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What Happens if there is no Risk?


All advancements society has made since its beginning have been involved with risk. Consider some synonyms: danger, hazard, imminence, menace, peril, pitfall, threat, trouble. It sounds like a definition of a horror movie. Perhaps it is.

What happens to society if we become risk adverse? What happens if we reach the point where we wrap ourselves in cotton wool and tell ourselves that the only way to live is to have no risk, to rely completely on some central control that ‘fixes’ everything and removes all danger, hazard, peril, pitfall, threat, and trouble from our lives.

When I was in the Army, I felt I was in the center of the risk adverse universe. OK, if we had to go into battle, we took tremendous risk, the rest of the time, there was none. We were told what to wear, where and when and what to eat, when and where to sleep, what movies we could watch, what TV shows to see, when and where to go on vacation. We were told what to buy (at the commissary or PX), when and where to live and when to move. Schools were provided for our kids, and churches in which to worship. We were even told who should be our friends and when and where to play with them.

Except in battle, the military is a risk adverse institution, and one that has little creativity, almost no leeway in decision making. There are manuals for everything and ‘leaders’ who ensure you follow them.

Although I enjoyed my three years in the Army, I couldn’t wait to get out. I wanted to confront life where I could make decisions, good or bad, that affected me.

In olden days, there were no ‘safe places’ where I could go to be completely without fear. I rode bicycles without helmets, in cars without seat belts, climbed trees, and fell out of them. My friends and I hiked through the hills filled with ticks, snakes, coyotes, and deep canyons and somehow survived. There was risk with everything we did.

We went through epidemic after epidemic – Polio, swine flu, Asian flu, kids died of measles, whooping cough, smallpox, mumps. I can’t give blood today because I was in the UK during the mad cow crisis. We had depressions, recessions, and survived. Just think of the risk we took going to school when the flu was rampant. We did and survived.

What are we facing now? We are twisting ourselves into pretzels with social distancing, masks, vaccination requirements, and fear of any risk. Each winter since time immemorial we have had flu outbreaks. We all go and get vaccinated to mitigate the results. Many still get the flu but it isn’t as bad if you had your shot. You skip the vaccination at your risk. You take the risk. So be it.

We have become so risk adverse that we can’t hear about certain beliefs if they don’t agree with us. Words cause us to panic. We reach the point where common sense is replaced with “woke.” After all, if we all believed the same, there would be no risk.

Its risk that make life worth living. You find an opportunity, you take a chance. You roll the dice. You swing for the center field fence. Remember who had the most strikeouts. Nothing happens if you don’t take a risk.

The problem I have is that those who make decisions for us, who tell us how we must live, take no risk themselves. They are in positions where they can live as they please, have plenty of money, and if their decisions are wrong, they simply move on, with no consequences.

The rest of us take actual risk, and win or lose, do so with honor. So be it.



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I guess we got our answer

A few weeks ago, I wrote of the heroes on flight 93 and asked what would happen today. Would we storm the cockpit?

Last week, a woman was raped on a train in Philadelphia. She was in plain view of a number of passengers during the rape. In fact, a number of them “Videoed the incident on their cell phones.” But no one came to her aid. No one even called 911. Police are investigating, not only the rapist, who is in jail, but also those who “stood by.”

Frankly as I write this, I am getting sick to my stomach. What kind of people were they? They didn’t even dial 911 or hit the emergency call box in the train. They did nothing.

Was there no one to say “Let’s stop this.” Or “Hey you, stop it”, or “Come on, Let’s get this guy.” Oh please. We aren’t talking terrorists or certain death here. We are talking about a lone rapist accosting a woman.

Unfortunately, this type of thing happens more and more.  From my earlier blog:

What has the last 20 years done to us. Somehow we came to tolerate death and destruction. People are killed daily in our cities and we do nothing. We celebrate the criminals that take innocent lives and release them to kill again. We accept horrors with a shrug and cower in our living rooms behind smart phones and tv screens. We demand others sacrifice as we hide in fear from an endemic virus. All for our own comfort.

If that is what we have become, then when we ask the question that began this piece, the answer must be a resounding and sniveling NO!

