Things I Know About Parking
What I know about parking is that it’s everywhere, but a few things really stand out.
A parking lot can be anything you want it to be. I was aware of this before the pandemic, but I’ve seen it confirmed 100 times over during the last year. Nearby parking lots have been transformed into mobile hospitals, restaurants, vaccination centers, delivery zones, movie theaters, temporary RV parks, playgrounds, and so on. A city near mine has just closed all the parking and the entire street in their downtown restaurant and shopping area. Where before five cars could have parked, now 25 diners can eat their tapas and drink their craft beer.
When things get bad, parking is an area where much accommodation can be offered. See above. Not only that, last March, our city stopped charging at parking at meters for a month and stopped giving tickets on street cleaning days for six months. It was a quick and kind way to help those who were already in some distress. People lost their jobs and needed a break on costs. Other people who used to park at work started working from home and street parking became less available. Maybe these policy revisions weren’t the best for the bottom line, but they were the best a municipal parking entity can offer during extreme situations. And they did it without being asked.
On the opposite end, if your city closes the beach during a pandemic, you will never forgive them. I told myself I could get through whatever was coming if I could take a daily walk by the beach. Then the parking area and meters were closed and drones flew overhead watching for sneaky surfers. It will be a long time before I forget the police tape tied to parking meters, flashing signs and barriers making the best, safest place around totally inaccessible.
The parking lot is the autonomous vehicle’s Achilles heel. Parking lots and parking structures are the most difficult obstacle for the wide-spread dissemination of self-driving cars. Programming an autonomous vehicle to deal with the varieties and complexities of these spaces is more difficult than teaching them the rules of the street, road, driveway, or highway. I’d like to see a parking industry genius solve this problem for the autonomous vehicle industry and make a billion dollars.
Apps aren’t just something millennials and Gen Z use when they’re bored. Some apps are for fun, but other apps are a legitimate way to avoid other people’s germs. Who doesn’t want that? If we thought apps were a big deal before, they are going to be even more essential in an increasing number of post-pandemic parking scenarios. Reserve a spot? Use an app. Pay for a spot? Use an app. Extend your time? Use an app. And you only need to come in contact with your own microbes.
There is no end to the fight over handicapped parking. There are endless Reddit threads on the subject. There are people who consider themselves the handicapped parking spot police who are ever ready to make a citizen’s arrest. There are thousands of legitimate users who look perfectly normal, but are truly handicapped; and thousands who look healthy and are truly healthy – except for their compromised consciences. I think handicapped parking is one of those things that probably can’t be monitored – only provided consistently and with enough room for legitimate users and inevitable cheaters.
Electric cars are a bigger fire hazard than ICE cars. Peter Guest offered this tidbit in a recent Big Ben column. Besides that, they only reduce pollution if you drive them for a very, very long time.
Anything can be “smart.” A whole city can be wirelessly connected. Parking, in particular, is especially smart. Parking spots sense cars parked over them and when they arrive and depart. Parking garages count their own parking spaces. Meters respond to online payment. Entry arms recognize obstructions like dumb humans and stay upright so no one gets hurt. Cameras read license plates. I’m old enough to be constantly amazed at the things that can be automated. My kids can’t use a key or a can opener, but they don’t need to, it’s all taken care of by the smart infrastructure around them. My kids’ children will never handle cash because everywhere they go their payment will be automatically deducted from their financial reserve – most likely subliminally connected by the microchip installed in their brains by the Democrats. Entire generations will be dumber than the machines around them.
Sometimes, you can avoid paying parking fines if you donate food. More than a few cities periodically offer programs where ticket fines are forgiven if the offender donates to a local food drive. I say that’s more than fair and an excellent way to provide for those in need. If I ever get a parking ticket, I am prepared. I’ve got a bag of canned goods in my trunk.