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Gilberto, Michael, Alicia and JVH

I appreciate that Tony Jordan’s Parking Reform Network has honored me by linking my comments on the city of Hartford’s Parking Tax. I posited that raising the tax per garage/lot from $1000 to in some cases up to $29,000 was simply not on.

Cities like Hartford have, it seems to me, two agendas. The first is to raise as much money as possible and taxation is the way to go. The second is to change the populace’s way of thinking, to get them out of their cars, and to get them on micro transit, buses, or trains. It would seem, I think, that they have a hammer, and their constituents have become nails.

For the record, I have always said that parking should never, that’s NEVER be free. Period. If a person can pay for a car, put gas and oil in it, insure it, maintain it, they can damn well pay to park it. That being said, there are ways to adjust the parking fees so they don’t become onerous.

Think of it this way. The wealthy can pay any amount to park their cars. If you charge $20 an hour to park on street, then they simply pay it. No harm no foul. The less advantaged, however, can’t afford to pay $20 an hour so they must either park further away and walk, or take the bus. So who exactly is having their lives altered, the rich or the not so rich.

This is my concern:

Our betters know what is best for all of us. They use charges and fees to change our attitudes and fit into their little boxes. For the rich, those fees mean little or nothing. However, for the rest of us, they mean a change in lifestyle. They meet in high rise offices, consider all the issues, and make decisions that affect real people.

Gilberto, who mows my lawn and does other repair around my house drives a pickup truck with all his tools in it. He has put a number of kids through college and in his later years brings his wife with him (she supervises.) He has to park on the street near all his customers. He also has to park on the street near his home. He needs his truck for his livelihood. How do onstreet parking charges deal with him. Does he just ignore them and then pay the tickets?

What about the Michael the handyman who fixes my rotten fence, repairs my bathroom, and paints my walls? He has the same problem. He is a one person company who survives day to day. Then there is Alicia who does heavy cleaning once a week. She has a number of customers and she moves from house to house, making her living. Where is she supposed to park for the few hours at each of her customers?

And what about the plumber, or the construction workers on the new house down the street, or… you get the idea.

There are solutions to all these issues. But the problem is expanded when you add in people who don’t have off street parking but need their cars to get to work.

In most cities, public transportation just doesn’t run when and where you need it. For instance. I live at the most 15 minutes from my office. However the bus takes an hour (with two changes) and drops me off conveniently a mile and a half away. Sorry but that just doesn’t cut it.

A reporter for the LA Times that supported metro rail decided to use the new line that went in near her home on the city’s westside. She described the trip – Uber 15 minutes to the station. 30 Minutes on the metro, then change for an additional 5 minutes. Then a six block walk to her office. Her commute was over an hour.  To drive it, 35 minutes, home to desk. Even in traffic. She said she wouldn’t take the metro again. She just didn’t have the time.

I know where she lives and there is no off street parking. So what does she do? I’m afraid our betters would say “move into a high rise near your office downtown. You will love it there. 900 square feet of total luxury. Walk to work, shop, clubs, restaurants. What a life.”

I think if she wants to move, perfect. But that should be her decision, not the decision of central planners who use the dollar to manipulate our lives.

Just sayin.

JVH

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The Money Comes From Only One Place…

I was reading Astrid’s piece over on Parknews.biz on parking tax in Hartford, CT, and could only shake my head. The local council wants to increase the tax on parking facilities from $1000 to as much as $29,000. From where do they think the money is coming?

Parking operators and owners are struggling to stay in business. The absolute last thing they need right now is another layer of taxation. Laz Parking’s Alan Lazowski is right. He said he expects the higher fees would boost parking rates in a city where parking already is perceived as expensive. He’s also troubled about the potential effect on apartment renters downtown that have been growing in number in recent years.

The money for the increased fees comes from only one place, from the parker. The last thing a community needs right now is higher parking fees. Every single business is struggling, its hard to imagine the council wanting to make that struggle more difficult.

Ah, but never let a crisis go to waste. Astrid got a response from Tony Jordan at the Parking Reform Network. Tony’s group is against cars, in any form. The best way according to them, is to restrict where they can park. Quoting Tony: “. . . parking stall fees are good policy because they would contribute simultaneously to several important policy objectives. Parking stall fees, particularly surface stalls, will encourage better uses of urban space, which I think is a big consideration in Hartford. Per stall fees internalize more of the costs of someone’s decision to drive and raise revenue that can and should be used to encourage and subsidize other modes. The environmental and traffic benefits from mode shift are obvious.”

