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A Single Finger Salute to “Middle Aged Men in Lycra”

Our cousins in the UK have similar problems with central cities dying and folks heading to shopping centers and Amazon on line. See “Our schizophrenic attitude to driving and shopping” Astrid has linked on parknews.biz.

This chap, Paul Finch, has it nailed.

It is sometimes forgotten that the first out-of-town shopping centres, developed in Los Angeles, were a response to severe parking restrictions established by municipal authorities, heavily swayed by the railroad interest. Bans on street parking led first to the innovation of multi-storey car parks, then, inexorably, to the idea of building malls, where drivers were welcomed, rather than vilified.

The attitude that cars are enemies helps to explain why high streets and secondary or tertiary shopping areas in UK towns and cities are dying on their feet. Street parking is treated as a form of social leprosy, while the surface car parks supplied by supermarket chains are assumed to be a social good, even if they result in independent shopkeepers being driven out of business.

I couldn’t agree more. However the best part of his article follows:

You might also add the scandalous waste of money, at least in parts of London, of providing free facilities for the white ‘mamil’ population (Middle-Aged Men In Lycra) which creates congestion, pollution and frustration for drivers who are the ones paying for the unoccupied cycle lanes.

Too true. Trying to turn our huge cities into tiny Amsterdam, with its gazillion bicycles, just isn’t going to happen. You know about my neighborhood which is in the process of destroying the mercantile activity on our nearby main drag for the couple of dozen a day “mamil” who show off their well-turned thighs while the rest of us duck and dive to try to find parking that was removed for their pleasure.

Kudus to Paul Finch and his moment of clarity. I salute his lack of “twitter” as he says:

(By the way, cyclist trolls, I am not on Twitter, so you can stick any poisonous responses to your Brooks saddle and sit on them.)


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Disruption in the Parking Industry, I don’t think so



First, let’s decide what “disruption” really means. I like this definition from Wikipedia:

In business, a disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market-leading firms, products, and alliances.

Not all innovations are disruptive, even if they are revolutionary. For example, the first automobiles in the late 19th century were not a disruptive innovation, because early automobiles were expensive luxury items that did not disrupt the market for horse-drawn vehicles. The market for transportation essentially remained intact until the debut of the lower-priced Ford Model T in 1908. The mass-produced automobile was a disruptive innovation, because it changed the transportation market, whereas the first thirty years of automobiles did not.

Disruptive innovations tend to be produced by outsiders and entrepreneurs in startups, rather than existing market-leading companies. The business environment of market leaders does not allow them to pursue disruptive innovations when they first arise, because they are not profitable enough at first and because their development can take scarce resources away from sustaining innovations (which are needed to compete against current competition). A disruptive process can take longer to develop than by the conventional approach and the risk associated to it is higher than the other more incremental or evolutionary forms of innovations, but once it is deployed in the market, it achieves a much faster penetration and higher degree of impact on the established markets.

I put this all in because its important to understand about what we are talking. This definition describes autonomous vehicles to a “t”. Expensive, long to develop, high risk, but once deployed, high impact.

What are our disruptive innovations at work today? What is changing our market? What is having a ‘high impact’ on the market and causing disruption?

I guess you could say that smart parking meters that take credit cards could be disruptive, but are they? What did they disrupt? They allowed cities to raise prices beyond what a quarter based meter could accept. So far so good. But a true disruption? My guess is that cities would have figured out how to collect more money? They are good at that.

What about pay by cell? This could disrupt the entire way we collect money on street? No more meters. And entire industry (parking meters of all types) is history. But for whatever reason, with a couple of exceptions, I’m told by those who know that only about 5% of on street revenue is collected through pay by cell. What’s that all about? I’m sure there are cultural reasons, but disruption? I don’t think so.

What technology has truly disrupted our market? Maybe I’m missing something but most technology we see whether it be PARCS, on street collections, and citation management have mostly automated what we were doing before. Faster, easier, better. But disruption? Not really.

Even technologies like license plate recognition that replaces AVI or card access merely speeds up the entry process and provides better customer service. No disruption there.

Help me all you disruptors out there. Write in and educate me. Show me some disruption.


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Parking at Costco – I have a solution

I just got back from Costco. It is surrounded by acres of free parking. When I arrived I drove to a far corner of the lot, parked in one of the 100 available spaces, and took a three minute (by my watch) stroll to the store. While I was walking, I noted at least 50 cars slowly patrolling the aisles, following folks with baskets to their cars, and then blocking the aisle while the shoppers unloaded so they could get a spot ‘close in’.

