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Do the Numbers

I had dinner last night with a good friend and I’ll call him a “wag” who loves to talk parking. He was on a roll. He said that too often we in our industry forget to actually look at the facts and the numbers and simply listen to people who have, as he put it, a dog in the fight.

That means, he said, that when we hear about the future, the data has been filtered through someone who has a personal, financial, or intellectual reason to push a certain idea or concept. He gave some examples:

  • When we hear about autonomous vehicles we hear mostly from those that program, build, sell, or design these critters. What’s not to believe when a guy like Elon Musk talks about the subject?
  • When we discuss how garages will be run in the next decade who is on the front line of the conversation? Is it the folks who actually run the garages, who are in the arena every day, or is it technocrats who develop fancy machines to enable us to do a better job?
  • When we grasp our pearls and fall on the fainting couch as we hear that people are moving away from single vehicle trips to work and on to rapid transit, who is giving us that data?

These are just a few of the examples one could posit as we are bombarded by news and information from all directions every day. My friend went on to quote a couple of demographic facts that are unassailable.

The percentage of people who ride rapid transit has not changed since the 1950s. Sure the absolute number goes up, but so does the population. So when we plan for infrastructure, and that includes parking, do we count the actual number of people who are still driving or do we simply say the percentage of drivers remains the same or maybe backs off a point or two so this harbingers a death knell for our industry?

We seem to listen to futurists who “know” everything. They are young, childless, on the way up.  Just as people tend to become more conservative as they age, reality changes as traffic increases rather than decreases in our major cities.

My friend suggests that perhaps we should do the numbers, look at what is actually happening, and plan for that.

What a concept.

JVH

 

 

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