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Parking — Is it really as bad as people say?

The book by Henry Grabar, a staff writer for Slate, is making the rounds and he has become a media darling. By playing off Joni Mitchell’s song, he seems to have garnered some credibility. Its title: Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World.

First let’s talk about Joni – she wrote the song in Honolulu, after she looked out her hotel window and saw a parking lot. “They took away all the trees and put up a parking lot.” But did they?

There are more trees in Los Angeles today than there have ever been, by the millions. We live in an urban forest. I went back to tour my alma mater, UCLA, and couldn’t see the buildings for the trees, thousands of them. People want to believe that we are destroying the earth, but they don’t look around and see what is actually happening.

Clyde points out that surface parking is actually and land bank. Owners use it for parking, but when it’s time to build, it is readily available. I cannot for the life of me understand how this is a bad thing.

I was interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter who lived in Los Angeles. He liked to shop and play in the area around Melrose and LaBrea. He told me that there wasn’t any parking there. I told him that I knew the area and there was tons of parking, behind the stores. Yes, he said, but you had to pay for it. He wanted more free parking like he found on the streets.

Back to Grabar. Just how does parking explain the world? I’m not sure Grabar actually answers that question. He didn’t in his interview. It’s a fancy title, but does it really mean anything.

Don Shoup titled his book “The High Cost of Free Parking” and then set about to show how free parking actually costs the driver, and everyone else. He posits that if all parking costs the driver at the time it was used, and the cost was based on convenience, the marketplace would take care of the parking problem, assuming there truly is one.

PT’s offices are located in a class A building near LAX. There is abundant parking under the building. I have never, in the seven years  we’ve been there,  seen the parking full – even when it was opened to airport parking. We pay for parking. And tenants think about how many spaces they need.

Parking is a major issue with drivers. They want it available, convenient, and free. They pressure their elected officials to keep it that way. What mayor or council member is going to die on the hill of parking? None that I know.

How many times have you complained that there wasn’t enough parking, when in reality there wasn’t enough parking close to your destination. It was a block away. And it cost to park there. There was plenty of parking, it just wasn’t the kind of parking you wanted.

We shudder at numbers that tell us that there are two or three times as many parking spaces as there are cars in the US. But think about it, a car is either parked at its owner’s home (one space) or at its destination (another space). Why is that so hard to figure out. Merchants and venues want to attract customers and make it convenient for them. So they build enough parking for their customers.

Why is there almost always parking available except on the day after Christmas, or when stores are selling the formula for turning dirt into gold? Because drivers know that you don’t go to Costco at 10 in the morning on Saturday. It’s jammed. Parking at the mall, or Costco, or Home Depot, is self regulating.

Grabar uses New York and Boston as his examples. I think that there are maybe a thousand other cities in the US where people park just fine, thank you very much. Don’t get me wrong – parking can often be a pain, but we know that and know how to deal with it. One of the ways is to read a book like Grabar’s and nod our heads at the veracity of it. Even when we had no problem parking at the mall when we went to the bookstore to buy it.



But wait…Parking Generates $$$

Numerous studies done in the past decades have shown that a simple onstreet parking space in a business district is, depending on the area, is responsible for upwards of $300,000 in business for surrounding stores. So, what do we do – we remove the parking spaces and replace them with bus and bike lanes.

Looking out the window, I see that the bike lanes are virtually unused, and the buses are, we are told, filthy and unsafe so most who would potentially use them, other than those who are forced to use them, don’t. Our billion dollar a mile subways are seldom used as folks are afraid of the homeless sleeping in the stations and cars. Can you say Bart in San Francisco, or Metro in Los Angeles.

So, much to the glee of anti parking and anti private vehicles, parking spaces are going the way of the dodo and all that business they generated are going along with them.

Remember, my favorite law, that of unintended consequences, is defined as:

The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people—and especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended.

Now those ‘government people’ will say that they act for the ‘greater good.’ But do they? How many businesses go bust, and people lost their jobs, when those parking spaces were removed? Remove the parking spaces now, and deal with the fallout later.

