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Frustrating, but the Way of the World

I have attended some seminars on parking this past week and have an observation: The higher someone is on the corporate/organizational ladder, the more esoteric their comments become.

If you are the head of a parking operation in a small to medium sized city, or a line consultant speaking from experience about this topic or that, you pretty much simply tell your story. If you have a corner office and a lot of initials after your name, well…

For instance, I listened to a presentation from very senior staffers in major departments of transportation. The discussion was peppered with terms like “deep dive” and “Don’t play well together,” “pivot,” “stakeholders,” “rethinking,” “order out of chaos,” “thick skin,” and “don’t have a choice.”

They explained just how political many of the decisions required to move the parking system one way or the other were. That makes sense. The larger the city, the more “stakeholders” there are and the more that have to be convinced. Sometimes it takes years to change a rate by 25 cents.

I think that the more political one becomes, the more it may be necessary to temper one’s remarks with terms that could have many meanings, and let the listener put the meaning that best fits their wheelhouse.

It can be frustrating, but it’s the way of the world.

JVH

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Park Here – You will be Fined, Arrested, and Jailed

One of the members of the IPMI asked its forum for help in designing a sign to communicate its parking rules to its customers. They sent in this sign which is not finalized to be used as a place to start:

I get the feeling that I best not be parking here.. It certainly isn’t welcoming, doesn’t give the parker any kind of a warm feeling, and frankly tells me that I don’t want to park there and that you don’t want me to park there.

The First line tells me no trespassing, so how am I going to park there without trespassing.  The last line threatens me with citations or jail time. Wow!

Let me give it a try:

Welcome to the Downtown Parking Facility

To make your stay safer and more pleasant, keep the following in mind:

  • We provide the space, you provide the car. You are responsible for what happens to your property. Be sure to lock your car and keep your personal items out of sight.
  • Watch out for pedestrians, drive really slow (10 mph). Remember you will be walking here too as soon as you park your car. We want you to be safe.
  • If you have a trailer or your vehicle is longer than 20 feet, please park in our surface lot outside. This structure was designed for those of us with smaller vehicles.
  • Prove you are an excellent driver – be sure you park between the lines so you can open your doors and get out of your car with ease. We know you know where not to park.
  • Respect our Handicapped spaces, someday that could be you.
  • Save gas money. Keep idling to a minimum.
  • Be forward thinking, point your car into the space.
  • Keep your party animal under control, and your alcohol and armaments, too. If you want to party hardy, park here, and take your group outside. There’s a great park just up the road for you skaters, scooter and bike riders. This garage was designed for motor driven vehicles and skates and bikes are a no no.
  • The local constabulary will be around checking out how you are doing. Give them a smile and they will smile back. Keep the above in mind so they don’t have to go to all the trouble of writing a ticket or calling a tow truck.

OK, it might be a little folksy, but you get the idea. Signs like this attract attention, the one above is usually ignored. (remember the speed limit sign at the mall that says ” 7 MPH.”) I understand your lawyer won’t like this but have her write what she wants and put it in fine print at the bottom. They love fine print.

JVH

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Why can’t they affect parking behavior in Boston?

“You can’t park illegally. I mean, you get a ticket, there’s something wrong there, and I’m asking people to just, y’know, respect the rules of the road,” Walsh told the Herald. “No parking in front of fire hydrants, no parking in front of handicap ramps — those are the main tickets we give. There are some expired meters as well. A ticket is not something we give out just randomly across the city of Boston — you only get a ticket if there’s an infraction there. And we’re also looking at how do we cut down on traffic and congestion. Y’know, all of that — those issues.

That quote pretty much sums up the attitude of the city of Boston, and perhaps many cities across the fruited plain. We are not here to provide convenient parking and good service, we are here to enforce rules. And by golly, we are going to do that.

Boston writes 1.3 million citations a year and collects upwards of $65 million in fines, and according to the article quoted in parknews.biz, the number of citations written is going down slightly, but the revenue is going up – yep, they are raising fees. And we all know where those fees are going. Right smack dab into the general fund.

The article quotes a number of people who receive citation after citation and pay hundreds a year in fines. They seem like regular people, why are they getting so many tickets. Why has the city of Boston been unable to change their behavior?

Could it have something to do with the mayor’s attitude. Have they discussed the reasons they have rules about parking and what those rules mean not only to the city but also to the parkers. What kind of PR program do they have to promote parking in the city? Do they explain the need for the rules and what they men to the preservation of this most critical municipal asset?

I think we all know the answer to that.