I grabbed my basket, filled it with the requisite amount of ‘stuff’ to cover the shelves in my garage, and headed to the check out line. It did seem like there were a lot of people there for 9:30 on Sunday morning, but I merely selected a line and waited. I checked my watch again. Total time in line – 7 minutes, 30 seconds.

The woman in front of me was complaining to the clerk about the number of people at Costco, the maddening parking, and of course the long checkout lines. I commented that her stay in line was less than 8 minutes. She was stunned. She was sure she stood there for half an hour.

When I got back to the car and drove out of the lot, I checked my watch again. Total time at Costco, including filling the car with gas, 40 minutes, soup to nuts.

The key to a quick turn around started with the parking. I’m sure there are times when the lot is full, although I have never experienced it. The woman’s comment reminded me of the Wall Street Journal reporter who called me and complained that there was no parking in a certain upscale shopping area of LA that I knew well.  I was surprised as I knew there was parking behind most every store on every block. He told me that you had to pay for that parking, and he was looking for free parking.

The woman at Costco wasn’t looking for parking, she was looking for parking close to the door.

I have a solution. Why not charge for parking based on the distance from the entrance. For those that want to park close up, charge them $20. Have someone walking around a certain area with some tickets and a pocket full of change and if someone wants to pay the fee, let them.

As an aside, how wonderful it was to see all those people spending money. I was thinking about all the jobs they were creating, all the people who were leaving welfare rolls, and what such mercantile activity means to everyone across the fruited plain.


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If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

Some apartment dwellers in East Orange, NJ, have a parking problem, at least from their point of view. They are reaping the result of separating out the cost of parking from their rent and the difference can be as much as $170 a month. If you have two cars, the second might cost $130. “That’s $300 a month,” said one senior citizen. You can read it all on parknews.biz.

The City moms and dads have a solution: Cap the amount the landlord can charge at $50. This is a typical response to a problem by government. Its vaguely reminiscent to President Reagans comments on governments view of the economy:

If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

East Orange is at step 2.  When developers move out of East Orange, they will move to step three.

The city has created a perfect storm for landlords.  They have stopped overnight on street parking so tenants have no alternative except to park under their apartment and pay whatever the landlord asks.

In this environment the landlords have told the city council that without the income from parking, banks will call their loans and they will be driven into bankruptcy. Not a wonderful situation and also one that is not outside the realm of possibility.

If the city wanted to help the tenants, what could they do?

  1. OK overnight parking with perhaps a permit so they would still be in step 2 above. Cities love control.
  2. Create small parking lots around the city where folks could park, perhaps for a small fee to cover costs. $50 a month comes to mind.
  3. Do nothing.

I prefer three, but frankly by removing on street parking they have caused the problem. I understand that there is limited parking in East Orange so perhaps item two would be a good idea. They might attract parking investors who would run small parking lots peppered around the city, convenient to apartment areas. Or the city could run them themselves.

If they did that, the landlords might find that their empty space under their apartment buildings was generating no money and lower fees to become more competitive. Maybe not to $50, but to one that tenants might find acceptable considering they could park downstairs out of rain and snow.

I know that this idea isn’t pure capitalism, but it comes close. It allows the free market to work, sort of. Tenants can park and a less onerous rate. And the city council gets to keep their jobs. Everybody wins.


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Your Corporate Web Site – Have you looked at it lately, really looked?

The other day I want to the grocery store and bought a bottle Carnivore wine. A modest little red but we like it. When I got home I fired up the ole computer and on the first page I opened was an ad for Carnivore. How did it know I went to the store? I used my Ralphs discount card and sure enough, within an hour, items I bought were being promoted on my computer.

What’s all this got to do with your corporate site? The Carnivore incident got me to thinking about web sites in general, and how long it had been since I really looked at our site. I took a group from our office on a mini retreat, set up a 55 inch flat screen, and we went through every page and tore them apart, bit by bit.

The more changes you make to your site, the more content you run, the more automatic stories are put up, the more chance there is for things to get sideways. We found for instance, that there were pages that were years out of date and never used. We found that some of the backgrounds were so fuzzy that the foregrounds were difficult to see. We found that some of the banner ads that we sold to our customers were being overwritten by other banners.

We also found that with minor changes we could make it easier to users to find content. Where it took six clicks to find a story, we changed that to one.

