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EVs need to stand on their own!

The venerable George Will reports  that government subsidies are keeping the electric car industry alive and when they are removed, sales plummet. The vast majority of EVs are purchased by households with incomes over $100K (they can afford to pay what EVs cost) and the subsidies therefore equate to a transfer of wealth to those who need it least. Read the article here.

I have noted this before, but maybe when it’s a quote from George Will, people will take notice:

Electric cars have cachet with advanced thinkers who want to be, or to be seen to be, environmentally nice. They do not think of such vehicles as 27.4 percent coal cars, that being the percentage of U.S. electricity generated by coal-fired power plants. According to a Manhattan Institute study:

[B]ecause of stringent emissions standards and low-sulfur gasoline, new ICVs [internal combustion vehicles] today emit very little pollution, and they will emit even less in the future. Compared with new ICVs, ZEVs [zero-emissions vehicles] charged with the forecast mix of electric generation will emit more criteria air pollutants.

And the reduction of carbon dioxide — “less than 1% of total forecast[ed] energy-related U.S. CO2 emissions through 2050” — “will have no measurable impact on climate.

I have no problem with electric vehicles. I think the Tesla Model S may be the best automobile ever made. If folks want to drive electric vehicles so be it. But let’s not be fooled.

I get steamed when I read the license plate frame that comes with each Tesla. “Zero Emissions.” Baloney. It should read “Moved Emissions”. Unless they can guarantee that the electricity they use comes from wind, solar, or hydro sources, they burn petroleum, too. Just in a different place.

But I digress. EV’s are a money loser for the auto companies. Period. They build them because the government requires them to do so. Period. People don’t want to buy them because they cost more than conventionally powered vehicles, and for other reasons including range anxiety, lack of power, and in many cases inability to get the job done. (SUV vs Prius).

Half the EVs in the US are sold in California. A look out my front window will attest to that. But people aren’t crazy. The guy down the street owns a Tesla, but also a GMC Yukon. He has his bases covered. He is environmentally pure and can still get his kids to soccer practice. My friend Clyde has and electric smart car and drives it because its fun. But he also has a Lincoln Aviator. He drives it when he wants to get somewhere.

I know this flies in the face of all who campaign for electric vehicles and make their living off of them. But the economics simply aren’t there.

Time for a reality check on EVs.


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Micromanaging from On High

I found an article over on parknews.biz about the city of Destin, FL. It seems the municipal dads and moms have decided to tell local merchants how and where they can collect money on their parking facilities.

A local shopping center decided to charge for parking and put a prepay collection operation at the parking lot entrance. This caused a backup on one of main highways through the town as people had to stop, find the money, and pay. The city council, having reviewed the issue, decided to fix the problem by requiring all parking operations to pay on exit.

There is also a restaurant that has a valet operation at the entrance to their parking facility that causes a similar problem. Will the next law passed in Destin also require valet operations be located at the exit of the parking facility.

Dare one suggest that this tropical city hire someone who knows something about parking and traffic flow and take a look at the entire problem and perhaps come up with a solution that doesn’t require the city reach quite so far into the commercial operations of the merchants. Perhaps suggesting a few minor adjustments might solve the problem without the long arm of the law becoming involved.

Just Sayin.


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Will Congestion Pricing mean the End to Parking Garages in New York City?

New York City is moving relentlessly toward Congestion Pricing. The deal is that if you drive into Manhattan below 60th street, you will have to pay a charge, around $10. It will be collected by LPR cameras or toll tags, or whatever.

Reading articles in the Old Grey Lady, it seems that this idea has been floated for over a decade but has gained traction because the wise leaders in Albany have noticed that the plan would collect over one billion a year. Suddenly everyone is excited.

Note that no one seemed to keen on the idea when the issue was just reducing congestion. But whatever…

The article in the NYT describes the plan and notes that the money will go to ‘fix’ New York’s subway system which has fallen into disrepair. It will be used as collateral for $15 billion to plow into the subway.

The city uses London as the poster child for this project saying that:

Within a year of the fees being charged in 2003, the number of vehicles entering an eight-square-mile area of London dropped by 18 percent, according to city officials. Traffic delays went down 30 percent. The average speed of vehicles in the zone rose to 10 miles per hour from 8.8 m.p.h.

OK, now we are getting somewhere. But read on.

And one important reminder is that even with congestion pricing, traffic problems do not simply go away. London’s gridlock has returned in recent years, in part because of an influx of Uber and other ride-app cars.

Yep – gridlock has returned to London, so they are instituting a second charge, an Ultra Low Emission Zone. If your car doesn’t meet certain emission standards, set by the EU, it will double the charge up to around $35 per entry. Wait til the folks running the congestion pricing program in the Big Apple hear about this. Who want’s to bet that the standard will be zero emissions. But I digress.