JVH

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JVH vs Tony – Part Deux


My comments on the city of Portland and Tony Jordan and a parking deck expansion brought a storm of comments on Twitter but little here until Tony responded to my blog last night. You can read his comments attached to my blog below.

Tony is a bright guy and his words do tug at one’s heart strings. I stand corrected that it didn’t take him four hours to get to our offices, but only two. And I’m happy that his vacation was enhanced by the experience. But most of us see commuting as a way to get from point A to point B. and as Astrid has pointed out elsewhere, time is important.

I appreciate that Tony bills himself as a parking capitalist. But on one hand he says he would leave parking up to the developers in an area and on the other, he says he would rather not see the parking be built.

I agree with Tony 100% that the city should get out of the parking business and leave it to private enterprise. No, he should not be paying taxes to build parking spaces. I missed that little factoid when I read the original article. However, I don’t agree that the city should be taxing parking as a ‘congestion charge’. He claims not to be ‘against parking’ but wishes it to be taxed out of existence.

My experience has been when the government dips its toe into a situation, the law of unintended consequences rears its ugly head. In the UK, congestion pricing went into effect in London and congestion went down. Then within a few years, it was back to nearly the same place it was before, so they instituted a new type of tax on vehicles based on the amount of pollution they caused. What’s next when that fails. People who can afford a Range Rover or a Rolls can afford to pay the tax, and the less well heeled in our society get shafted.

As for my comment that he is ‘anti-parking’ and therefore ‘anti-car’, I base that on the presentation he and his team from the city of Portland made at PIE two years ago. I listened carefully and determined that the goal of this group, Tony included, was to rid the planet, at least around Portland, of the privately owned vehicle. I agree that parking reform is important, and a Shoupista approach is one way to tackle it. But only one way.

The problem is that Don Shoup has a three-legged stool – Market pricing, return money to the neighborhoods, do away with parking minimums. Most cities don’t have the courage to do all three and end up with a hodgepodge that one consultant told me “we consultants have to go in and fix.”

I feel Tony’s frustration that with all the bike lanes and light rail and buses, people still want to drive. And I have thought a lot about that. Yes some of the youth is moving into the central city and therefore don’t own cars, but at some point they do move to the burbs and need to get back into the city to work, play, shop, etc. The taste of the freedom to do that exactly when and where they want is related to the privately owned vehicle. Once they have a taste of that, its hard to go back to the train and bus schedule.

If somehow we could make the trains, buses, and bikes a convenient as cars, who knows. I have some comments on how to ‘re imagine’ our cities but that is for another day.

All the best Tony, keep up the good work in Portland.

JVH

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I Hate Twitter  Hate Hate Hate     

Yes, my comments below about Tony Jordan and Portland created a Twitter storm, well maybe a Twitter drizzle, and I found myself lambasted from as far away as Singapore and as close to home as the PDXshoupistas. My problem isn’t criticism, I have a fairly thick skin, my problem is that I have great difficulty responding in 280 characters.

Note that the above paragraph is almost exactly 280 characters and says virtually nothing. A university in Italy has done a study of Twitter, comparing it to classroom learning, and found the following:

In fact, the cognitive problems with Twitter may very well be its differences, as those who have grown frustrated with the platform well know. Its character limit rewards pithiness over thoughtfulness, and promotes zingers over analysis. Even in the best of environments, Twitter is less a place for reasoned discourse than for gossip and pleasantries. Thanks to Twitter management’s heavy-handed “community standards” policies and the snitch-society incentives they have created, the best of environments has long since departed. Read the entire article here.

Get that – “less a place for reasoned discourse than for gossip and pleasantries…”

Nevertheless we here at PT are caught in the Twitter nightmare and will continue to use it to communicate, however as we did last night, we will attempt to direct folks to a place for “reasoned discourse”, ie this blog, a place where there is no limit on the number of characters one can use to get their point across.

It’s easy to call someone out, it is more difficult to shore up your position with more than a ‘pithy comment.’

I challenge you to read my ‘stuff’, and then comment with thoughtfulness and analysis.

See you around the blog.

JVH

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For the Record

In my blogging I often add a few throw away comments that get under the skin of some readers. I have been accused of being against:

  • Anthropogenic Climate change
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Connected Cars
  • Rapid Transit
  • Most City Government
  • Bike Lanes
  • Bird type scooters
  • Bicycles
  • Most reporters
  • Organizations in General
  • Autonomous Vehicles
  • Urban Development/planning

In fact, this list, incomplete as it is, misrepresents my feelings and frankly I’m a bit hurt. Lets check them off one by one

Anthropogenic Climate Change – You can’t be for it or against it. It either is or it isn’t. It’s just that to date I haven’t seen anything that has convinced me that it’s happening. When so called scientists have to cook the books to make their point, I think its time to move on.