I have had the pleasure of debating Tony in open forum and find him articulate, thoughtful, and wrong. Forcing people out of cars and into public transportation, bicycles, and scooters, simply won’t work. Particularly at a time when fear is driving them into purchasing private vehicles.

Now is the time for the parking industry to step up and make the parking experience easy and seamless for the driver. We need to provide convenient places for them to park and provide last mile transportation (shuttle, micro, bike) to make their journey easy and complete.

This is the polar opposite of what the Hartford City Council or Tony’s group is trying to accomplish. The want to remove your freedom of choice. It’s high time that these supporters of “environmental and traffic benefits” set about convincing folks of the righteousness of their cause rather than force their will on us.

JVH

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A $100 Hammer Might be Underpriced

I spoke to a student from USC this morning. He was calling to learn ‘more about the parking industry.’ He is developing an app to enable students to communicate “peer to peer” and share rides and parking.

My first question was how much does he pay for parking now. He said about $40 a month. But he felt that was too much. Students just didn’t have that kind of money. (They had enough to pay for a car, gas, insurance, maintenance, and the rest, but not enough to pay $40 for parking.)

He wanted to develop a system of parking areas off campus (like the local church) where commuting students could park. Fair enough. I asked him how much the Church should charge. He said that certainly less than the $40 per month they now pay. He seemed perplexed when I told him that the church would most likely have to hire an attendant or security to protect the cars, insurance to protect the church, lighting, maintenance to sweep and clean the lot, considerable bureaucracy to issue and maintain the permits plus enforcement. If the church had 100 spaces at $40 per, the resulting four grand would hardly cover the costs.

A lot of these apps enable people to share their driveway with others to provide parking in dense areas. Its only one space, should a homeowner charge for that space? I would think that for no other reason than the trouble you have to go through having a stranger parking on your property should be worth something. I wonder if my student friend does.

I don’t mean to run down this fellow, I know he means well. But shouldn’t we be teaching courses in the value of stuff? How much does land cost? How about insurance, security, paving, lighting. Do they know that $15 an hour really means around $22 after you include all the taxes and the rest? Plus if you are dealing with a governmental agency, perhaps a $100 hammer is getting off cheap.

Just sayin

JVH

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Parking Today Celebrates 25 Years

It was 1996. Bill Clinton was elected president. Gas was $1.22 a gallon. The Dow closed the year at 6400. Mad Cow Disease was ravaging the UK. Prince Charles and Diana were divorced. Nintendo 64 and DVDs were launched in Japan. Gunmen attack in Scotland and Tasmania. The summer Olympics were held in Atlanta. Windows NT 4.0 was released by Microsoft. The Spice Girls released their first Number 1, “Wannabe”. Movies included Independence Day, The Birdcage, A Time to a Kill, and The English Patient. Jacques Chirac was President of France, Helmut Kohl was Chancellor of Germany, Boris Yeltsin was the General Secretary of the CPSU and John Major was Prime Minister of the UK. Parking Today begins publication.

It’s been an exciting ride. I am researching just what happened in our industry over the past quarter century and will have a complete report in our upcoming PT in April. Suffice it to say there will be plenty of comments about technology, about consolidation, about how cities should approach on and off street parking, and of course Don Shoup.

We are planning a super extra issue for April, celebrating those who have supported us over the years. In fact, there are nine companies that have been with us all the way. We are most grateful. There will be stories about each of them in upcoming issues. It seems they have grown right along with us.

Be on the lookout for tidbits about just what happened to parking over the past two and a half decades. You probably won’t be surprised as you lived it right along with us. Our staff will be reaching out to companies who support the parking industry, and the invitation is open to join us in our celebration. We would be proud to have you along with us.

JVH

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Perseverance, It’s All There Is.

The IPMI’s Shawn Conrad is a reader. Looking for inspiration in our time of trouble, he picked up David McCollough’s book, 1776. Shawn writes:

I find inspiration in many different ways, and this book reminded me that while 2020 was a year like no other for all of us, others in our country’s history have experienced terrible turmoil and triumphed. The American War of Independence pitted an untrained, undisciplined army of colonists against the world’s most powerful army and naval force. The war with the British military lasted from 1775 to 1783 and gave us numerous inspirational leaders: Washington, Green, Knox, Hamilton, Adams, and Hancock among many others. Every time I read McCullough’s detailed retelling of the trials and tribulations that occurred during the pivotal year of 1776, I am reminded of the luck and good fortune the Continental Army experienced when all odds were against them and their fate was dire and uncertain.

