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Parking laws apply to superstars, too

Maybe she has too much money, too many fans, too much fame or spent too many years living in England, but it appears Madonna thinks she can make up her own parking laws. She didn’t want anybody parking in front of her New York City townhouse, so she posted signs and painted the curb – to be clear, she didn’t do it herself, she hired out the job.

New York City authorities foiled her plan and required her to remove the signs and the paint.

She got herself into hot water last month with neighbors and city officials after she posted signs in front of her townhouse that read: “Tenant parking only … unauthorized vehicles will be towed away at vehicle owner’s expense.” In addition, the words “No Parking” had been embossed in cement on the sidewalk, and the nearby curb had been painted yellow.

It’s not clear whether Madonna had her curb painted yellow because she wanted the area to be a designated loading/drop off zone or she just liked the color. She did take a parting shot at the city for the ugly color of its concrete-colored curbs, maybe not fully understanding the meaning of the specific colors of painted curbs.

We all want our own private parking spots – for some of us, they’re called driveways, for others, they’re fake handicapped parking tags. Some people try the paper bag over a parking meter trick, others throw out a lawn chair and invoke the rule of “savesies.” Everybody’s got an angle on claiming parking – but few are as audacious about it as Madonna.

Read the article here.

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Lunch with The Donald — No Not That One – The Hutongs of Beijing

“Actually I learn more from you than you learn from me” he says as we part after lunch at the UCLA Faculty Center. I smile and nod. He is most gracious.

Don Shoup in retirement is the same Don Shoup when he was teaching. He still has an office at UCLA and he still is on speed dial with CNN and Fox News. When every they have a parking story, he’s worth a pithy quote.

He loves to talk about how the difficult part of making changes in parking policy is political, not technical. His lead story this lunch was about Beijing. During a recent visit, he was given a tour of the ancient alleyways, Hutongs,  near the Forbidden City. They are a mixture of poor dwellings and compounds where more well to do live. These houses and compounds have one thing in common, they do not have toilets. Residents use common facilities located down the block. And according to tour guides, these are some of the least hygienic in Asia. In addition, cars were parked everywhere.


Don wondered whether a residential parking program would generate enough money to clean up the local privies. Some graduate research discovered that it would cost $65,000 to upgrade the facilities in each Hutong.  The parking program and maintenance on the restrooms would cost $25,000 a year but would generate $50,000 in revenue. In a little over two years the program would pay for itself and begin to generate funds that could be used for other programs.

He published a paper on the subject and even before it was translated into Chinese it raised substantial interest in the Capital.  The government liked the idea that the more well to do (those owning cars) would be paying and the less fortunate would benefit from the resulting maintenance program. Wealth redistributed. A Communist dream. It’s being tested in a number of Hutongs today.

In a presentation to the Manhattan Institute, Don wondered why this type of program wouldn’t work in New York City.  There are no residential permit programs in the city, and car owners spend many hours searching for and keeping parking spaces. “Wouldn’t someone on the Upper East Side pay a lot to have a reserved parking space near their apartment home?” he said. Plus, wouldn’t someone in a less wealthy area like to participate in the program, too.   If the city were to auction the spaces on the Upper East Side, they could go for a substantial amount. Probably much more than the spaces would go for in less affluent areas.

upper east side (2)

In those areas a reverse auction could be held. If there were 1000 spaces available, residents could bid on the spaces, and the 1000 highest bids would be selected, however each would pay the lowest amount bid. The bids might range from $1000 to $100, but everyone bidding would pay $100. This program is being used with great success to allocate permits in some lots at Chapman University in Southern California.

The additional monies generated in the affluent areas could be used to supplement costs in the poorer sections of the city.

The problem is that New York has opposite side of the street parking bans where weekly you must move your car so the streets can be swept. How could I have a reserved space if I had to move my car twice a week? The streets still have to be swept.

Our fearless parking rock star proposes boutique street cleaning. City workers using high tech vacuums would walk the streets and clean around the parked cars. It would cost more, but the monies generated from the parking program could pay for it. “Think of the pressure removed from drivers in Manhattan. They wouldn’t be playing parking roulette twice a week. How much is that worth to them?”

Would this sell in the Big Apple. The current administration is ‘progressive.’ Don thinks it would. The program redistributes wealth by taking higher parking fees in some areas and using them to supplement lower fees in others.  It would also allow the city to hire more workers (street cleaners) and reduce some unemployment.

From the back alleys of Beijing to the streets of the Upper East Side. Who would have thunk it.


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Who Framed Roger Rabbit — What Happened to Neighborhoods in Los Angeles

Gerhart Mayer, an architect, planner, and futurist in Los Angeles, has written a piece on how parking affects the ‘design’ of areas in the city. We have posted it on Park News trending.  You can read his piece here.