Your website may be static, that is with few changes done by your web master weekly or monthly, Our site is under constant stress. We make myriad changes every day. Some are automatic like putting up blog entries and headlines from Parknews on our home page to others that required human intervention like the crawl across the top of our page and changes to the association and calendar listings.

We found that we had begun to take our site for granted. It needed freshening up. Like a fall cleaning. Over the next few weeks you will see many changes, some minor, some not so, but all which will make the site easier to navigate and use. You can have the best content on the planet (and we do), but if you can’t access it, so what.

This project took about three hours. The cleanup will take a bit longer. Have you looked at your site lately.

When you do, I suggest a couple of things:

First, do it yourself. Have your staff around but you operate the mouse, find out just how hard or easy it is to move around your site.

Second, if you find it confusing or difficult, how do you think someone who has no clue about your product or service will find it.

Third, let there be no sacred cows. Just because that logo has been there for 5 years and was designed by your brother in law doesn’t mean that its perfect for that spot on the web site.

Fourth, if it doesn’t do anything, remove it. We found page after page that either replicated other pages or had links to nowhere,.

Fifth, click on every link and find out where it goes and ensure it makes sense. If it does nothing, get rid of it.

And most of all, be sure your website delivers what you want it to deliver. In our case, we want our readers to find content, both new stories from blogs and parknews.biz, and historical content from the magazine. Frankly I found it hard to navigate. We are fixing that.

Websites have a tendency to be designed by 20 something technocrats who know everything about everything and make assumptions that the rest of our mere mortals do too. Fix that.

Oh, and it helps to have a glass of Carnivore Zin in hand during this process. I’m not sure why, it just does.


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Self-driving cars are coming, but developers aren’t reducing parking yet, survey finds

Wow, so many things wrong with that headline, and I haven’t even gotten to the story in the LA Times. You can read the entire thing on parknews.biz.

Let’s see – Self driving cars are coming – sure, but when. Tomorrow, next year, in a few years, a decade, a few decades. That’s the problems, isn’t it. And the reason for the next part of the headline.

Developers aren’t reducing parking yet. Of course not. No sane person would invest a substantial amount of money in a project using guesses as to when a technology as fluid as autonomous vehicles is coming on line to base how the property was to be developed. Go with the tried and true. Nobody every got fired buying IBM. Nobody ever got fired building parking.

From the article:

Most office developers are still reluctant to foot the extra cost of building garages that can be converted to other uses or even build smaller garages, said Andrea Cross, head of office property research in the Americas for real estate brokerage CBRE, which conducted the survey.

“Tenant demand for office parking is going to continue to stay strong for the next five years, despite all the talk of worker mobility from ride sharing, autonomous vehicles and other on-demand transit options,” she said.

From a caption under a prototype AV:

A Lincoln MKZ outfitted with self-driving sensors. Despite the inevitability of autonomous cars, developers are still not reducing parking spots in the projects they build, a recent survey has found.

Are AVs inevitable. Sure. What will they look like? My prediction:

First: They will be shuttles that will slowly roam predetermined routes in high foot traffic areas.

Second: They will be delivery vehicles, Amazon, pizza, and Fedex/UPS if, that is, one can figure out how to get the delivery from the van to your front door.

Third: they will be buses running on separate roadways.

Fourth: They will be long haul truckers.

Fifth: They will be Uber/Lyft style services.

Sixth, and very last: Everyone will be riding in Jetson style full blown AV’s.

Now I just made this up, however, I think most people would find it reasonable. Which one of the six above would affect how a developer plans for parking? See how far away number six is from number one.

Developers aren’t crazy. The article in the Times infers that they simply don’t understand how the world is going to be in just a few short months or years. In fact they are the most sane of all. They know when not to bet the farm, or in this case the new business center.

Just sayin


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Get a Flu Shot, Dammit

Last week I visited my doctor for a scheduled check up. The receptionist asked me if I wanted a flu shot. I said yes. The tech that walked me to the examining room asked if I wanted a flu shot. I said yes. The doc’s assistant asked if I wanted a flu shot. I said yes. The doctor asked if I wanted a flu shot. I said yes. I got a flu shot.

As I was leaving I told the doctor that a dear friend died of complications of the flu and had refused to take a flu shot. He asked me to make that into a poster so he could hang it in his waiting room. I will do so.

Some people don’t get flu shots. They are lazy, don’t have time, are afraid of needles, think it will give them the flu, is expensive, there are hundreds of flu viruses, or ”I don’t get vaccinations because they don’t work.”