We can only pray that when the moment arrives, we will have the strength to join Todd Beamer and storm that cockpit. If not, all is lost.

Well – I guess, last week in Philly, we got our answer.



Cities Enact Policy After Policy to Reduce Driving Except…

Los Angeles International Airport has just opened a new 4300 car garage as part of its $5.5 billion off airport expansion including a major car rental facility and a people mover to connect the garage and rental car facility to the airport proper.

So what is the dichotomy here. Is LAX building car centric facilities because it feels the car is here to stay, or is it hedging its bets. The third largest airport in the world, by volume, is, or at least will be, open for automobile business.

But that’s not all. Also under construction at the airport is the Intermodal Transportation Facility East, located nearby and on the people mover. It will host a parking garage approximately half the size of the one that opened today.

Is it possible the planners at LAX have actually realized that privately owned vehicles are here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future? They certainly are spending like drunken sailors to ensure there are places to park the cars that their future travelers will be driving.

Local politicians lined up to speak at the opening of the new facility. I found it interesting that one of the major proponents of the anti-car movement in Los Angeles, Councilman Mike Bonin, was leading the charge in support of the new parking garages. Bonin, by the way, is facing a possible recall for, among other things,  his program that reduced parking on local business streets.

I don’t know why I’m surprised. Politicians, particularly at the local level,  are noted for their inconsistency. Los Angeles has dozens of programs to reduce auto usage. They seem ineffectual, but they exist. But when the rubber meets the road (pun intended), they jump on the nearest bandwagon.

Parking is alive and well at LAX, and from what I can see, many other airports around the country. Solving that ‘last mile’ problem isn’t easy. Sometimes tried and true solutions are best.


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I Don’t Believe the Numbers

Headlines in the New York Times: As E-Scooters and E-Bikes Proliferate, Safety Challenges Grow. Read all about it on parknews.biz
Fair Enough. Safety is going to become a big issue. However there are some numbers in this article that tend to boggle the mind.

Even before the pandemic, electric scooter share programs had spread to over 100 cities, including Los Angeles, Washington and Atlanta, since 2017, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.(NATCO) Total rides surged 130 percent to 88.5 million in 2019 from 38.5 million the year before. Many cities saw scooter ridership soar during the pandemic. Seattle’s scooter share program has grown to 1.4 million rides since beginning just over a year ago. In Portland, Ore., rides nearly doubled to 762,812 this year through September from 385,422 rides for the same period in 2020.

If we assume 100 cities, and 88.5 million rides. That averages out to 2400 rides per day per city.  I assume that New York and Los Angeles would have many more rides than say Salt Lake City or Denver. But it would average out. One City that the City Transportation Officials use as an example is Santa Monica. This is adjacent to where I live.

I have been mentally tracking scooter and ebike riders in my area since 2018 and there has never been a day where I have seen more than two or three ebikes or scooters on the streets. Now if 2400 were out there, surely I would have seen more.

Take the Seattle/Portland numbers, doubling in the past year. If you look at the NACTO report, you get the following:

As a result of the world-altering COVID-19 pandemic, the total number of trips made in the US plummeted dramatically. In the last weeks of March and the first weeks in April, total US household tripmaking fell by as much as 68-72%, and nationwide, transit ridership was down by over 80% from the previous year. The number of trips taken on the eight largest station-based bike share systems decreased by an average of 44% in March-May, less than the decline in total trips in those cities.

Now, I realize that Seattle and Portland denizens are hearty folk, but did they really double their number of rides in the past year, while the rest of the country was down 44%? That doesn’t seem reasonable to moi.

Remember, we have lies, damn lies, and statistics. Do we take this all on face value?


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Where Angels Fear to Tread

I have a tendency to go where Angels fear to tread and talk about things I know nothing about. This may be one of those times.

Matt Penney, head of parking and transportation at Baylor, and a trainer at the IPMI, has a short piece on their blog about ‘thin slicing.’ This is a psychological term meaning that sometimes in interactions, ‘gut instinct’ may tell you that there is more to the story than is obvious from the words spoken. You realize that something is off.