He is saying that all the surface parking is taking space that could be used for quaint villages surrounding metro rail stations. He longs for cities that look like Zurich or Amsterdam, not high rises like Manhattan and Century City. He calls these vertical gated communities.

An example of his ideal is Third street in Santa Monica, where he says that the city planned garages surrounding the promenade.  Well, not really.

Third street in Santa Monica has gone through many changes over the past half century. The parking structures were built to support the commercial activity on Third street. Then a shopping center was built at one end. Then the street was turned into a promenade. Then it was ‘revitalized.’  The shopping center basically torn down and rebuilt. The parking has existed through all this activity.  Now it will be the terminus of the expo line of the metro.

Amsterdam, Zurich, Bologna, Saltsberg, even San Francisco, and myriads of other quaint, walkable cities, are also old cities.  They were built before trains and buses. The rapid transit was added later.  In Amsterdam, for instance, the very efficient tram system was build to fit narrow streets and hundreds of bridges over canals. The neighborhoods came first, the transit followed.

Mayer posits that we should mandate such neighborhoods and assist in their creation by:

  • Eliminating parking minimums
  • Eliminating long-term parking above grade
  • Eliminating parking in the vicinity of a transit station
  • Allowing conventional parking below the public right of way (e.g., under streets)
  • Creating automated parking
  • Creating automated parking below the public right of way (e.g., under streets)
  • Managing parking as a public utility

The problem with all this is that quaint little neighborhoods are expensive to build. Revitalizing the century old buildings as they did in Santa Monica is one thing, to build them from scratch is quite another. Mayer disparages ready built neighborhoods like Americana in Glendale or the Grove in Los Angeles, which are basically shopping centers build to look like neighborhoods. He considers them fake and ‘bubbly’.

But the thing that makes neighborhoods in Amsterdam, or Paris, or London what they are isn’t the quaint buildings or the cobblestone streets, its the history that underlies the area. If you want a quaint walkable area in Santa Monica, go to Main Street. or Abbott Kinney. The shops, clubs and restaurants there have a history. The construction goes back what, 100 years. The Promenade in Santa Monica is in reality a long shopping center with upscale stores and readymade theme restaurants. Its The Americana or the Grove laid out in a straight line over four blocks.

Quaint walkable neighborhoods create themselves over time. Unique shops locate there because of the lower rent, people go there because of the shops.  I agree with Mayer that getting the government out of the business of requiring parking is a good first step. However changing zoning laws to enable a restaurant to go where a hardware store once was is also a beginning.

I admire his desire to have it all, a quaint walkable area with parking underground so it doesn’t show.  Suddenly those inexpensive shops and clubs become rent prohibitive. The most expensive construction you can have is underground.

My solution — let it evolve over time. Follow Houston’s lead and do way with zoning. Let entrepreneurs open their stores and get the regulation out of the way. Instead of light rail, why not put trams on the streets. Make it convenient for people to hop on and hop off.

You know, like they had in Los Angeles in 1920.  The finest most complete transit system on the planet. But then politics and greed destroyed all that. Rent ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit.’ As Mayer points out, it tells the whole story.




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Trigger Warning == Read at your own risk

The previous blog’s headline has created more discussion than any 10 blogs about on and off street parking. I have been lambasted for my crudeness and congratulated on the wisdom of the blog. What to do.

The tendency when these things happen is to do nothing, as whatever you do you simply draw attention to the gaff, assuming its a gaff. Thinking on it in 2020 hindsight, using that headline probably wasn’t in the best of taste. However it also shows that some of our readers have a sensitive streak that I seem to have found. To those who found the headline offensive, mea culpa.
For the others out there that wrote in expressing the wisdom of the blog in toto, thanks.

Sometimes in an effort to be cute or catch an eye, we go around the bend a bit. Stuff happens.

I think that we have moved into a time in our society when virtually everything, in any context, can be taken as offensive to some. We are beaten to death by those who feel offended by almost any slight. Our college students live in fear of hearing a word or seeing a bit of graffiti that might offend them to the point of tears. Who are we raising, a bunch of wimps. They are actually creating ‘safe zones’ where kids can go so they won’t have to listen to speech that offends. Good Grief.

Comedians can’t tell jokes any more. They will be pilloried. Don’t compliment a woman, she may take offense. And for God’s sake don’t use the term “niggardly” (from middle English, nigon) when you describe Shylock, an entire race or maybe two, will feel slighted.

Have we reached the point where our sensitivity scale overwhelms common sense? When I came home in tears because some bully called me a name, my mother told me to get over it. “For goodness sake,”she told me as she dried my tears, “worry about something that is important.”

Thanks Mom – Nuff Said


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Does Size Matter? Intertraffic and Amsterdam

No I’m not talking about THAT.  All men know that size does not matter.  I’m talking about Trade Shows.  I have just returned from Intertraffic in Amsterdam, arguably the largest trade event for Parking and Traffic anywhere.

