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I had to laugh…

Columnist Nicholas Goldberg, writing in the LA Times, has opined that we are seeing a rash of folks running for office that have no previous political experience. He blames this on the previous administration’s influx of ‘citizen’ politicians and seems horrified that this will bring our government to its knees with all these amateurs running around loose in statehouses and in Washington DC.

The problem with professional politicians is just that, they are professional. They are doing the job to make a living but there is no seeming recourse if they fail. You can list hundreds of politicians of all parties that have been in office for years and the problems that they came into office to fix are not only still in place, but are worse.

It isn’t that they are incompetent, but that they have, after a couple of years, tasted power and love it. They want to retain that power and to do so they must raise money, a lot of money. That comes from people who are attempting to buy favors and often do. Then decisions which should be common sense are replaced with decisions that mean money in the campaign coffers of the folks making those decisions.

I wish I could be like Nicholas and point the finger at one group or another and wring my hands ‘if only’ the electorate were smarter and elected those that believe or vote like I do, all would be right with the world. But dammit, I can’t. Both sides are equally bad. And the electorate is smarter than you think.

If that wasn’t the case, why does the political pendulum swing back and forth so often. We elect folks from one side of the political spectrum and then just four or eight years later we vote the bastards out and the pendulum swings back to the other side. One year we elect Ronald Reagan, a few years later Bill Clinton, then George Bush, then Barack Obama, then Donald Trump and then Joe Biden. The voters moved back and forth. Usually electing a congress of the other party to ensure that no one gets carried away.

Nick thinks that folks should start out in school boards and city councils and get some experience at a ‘low level’ before jumping into state legislatures and the congress. I look at things from the opposite point of view. I think that school boards and city councils may be the most important with the value of the position decreasing as the office gets further and further away from home.

Schools, police, streets and parks, fire protection, hospitals, delivering electricity and water, ensuring building codes are met, all seem to me to be more important to the average person than mandating the kind of car you can drive or spending trillions on programs that have proven to have no measurable effect on anything. But that’s just me.

Nicholas Goldberg picked half a dozen examples of amateurs that are running for office including Matthew McConaughey, Andrew Yang, Caitlyn Jenner, Andrew Guiliani, and spent half the column bemoaning Guiliani’s (he’s Rudy’s son) running for Governor of New York. I’m guessing there are hundreds if not thousands running for office who have the vast experience of Andrew (mostly on the golf course) and would probably be OK.

I realize that high powered columnists for the main stream media know more than backwater bloggers like me and are probably right in their opinions. But I I can’t get past the William F. Buckley quote when he said that he would “rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.” Smart guy, Bill.

JVH

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I wonder

Just how many owners/operators feel they don’t need to audit once they have installed a high tech PARCS system.

How auditors are going to know just how many cars enter and leave a facility using a ticketless system

How many technology suppliers believe their system cannot be hacked?

How many parking organizations use “Big Data” to help them meet their customer’s needs?

How many EV Charging stations are blocked by cars left there after finishing their charging?

What percentage of parkers make a parking reservation?

What drivers do when the LPR doesn’t work?

How many garage managers know how to open an excel spread sheet?

How many monthly parkers park in the same unreserved spot every day?

Who was the guy who said parking cars is easy?

Why the LPR system in our building works on my car 95 times out of 100 when nothing changes?

Do you wonder about parking stuff?  Let me know and I’ll update the list

JVH

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Common Sense

When Thomas Paine wrote his famous pamphlet in 1775 (published in 1776 it became an immediate success. This was due as much to his marketing campaign as to its content. He sat forth clearly his ideas concerning separating from England and created a text that was read and reread during the revolutionary period. It was also controversial, with some more conservative revolutionary leaders, such and John Adams called it “so democratical, without any restraint or even an attempt at any equilibrium or counter poise, that it must produce confusion and every evil work.”

Nevertheless, according to Wikipedia, it “was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places. In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history.[3] As of 2006, it remains the all-time best-selling American title and is still in print today.”

The textbook description of “common sense” is: “common sense refers to having sound judgment, not necessarily based on specialized knowledge.”

An example might be the news we have received about the pandemic, from day one. Virtually everything that has been said about Covid-19, one way or another, has been proven incorrect. Scientists, politicians, government officials, all have made statements that have been changed, retracted, or proven to be outright wrong. They have flown in the face of simple common sense.

Oh, you might say, as more information became available, the dialogue changed to fit that information. Perhaps, but in fact, those with basic common sense, looking at the situation could see through the actions. For example, the arrest of a surfer off the coast using the resources of half a dozen police and boats. It flies in the face of common sense.