In addition to the money generated for local businesses, parking generates considerable funding to the cities that provide and maintain the spaces. In large cities like New York, the numbers are in the hundreds of millions a year. What is the city going to do when that goes away. You know the answer, they will simply raise taxes.

I’m working on a blog, perhaps to be posted next week, to discuss just what the goals of the “anti-parking” crew really is. Who knows, the consequences may not be unintended.


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Just Blame “Climate Change”

The LA Times is headlining a a poll that notes that 70% of the respondents expect volatile swings in weather to be commonplace due to Climate Change. Oh Please.

We had a few drought years, it was climate change. We had an incredibly wet year, it was climate change. Tell me, kind reader, is it possible to have it both ways.

Of course it is, just ask the ‘experts.’

We have a wonderful article by my friend David Feehan on the topic of “Common Sense” upcoming in July’s Parking Today. He discusses EV hybrids, defunding police, removing on street parking, and why people don’t take the bus. In every case, common sense tells you why, just as common sense tells you that wet and dry years have little if any relationship with “Climate Change.”

We had severe weather changes when I was growing up in the 50s. Houses that were built on flood plains were damaged when the local rivers overran their banks. Not a person blamed the climate, they blamed the people who built their houses where the river overflowed. When the fires burned off the hillsides around the town, not a person blamed God or the climate when houses built in the midst of the brush were destroyed. Folks in those days had common sense. By the way, in one of those years, we had 35 inches of rain, that’s 10 more than we received this year. Somebody explain that.

The weather gurus are predicting a hot summer, gee, a hot summer in California. Now that’s difficult to predict. There will be fires. Why – that damn rain we got this winter will cause plant life to grow and fuel potential wild fires. Huh? It took five PhDs and years of study to figure that one out. Oh, don’t forget, those same learned folks have told us we can’t clear cut around power lines and potentially prevent forest fires.

Rather and use common sense, it’s much easier to blame something we aren’t even sure is happening.

Prove to me I’m wrong.


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Memorial Day 2023

We remember the fallen on Memorial Day. These patriots have given their lives so we can live in the greatest country on earth. In the last wars, they volunteered to go into hell knowing there was a good chance they wouldn’t return. If you haven’t been there, it is impossible  to know what they were thinking or feeling.

They knew they were doing something important. And they did it without hesitation. Now they are memories. Memories for sons and daughters, for brothers and sisters, for moms and dads, for friends. We remember them and think about what they have missed by making those decisions to go and protect us.

Modern medical technology has meant that many who would have died survived. They returned missing limbs, with other physical and mental wounds, and are living memories of just what we think about on Memorial Day.

For some care stopped in an instant on the battlefield. For many others care continues. Remember those who died, but also remember those who survived. I commend to you the Wounded Warrior Project. Learn about it here.


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Don’t forget the Chicoms

Let’s face it, the Chinese are running the EV market. They produce over half the EVs manufactured, but more importantly, they control the critical supply lines of the materials needed to build the most critical part of an EV, the battery.

They not only have a strangle hold on lithium, mining it freely in China, but they also own many of the other sources of the critical rare earth. They manufacture nearly 70% of the vehicle batteries. It should be noted that battery manufacture is a messy business, and the Chinese don’t seem to care that they make a mess.

As we run pall mall into an all electric world, shouldn’t we stop for a moment and consider just what we are doing for a country that has declared itself our enemy.

Consider one aspect.  What if, down the road, the Chinese decide to double or triple the price of the batteries. We are committed to the EV, and now our supply lines are strangled. We have shut down production of ICE vehicles.  Whoops.

My favorite law, that of unintended consequences raises its ugly head. I mentioned before that when we let the government pick winners and losers, it doesn’t do a very good job. Can you say Solyndra, or Enron. In this case it’s not just loaning money, but it is forcing a product on the public, setting impossible goals, and setting up entire industries for failure.

Wouldn’t we be better off if we let the marketplace move at its own pace, let the technology keep pace with demand, and let EVs grow at a pace manufacturers can keep up with.