Electric Vehicles. I’m all for them. I have said time and again that the Tesla may be the greatest car ever made. I just don’t think my tax dollars should go to support the companies that are making them, nor do I think the government should require companies to manufacture them (See CAFÉ standards.)

Connected Cars – The concept of having someone know everywhere you go and track everything you do is a bit anathema to me. Having information at my fingertips about your trip, your vehicle, and your route and if you want, your Alexa hooked in to your car is a good thing. Note: If you want.

Rapid Transit – I love trains. I’m just not sure they are the solution of all our ills. The first question is: If we are going to get all these cars off the roads and people into trains, who is going to pay for the trains?

Most City Government, in fact most government – guilty as charged. The larger the government the less responsive it is to the needs of the individual citizens.

Bike Lanes – Great idea, except when they take away lanes for the majority, the vast majority, and provide for a very small minority. See Bicycles.

Bird Type Scooters – actually I rather like the idea but think they need to be licensed and controlled much like our vehicles are.

Bicycles – they are super. And work well in Amsterdam and Copenhagen but not so much in cities like Houston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. The distances are just too great

Most Reporters – They have an agenda and it comes through in the questions they ask and how they couch their stories.

Organizations in General  – See reporters. Naturally they are agenda driven, and as long as they are my agenda, they are OK.

Autonomous Vehicles. I’m all for them, I just don’t believe they will be taking over our streets and highways in the next five years, more like the next thirty years, and then they will be buses, taxis, long haul trucks, and not private vehicles.

Urban Development/planning – Once again, agenda driven, mostly to do away with vehicles. The planners know better what people want than the people themselves. It’s ok the plan for the future, but not at the expense of the present.

There – I’m on the record. If you think I’m wrong, let me know.

JVH

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Portland, Parking, and Climate Change

The City of Portland, OR, is considering expanding an existing garage in one of its neighborhoods. It could add as many as 392 spaces to the 400 space facility. You can read all about it at parknews.biz.

Our friend Tony Jordan and his anti-parking group has opposed the expansion. Local residents want the expansion because, they say, construction in the area has removed many parking spaces and the additional spaces in the garage will actually have a net increase of zero. Jordan and Co. aren’t after a net increase of zero, they are after a decrease. After all Climate Change is going to destroy us all and cars cause Climate Change.

What frustrates Jordan, according to the article, is that despite decades of campaigning against the automobile and spending billions on rapid transit, there has been a less than 3% reduction in auto use in the Portland area. Here’s a quote from the Willamette Week:

“You could have a tax on downtown all-day parking garages, and that would effectively be a congestion charge for commuters into the city of Portland,” says parking reform advocate Tony Jordan. “Cars cause climate change, and cars need to park somewhere, and if you charge more and build less, fewer cars will park there.”

Can’t our Mobility Betters learn from history. One size doesn’t fit all. Simply telling people to ride bicycles or take the train and trying to force them out of their cars doesn’t work, never has, never will. If you want to reduce congestion, you need to provide reasonable alternatives.

When Tony visited our offices in Los Angeles a year or so ago, he was staying friends in San Pedro and was proud of the fact that he arrived at our LAX digs four hours after he left his friends home, having taken public transportation. At the time of day he came it was a 30 minute commute by car.

Using the Metro, bus, and foot links may have made him feel warm and cuddly, but it simply isn’t a viable alternative. And the people of Los Angeles, and yes, of Portland,  aren’t going to sign up for quadrupling their commute. The success of Uber and Lyft have shown that.

I’m all for Tony and his ilk to keep up the good work and succeed in reducing congestion, and smog for that matter, but they really need to take human nature into account.

Caution, JVH Screed ahead:

By the way, did you know that about 70% of greenhouse gases are water vapor, you know, clouds. Only 30% are potentially caused by man. So even if you believe that we are causing climate change, and that change will do something horrendous to the planet, twisting ourselves into pretzels to reduce what greenhouse gases we can isn’t enough to make much of a difference, particularly since the US has reduced its greenhouse gas emission more than virtually any other country on the planet while China and India are leading the way to increase their participation in the greenhouse gas race.

Just Sayin.

JVH

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Do They Have an Agenda

Thinking about the problem in Koreatown I mentioned below, I wonder if there is an agenda here. Our betters at City Hall have decided that automobile ownership is bad. So they are making using a car in the city as difficult as possible.

