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Why was this article written?

I have just reread for the fourth time an article published by the Commercial Real Estate Development Association titled “Parking in a Post Pandemic Economy.” I cannot for the life of me understand why the article was written at all.

It says that when the country was on lock down, parking activity dropped over 90%. Well duh. Then it returned to near normal, upwards of 85% in most areas. It then posits that cities lost many on street spaces due to outdoor eating requirements. Fair enough.

It projects that work from office vs work from home will change how traffic patterns and parking will be affected. But of course, it doesn’t say how. The author quotes stats from Parkmobile’s monthly report. At least those are accurate. But totally expected.

It is filled with the words “if, may, could, perhaps” but not one actual statement that you could hang you hat on. I love this last sentence:

There are many questions that remain to be answered, but this pandemic-fueled pause in the pace of normal life may open up new and better opportunities for transportation, which will drastically impact parking. 

Just what does that mean. I guess I’m wondering why people write articles like this one. They state the obvious, make predictions that are based on conjecture, contradict themselves and then summarize with a vacuous sentence like the one above.

The author, Robert Downey, is a transportation consultant, an Emeritus Fellow of the Transportation Research Board, and an adjunct professor in Georgetown University’s Real Estate Program in the School of Continuing Studies. Wow.



Why is Parking Considered a “Four Letter Word?”

I received a “T” shirt yesterday from Get It Corp.  It was inscribed “ Parking Is not a Four Letter Word Anymore”  I know this is a catch phrase promoting Get It, however it got me to thinking.

If “Parking” is or was a four letter word, why is that?

I was having breakfast at a nearby deli. It is in a strip center and not within walking distance of anywhere. It does a land office business all day.  Why? It has 20 or so parking spaces conveniently located in front just off the street. Folks can roll in and out easily. Without those 20 spaces, this business and others near it would cease to exist.

Sorry, mobility fans, but no amount of buses, bikes, electric scooters, and the like would save this business if parking wasn’t available. The average age of the customers is 70, not your basic scooter or bicycle crowd.

“Parking” certainly isn’t a four letter word for the owner of this deli. He is very much aware that those 20 spaces are critical to the success of his business. He may not think about it every day, but the reality is there. Those 20 spaces here, 30 spaces there tucked in front or behind businesses make them accessible to customers.

The way it works is that if the lot is full, there’s a good chance the deli is pretty full. If there are spaces, there is room for you inside. By the way, parking here is free and uncontrolled.

With a nod to Don Shoup, of course the parking isn’t free, the cost of maintaining that parking space is factored into the cost of your pastrami sandwich. So be it.

My friends at Get It Corp indicate on their web site that they are basically referring to large parking operations in office buildings and hotels. And frankly, parking there can be relegated to a ‘four letter word’ category.

However ever since we parked the first cars in the homes of the horses they replaced, parking has been a necessity both for the driver and the merchant. If it became a ‘four letter word’ whose fault is that. It’s yours and mine, kind readers.  We, as an industry, have focused on reducing cost, reducing personnel, and putting technology in place. Has all this really helped, or has it moved us into the “four letter word” category?

The Financial Times in the UK asked its readers (find the article on Parknews.biz) how they felt about technology and the like and were deluged with complaints, most from those with a little gray on the roof. The apps may be convenient for those who are familiar with smart phones but many are not. I loved this comment from the FT:

Further into the future, you might not even need an app to park at all. Your in-car computer system will simply flash up “Do you want to pay for parking?” when you pull into a space. This sounds like the height of convenience. But maybe you’ll need your children to explain how it works.


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A New Hope

No, this isn’t another JVH Star Wars reference. It’s just that over the past three years we have been beaten down so much with high prices, world events, a non responsive government, vacuous leadership at all levels. It makes it difficult to find reasons to go on.

When the government openly admits that high fuel prices and the resulting inflation and high prices in virtually all consumer goods is by design and then does nothing to stop it, how does one justify getting up in the morning. Our betters (sorry Tony) tell us that we need this pain for long term gain but our intellect tells us that is absurd. That all this is designed to get us to buy electric cars, take public transportation, or walk. As if suddenly the electric grid will triple in capacity and the winds will blow consistently and the sun will shine and all will be right with the world.

Let’s face it, central planning and control has failed in every sense of the word wherever it has been tried (can you say Venezuela). When the marketplace has been allowed to work, innovation has succeeded (can you say Elon Musk).