Let’s take these one at a time:

  • Lazy, don’t have time – if you have time to go to the supermarket (most have pharmacies) or to the drug store, or to K mart, or Target or anywhere there is a pharmacy, you have time to get a flu shot. Most all pharmacies give them.
  • I’m afraid of needles – They hurt. The new needles are so fine, you barely feel them. Get a flu shot.
  • It will give me the flu. Nope the current generation of flu shots have no live viruses. They pump up your immune system. While your immune system is revving up, you may get mild symptoms – aches, maybe a low fever. But it will be gone in a day or so. Revel in the care your partner will give you, you will love it.
  • It’s expensive – if you have health insurance of any kind, it will cost you nothing. If not, prepare to pay $20-$40. Some places charge as much as $75. Shop around. If you have ever had the flu, compare it to that price.
  • There are hundreds of strains of flu – the shot only protects against three or four. Actually, there are hundreds of viruses – like the common cold, that cause flu like symptoms but aren’t the flu.
  • Vaccinations don’t work. When was the last time you even heard of someone having polio, or smallpox, or measles, or mumps, or, whooping cough? The flu vaccine works about half the time. Most of the rest have reduced symptoms.

I’m no expert – I got all these answers from good ole common sense and a perusal of Google. Check with your doctor.

BTY – if you are getting on in years, go ahead a get a pneumonia shot and one for shingles. Its harder to fight off pneumonia and shingles sounds like a ‘funny’ disease, but it can be miserable.

When I went to the pharmacy to fill a script, the pharmacist asked if I wanted a flu shot. I told her I got one at the doctor’s, she said I should have waited and got one from her as it came with a free ice cream cone. I’m going to recommend to my doc to put in a freezer.


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Parking vs Mobility – Is it time to Rename an Industry

Kenzie Coulson, who runs the parking and transportation operations for the city of Park City, Utah, had an interesting discussion with Astrid at the SWAPTA meet in Las Vegas:

When you want to talk about parking, the average citizen may have one of two reactions. One common reaction is that people deny or diminish the idea that parking would require sophisticated planning and strategy.  The other common response is for people to become immediately emotional and irrational, especially if talking about paid or limited parking. Shifting the key words of your conversation to talk about “mobility” can change the interest level and emotional response to a more positive focus.

She goes on to comment that the term ‘parking’ emotes negative connotations like the very lack of it, the fact that one has to (shudder) pay for it, the fact that there is an entire part of the city work force whose goal is to write expensive citations, and the fact that it’s something that we don’t want to think about until we need it and even then it ranks somewhere with trash collection and chewing gum on sidewalks.

“Mobility” connotates movement, going places, and brings many diverse topics into the conversation like technology, shuttles, bikes, private vehicles, uber/lyft, buses, scooters, and the like. It doesn’t limit the conversation. Focus on larger picture, she says, TDM and mobility technologies has been a key in creating more positive dialogue within her Park City community.

Do we dump “parking” and replace it with “mobility”? I think it depends on the context. If someone comes up to you and asks where to put their car, I doubt if you would direct them toward the “mobility” lot.

However, if your goal is to move public policy or communicate reasons for parking rate increases or just why enforcement has been increased in a certain area, using “mobility” to craft a conversation about how people get from point A to point B in a most effective way and describing how parking rates or enforcement fits into the mobility discussion makes a lot of sense.

Often we talk about creating turnover or more parking space but seldom do we relate that space to the wider issue of transportation infrastructure, or, for instance, the ability of a bus, shuttle, or uber/lyft to find a spot to pick up and drop off passengers. Or how a new parking structure might make the local light rail easier for more people to use, or how it becomes a place where people move from one mode of transportation to another. How the mobility of an area increases in its flexibility if there is convenient on and off-street parking.

Like Kenzie, I think we must move the conversation away from the nuts and bolts of everyday parking and on to how we relate to getting people around our cities, universities, airports, shopping centers, and venues. Parking isn’t just a place for storing cars, it’s a part of a larger scheme of things that moves people from place to place.

It’s time we cleaned up our marketing act and sold the fact that we are a integral part of mobility, Maas and transportation. We do that and we will find that our industry will move up the conversation ladder. Plus we will also find that sensible decisions regarding parking will be on the horizon.