Naturally New Yorkers aren’t ecstatic about all this. They are demanding that those living in the five boroughs of New York City be exempted from the program, and of course each member of the NY legislature has their own constituency who should for one reason or other should be exempted. So, probably only those who will pay in the end are those who live in New Jersey or drive in from California.

People driving to Manhattan are used to paying $12 to use a tunnel or bridge. They are used to paying upwards of $25 a day to park if they rent in advance, and $50 for one offs. So they are already into this almost $40 a day. What’s another $12 bucks. Someone is going to pay if they expect to collect a billion.

In the end it didn’t really help congestion in London, and probably won’t help congestion in New York. But they will get their billion dollars and they can invest it in a subway whose management has been unable up to date to keep the system running smoothly. I can see that working out well.

An article behind the paywall at the Wall Street Journal screams that Congestion Pricing means the end to parking garages in New York City. If congestion, bridge tolls, high parking fees, and 90 minute commutes don’t do the job, I doubt $12 a day will frighten many drivers off. Our industry is safe in Manhattan.


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What Would Happen if there were no Cars?

Kim Fernandez over at the IPMI commented on a survey taken in the UK that showed that 44% of ‘older’ drivers would not give up their cars under any circumstances, and that only 18% would if transit choices were better and 5% would do so to protect the environment. Kim posits that this means the picture is not as rosy as once thought (most surveys show that young drivers aren’t driving at the rate they did years ago.) I take this to mean that she is looking to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Fair enough.

I have been thinking about this and the future of the parking industry aside, I wonder about the ramifications of reducing the number of cars on the road.

First, what about the economics of the situation. A very large portion of the world’s economy is based on the manufacture, driving, and powering of private vehicles. Tens if not hundreds of millions of people are involved in this part of the economy. What happens to them if in fact the picture Kim envisions gets rosy and the number of cars on the road is decreased.

Second, it seems to me that we never ask a very important question. Yes, the young today aren’t getting their driver’s licenses like we old fogies did at age 16, but when are they getting them? Are they never driving cars, or just wisely putting off buying cars until they can afford them, say at age 30 or so, when they begin their families and transportation becomes more complicated? The last survey I saw noted that although drivers were down upwards of 40% for 16 year olds, by they time they were 30, all but 10% were driving.

And remember, as the population increases, that means that the same number or more cars are on the road, just that the percentage of people driving at certain age levels is less.

Don’t get me wrong. If the private vehicle is truly destroying the planet, we should do something about it. As we have. Emissions from gasoline powered vehicles are down by orders of magnitude from the Belchfire V12s we drove when I was a kid, and they are getting less and less as the years go by. Certainly EVs will move, if not lower, pollution. And if we get smart about it, and generate electricity using non air polluting sources, we can save the environment even more.

It seems to me that we need a multilevel approach to the transportation problem. One size doesn’t’ fit all. Like the survey mentioned in the first paragraph noted, some like to walk, others bike, others take public transit, and others (a bunch) drive. If we want to change those paradigms, we need to make all types more convenient, and more user friendly.

I don’t think we are going to legislate cars out of existence. New York and London may try, but if all those drivers on the Cross Bronx Expressway or the M25 suddenly stop driving and take the train, will there be enough room on the trains?

They still haven’t repealed my favorite law, that of unintended consequences. The only problem may be this: What if the consequences are intended?


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I got a Letter

I have a new doctor. Not a replacement, I still have a cardiologist and various other specialists, but I felt I needed someone to call if I felt a twinge in my kneecap and after some research and referrals, I landed with a ‘family’ practice nearby. Frankly I’m rather impressed with this MD. She asks questions, wants to know everything about me, and follows up. And that’s the subject of this blog.

I got a letter from her the other day. Yes, a LETTER. US Mail delivered, typed, letter. Its content was rather inconsequential, but the form of the communication was heartening. Someone actually took the time to (probably) dictate a letter to me, about something specific, and put a stamp on it and mail it. WOW! How old school can you get.

My other doctors communicate with email, text, and on line messaging. I can find my test results at a web site, and also find messages from various folks in the health care community. But a letter. OMG.

I noticed that my new doc is a bit old school. She does use a computer but has an assistant to take notes on it and keep it up to date. When I see her, she is all about me, not the technology available in her consulting room. My experience with many physicians, particularly younger ones, is that they concentrate on the data, not on the patient. I think I have a keeper with this one.

She tells me that the idea is that she is the gatekeeper of all my various and sundry visits to specialists (as you reach a certain age, you don’t have to worry about losing friends, you have plenty of doctors to replace them.) She tracks all of them and puts the information in one place. (The letter was about getting some of that data.)

