazillionaires like Clooney, but the working poor, who pay more for electricity, for gasoline, for food, for clothing. All because the Clooneys of the planet stop development, not just clean development, but all development. They live in enclaves in the west side of LA, between San Francisco and San Jose, on the Upper East Side of New York or in the counties around DC and Boston. They have no feel for what it costs to live, since they have tons of disposable income.

I’m with you on the concept that we must be good stewards of our planet, and must clean up our environment. But a clean environment and a bustling economy must not be mutually exclusive. If all the effort put into stopping economic growth was put into clean water and electrification in emerging countries, how many more kids would grow up healthy, how many families would thrive.

When a idea, a crusade, a cause takes on a religious zeal, and dissenters are silenced, then one can be certain there is hubris. There are laws of unintended consequences. We double the price of gasoline, but offer no transportation alternatives. We stop building new housing, but offer no replacement, thus sending the cost of housing sky high, we halt the building of any type of energy facility (nuclear, natural gas, coal) and stop manufacturing in its tracks, costing millions of jobs.

When the people of India, China, Central Africa reach the point that every waking moment isn’t spent searching for food, clothing, and shelter, and they have some time to enjoy their lives, they will begin to think about cleaner air, unpolluted water, and white sandy beaches. They will realize they don’t need 15 children for the family to survive. They will, just as have Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, North America, and western Europe begin to clean their environment, too.

Environmental cleanliness must make economic sense, too. And it can. Just as Jeff sees creating light in parking garages using less electricity, buildings can be constructed so they use the space around them more effectively, food can be grown less expensively, but the land preserved. Forests can be replaced, fuel can be produced without destroying the earth, power can be created without destroying the air. And it can be done economically, if we allow it.






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The parking attendant stole my money…

…except he wasn’t the parking attendant.

In Denver, a parking lot employee poseur has been taking money from parking patrons, even though the signs state clearly for them to “pay machine only.” According to denver.cbslocal.com:

“Police hope to catch the man before he strikes again.”

I hope they catch him before he strikes again, too. But I’m also going to have a little laugh at the folks who feel for his ruse. You don’t just hand over your money to anyone who asks for it. You don’t just pull into a parking lot without making yourself aware of the pay system. Or do you? We all give our keys and cars to the valet and we all pass bills to the guy sitting in the pay booth, but we don’t have any real assurance that these are actual parking lot employees. They don’t all have badges or uniforms or a certificate tied around their necks. And there’s no time to run a background check. All it takes is one trickster in a white shirt, black pants and industrial-strength black shoes and any of us could be short a vehicle.

“Definitely he is roaming the area looking for any extra cash he can get,” said Town Park Manager Tanner Rogers. “If somebody asks you for cash, be wary.”

Sound advice, I say. Be wary.

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Venue needed for Shakespeare in the Parking Lot

Shakespeare said “All the world is a stage” and he was right, thoughI’m not sure he was thinking of parking lots. Some 20 years ago a group of would-be thespians put together Shakespeare in the Parking Lot in New York City to bring the classics to the masses. Today they face the end of their endeavors as a newly-invoked department of transportation fee and the forthcoming demolition of the parking lot where they perform loom darkly.

I love to see an empty parking lot put to good use, not that I’d ever be in a play on stage or in a parking lot myself – no talent. These parking lot performers must be very devoted to their work, though sadly unable to find work in an actual theater, so it makes the world feel like a friendlier place to think of them finding an outlet for their artistry. They call the threats to their work an inevitable consequence of the city’s progress, but it seems like a step backwards to me.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

For years, Artistic Director Hamilton Clancy said his dealings with the city have been cordial. “There had been a very New York understanding,” he said, describing the DOT response as: “If you don’t cause any trouble, we’re glad you’re making people happy.”

And that’s a terrific approach, if you ask me. Let’s hope the Shakespeare in the Parking Lot and the Drilling Company, it’s producer, can find another venue. They’re looking, and not opposed to performing outside of parking lots, regardless of their name.

“The fact that we have a brand name is not going to weigh us down,” Clancy said. “We are going to bring Shakespeare to the people.”

Read the article here.

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Hallelujah for Free Sunday Parking!

The end of Sunday parking fees is here. After a year or so of charging for Sunday meter parking, San Francisco is repenting its policy. Mayor Ed Lee has seen the light and cancelled the Sunday paid parking program to make it more affordable for locals and visitors to spend time in city parks and shops.

Only a few locations will still cost parkers. According to the article in sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com:

The SFMTA will still operate meters in the city on Sundays in some areas, including those under the jurisdiction of the Port of San Francisco and at Fisherman’s Wharf as well as parking lots at Eighth and Ninth avenues at Clement Street, Geary Boulevard at 18th and 21st avenues, Eighth Avenue at Irving Street, the Pierce Street Garage near Lombard Street and Felton Street at San Bruno Avenue.

The city will inform parkers of the Sunday paid policy only where it will continue to be applied. In all other areas, the public will read the joyful news from the meters themselves.


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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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