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A Question and an Answer that Proves I have no Clue

I got a note yesterday from a buddy at UCLA, no not THAT buddy, I have more than one.

He was musing on the fact that so much parking in Silicon Valley is surface parking. Considering the extremely valuable land up there, he wondered why many major firms opted for lots rather than subterranean or structured parking.

It appears that when Apple built its upwards of $5 billion campus it did install parking structures, Google, however, did not, relying on five surface lots for employees and visitors. Apple build its ‘spaceship’ headquarters starting from scratch, while Google consolidated existing structures from the former Silicon Graphics headquarters.

However when you look at Silicon Valley, it is true that most of the parking is handled with surface lots. All that expensive land is covered with asphalt.

I have considered my friend’s question and come up with some possible reasons.

First, they may be planning for growth and consider the surface lots locations for future expansion.

Second, they have an almost unlimited amount of money. The value of the land may be unimportant.

Third, “Silicon Valley” isn’t a city unto itself, but the description of an area made up of numerous communities like Cupertino, Mountain View, San Jose and the like. Each of these cities have differing parking requirements for development.

Fourth, most of the companies in Silicon Valley began as startups with a small staff and small headquarters building. They then grew and like Google added buildings as they were required. Parking Structures weren’t foremost in their minds.

Fifth, I have no idea what I’m talking about.

OK, Mike. There’s my list. Whatcha think?


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Why they Hate us – Reason 4,321- Aren’t we Better than This?

It goes like this. Parker pays fee to park. Places receipt on dash. When door closes, receipt flutters to floor. Enforcement comes by, sees no receipt, has car booted. Cost $75 to have boot removed. Driver shows receipt to everyone involved. No recourse. Of course, its blasted all over the front page of the Gainesville, FL Sun. See story here on Parknews.biz

This was on private property but that only makes it worse, as far as I’m concerned. The owner/operator of the parking facility simply said, rules are rules. You lose. The City said, it’s on private property, we can’t do anything about it.

All of the rules that are set on that lot are between the owner of the lot and the vendor. We did try to convince the tow company to refund the money but we have no authority to mandate that they do that,” said GPD (Gainesville PD) Chief Inspector Jorge Campos. “The property owner could mandate that, but that is between the property owner and the car owner.”

Towing draws a lot of complaints in Gainesville, and officials say it’s incumbent on drivers to make sure they know and follow the rules of the place at which they are parking.

That is no help to (Driver who received citation) Bellucci.

“So much for the ‘Great City’ that our commissioners want us to be. Can’t we find a better way (or a better contractor,) to manage our parking compliance?” Bellucci said. “It didn’t take any additional effort or time for the Superior Towing employee to verify that my receipt was valid…Aren’t we better than this?”

Oh please.  You mean to say the city (Inspector Campos) couldn’t have a quiet word with the owner of the parking lot. Show him the error of his ways. That parking facility exists at the pleasure of the city. Does if follow all the rules exactly right? I doubt it.

But this action is easy. Don’t do anything and let parking continue to take it in the neck.


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Parking Authority Vs Law of Unintended Consequences

I was perusing Parknews.biz and found an entry concerning Allentown, PA and my favorite law, that of unintended consequences.

It all started when the local parking authority purchased an LPR system to be used as an enforcement tool. Fair enough. They realized however, that folks who parked in the local structures by backing into the spaces could not be scanned by the new system since Pennsylvania doesn’t require license plates on the front of vehicles registered in the state.

A simple solution was to place signs in the garages requiring parkers to pull in forward in the spaces. Except for one minor problem:

As of 2015, the American Automobile Association found rear cross traffic alert systems worked effectively in limited scenarios. Backing into spaces remained a “best practice,” and AAA recommended motorists continue doing so “whenever possible.” (Emphasis Mine)


The Allentown Parking Authority is arguing that since 2018 all vehicles were required to have back up cameras and that should be sufficient to handle safety issues. Not so, says some local residents.

Mandating the parking practice will exacerbate an already chaotic atmosphere in decks following events, said Bob Kudlak, a retired Allentown fire chief…

Kudlak has backed into parking spaces ever since his Dieruff High School driver’s education instructor hammered home the importance of having a clear and unobstructed view when exiting spaces. The practice was reinforced after responding to a number of tragic accidents during his career with the fire department.