Then the Chinese might be left holding a very expensive bag.



Keep it simple…

“Any damn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.”

― Pete Seeger

Social activist and folk singer hit the nail with his famous hammer with this one. How often do we encounter a ‘pitch’ from a company or individual and after it is over, you have know idea what they said. Often we this its our fault, you know we aren’t smart enough to understand them.

Don’t kid yourself, if you don’t understand, its not your problem its theirs.  Try this on for size:

“The parking infrastructure of the past was disconnected, single purpose, opaque, and unable to serve the needs of today’s smart cities. We are building parking infrastructure for future of mobility, with technology that connects the entire ecosystem’s supply of parking assets with the demand of users.”

Do you have a clue what this company does? Software, hardware, both? What is it that makes the company unique, except perhaps its inability to describe in a couple of sentences what it does.

I tell this story often but I sat in on a presentation of a ‘startup’ and it was 45 minutes into the presentation before I realized it provided on street pay by cell services. Their ‘pitch’ was so oriented to a Silicon Valley and an attempt to garner venture capital that they neglected to explain what it was they did. After all, Silicon Valley Bank built its success on their true understanding of the underpinnings of the companies in which it invested – Oh wait.

Pete Seeger was a musician, folk singer and activist. He would not compare himself with 160 IQ Albert Einstein. But they had one thing in common, a belief in simplicity. The renowned physicist most famous quote: “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” I wonder if the company I mentioned above understands just what it is doing.


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Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains The World.

It’s a new book by Henry Grabar, a staff writer for Slate. I haven’t read the book, but I have read an extensive interview of Grabar and I think I have a pretty good feel where he is coming from. You can find the interview on parknews.biz. Frankly, it’s a dumbed down version of Don Shoup’s “The High Cost of Free Parking.”

He talks about how drivers spend an inordinate amount of time looking for parking. However I think he misses the point – people are spending time looking for free or cheap parking. My experience is that there is parking available, but often it costs. And of course we all know it’s in the Magna Carta of the Bill of Rights, that parking should be free.

This is absurd. You pay the initial cost of a car, you pay for insurance, fuel, maintenance, and all the other costs of driving, but you somehow feel that the ‘right’ to park the car, that is to take up space that belongs to someone else, should be free.

It would seem to me that if one pays the true cost to park, whether it is at your office, or outside a shopping mall, sports arena, or other your doctor’s office, that much of the so called parking problem would go away.

Rather than having parking as a commodity, why can’t it be like anything we purchase. Let the parking space owner set the price based on the service supplied. I would love to pay a few bucks more and get a clean, safe, well lighted, available place to park. Wouldn’t you?

Graber tells stories about the horrors of parking, Wouldn’t it be great if the stories about parking were uplifting, and parking became a positive experience.

Think about it.


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How the $8 billion parking industry is evolving to stay alive –

If you read the headline from an article posted Monday on Parknews.biz, you would begin to consider a harbinger of disaster ahead “How the $8 billion parking industry is evolving to stay alive.” If you drill down to the 10th graph you find that they are discussing parking operators. Seems companies like SP Plus, ABM, and LAZ plus the many smaller operators generate the $8 billion.

However if you take the parking business in toto, you find that it will generate over $144 billion this year, an amount 10% above 2019, the year before the pandemic. It seems to me that having come back after the heavy COVID losses to a 10 percent increase should be the headline. As an industry, we appear to be doing well. The large parking operators are not doing so well, but expect about a 2% increase on their bottom lines over the next five years.

If it bleeds it leads. They searched out about six percent of the industry and even though it appears to be growing, they are growing because operators are focusing on technology to help their bottom lines. Don’t be misled – Parking is coming back strong.


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EVs – Charging and the Rest

As I was playing catch up reading through Astrid’s Park News, I find that nearly every other article focused on EVs, mostly on charging. I’m not entirely sure what that means. GM is killing off the Bolt but setting up a company to build a charging network. There are a number of articles comparing EV and ICE vehicles. Plus there is an interesting piece on the fact that at least half of the drivers of both EVs and ICE cars have range anxiety when it comes to EVs. Hmmmmm.