Our leaders simply say that even though this or that plan hasn’t worked before, it will work now because they are smarter than their predecessors and this tweak or that will make it work. They fly in the face of four thousand years of history. Their lack of a classical education has put them in a position of attempting to fix problems that don’t exist with plans that have failed time and again.

So in the face of all this, why should we have hope.

Because the political pendulum always swings back. Most recently, it was the Carter Administration. Remember runaway inflation, high gas prices, gas rationing, the disasters in Iran. Things turned around quickly after that administration was out of office. The electorate, the same one what put Carter into office, tossed him out and things began to look better. The same will happen again.

P T Barnum was incorrect in one thing. You can’t fool all the people all the time.  People vote their best interest. In this case they will do so. It will take a bit longer to turn around this time as we seem to have gotten ourselves in deep, but turn around it will. We have no choice.

A few years from now we will look back on this era and shake our heads. Unfortunately, a few decades later, we will forget what we learned, and do it all over again. It’s simply how it works.

So don’t give up hope. We will survive in spite of ourselves. We are a resilient people and that cannot be taken away.


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I Publish Without Comment:

Six Major Problems With “Green” Transition

German economist Hans Werner Sinn identifies six major problems with Europe’s fanciful plan to transition to wind and solar energy:

Problem no. 1: The Paris Accord is non-binding

The Paris Accord in fact has been signed by only 61 of 191 nations and so pledge to reduce their emissions, i.e. more than two thirds of the globe’s nations are not obliged to do anything.

This will simply allow the rich signatories to outsource their emissions to unconstrained nations. China and India both end up with a free pass. The Paris Accord will have no effect on global emissions and citizens of rich countries will be forced to make huge sacrifices. We’re seeing it today already.

Problem No. 2: EU targets are “utopian”

The former IFO head calls the EU’s targets “utopian” and adds: “Germany at the same time wants to exit coal and nuclear power, thus making itself dependent on other nations.” Like Russia.

The belief that the EU can power itself solely using volatile renewables like wind and sun is kept alive purely by “propaganda media”. In fact it is doomed to fail.

Problem No. 3: Volatile energy supply

Prof. Sinn explains that another major problem is: “Electricity from wind and sun is too volatile to assure an affordable and complete power supply. Even if Germany doubles it’s current wind and solar production capacity, doing so will only double the volatility of the supply:

As the chart above shows, a doubling of the 2019 wind and solar capacity would lead to numerous times of severe oversupply and periods of extreme undersupply for Germany’s roughly average 60 GW of demand.

Problem No. 4: Innovation through government decreed central planning?

“Europe is squeezing out the auto industry and violating the law of ‘one price’. The market as a discovery process to innovate low CO2 technologies is being shut down,” Sinn explains.

Instead of allowing the market to naturally find the best and most efficient solutions, Brussels is simply doing it by decree. In the end, we’ll end up with a failed centrally-planned economy.

Problem No. 5: E-cars are not clean

One problem today already, using Germany’s current electric energy supply mix, electric cars are emitting far more CO2 over their lifetimes than conventional combustion engine vehicles.

Even after 150,000 km of driving, a diesel Golf-class car emits less CO2. Chart: H.W. Sinn.

Yet, governments are aiming to force citizens to drive e-cars. In many countries, this will lead to more CO2 emissions, and not less.

Problem No. 6: Europe going without fossil fuels will have zero global impact

According to Prof. Sinn: “With tradable fossil fuels, Europe going without will not have just a tiny effect, but rather have no effect.”

Whatever fuels Europe opts not to use, other countries will simply burn them instead. As long as global oil production keeps growing, so will CO2 emissions – no matter what Europe does, decrees or decides

Sinn’s conclusion:

Europe’s unilateralism with climate policy will undermine the competitiveness of its industries, initiate its downfall and thus discourage other countries from following the the European – and especially the German – approach.

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Thank Heaven its not the industry we grew up in

I have reread the post below about “not the industry we grew up in” and feel it needs some comment.

I wonder if the commenter wasn’t looking at the world through glasses seeped in time and age. It is difficult to see the reality of the world after half a century. I don’t know whether its reality or fear that we face when we look around us and see so many changes.