Speaking of letters, have you noticed that there are two types of envelopes. One that has considerable information on the outside suckering you in to opening it and perusing the contents. The other has nothing on the outside except your name and address. Those don’t work with me either. I figure if someone won’t put their name and return address on the envelope, then they aren’t worthy of my interest.

I’m also suspect of letters with a ‘window.’  Its either a bill, or someone who is selling something.

We call these letters “Junk” mail. Its interesting we don’t seem insulted when we receive unsolicited mail but go around the bend when we receive junk email. We develop filters to keep from receiving it, yell at the screen when it arrives, and seem to take it as a personal insult that someone has somehow gotten hold of our email address. We don’t seem so angered that someone has our mailing address. We just dump the offending mail in the trash and carry on with life.

With email, its even easier to clean out our inbox. A simple click and its gone forever. What’s the difference? Who knows?

Receiving an actual letter does present a problem. Now I have to answer it. Once I collect the information requested, I’ll type it up, find an envelope, and mail it off. Now where did I put those ‘forever’ stamps.


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Waze is Wonderful  Except…

Waze is an app that helps you find ways around traffic jams. Silicon Valley wunderkinds developed a way to figure out where traffic exists and then route you around it. For drivers trapped in urban congestion, its fantastic. For the neighborhoods near the traffic, not so much.

My neighbor across the street began noticing a few months ago that traffic on our block was increasing considerably. This is a normally quiet block where kids play ball in the street and people walk their dogs and enjoy the solitude of the neighborhood. Now it seems to be filled with cars, trucks, and noise.

The reason – Waze. The app is rerouting traffic from major thoroughfare’s through our little neighborhood. The streets aren’t designed for that amount of traffic. There are no lines on the pavement, few if any signs, streets are narrow and curvy, there are one way streets and certainly there is little enforcement of the traffic laws.

Our resident gadfly has reached out to the city to get to Waze and restrict where they can reroute traffic. I’m not optimistic. He is talking to the City of Los Angeles with a government roughly the size of a medium size country.

Waze has a great idea. The problem is that pesky law of unintended consequences. We have rerouted traffic, and perhaps ruined a neighborhood. This app and those like it need to be brought up to speed with the reality on the ground.


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An Obsession

What is our obsession with background music.

It occurred to me that something was strange when I boarded the Virgin Atlantic flight to the UK the other day. Relatively loud background music was playing on the plane and continued to do so until the door was closed. Why?

I went to breakfast with friends the other day, and my favorite breakfast spot had been taken over with loud salsa sounds. We had to ask them to turn it down so we could talk. Why?

I got in a Lyft vehicle and the radio was turned on with music blaring. Why?

I go to a trade event and want to talk to a potential customer. Music is blaring. Why?

How about the dentist office? The waiting room at the tire store? Walking through the mall? The latest hit restaurant? Why?

Why is music needed everywhere? And in most places, the music is something I don’t even like. How can they program sounds that fit everyone. If they do its elevator music and no one likes it.

Ok, I’m deaf. Its hard enough for me to hear when its quiet. When the background is filled with music, its impossible. If I want to hear music, I’ll go to a club that plays what I want to hear. I’m told the loud beats make one eat and drink faster so there is more turnover in the restaurant. Wow. People buy more at the mall when they are grooving to hard rock.

I wore my noise cancelling head phones for the entire 10 hour flight to the UK. They weren’t plugged in. It was 10 hours of glorious silence.

Just sayin


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TaaS – Mobility and the Urban Family — HAH!

There is an interesting article in Forbes this week entitled “2029 Mobility and the Urban Family.” You can read it over at Parknews.biz.

You will find it has little to do with parking and more to do with urban lifestyle. That’s urban with a capital “U”. This is about living in central cities and getting from here to there. My guess is that in most cases, urban dwellers have figured out how to do this already, but this solution, using TaaS – Transport as a Service – features autonomous vehicles.

It assumes that in 10 years full blown level 5 autonomous vehicles will be available and running rampant in our cities. I’m dubious but let’s give the devil his due.

In this scenario you are picked up at your door, whisked to work, stopping along the way for a preordered latte, and dropped off in a convenient curb side spot in front of your building. All charges being handled on line. Its an electric vehicle so there is no pollution (I guess the power is generated by wind or solar).

Basically, what we have is an automated taxi or car service. Completely available today, but cheaper since there is no driver. It seems to me that all the other issues, congestion, traffic, and the like, remain the same. And since you aren’t parking, the vehicle continues on street, adding to the congestion.

At least when you drive in to the city, once you reach your destination, your car is parked and off the street and then back on the street when you head for home. That’s why they call it “rush hour.”

The author, who writes about mobility economy and business, seems to gloss over these minor issues.

