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Expensive Solutions, Summertime, and The Big Apple

September 13, 2018

John Van Horn

When I was rereading a piece found in my favorite magazine about TDM and how our betters seem to go for the big, expensive solution to all our problems, I got to thinking about some big, expensive solutions and just how well they succeeded.


Consider the high-speed rail line being sort of built here in California. Its price has been going up exponentially and the complexities have been legend. The fact that it’s replacing a one-hour air flight with a three-hour train ride that will cost more than the flight hasn’t seemed to slow its supporters one bit.


We spent billions putting a human on the moon, and then what? There’s a solar electricity generating plant near Las Vegas that has cost taxpayers billions. It takes natural gas to get it going, it’s killing birds by the hundreds, and come to find out, there are clouds out there that block the sun.


Airbus decided to build the world’s largest passenger plane. Boeing decided not to. Airbus is considering cancelling the project and Boeing is building 787s like they are going out of style.


The list is endless. Notice that it wasn’t only in the public sector.


It’s the grand gesture. It’s about creating a legacy. It’s about getting elected. It’s about ego. I’m sure there’s a Frenchman somewhere looking out his window as an A380 flies by and saying to himself “I did that.”


Did you ever notice when a new sewer goes in, there is always a big sign with the mayor and the local councilman taking credit? They have to be seen as doing something. After all, that’s what we put them there for, isn’t it, to do something?


One of the Hunt Brothers was quoted as saying when they were cornering the silver market “A billion here, and a billion there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money.”


So JVH, what’s your point?


I guess the point is that must we always go for the big numbers, the grand gesture, the “definitive” solution. Why can’t we think a project through? Consider all the ramifications. Then start off with baby steps. It works for kids, why not massive projects?


It’s summer, and the mind turns to vacation. Heading out on the open road, seeing new sights, living the good life, letting the kids experience new things, meet new people, share new ideas. Or not. Will you be taking a vacation or a staycation?


I just got back from Orlando and the UK and the summer travel season hit me right between the eyes. Traffic, airports, hotels, theme parks. They are jammed.


Americans are noted for not travelling outside their country. Brits, Europeans, Canadians and those from Oz and Middle Earth all take long trips to fairer climes and love to sit on beaches and swill drinks filled with umbrellas and fruit.


They look askance at those of us who stay within our borders but admit that we have a lot to offer within driving distance.


They are right. Talk about broad vistas, wonderful beaches, a terrific wine country, cities filled with jazz and great food, places to visit Mickey and have a grand time, we have them all. Plus, they are fairly easy to get to. But is there a down side?


Air Travel: Airports are jammed with people unclear on the concept. Road Warriors know how to pack, how to deal with the TSA, how not to set off that metal detector, how to have the ID and boarding pass in their hands when they meet the officer, not to begin the search when he asked for them.


 Plus, a family of five doesn’t move through and airport at the speed of light. Airplanes are jammed. That extra seat next to you is filled with a 10 year old who loves to bounce around while playing video games. And don’t get me started on the airline’s inability to have a flight crew arrive before the time your plane is scheduled to leave.


The Weather: You leave Minneapolis with its high temperature killer humidity and head to Orlando, or New Orleans, or Houston, or Miami, or Chicago, or Phoenix or New York or DC, all with their high temperatures and killer humidity.


Cars: Gas prices seems to jump automatically by about a buck between June 1 and Labor Day. Plus, the local state highway department brings out the construction crews and closes lanes across the fruited plain. This minor inconvenience and the extra 10 million folks on the highway makes for traffic only a statistician could love.


Did they forget to tell you there are thunderstorms in the summer almost everywhere? Those things spawn tornados. Hotels that told you one thing on Expedia tell you another in real life. Did you know that tickets for Disneyland for a family of four for two days cost $1600?


I know I sound a bit grumpy, but is exposing yourself to the living hell of summer vacations really worth it? That staycation is looking better and better.


 


According to an article in the New York Times, the Big Apple is taking on-street parking spaces from local residents and giving them to companies like zip car. Of course, the city wraps itself in its green credentials and its goal of providing transportation for all.


In midtown and downtown areas of Manhattan, the companies rent space from parking operators for their vehicles. Uptown, where lower income folks live, and there are fewer parking facilities, the city is taking on-street parking space from the residents and giving it to zip car and co.


It seems to me that this is a classic case where the parking industry and transportation could work together to solve a transportation issue, and the city could stay out of the mix.


It’s hard for me to believe that there are not 250 off-street spaces uptown that could be used for this purpose rather than taking space from people who already have difficulty making ends meet and forcing them to pay for parking. The article notes that parking in NYC is a ‘blood sport’ and that the residents are grabbing pitchforks and torches in areas where the zip car program is taking on-street space.


(Remember, service and customer support aren’t the goal here. The goal is to get people to give up their cars. And of course, the first group to be hit will be those who can least afford it.)


Although this is a small example, it’s a case where parking and transportation meet and where some thought and planning could make the process better for both. We can’t forget that our goal is to serve our customers (read that parkers) and make their lives better, not cause problems and create anger.


Of course, it’s not our industry that’s causing this problem, it’s the nincompoops in the city government.


Just sayin’



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