It’s sad to me to see someone so seeped in knowledge take the curmudgeon way out. I’m sure when he was 29 he had no clue as to what to do with his parking operation. He grew into that over the years, just as the young Turks coming along in our industry will do the same.

Sure, many will take the easy way, and float along just as many did as the industry began to mature in the 70s and 80s. But mark my words, many will become leaders and will quickly, certainly more quickly and we did, pick up the necessary knowledge to make this an industry of which to be proud.

Frustration comes easily to those with a few gray hairs on the head. “It’s so obvious, why can’t these kids see it.” These oldsters become consultants and then spend their golden years finding everything wrong. How sad.

I wonder just how much value would be created if these codgers spend their time giving the newbies the benefit of their experience. We don’t have to start over with every generation.

It might also pay for them to listen to the youngsters. You are never too old to learn.


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D Day 1944

When the Americans, Canadians, and British landed on Utah,  Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches on June 6, 1944 everyone involved in the invasion knew that many would not survive the day. They knew that the Germans would throw everything they had at the allies. And they did.

One cannot overstate the courage of the forces that landed in France on that day. They faced the fates, and many paid the price. However they succeeded. It wasn’t technology, aircraft, laser guided missiles, or cannons on destroyers that led for success that day.

It was the soldier, sailor and airman that fought their way onto those beaches, and then came up against four years of construction that created battlements that had to be overcome, and overcome they were.

You can find part of the rest of the story on page 369 of Stephen Ambrose’s D-Day, June 6, 1944, where Ambrose quotes ship’s cook Exum Pike. Pike’s quote concludes: “I have often told my two sons that I have no fear of hell because I have already been there.”

June 6, 1944


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Not the Industry we grew up in

I had dinner the other day with a parking buddy. Our wide ranging conversation covered many aspects of the industry. He ended the evening with this statement “This is not the industry we grew up in.”

The next day I got the following. I have edited for clarity.

Just want to make something clear.  When I said it is not the industry we grew up in I had a very specific meaning to that. The industry has had two basic changes.  In 1979 all of my revenue reporting was done by handwritten shift reports filled out by people who never saw high school.  All of the revenue was cash and we did the best we could to get as much as possible to the bank and accounted for.  Today our industry has made tremendous improvements using the latest in electronic development to have instant cloud based reporting and accounting that makes it actually possible to manage revenue, rates, #’s of cars and expenses.

I think this change is great and really makes it exciting to manage.  But, in 1979 we were managing leases where we had to know the business because every decision I made as a 29 year old impacted millions of dollars of rent and expenses.  You just did not survive if you were not a really good manager.  When I joined APCOA in 1988 they were the largest manager of airports in the country.  Today all airports are management accounts, then they were concessions agreements.  In a concessions agreement the parking company bids a % of gross revenue to be paid to the airport and the parking company collected the revenue and paid all of the expenses to manage an airport parking operation.  If you messed up on your % bid the airport did not care, you still had to get the doors open and equipment working at your expense.

Today most of the great managers and leaders that were capable of risking it all everyday are gone.  The cities were all managed by parking companies under similar agreements.  Now the University manager, city managers mostly work for the institution and have no risk.  The commercial managers all manage management accounts where there is no risk in either revenue or expenses.  We have now created a bunch of managers who do not need to know anything.  We went from an industry full of managers that accepted a very high level of risk everyday to an industry full of managers who have no risk.

So when I say it is not the industry we grew up in I am saying that most of the true managers and leaders are gone. The electronics changes are wonderful but I feel there are few that truly understands the numbers.

I’m sure there are some out there that understand the numbers. However to quote the great Thomas Sowell:

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.


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Top Gun: Maverick         

From time to time I attempt a movie review. I will not in this case. There is no need. The public has spoken, as have the professional reviewers. This is one hell of a movie.  It’s a wild ride, but the underlying message is far to important to skip over. As the Admiral said: “The Navy needs a Maverick.”

Actually all organizations need a Maverick. Maybe not a ‘Top Gun,” the best of the best. But someone who is willing to take the rule book and toss it. Someone who won’t give up. Someone who believes in him or herself. Someone who understands the need for structure, but also understands the need to work around it.

The Tom Cruise character in this movie should have been an admiral many times over. However he did everything he could to prevent that. He knew that as an admiral he could no longer fly. And fly he must.