“I appreciate the frustration of getting a ticket for something you didn’t contemplate could occur, and there’s no doubt that the parking authority’s adoption of new technologies will bring its fair share of complaints,” Ted Zeller (Board Chairman) said. “We’re always willing to listen to those complaints, and if adjustments are necessary, we will certainly make them. But in this matter, the public safety and other benefits of this new policy and new technology are paramount.”

That last sentence is troubling, but we will see how all this shakes out.

Personally I like to back in because when I get in the car, and head out, I drive forward. It’s the best way to start a trip.

In the mean time, Allentown is brushing right up next to the Law of Unintended Consequences.


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Social Media and Parking, What a Disaster

The social media headline read: It cost me $920 to have the Barnacle removed from my car, signed babayaga.  OMG  — How unfair – the poor little girl had to pay nearly $1000 to get her car released by the evil parking operation. Read all about it over at parknews.biz.

“$920 to get this removed,” the student tweeted with a sad face emoji. “All bc the university doesn’t have enough permits available nor parking options that are affordable for students that already pay to attend the University.’

That’s the problem with so called “social media.” You can say anything you want with no requirement for research or backup. Of course news media is moving down a similar path.

You have to read the article in the Houston Chronicle completely and do some quick math to understand that in fact it cost $50 to have it removed. The rest was the requirement of paying numerous parking tickets she had ignored. The Parking Department responds:

“It is our responsibility to make sure that there is available parking for those who have paid to have a valid permit,” UH’s parking department tweeted in reply to babayaga. “We offer a wide range of permits from garage to remote campus and we have had permits available throughout the fall and spring semester at all times.”

UH’s barnacle devices, implemented in early December 2019 as a way to deter parking violators and simplify fining processes, are only used for cars consistently parked on campus without a permit and with five or more existing citations, according to the spokesmen. To date, 37 cars have been barnacled, with the violators receiving an average of nine citations for parking without a permit.

I just love these snowflakes. They want everything for nothing. They take no responsibility for their actions. What the hell is this world coming to.

Take a chill pill, JVH.

There is an urban legend that graffiti was found on the walls of a city in ancient Rome that said to the effect: “What is wrong with these young people. The world is coming to an end. It will not survive their generation.”

It is difficult to reach a happy medium. I think the University of Houston has done so. They are allowing students to ignore a number of citations, and then charge them only $50 for the collection effort. They didn’t learn responsibility from their parents, so it is up to the university to do something. Just wait until they ignore nine tickets written off campus. Ha.

By the way – this youngster asked folks on Social Media to help pay her parking fines and received at last count over $200. Could that have been the goal all along?


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Connected People — Rude and Self Involved

Connected cars are one thing, but what about connected people.

Have you noticed that most of us simply cannot exist without constantly checking our phones for texts, email, or messages on Instagram The next time you are at a seminar or meeting, take a look around and check how many in the room have their heads bowed like they are penitent, completely disregarding the person speaking, and typing madly on their phone. My guess is that the number would be upwards of 75% of those in the room.

How must the speaker feel when they look out and see the tops of so many heads.

I experience this when I speak before groups. I often walk out around the attendees and while continuing my talk, stand directly in front of someone who is using their phone. You would be surprised how many look up at me and give me the “stink eye.” After all, I’m intruding on their conversation with their friend, enemy, colleague, or the reservation service at a local restaurant.

I have considered asking folks to put their phones away for the duration, but felt that was an impertinence. I was making the assumption that those who were in attendance were rude and self-involved. Surely educated and well bred folks would offer the courtesy of paying attention or at least feel guilty when caught in the act.

My experience is exactly the opposite. The higher the education and breeding level, the more they were molded into their phones. We have reached the point that we must know every moment what is happening with our colleagues, friends, and businesses. Good Grief.

A coworker mentioned to me the other day that she was going on a personal campaign to not answer a text or email for at least an hour after it was received. That gave her the opportunity to properly consider the answer and also complete whatever task she was working on at the time. There was a problem. Most of her correspondents thought she was dissing them, having a technical melt down, or dead.

I have begun a one person campaign. I will answer electronic correspondence when I get around to it. If you don’t like that, pick up the phone and call me.


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“Can I interest you in a Coffee and a Prune Danish?”

I attended a high tech conference at CES earlier this month sponsored by my friends at Arrive and Flowbird. The thrust was autonomous and connected vehicles. Speakers ranged from an “evangelist” from Amazon who discussed moving Alexa seamlessly from your house to your car, and two wonderful nerds from the University of Michigan who discussed the reality of self driving cars.