Think about it. If there are ways to make parking easier and car ownership more seamless, and you are opposed to car ownership, then why make it easier to own a car. Why not make it more difficult?

Think about the infamous “Great Streets” scheme and the infamous bicycle lanes. The bike lanes in LA are virtually unused. The main result of spending millions a mile to create them is to make the streets narrower, adding to congestion, and slowing traffic thus making driving more difficult in the city. They remove some parking spaces, also making parking more difficult.

In cities like New York and Los Angeles, there is already discussion about congestion pricing, making driving more expensive. An Anti-Car agenda. In California we have among the highest gasoline taxes in the nation, adding about 60 cents to every gallon of gas sold. We also have some of the poorest maintained roads in the country. The gas tax isn’t going to fix the roads. Is this also part of the anti-car agenda?

But who is really being affected by all this? It’s the older neighborhoods, like Koreatown, with older, less expensive apartments with no parking that see this problem. It’s people who live there and need their cars to get to work halfway across town who are hit with the high cost of gas or the congestion caused by bike lanes.

I thought city hall was to represent all the people, not just the ones on the west side of LA or the Upper East Side of New York. It’s the wealthy that have all the great ideas, and the not so wealthy that unfortunately reap the results.

By the Way, Astrid pointed out that one good thing has come out of the parking problems in Koreatown – People are praying more. Maybe to the patron saint of parking. See my blog of nine years ago here.

JVH

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Parking, A Blood Sport

I just read an article from the LA Times posted on Parknews titled “Want to Park in Koreatown? Get Ready for a Blood Sport. Read it here.

Wow! Where to begin?

First of all, the quote wasn’t from a talented headline writer, it was from a resident in the area. Second, if you read the article carefully, you find that it isn’t that there is little parking in Koreatown, its that there is little “FREE” parking in Koreatown. Yes, there are some garages and lots, but of course you have to pay to park there. And people would rather spend hours a month searching for free onstreet parking than pay what, $25, $50 or $75 a week, to park in a lot nearby.

But let’s say I’m wrong. There is no paid parking available. Then what? Since the city has elected to subsidize the parking by making on street parking ‘free’, there is little incentive for anyone to provide parking. Why would I risk millions building a parking facility only to be in competition with more convenient parking that the city is providing for free. Makes no sense.

It would seem the solution would be easy. Set up a parking district. Provide on street parking for residents at a reasonable fee. Then invite private industry to fill in the gaps. If it makes financial sense, I’ll bet you will have more parking in Koreatown than you can shake a stick at.

If there was parking nearby, perhaps landlords could cut deals with the operators and provide parking for their tenants and include it in the rent. They would raise the rent a bit, but it might be a service that apartments could provide.

The other complaint was street cleaning. No Parking 8-10 on Wednesday. So people hover, waiting for 10 AM so they can get a spot. Sometimes they roll the dice and hope enforcement doesn’t show up and park at 945. And probably get a ticket. It’s a cat and mouse game played between the PEOs and citizens.

The purpose is to get the cars off the street so the street sweepers can clean the roadway. Why not allow the cars to park after the street sweeper goes by? If you see that the sweeper is finished, go park. Enforcement could precede the sweeper and ticket those that haven’t moved, fair enough. Why cite if there is no reason to do so?

Think about all the time wasted by both PEOs and parkers lurking and waiting for the deadline to pass.

I just had another take on all this — See next blog entry above.

JVH

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What a Difference a few Decades Make

When I left the army in 1970, we were told not to wear our uniforms in public. The odds were that we would be jeered, attacked, spat upon or worse. Our country had lost respect for those that were fighting and dying for it. But times have changed.

The other day I shared a flight with a group of soldiers in uniform. When we landed the flight attendant asked that we wait while the soldiers left the plane. They did so to thunderous applause. What a difference a few decades make.

It is possible that we are showing more maturity that we did in the 60s, but reflecting the state of politics today, probably not. I think it may have to do with the fact that those in service today are volunteers. They signed up to go. They put themselves in harm’s way. They earned our respect and our thanks.

While you are flipping that burger or sipping that beer this weekend, take a moment and think about those that volunteered, and those who came home in body bags. Not only were their lives shattered, but those of their loved one’s too. They knew it was possible, but they went anyway.

Memorial Day isn’t’ just about remembering, but its also about showing thanks and respect. You would be surprised what a simple “Thank you for your service” means to someone who risked everything, and just possibly risked everything for you.

Happy Memorial Day.

JVH

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