I was particularly intrigued by the last one. During my sojourn at the local hospital, I had an interesting conversation with a med tech. He had an Audi EV and simply loved it. His wife had a Tesla. The only problem he saw was range and charging. They took a trip from LA to Mammoth this winter and drove the Tesla (it had a longer range, he said.) Nevertheless he was grousing about the number of times they had to stop to charge (on the 400 mile trip) and how it extended the travel time – although his next sentence said how much he ‘loved his EV.’

That conversation seemed to back up the article. I might also add, from looking out my window, my neighbor down the street has a Tesla, but also hosts two, count em, two ICE SUVs. Now this fellow is as green as it comes, with solar arrays on his roof and barrels to collect rainwater. However he still has back up.

An aside – When I got home from a week away my car’s battery was flat. I had left one of the doors slightly open and the interior light was on. I simply called triple A and within an hour I was jumped and on the road. By the end of my trip my battery was back to normal and all was right with the world. I wonder how long it would have taken to get an EV in the same situation back to normal? At least with today’s technology you can’t call someone to bring a bucket of electrons if your battery is flat. Just Sayin..,

I go back to an article I read recently –  EVs will never compete with ICE vehicles until they can compete on a feature by feature basis, and that means speed of fueling, cost, and range between fueling. I commented before that automobile companies advertising  EVs on the Super Bowl were hawking their beautiful cars, but were selling features found on ICE vehicles. Except for commenting that they were electric cars, the benefits of electricity weren’t mentioned. Could that be that the EV part was a negative rather than a positive?

Everyone I know that has an EV, and they are legion, cannot stop telling me how much they love the vehicles. When they talk about range, like my med-tech friend, they talk about how wonderful the cars are for bopping around town, you know, short 10 mile trips. They just love them. When pressed on longer trips, they change the subject.

The Med-tech’s travel to Mammoth was not hampered by lack of charging stations. Elon Musk has solved that problem for Tesla owners. However he STILL had to stop every so often, at least three or four times on the round trip, and spend time charging. His frustration wasn’t from lack of chargers, but from having to stop for over half an hour at a super charger, while those driving ICE vehicles stopped for 10 minutes, filled their car once, and that was it.

Considering all this, I wonder if charger availability is the solution. Will EVs become the way to go when technology catches up. Time will tell.




My Normal Self

For those of you who might have noticed that I haven’t been my normal self lately and I thought you deserved an explanation. Seventeen years ago I had a heart valve replaced. I was told at the time that the new valve would last between 15 and 20 years. Right on schedule it began to fail this year.

In the meantime, I began to have an irregular heartbeat, unrelated. When it rains it pours.

My doctor and I decided to fix the irregular heartbeat first and I had two ablation treatments which were basically outpatient procedures and they ‘fixed’ the heartbeat issue. At least so far. It has to remain ‘fixed’ for a year. We shall see.

In the meantime the pesky valve continued to fail and the result was that I was extremely tired and out of breath all the time. However the good news was that technology marches on and whereas the replacement two decades ago was a major open chest procedure, today it can be done with a catheter and one can go home the next day. Therein turn the tale.

The procedure went well and I was home walking the dog the next day. I felt great.

Last Wednesday an infection hit me like a ton of bricks. The symptoms were like those of a stroke, mostly in my cognitive abilities. I couldn’t understand others and when I spoke I made no sense. I know, how did they tell the difference.

So it was off to the hospital and a week’s course of antibiotics which worked out of the blocks. Fever gone and feeling great. However the docs were concerned about the new valve and further infection so I’m now on a six week course of heavy duty meds including a pump I carry around to keep the drip going.

I don’t recommend a week in the hospital. You can’t “do” anything. I must have seen 30 episodes of “Friends” and read four books. The staff was terrific, even when they woke me up four times a night to check my blood pressure. Many thanks to the folks at St. John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica. I might not be here without them.

I’m definitely on the mend and expect to see blogs and columns issuing forth shortly. Thank you to all those who sent words of inspiration and support.