My attention was drawn to one speaker who was discussing ‘connected’ vehicles. Here’s the deal. Virtually all new cars delivered in the recent past are ‘connected’ to somewhere (most likely the manufacturer) and data is being constantly uploaded about your vehicle’s health, and in many cases its speed, location, and other tidbits.

Those under 40 in the room seemed non plussed by this conversation, but oldsters like me began to sit up and take notice. So let’s see. Ford, Toyota or BMW will not only know all about the way my car is handling, it’s drive train and steering, but they will also know all about where I am going, how long I am staying, and the route I’m taking to get there.

They can then ‘sell’ that information to a municipality who wants to better understand its traffic patterns and the like. I can sort of buy into that, not like it particularly, but understand it. They can also sell that information to local merchants who would love to know who is driving by at a particular moment and then be able to send ads to Alexia on board my car.

She can then remind me that I am a tad peckish and perhaps I would like to turn in to that McDonald’s up the block and pick up a coffee and prune Danish. Of course that order would be ready and paid for when I arrived.

There might be a problem for Alexa deciding whether to recommend McDonald’s or Starbucks, but then that would be solved quickly by whichever paid her the most. (I know I’m getting a bit far afield here, this was not discussed at the conference.) But you get the idea.

This concept is not in the future, I’m told that Parking Today can focus ads down to small markets and by using geofencing we can market to specific clients, even limited ads to small areas, including within buildings. Why not send data to specific vehicles?

The speaker was talking about a seminar he attended where a young representative of a software supplier to one of the automakers was answering a question about “what if I don’t want my data spread around all the merchants in a given area.”

He said that when you purchased a vehicle you would sign a document allowing the company to collect and sell data about you. But what if I don’t want to have that data collected and sold? “Then we won’t sell you the car.”

My 15 year old non connected car is looking better and better.



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Home for the Holidays

Parking Today is taking a breather for the holiday season. Although we are officially at work, our response may be a tad slower than normal. We are still staffing the phones, but certain days less than others.

Christmas falling on Wednesday and likewise New Year’s rather jumbles the travel schedules and time we want to spend with our families.

PT will be back in full force after the New Year.

All the best to you and yours for a joyous holiday season and the happiest of New Year’s

JVH and the entire PT Team

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Focus — on Christmas

Focus – That’s my issue – I’m having a difficult time focusing on work. This time of year is a time of change with distractions everywhere. First of all, Its cold. Cold for Los Angeles, not cold for Minneapolis. Its 47 degrees today. Two weeks ago it was 75.  The change is physical. You wear different clothes. You hurry from house to car. Dog walks become shorter.

Second, and perhaps most important, the holidays are here. Talk about a distraction. There are cookies and candy everywhere and its almost sacrilegious not to eat it. That also means you feel a bit bloated all the time. So when its time to work, you just don’t feel like it.

Plus, you are doing things that you don’t normally do. You are going shopping. Sure you can waltz through Amazon, but that doesn’t really work for me. To get gift ideas I need to see things, touch things, and think “that’s perfect for Heather, or Andy, or Xin, or Ashley, or Robyn.”: You just can’t get that feeling from a picture on a display. This means your schedule changes and you sneak out early or spend time in the evenings or on weekends assaulting the mall. Your normal schedule just isn’t the same.

Astrid asked me to write this piece and I’m struggling. Its Thursday and I’m at home. People at work have taken vacation days (PTO) to have more time with their families. No need to go in and sit in an empty office. I can do that here.

So there is the weather, the food, shopping, changes in schedules. Its hard to get ‘going’. But is that the only reason.

As kids we looked forward to Christmas because it meant fun. We went shopping and found treasures for our families and friends. We wrote letters to Santa and sat on his lap. We set up a creche and put in animals, Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, shepherds, angels and of course the baby Jesus who arrived on Christmas eve.

So much has changed. Or has it?

As I go to the mall I see the little kids lined up to see Santa. There is joy on their faces and expectation in their eyes. The churches still have nativity scenes. All you have to do is look for them. Houses are still decorated with lights though some may be laser driven and you can actually see reindeer and snowmen move.  Music is still there, but then I guess you have to listen.

As one gets older, you can say “Bah Humbug” and get depressed with commercialism and the lack of religion in the season. You can, if you like, sit in a corner and think about how things used to be and how you can’t even say “Merry Christmas” any more.


Has it really changed so much? Or is it you that have changed. Is it possible that the grumpiness comes from your inner spirit and not the weather, food, shopping, schedule changes? Is it possible that Christmas isn’t so much fun because you aren’t so much fun?