He also discusses first mile/last mile issues and solves them with electric scooters. You get a text as the train arrives that there is a scooter reserved for you at the station. You pick it up and are “merrily on your way.” You could be contacted, he says, to pick up a package along the route and deliver it to another spot on your route, thus getting a discount from your charges. Are you kidding me? A delivery company is going to ask a stranger on a scooter to deliver a package for them? I really don’t think so.

He also posits that folks will be using rapid transit to get to the urban core. Fair enough. Assuming 85% of all commuters are in private vehicles where is the capacity coming from to carry all those folks. Who is going to build it and who is going to pay for it? Another minor issue that this fellow doesn’t address, but no one else does either.

A self-serving article, quoting an online blog, and asking no hard questions. Where are you Edward R. Murrow and Huntley/Brinkley when we need you. If you are under 50 Google them.


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The Brits do it up Proud at Parkex

PN editor Astrid and I spent last week in the UK attending the British Parking Association’s PARKEX event at the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham. Although it is located in the UK, its is a quintessential European trade show. PARKEX is collocated with Traffex every other year. This year is one of those. Traffex focuses on road, traffic, and transportation technologies. It has about 350 exhibitors with PARKEX coming in with around a third of that number. This is a large and well attended event for a country is a fifth the size of the US.

Most of the larger stands are mounted on ‘floors’ that are about four inches above the level of the aisle and require you to take care not to fall on your face as you enter. The exhibitors are there not so much to present their wares, but to network. And they do so over food and drink.

Typical Booth:

A large number of the stands have bars and attendees are invited in for beer or wine and often high end hors d’oeuvres, giving the exhibitor time to talk to and get to know the visitor. I got the feeling, however, that most of the schmoozing was going on between those who were using the event to renew and reinforce business relationships.

We were able to see many old friends and make new ones, to see some technology not yet available in the US, and hopefully wave the PT flag across the pond. So, for us, it was a success.

The feel of the event was more formal than like shows in the US. The edges were sharp, the graphics crisp, assumptions that you already knew what was in the booths rampant. I would guess that walking down the crowded aisles and stopping in front of each stand, you would have no clue what they were representing simply by looking at the pictures and signs on the walls in about half the cases. But then, that’s not unusual. I found the same thing at PIE this year.

Part of this formal ‘feel’ may have to do with the fact that smaller (10×10) booths are constructed out of aluminum and plastic by the organizers. Most of such stands here are demarcated by ‘pipe and drape.’ The European approach gives a sense of permanence although they will be taken down and stored just at the metal and cloth are in US trade shows.

Astrid and our UK Assistant Mandy:

Size seems to be important with companies investing small fortunes in exhibits that cover many square meters. I wonder whether they are attempting to impress their competitors rather than potential customers. Size seems to have gotten the attention of US exhibitors too, with one, at least, having a larger presence than they do at either the IPMI, PIE, or NPA. I sometimes wonder whether they are attempting to impress their competitors rather than potential customers.

PARKEX reflects the time and culture of its country of origin. Its formal, and a US visitor might find it a bit stuffy. But if you scratch the surface, you will find friendly staff, willing to help. What more is there?


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Great Parking Not Worth a Housing Crisis

I saw this headline over on Park News and I went ballistic. Parking gets blamed for everything from Climate Change to Original Sin, but how was it getting blamed for a housing crisis. As I read the article I calmed down quickly. You can read the entire article over on parknews.biz 

It wasn’t a story necessarily blaming parking about the lack of housing, but rather a story about parking minimums and how they can lead to fewer and more expensive apartments being built. It extensively quotes Mike Manville, a protégé of Don Shoup at UCLA who has done extensive research in this area.

“Removing parking requirements doesn’t remove the problem (buyers might still want parking), but it does remove the one-size-fits-all solution,” Manville writes. “Developers can provide parking in the way they think is best, the same way they already provide pools, fitness centers and other amenities.” The result was “more housing with less parking, often in buildings and neighborhoods they had long ignored.”

The experiment worked in downtown. There’s no reason to think it couldn’t work throughout the city, especially if combined with another key ingredient in the downtown trial: eliminating free street parking. “When cities don’t give on-street spaces away for free, developers will provide — and drivers will pay for — spaces off-street,” writes Manville. Let the market work.

Those of you who frequent this blog may remember a number of pieces about “letting the market work” and “one size doesn’t fit all.” I’m honored that Mike agrees with me.

This article with clickbait, with that misleading headline. Easing parking requirements can help housing, but also help other issues in a downtown core including development, refurbishment of existing buildings, and neighborhood renewal. Some people like to pay for parking separately from their rent, some don’t own two cars and don’t need two spaces, some may like to park or a surface lot, or pay less in a structure nearby. One size doesn’t fit all.

Let the market work.


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