Another example might be people riding alone in cars with masks, or riding a bicycle, or jogging. Where is basic common sense. Why was it OK to go to Costco, or Home Depot, but not the local bodega. Why were liquor stores allowed to stay open but clothing stores were not. Why did one have to wear masks when driving through a Jack in the Box to pick up a burger (they were behind plexiglass and you were in the car.) Common Sense.

I know I’m treading on this ice here, but I have not been able to get my mind around allowing boys who say they are girls to participate in girls’ sports or use girl’s locker rooms. Can’t anyone use come common sense.

Defund the police is another one. The majority of crime takes place in minority communities. The police are the only thing that stands between the average person living there and the gangsters. Removing the police would only hurt those people. Common Sense.

Increase unemployment insurance to more than a person could make working 8 to 5. Businesses cannot get enough staff to run their concerns properly. Remove the unemployment insurance increase. Businesses now have a pool of potential workers to call upon. Common Sense.

I could go on but you get the point. We have lost our ability to trust our common sense. How do we get that back?

Believe what you see, and not what you hear. Stop listening to the media (it is wrong virtually every time.) Live your   life based on common sense. I say you will not go wrong.

JVH

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What Would Happen if there was a Specific Goal?

I have always been suspect of grants given by the Feds for programs that seem to be an experiment, with no real goal in life. A good example of that is SF Park. The city got $20 million from the federal government with the goal of monitoring parking meters, understanding occupancy, and instituting a variable pricing program, block by block in the city.

Now the program has ended, the sensors monitoring the occupancy has been turned off, and the variable pricing is set based on statistical historic data. Studies of SF Park have concluded that the result of the program has had little actual impact on the on street parking in the city.

In other words, the 20 mil is spent, the technology purchased is no longer in use and the goals set through the use of that technology has gone by the wayside. The program has had tremendous PR, but what, in reality, did it accomplish. For further information I commend to you a study done by Vanderbilt University: Understanding the Block-Level Price Elasticity of On-Street Parking Demand: A Case Study of San Francisco’s SFpark Project, 2016.

This brings us to and article in “Tech Crunch” about Columbus, OH, and the Smart City Project. SF Park was a piker compared to the 50 million received by Columbus to smarten up its commuter and transportation system. The city won the grant (40 million from the Feds, 10 from the Paul Allen foundation). They proceeded to spend the money on a multi user app (from a startup), 1.5 million; an open source database, 15.9 million; smart mobility hubs, a pr program, 1.3 million; a connected vehicle program to reduce traffic accidents, 11.3 million; an autonomous shuttle program that cost 2.3 million and ran two weeks; a prenatal health app, which ran 1.3 million; and a 1.3 million program through ParkMobile which is still running and strangely enough, seems to be the only truly successful program of any on the list. That totals 34.9 million. An unspecified amount of the Paul Allen 10 million has gone to the local utility to help incentivize local drivers to purchase and use EVs.

Five years ago the money was funded. It’s spent. And just what is the result. Is transportation in Columbus smarter? Is traffic moving safer? Are EVs flying out of the showrooms? Are local transportation groups making use of the database? Is the Multi-user app helping folks get around in central Ohio? The Autonomous Shuttle seems to be at the side of the road. Have Traffic accidents been reduced? The parking app is working with over 30,000 locals downloading the app. It apparently will continue after the funding for the others runs out. Read all about it on Parknews.biz.

I don’t mean to criticize Columbus. These federal grants can be seductive. But it seems to me that the money is gifted, and then spent, without any long term project or goal in mind. It’s like a way to give ideas a chance without any particular recourse in the event of failure or even an understanding what constitutes failure.

This one was surrounded by buzz words.

The U.S. Department of Transportation launched a Smart City Challenge in 2015, which asked mid-sized cities across the country to come up with ideas for novel smart transportation systems that would use data and tech to improve mobility.

In mid-June, the program ended, but Columbus said the city would continue to work as a “collaborative innovation lab,” using city funds to integrate technology to address societal problems.

We really focus on not just demonstrating technology for technology’s sake, but to look at the challenges we are facing in our city around mobility and transportation and use our award to focus on some of those challenges,” Mandy Bishop, Smart Columbus program manager, told TechCrunch.

Wow! I wonder what would happen if specific goals were set up and if they weren’t reached, the city had to refund the grant. Right! As if that would happen.