I’m going to fix Christmas. I’m putting on a warm coat, taking only one cookie rather than two, heading out to the mall and take a moment to watch the young parents and their children as they line up to see Santa. Who knows, maybe I’ll find that magic and wonder is still there on their faces. Maybe I’ll watch It’s a Wonderful Life and Love Actually, maybe I’ll drop in at the local church and spend a bit of time with the shepherds and those wise men. Maybe I’ll let Alexia play Christmas Carols softly in the background.

Then maybe, just maybe, I’ll loosen up just enough to see that star in the East and celebrate the season the way I did so many winters ago.

Merry Christmas.





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Explosive Creativity

This time of year, I begin to think about the future. I’m not sure why, I can barely deal with today, but its probably due to the New Year. We seem obsessed with what is going to happen. I guess that’s so we can plan and make decisions based on guesses on what will be around the next corner. No one wants to be stuck with a garage full of buggy whips just as Henry Ford is firing up his assembly line.

But I think one must look at all the prognosticators with a jaundiced eye. The changes we are experiencing isn’t a straight line of progression from A to B to C. There is no roadmap that we can follow that will get us to success. Every time we turn a corner something explodes in our way and changes everything.

Richard Fernandez writing over at the Belmont Club notes the following:

The future, far from being a stately progression of Five-Year Plans presided over by elites, has turned out to be a flood of destabilizing development, technology and discovery. Current institutions can’t control the future; they can barely cope with it. The voters realized this before the elites did. We will have our hands full just answering the question: “what did we just learn?” “We live in a world whose unfoldings we often cannot prevision, prestate, or predict— a world of explosive creativity on all sides.”

“Explosive Creativity.”  Now there’s a term that deserves dissecting. Technology is coming at us from every direction but how we use it, or how it is presented is to me the thing to consider.

The future will be determined not by some fancy new gizmo or hand held this or that. It will be determined by the creative minds that take that gizmo and mold it to fit the needs of a consuming public. It has almost become a time where we first imagine what we want to do, then look around at all the tech that is available and pick one from column A and one from Column B, blend them and voila, we have what we want.

Its that creativity, not the behind the scenes tech, that will make the difference in both the near and long term.

Perhaps we need to spend a bit less time concerning ourselves with fancy new technology and more with just what we are trying to accomplish with it.

I’m considering taking two paths at the same time. One moving ever forward with those modest successes we have had, and the other taking a look at that techno world that surrounds us and seeing just what bits and bobs we can use to create something new a different.

Maybe somewhere out there those two will converge. Who knows?


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Separate the Money from the Enforcement

When I spoke at a recent regional parking event, I was riffing on the money involved in municipal parking – I told the story of a parking manager who said, when asked if he was there to protect the asset known as parking or collect money, he said “on the record or off the record.”

On the record he held forth on parking as an asset and protecting it for merchants, residents and the like. Off the record he said that of course he was under pressure to perform and generate revenue. Gotta balance that budget for the Mayor.

One of the folks in the audience, a very smart woman from a large metropolitan area commented that “you can’t separate parking/enforcement/and the money.”

Most of the people in the room agreed that they are under pressure to generate revenue either through citations or on street charges (meters).  Heads were nodding everywhere. Money is what the bean counters care about – and the politicos.

That got me to thinking. Can you separate the parking experience from the money?

We must live in the real world. We all report to someone, and they report to someone. And at each level there is pressure to perform – and performance is usually measured by money.

And of course, if we are to have some kind of control, to enforce the rules, there must be some sanction we can impose. The most relevant sanction is a fine. Hit em in the pocketbook.

Most cities have a large backlog in fines that are uncollected. Many people just can’t afford to pay them, and then we slap on penalties and they still can’t afford to pay them.

Is there any alternative?

How about “parking school” – people can go to ‘traffic school’ to get traffic tickets off their record, why not parking school in lieu of fines. It could be on line or in person. They could learn the rules and WHY we have them.

I’m a great proponent of giving cautionary citations – but when the PEO actually can talk to the offender and explain the rules and just why its important to obey them.  Track these and if a person gets more than one or two in a certain period of time, slap em with a ticket.

Clarity – parking signs can be very confusing – we should have a 10 year old rule. Show the sign to a 10 year old and if they can’t understand it, change it so they can.

I’m sure there are many more ideas out there to separate the money from the parking program.

I’m sure they won’t be popular with the powers at be.


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