INt 1

The IPI may argue that their event is larger but I defy anyone to spend a few days in Amsterdam and not be wowed by an event that is held in six huge halls, has over 800 exhibits, and more than 30,000 people who pass through the doors.

intger 1

However, when its soo big, it can be overwhelming. One visitors came into our booth and sat down shaking his head.  “I’m overwhelmed. It will take three days just to see the parking portion.  Some of the booths are larger than my house.”

There must have been 100 people in the Scheidt and Bachmann booth. OK 50

scheidt int

There were work stations, displays of equipment, and folks ready to help.  Assuming you could squeeze your way into the booth. Don’t single out S and B. The same was true of Skidata, Hub, Parkeon, Designa and the rest.  S and B had a theater that sat 50 people where they could give presentations.  Virtually all the major booths had bars (yes beer and wine), food service (Hub imported their chef from Bologna), plus private meeting rooms.

Amsterdam is a wild place. Las Vegas is almost prudish in comparison.  One booth had a woman wearing only a bikini bottom covered in body paint rollerskating the hall passing out cards welcome folks to their display.  She only lasted one day after an Iranian visitor complained and the local PC police shut her down. What a waste.

Don’t get me wrong — I love Intertraffic.  Its big, its bold, it has everything. Its well worth the trip. But just how much solid information do you get? How many close contacts do you make?  The exhibitors spends tens if not hundreds of thousands to display their wares. You really need a filter to ensure you get the information you want.

As an exhibitor how do you know who is a suspect, a prospect, or a lookie loo.  Its almost impossible to tell. Plus add the tower of babel language issues and who knows.

A number of American companies were there simply to walk the floor and get a ‘feel’ for the place. They asked me if they should exhibit.  I asked if they were opening and office in Europe.  If so, yes. If not, no. I don’t think you make sales at Intertraffic.  You set the process in motion. Then you follow up.

They announce huge deals signed at the show. But these had been in the works for months. No one walked into a stand for the first time and signed a purchase order.

I suggest you go to Amsterdam and intertraffic to see Anne Frank’s house, the Riksmuseum, Rembrandt and the rest. The tulips are just blooming, the food is fantastic, and canals, the best. Spend a couple of days at the show and see what’s coming down the pike parking wise — the Europeans seem to lead the way. Take in the atmosphere of one of the worlds great exhibitions and great cities.

Then come to PIE  and the NPA and talk turkey about your needs.


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Turning Parking into Housing

It’s all a matter of perspective. A vacant parking garage is a failed venture to some, and a structure of enormous potential to others. Architect Alfredo Brillembourg has an interesting plan for unused parking structures in Europe: turn them into housing. According to curbed.com, Brillembourg noticed under-used parking structures throughout his travels in Europe and surrounding areas. While the structures were under-used for their original purpose, they had found new life as restaurants, unofficial homeless shelters, and unfortunately, havens for drug use.

Brillembourg says that empty parking structures are already being converted for other uses – just not intentionally or intelligently. He says they could be purposefully reimagined and revised to function in ways that are more relevant. Parking is still relevant everywhere, but in some places, public transit has overtaken driving, and in others, parking is been more than adequately provided leaving some parking structures vacant. Brillembourg sees these buildings being transformed to spaces for refugees, the homeless and even modelled into low-cost public housing.

A parking garage is an open building, and Brillembourg and his team see specific advantages to that. Open buildings both adapt more readily to a user’s needs and encourage that user’s participation, which is particularly important when it comes to public housing.

Parking structures provide an eminently adaptable existing infrastructure. They are central and sturdy. Internal reconfiguration wouldn’t need to consider supporting walls, and a structure’s open sides would provide ventilation and natural light. They’re also modular: “You can rent a parking space, you can rent two or three. Depending on your expandability, you can expand and improve,” says Brillembourg.

Many won’t see a parking structure as the ideal home, but those with no other option might be more than grateful. In places like Dallas, where there is a known surplus of parking, this could be something to consider. There would ne many obstacles to a transformation of this type, especially in the United States, but regardless of actual feasibility, it’s fascinating to hear such an original idea.

Read the article here.

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Parking for the Rich and Famous

You think you’ve heard of every possible parking configuration possible. You think you’ve heard of every extreme parking scenario ever formed. But then you read something on nypost.com that opens your eyes a little. A high-end apartment complex in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. offers buyers parking right off their units – two spots for each of the 132 homes. And for the owner of the 4-story penthouse, a special spot for a car collection.

What sets the penthouse apart, however, is that its deep-pocketed buyer will also receive a separate 57th-floor “car gallery” — a roughly 3,000-square-foot space that can accommodate up to seven additional cars, The Post can reveal.