JVH

 

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I think our glass is half full

The airport parking area in my building is completely full. I’m told that shopping centers around LA were jammed this weekend. Traffic is becoming more and more difficult. The 405 is back to normal. I chatted with an operator in upstate New York and was told that his locations were filling up quite nicely, thank you very much.  News reports are that parking at airports such as Atlanta is chaotic. Service is slow at many restaurants as customers overwhelm waitstaff. I’m flying to DFW this week and note that except for a few middle seats, the plane is full. Valet operations are booming as hospitals are accepting non emergency procedures and hotels and restaurants are “open for business.”

I’m actually running into people in our building (I hadn’t seen a living soul for months) and most weren’t wearing masks.

I don’t want to be taken as a cockeyed optimist, but it seems to me that business is back to normal, sooner rather than later. Reports I’m getting tell me that the biggest problem operators have now is finding employees to fill vacancies.

The first day of summer was yesterday and let’s face it, people are ready to get out there and work and play like as if covid never happened.

JVH

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My Father

My father wanted to be a lawyer, but left high school to support his family so his brother could go to college. His father, my grandfather, had abandoned his family early on. My father never went back to school but he was the most educated man I have ever met.

He read everything he could get his hands on, he worked hard, he ended up editing a newspaper in a small town in California.

My earliest memories of my father were working with him in the newspaper’s printing plant. I would sit on a tall stool and he would teach me how to hand set type, reading it upside down and backwards. He wasn’t one to leave his son at home and go out with his friends. When he went to the races (he loved Santa Anita and Hollywood Park) he would take me with him. He showed me how to handicap the horses and would place a small bet for me. Once he won “big”, maybe $100. But that was a lot in those days.

He took the money and bought lumber to build a hot house for plants around the side of our home. I ‘helped’ every step of the way.

He was, with my mom, at every school event in which I participated.

There was one incident that taught me more about life than any other.

It was a Friday night and I was told to be home by midnight. Of course I stretched the time a bit and at 1215 the police came in to the local hangout and told me to come with them. They took me home. I was incensed. My own father called the cops on me for being 15 minutes late. He looked at me and said “when you didn’t call, I assumed the worst.” It had to do with honor and respecting the feelings of others. I have never forgotten the look on his face. I had let him down.

It was a small town and my father knew all the policemen and it was no problem for him to make that call.

My father wasn’t religious, but as soon as I was old enough to go to church, he, with my mother, joined the local Episcopal church and made sure I was involved in every aspect. He became best friends with the priest. He was on the church board. A few weeks after I left for college, he began to back off and within a year was out of the church. I realized he did it not for himself, but for me.

He was a printer. He ran the machines that published the paper and the small presses that did the job printing for the businesses in town. But he also edited the paper and published a weekly column that he set directly on the Linotype. Frankly with just that bit of mechanization, the printing was little different than Gutenberg did 500 years before.

He knew we must keep up with the times and changed from ‘hot metal’ to offset printing, and at age 60, learned everything there was about it.

He was a photographer. We had a darkroom in our house. He and I learned how to print and develop pictures together. He was a gardener and we had prize winning roses. He barbequed on a grill that he sat on two bricks in a wheelbarrow. My father took me fishing. We didn’t catch much, but it was fun.

He bought an old Model A Ford and we took the engine apart and then ground the valves and then put it back together. There is no bigger thrill than starting an engine you helped to build.

When he helped me with my homework, I was really bad in French, it turned out he learned more of the language than I did.

I always wondered if all those things he did, photography, fishing, barbequing, gardening, auto repair, horse racing, and the rest were for him, or for me. I think I know that answer.

My father was 15 before he saw his first airplane. He lived through two world wars (too young for the first, too old for the second) and saw men walk on the moon. He was never wealthy, in a money sense, but I never felt that we wanted for anything.

When he was in his 70s and 80s, he would play bridge with other seniors in the complex where my parents retired. One day he told me he couldn’t follow the cards anymore. “If this is what its like to get old,” he said, “I really don’t want to go on.” He died about six months later.

As I reread the piece above, I noticed that I used the term “father” to describe him. Probably because today is Father’s Day. But in reality, he was my ‘dad.’

Brice W. Van Horn, 1905-1987

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Guess who Just Turned 40

Can you believe it. Raiders of the Lost Arc, Steven Spielberg’s and George Lucas’ blockbuster adventure opened in theaters 40 years ago this past weekend. How does that make you feel?

There can be no question that this movie changed the scope of adventure flics as Indy and Co romped around the globe, fighting Nazis and discovering great treasure. For those of you living in a cave for the last four decades, the story revolves around archeologist Indiana Jones and his race to find the Arc of the Covenant before it is taken from the sands of Egypt by the Nazis and turned over to Hitler. It takes place in 1935.