Matt points out that now is the time to slow down the process and allow all the emotion that may be below the surface to come out and the true issues to be in a place where they can be dealt with. Now this is heady stuff.

My problem with all this is that we are to, at this point, fall back on policy and procedures to slow the process down. His quote is “When emotions don’t match the situation, hide behind policy.” He says this protects the staff both legally and emotionally. Remember that Matt has much more experience in all this than I, and I’m certain his advice is spot on. But…

Here we have a situation that could possibly spiral out of control. We have a customer who is not happy and we aren’t sure why. Our goal is to give the situation more time and to allow the subsurface issues to come to light. But is the best way we do that is to move the conversation to the bureaucracy and fill it with rules and regs. “I understand you were in a hurry to get to class, but the sign right there says that you can’t park at a nonworking meter. We are just going to have to proceed with the citation and then you can take it to the review board if you feel it was unfair.”

I wonder if another approach might be to bring a third party into the situation, a supervisor perhaps. “Gee, Mr. Jones, I can see that you have a good point. Let me call in my supervisor who can help us deal with this issue and perhaps resolve it on the spot.” That might have a calming effect, allow time to pass, and perhaps the third party could have a better sense of the underlying issues and help resolve them.

I know that it is a simplistic view of an often complex issue, but perhaps it could help mitigate a problem and turn an irate customer into a long term supporter.


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Herd Mentality – The Antidote to Creativity

We all know about herd immunity. That point where the herd (that’s us) becomes immune, or at least partially immune to a disease. We strive for that with a combination of vaccination and natural immunity through actually having the disease. Back in the day most kids got measles, mumps, chicken pox and then never had to worry about it again. Being immune was great.

There is another type of ‘herd’ that can be devastating, Herd Mentality. That’s the concept that we attach ourselves to some movement or idea and block out all other considerations. We abandon our creativity to the ‘herd.’

It’s really pretty easy. Attend a meeting, or read an article in the paper and suddenly an idea or group of ideas seems right on. We go to meetings, listen to speakers, and we join the herd.

Take socialism. On the surface it seems really cool. The government supplies your wants and needs. Everyone is equal. Kumbaya is everywhere. Central planning is in control. Really smart people tell us how to work, play, live. And why not. Shouldn’t really smart people know what really good for us?

Of course, we know from experience that in every case where socialism has been tried, it has failed, often with horrendous results. If you think Costco rationing toilet paper is a problem, try to find a roll in Venezuela.

However, the ‘herd,’ mostly young, inexperienced, or those who would be in charge, quickly buys into the concept, and begins to demand change, but only in their direction. There is no thoughtfulness, no creativity, no critical thinking. Its my way or the highway.

Opposing thoughts are anathema. They are shouted down. Those with different ideas are banned. The Herd Mentality is all there is.

Creativity flourishes in freedom.  It feeds on argument, and often anger. It glows in the shadow of discussions. Question storming is its favorite flavor. Creativity often comes from people who may be unfriendly, who snap at you, who maybe you don’t like. Creativity is hated by the herd.

We ignore and lock out creative types at our peril. You may have a kumbaya organization, but is it as creative and forward thinking as you might like. Oftentimes a little friction is needed to spark the idea that changes your world.


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Congratulations to the NPA   

This week was parking week for our industry.  Christine Banning, Dave Damus, and the entire National Parking Association team deserve a victory lap after the group’s national convention held in Las Vegas.

The stars seemed aligned for them as they held the event at the newly christened Caesars Forum adjacent to the city’s huge Ferris wheel. The elegant convention center was designed for events such as this one and was a good fit for the NPA.  Even the weather was perfect, with highs in the 80s, making the stroll over the strip from Caesar’s Palace an easy one.

From its traditional keynote, to high tech awards luncheon, to spot on seminars, to an exhibit hall full of companies showing their wares, the NPA showed the industry what a committed group could do.

We know personally just how difficult mounting such and event can be coming off 18 months of pandemic. The pressure and stress on the staff are unimaginable but the NPA showed a recovering industry just what pride, planning, and perseverance could do.

As Christine said in her opening remarks, “We’re back.” And yes, we are.