Only six of the tower’s units are still available – including the penthouse. The sky rise, built by developer Gil Dezer is called the Porsche Design Tower. The building has a car lift that delivers vehicles to their owners’ apartments. The car is definitely a main theme.

Anybody interested can make a bid for the $32 million penthouse. The car gallery can be customized with rooms, pool tables, bars and any old thing – or left open for car storage.

I don’t want to own this place, but I’d really like to see it in person.

Read the article here.

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Philly Resident Creates Map of City Parking Rules

A Philadelphia woman has turned her parking obsession into a comprehensive and interactive map of parking regulations on the city’s streets. According to citylab.com, Lauren Ancona was curious about parking rules in Philadelphia, and when she couldn’t find posted signs or even documents outlining those rules, she began to search for them. Her search led her to create a map of the city and its parking laws. That map has gone from an incomplete blue print version to a digital and highly accessible resource for residents.

We don’t all have parking obsessions, so most people aren’t going to need to know the parking laws for their entire city, like Ancona, but plenty of people could use street-by-street data for parking rules in their city and the cities they visit. “Know before you go” is practically a mantra for Millenials and the rest of us who tinker with our smart phones day and night. The map can be found at http://parkadelphia.com/#12/39.9540/-75.1751/9.2

On the map, you can select any or all of these layers of data from the sidebar on the left, and click on a street you’re curious about. The map will then pull up the parking rules.

It’s fascinating how this parking map came about – the tools, the demand and the creator all finally appeared at once. This is something every city could use – and it’s something a city should probably provide its residents, not the other way around.

Read the article and see the map here.

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Airport Parking Needs a Lift

From my experience, choices for airport parking are average, below-average and bad. What motivation does an airport parking provider have to offer amazing customer service and attractive perks to its customers when none of them really has the option to skip airport parking. If they had a ride or access to convenient public transport, they wouldn’t be leaving their car at the airport. After that, it’s a done deal.

I’m not saying all my airport parking experiences are bad, but they definitely aren’t anything memorable.

A recent study of airport customer service in Australia conducted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) examined parking at the Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth airports. Findings showed that Melbourne had the worst parking customer service as well as the highest revenue for parking.

“I think the disappointment there is we’ve seen quite a large increase in the revenue per passenger that the airports make and yet service levels over time, have been going backwards,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

Read the article here.

Parking providers in Melbourne should consider what’s going on at Bob Hope Airport where increased competition from car services like Uber and Lyft are cutting in to profits. Bob Hope Airport officials are talking about introducing new rates – some lower and some higher – to attract customers.

“It’s a way to entice passengers to park here,” said Lucy Burghdorf, an airport spokeswoman. Burghdorf added that the proposed system, which would be implemented as a one-year trial should it be approved by the airport authority board, would give the airfield the ability to raise and lower rates to “find a happy medium” between giving passengers a good deal and turning a profit.

The moral of the story is that while airport parking has long enjoyed a captive consumer base, competition is now increasing. It’s already time for airport parking providers to address their approaches to pricing, customer service and customer loyalty.

Read the article here.

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Just how much technology do you need?

I had a conversation with a parking technology expert the other day and she reminded me how Smart Cities will begin to change the face of parking as devices (sensors, meters, etc) begin to provide information about available space.  She said that programs like the now defunct SF Park and LA’s Express Park were leading the way to a Smart Parking in a Smart City program.

This reminded me of a conversation I had when SF Park was in its infancy. I was in the ‘City by the bay’ visiting their coin counting operation and was introduced to the head of their meter shop.  I asked him if he was excited about all the information they were going to get from SF Park and how they could use it to provide dynamic pricing for the city.

He rolled his eyes and said “I can give you that information now.”

It seems that he has been tracking meter income, and by looking at that information, he could tell which areas were full, which areas had available parking and then predict what the change in pricing up or down would mean to occupancy.

He noted that he really didn’t have to go to the meter level, that the information by block face was adequate and that he and his staff could show through a revenue study just how onstreet parking flowed in the city.

I asked him why he didn’t supply that data to SF Park. “No one asked.” he said.

I have thought a lot about that conversation over the years. San Francisco spent upwards of $27 million in federal funds and adjusted some pricing in some meters. I’m not sure we have ever seen just how well the project worked. But that is typical of what I think happens when technology begins to rule common sense.

If you remember the program was to use in street sensors to provide app users real time parking availability and at the same time enable the city to adjust rates quickly to ensure on street parking availability. As you know, the sensor program never really worked and the on line app program was abandoned early on.

It might be interesting to compare the information garnered on excel spread sheets in the meter shop with information used by SF Park to see if the city already had enough data to make the pricing changes.

A tremendous amount of technology was brought to bear on this project. Was it necessary? Did the data pretty much already exist? Was technology used for technology’s sake?

To be fair my tech expert told she doubted that many cities had collected the data the way the fellow in San Francisco did. I wonder if she ever asked.


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