From the moment the famous Paramount Logo Mountain morphs into a landscape in Peru this movie grabs you and doesn’t let go for the next two hours. Whether he is battling Nazis, a bear chested behemoth, snakes, aboriginal natives, snakes, an evil opponent, snakes, the Egyptian desert, spies, Arab swordsmen, or even the odd left hook from his girlfriend, Marian, Indy never gives up, besting them all in one of the greatest chase scenes of all time, only to have the Arc snatched from his grasp by his own government. By the way, Indy does not like snakes.

Unlike the rest of us, Raiders doesn’t get old. Seeing it again brings back fond memories of swashbuckling and derring-do. Check it out – you can download from Amazon, or practically anywhere else.

Oh, and you Big Bang nuts that believe the story would have come out the same without Indy. So What!

JVH

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People Who Pay No Price for Being Wrong

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

…..Thomas Sowell

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What you Will Miss at PIE 2021 – If you Don’t attend

Technology

  • Big Data and Parking
  • LPR
  • Electric Vehicle Charging
  • RFID
  • PCI DSS – Are you Compliant.
  • How to Buy it – You can pay too much or too little
  • Merging on Street and Off-Street Tech
  • The Curb –

Operations

  • Virtual Permits
  • Moving from Free to Pay
  • Using time series analysis and machine learning to anticipate customer needs
  • Increase Revenue by combining Hourly Parking and Permit Parking
  • How did COVID Change our Customers?
  • You have Tech, you still Need to Audit.

Facilities:

  • Make your garage Last Decades Longer
  • Reduce Repair Costs – Tips to Set up a Maintenance Program

The Experts

  • Parking Resource Forum
  • 125 Years of Experience – Owner, Operator, Vendor, Consultant and the Media
  • Sometimes the Old Ways are Best
  • The Return of Parking – The Economy
  • The Customer Experience
  • Never in Park, Always in Drive

Networking

  • Gala Anniversary Party
  • Breakfast networking
  • Awards Luncheon
  • Hours of Exhibit Hall with Food

Log on to www.pieshow.parkingtoday.com for details and to register!

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No Parking, Cities Rethink Parking with Fewer Personal Cars.

I know, I know – I’m a contrarian.  Someone says up, I say down. Someone say white, I say black. I get this from being right so many times. (No arrogance there).

My contrarian roots got tickled by an article in the Wall Street Journal. Astrid grabbed it and the story can be found on Parknews.biz. Its title is “No Parking, Cities Rethink Parking with Fewer Personal Cars.”

This article is heavily researched. They quote everyone from UCLA’s Don Shoup to Walker’s Mary Smith to Flash’s Don Sharplin to Las Vegas’ Brandy Stanley to Parkway’s Robert Zuritsky to Gensler’s Andy Cohen. These are some pretty heavy hitters in our industry and far be it from me to be contrary to them. However…

The gist of the article is that with the advent of self driving cars and the popularity of ride hailing services, traffic in central cities would be down as much as 70% and all the folks quoted spoke of different uses for garages from mobility hubs to mobile kitchens, from parks (on the roof) to offices and apartments. Fair Enough.

However, I wondered if the editors of the august WSJ actually read their own newspaper. There have been a number of articles as recent as last week saying that basically self driving cars were a non starter and that it will take a complete change in how artificial intelligence works before the true self driving vehicle can actually hit the streets. These articles said that the advent of these mechanical marvels could be up to thirty to forty years out.

There have also been stories crying the blues for ride hailing services, noting that prices are skyrocketing in the face of too few drivers to meet the demand. That has caused folks to rethink their usage and going back to privately owned vehicles.

Another article stressed that young folks were actually buying cars and driving rather than taking rapid transit (granted this was due to covid) but the so called ‘trend’ to young people giving up cars seems to have stalled.

I understand that the world want’s electric vehicles to happen and everyone is on that bandwagon, but from where I stand there are a few pesky details that need to be resolved, including the extremely disruptive mining for materials needed for batteries, the ongoing problem with the electrical grid and its inability to service a fleet of EVs, and the fact that the vast majority of drivers don’t seem to be on board with the higher cost of EVs, range anxiety, the time it takes to charge, and the like.

Taking all the above into account, should we start a wholesale demolition or renovation of downtown garages? Although planning for the future is a good idea, should we not also be realistic about what we see when we look out the window?

It was interesting that the author of the WSJ article didn’t mention any of the above issues, or have any quotes contrary to the point of the story. Was it agenda driven, or was it simply a naïve author who made a bunch of phone calls and asked questions that didn’t truly cover the topic?

Just sayin

JVH

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