We need people in our organizations who must fly. Who understand leadership, but also understand the need to excel. Who never quit. Who use those skills they perfected to bring the best to what they do, even when the bureaucracy does everything it can to prevent it.

I will say this about Top Gun: Maverick. It draws from another thriller from four decades ago. No, not its historical namesake, but another. I quote from one reviewer:

The action-packed finale is a hair-raising sequence, as director Kosinski cranks up the tension, pushing Maverick and the team closer to danger. Although the original “Top Gun” is a Hollywood classic in its own right, the climactic scene of the new sequel actually owes a major debt to another legendary franchise: “Star Wars.” Warning: Once you see the comparison, it’s impossible to unsee.

Star Wars buffs will see the comparison immediately. You just want to scream “Use the force, Luke”.

But don’t take this the wrong way. This is not a remake. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell isn’t some fledgling Jedi using superpowers. He is simply the best of the best. He understands that it isn’t the technology that wins, it’s the person driving it. He understands that teams aren’t necessarily built in action, but sometimes in a strange football game. He does, however quote a Jedi master – “Don’t think, Do.”

There is humor. A classic scene where he climbs out his girlfriend’s bedroom window only to be busted by her daughter. Or when he staggers into a roadside diner after bailing out of a billion dollar aircraft, setting an airspeed record, and looking like he barely survived. He asks where he was. The six year old standing nearby has the answer “earth.”

Maybe Hollywood will learn something from this movie. It is an unqualified blockbuster. People want movies like this and are willing to pay hundreds of millions to see them. Can you even remember the name of the movie that won ‘best picture’ this year? I doubt it. You won’t forget “Top Gun: Maverick” anytime soon.


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Memorial Day 2022

I have more to say about the movie Top Gun, Maverick, elsewhere but all I can say here is celebrate Memorial Day and go see it. Memorial Day celebrates the heroes that have protected our freedoms and you cannot see this movie without remembering them.

Take a moment between the BBQ and Beer and reflect. If you were in the military, my thanks to you. You know what this is all about. If you weren’t consider just what sacrifices were made in your name.

If you have an opportunity ask a veteran just why there is a tear in his or her eye when they hear a few bars of the song that marks their branch of the service. Whether its celebrating caissons, the wild blue yonder, anchors aweigh, or the halls of Montezuma, the music brings a tug its difficult to hide. And many find difficult to describe. I know I do.

Memorial Day is a day for remembrance. Focus a bit on someone you know who is a veteran and remember just what they did. Then go back to the brats and beer. It will taste just a bit better.


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The Show Went On, Without Me

I find myself in a strange position. We just completed the PIE 2022 event, and I was unable to attend. Yes, I was stopped by the dreaded Covid, spending 10 days in quarantine and now experiencing the weakness that comes with the recovery.

It is difficult to express my thanks to my team who pressed on and held what I’m told was a most successful event. Words cannot describe the incredible work done by Marcy to hold parties, exhibitions, and all the little things that make PIE what it is. I am in awe. The input I have received from attendee and exhibitor alike has been fantastic.

My heartfelt thanks to Astrid who managed the seminars and ensured they came off without a hitch. And working behind the scenes, Kelley who kept things running smoothly. My personal thanks to you all.

Someone asked “who was the idiot that selected Reno?” That idiot would be me. Venues are under contract three or more years before the event. Our future sight could never have imagined the perfect storm of Covid, travel interruptions, and frankly people reacting to the world around them that stressed both exhibitors and attendees. Those of you who braved planes, trains, and automobiles to get to Reno found a beautiful venue, warm and welcoming people, and a terrific show. To you I offer my heartfelt thanks.

PIE 2023 returns to Chicago. It’s a new venue as we have outgrown our former home at the Hyatt Regency. The exhibition will be held in Schaumberg, a 15 minute drive from O’Hare, the airport with the most direct flights in the country. This is a world class conference center connected to a beautiful hotel. We will be revealing this prime property to you in due course.

On a personal note, I never realized just how long and arduous the recovery stage of Covid can be. One is weak, dizzy, and simply not geared up to face the world. I now understand what people mean when they say it takes weeks, if not months, to fully recover. My schedule for the next quarter is completely at sea, basically one day at a time.

I truly appreciate the good wishes I have received and guarantee that they have made a huge difference. Recovery is mental as well as physical and everything helps. This is a two steps forward, one step back situation, but I will persevere.