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Strike it Rich at PIE 2022

You may have already won. See complete details below. Click on the chip at the top of this page to enter your number or log on to www.parkingtoday.com



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Are Cities Using Parking as a Hammer to Get Folks out of Cars?

The City of Santa Monica has decided to demolish a 300 plus space parking structure adjacent to its downtown mall and replace it with a multi-use project including low cost housing. It is being sued by local businesses who say that the project hasn’t been thought through and backs this up with the claim that at this point, no developer has been selected and after the lot is demolished, the empty space will be surrounded by a chain link fence. There is much more to this controversy. Feel free to research it if you like. I don’t have a dog in the fight, but noticed something in the fine print from a consultant’s report (emphasis mine):

Parking analyses concluded that the proposed demolition of Parking Structure #3 would not generate additional parking demand. Instead, it is expected to redistribute existing parking demand to available spaces in nearby facilities, and potentially bolster other means of access to the coast, including the robust multimodal transportation system serving the Downtown area. The loss of parking supply at Parking Structure #3 will not impede the public parking system’s ability to accommodate existing parking demand on typical peak days, the analyses concluded.

Since the city doesn’t seem too motivated to have a complete project plan in place, including a developer, before the site is demolished, I wonder if an alternative reason for the reduction in parking space might be in play. As you note above the consultant’s report indicated that the reduction in parking spaces would “potentially bolster the robust multimodal transportation system serving the downtown area.”

The area where the parking structure is located is near the terminus of the LA Metro Expo Line which has been struggling to maintain its numbers in the face of declining ridership. The same is true with buses in the area. Nationwide “multimodal transportation” has been losing ridership, even before the pandemic hit. Seems people prefer to drive.

Is the city really concerned about low cost housing, or is it concerned about getting cars off the streets and making parking inconvenient so folks will take the train or the bus? The expanded report from where the above quote came notes that there are over 2000 spaces available during peak times in the area. I’m not sure what that means, since the parking structure is adjacent to the Third Street Promenade. I wonder just over how many blocks those spaces are spread.

In the face of decreased multimodal ridership and increased vehicular traffic, are cities using subtle means like reducing parking to coax people out of cars and onto other means of transportation?

Of course they are…



We are Binary

I think sometimes about right and wrong, yes and no, up and down, on and off, in and out. We live in a binary world. But does it have to be so?

We have moved to a ‘my way or the highway’ world. Does it have to be that way.

My neighbor down the street has a sign in his front yard that says “LA is for Everyone.” Fair enough. The issue is that a few years ago he was leading the charge against a zoning change that would allow multi family dwellings in our neighborhood. Those duplexes and apartments would make housing more affordable in the city. His concern was that is would also lower the value of his property. Plus you would have all those “kids and old people” running around. I have been thinking about having a conversation with him about his lack of self-reflection and hypocrisy. “LA is for everyone” as long as they live somewhere else.

I had the opportunity to have this discussion with him the other day. I opted not to do so. After all, the probable outcome of the conversation would be an enemy for life. My neighbor and his wife are nice people. They like my dog. They chat when I see them on the street. I didn’t agree with their approach to certain things, but so what. Must I live in a binary world where things are right and wrong and if someone is ‘wrong’ then by golly I have to tell them so and then create a schism that will be uncrossable.

We seem to have moved to that binary position. Either you agree with me or you are bad and I don’t want to associate with you. This has gone so far as to split families, destroy marriages, and create cultural splits that serve no purpose except to generate hate and division.

The mainstream media and social media live in this binary world. You are either for us or agin us. The conversation is strident. It will allow no discussion. It is right vs wrong, yes vs. no. If you don’t believe the way I believe, you can go pound sand.

Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Antonin Scalia were polar opposites in their judicial philosophies, yet they were the best of friends. They both loved opera and often attended opera and shared a dinner from time to time discussing their respect for that art.  They opted out of the binary world of politics and preferred to enjoy each other’s friendship.

Would that we could follow the lead of these two great minds, forgo the binary world around us and enjoy our commonality. But then what would the media have to talk about? It would be wonderful to find out.