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35% Parking Tax and Forbid Monthly Parking…Where to Begin

An opinion piece in the New York Times (you can follow the link at parknews.biz) calls for a citywide 35% tax (up from 18% in Manhattan and 10% in the rest of the city) plus forbidding the sale of monthly parking. Its written by Jay Primus, the architect of San Francisco’s SF Park. Let’s begin with SF Park.

The program was funded by the Feds and as soon as the money ran out, it was abandoned. The entire idea was to use technology to communicate with parkers so they could find the less expensive places to park on street and to adjust off street parking so those parking on street would be attracted to parking off street. No one seems to know if it was a success, but if it had been, why not continue it when the funding ran out. I think we all know the answer to that. It was headed by a former PR executive named Jay Primus.

Mr. Primus, now a private consultant, has moved to the completely opposite camp, touting raising parking fees, abandoning technology (too expensive) and removing the ability of the private sector to sell their product as they see fit. He also recommends requiring an off-peak discount, you know, giving a discount to those who arrive early or stay late.

First, the government solution for everything. Raise Taxes. This money would go to cleaning up New York’s failing subway system. That way, more people would be attracted to riding the trains rather than driving to work. There seems to be a loss of logic here. You want to raise taxes for the very purpose of reducing traffic, but if you reduce traffic (and hence parking), you will not have taxes to collect. Is it possible that one might raise the cost of riding the trains just a bit so you could cover the cost of proper maintenance? This is an out and out money grab for the city. I would be shocked, SHOCKED if the tax actually ended up cleaning up the subway, rather than the Big Apple’s general fund.

Second, let’s take away the right of building owners to sell parking as they wish – no monthly parking. Jay likens monthly parking to a smorgasbord where since it is there, people will come back and back. However, if they have to pay for parking every day, and search for a space, they will find it inconvenient and therefore ride the subway. No wait… So, as is usually the case when the government gets involved the law of unintended consequences kicks in and, in this case, rather than a driver going directly to a space and parking, she will cruise around looking for an open space, a more convenient one, or a cheaper one, and therefore adding to congestion, pollution, and the rest. Am I missing something here?

Third, the city should require that operators give discounts to all those who arrive at off peak times, thus reducing traffic. Gee, Jay, have your ever heard of ‘early bird’ rates. Drive around Manhattan, or for that matter San Francisco, and see all those signs promoting low-cost all-day parking, “In before 7:30, $10 all day.” This is something the private sector has been doing for decades. Those who want the discount drive in early, those that don’t, don’t. Oh, I see. If we do away with monthly parking, then people will come in early to get a cheaper space. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s sitting for hours in traffic that I find less than pleasurable, and if I want to avoid it, I leave home early so I can get to work before traffic sets in.

New York City already has close to the most expensive parking on the planet. I don’t think that raising it even more will get the desired results.

The National Parking Association sees this proposal as an attack on the parking industry. In its letter to the Times, the NPA points out that congestion is a byproduct of commercial activity and that we need to look to smarter ways to make it easier, not more difficult, for people to get to work in the city. It is funding studies to help determine the root causes of the problem and to explore viable solutions.

There is undoubtedly a myriad of small steps that can be taken to mitigate the problems of city life. It may be time to put aside the sledge hammer and pick up 100 of the smallest ball peins we can find. One size doesn’t fit all, and a solution for one driver may not be the solution for the next.


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Parking Today — Content Rules

I have just received the final looksee at PT October before it heads to the printer. My wonderful team outdid themselves this month.

The theme is Dealers/Installers and our new staff writer Ann Shepphird did a superb job interviewing dealers across the fruited plain for the lead article. We have articles from India, Africa, and the UK, plus a great piece from that most American spot, Quincy, MA.

Our columnists outdid themselves this month, with Peter holding forth on the “coolest” car park, Jeff admitting he understands what I mean when I mention the “arena,” Melissa is losing her car keys, Kathleen holds forth on “disruption” and I talk about our industry coming of age. Astrid reports on pay parking in Vegas and bemoans the loss of the free shrimp cocktail.

There are nearly two dozen feature length articles plus three pages of industry news reporting 20 movers and shakers, promotions, and new installations.

Next month I turn over the reins to Karen Pradhan and Women in Parking crew who will provide all the content for the November issue. That is always a treat.

When I put PT side by side with other industry pubs, from the US and around the world, I can see that we aren’t always the prettiest, but I can’t help but think how fortunate we are to have such great people writing consistently good articles. There is no question that content is truly king. Watch your inbox in the next couple of weeks for notification of the arrival of Parking Today October 2018.


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