General George Washington stressed the need for perseverance; for perseverance and spirit, for patience and perseverance, for unremitting courage and perseverance, and finally for unrelenting perseverance.

Shawn is so right. Never, ever give up. Keep you eye on the goal and keep moving. It’s a great lesson and inspiration for all  of us. Thanks Shawn.

JVH

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Nostradamus – Right or Wrong?

Yes, we hear about the French sage Nostradamus and revel in the ‘predictions’ of virtually everything from the world wars, bombing of Hiroshima, the destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, to plagues, the destruction of London by Fire, the rise of Hitler and so on.

The fact that he didn’t mention any of these occurrences specifically and even stated that his predictions were meant to cover only Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor doesn’t slow down his supporters a bit. Nostradamus was famous for his ability to ‘predict’ in such vague generalities that his work could apply to almost anything.

What the hell does this have to do with parking?

I receive almost daily news releases from ‘thought leaders’ telling us about everything that is going to happen in the next month, year, or decade. The problem is that it seldom does work out that way, and by the time we realize that the predictions were false, we have already redesigned our businesses to fit them. Yikes!

We have worked hard, built our companies, survived a rough patch here and there, but yet seem to be unable to rely on our own good common sense. We read something or hear something and after all, it came from the New York Times, CNN or was on the Internet, or a Ted talk, so it must be true.

The big one I hear lately is “Micro mobility.” This is the coming thing where there will be scooters or bicycles everywhere and you and I will simply pick one up, hop on and be off about our business. Cities are seeing this as the end of the personal vehicle and the beginning of a more “livable” community. Right.

For some reason, I just can’t see it. Yes, kids (under 25) going to college or visiting friends with everything they own in a backpack might be hot for a micro scooter or bike, but what about folks in business attire, or who need to stop off at the store on the way home for a couple of sacks of groceries, or a pick up or drop off at the dry cleaners. Somehow it doesn’t seem ‘spot on’ to me.

And how does it work in inclement weather. Sure the Dutch seem to survive quite well in cold and rain, but they are a hearty folk. I just don’t see our snowflake generation surviving a Chicago winter or the heat in Phoenix.

Plus, have you simply looked outside to see if we are being overwhelmed, or even just whelmed, by micro mobility? LA is a hotbed of this kind of change and the special bike lanes built at a cost of millions sit empty. Those ‘nests’ of “birds” that found their way to my front yard are gone. And a three hour drive around the city yesterday unearthed one, count em ONE scooter and two bicycles.

There are a couple of other things to consider. When was the last time you heard about self-driving cars? That ‘just around the corner’ seems to have gone pretty quiet. How about the popularity of working from home and ‘zoom’ meetings? Even Microsoft. Apple  and Amazon are continuing renting office space like it’s going out of style. Remember just a few short years ago when cities were touting rapid transit as the ‘thing’ of the future. Now we find that folks are buying cars like mad.

Nostradamus hit a few out of the park, but only when his translators ‘adjusted’ the center field fence. I say believe your gut. When you see that neighbor across the street on a bike or scooter, it might be time to scratch your chin and reconsider. Until then…

JVH

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Cars are Freedom, How Can We Help?

There are two articles over on Parknews.biz that caught my eye this morning. One has to do with “Parking Hunger Games,” the difficulty of finding on street parking in New York City, and the other commenting on how people are buying cars like mad so they will have a way to get back the freedom that has been taken away from us by our government. If I can’t safely ride a bus or subway, if I can’t go to the mall or movies, if I can’t go out to dinner, at least I can hop in my car and get away from the lock down at home.

As I have noted here before, people are buying cars like mad. Car ownership is up 30 to 50% in New York and those cars have to go somewhere. Parking reservation firms like SpotHero are seeing 100% increases in their traffic and according to the article in the New York Times, people are spending hours looking for places to park, and often ending up in fisticuffs over a space.

It seems that in addition to looking for a way to get around rather than taking a bus, train, or Uber, folks are simply looking for changes that they formerly found in nearby clubs, theaters and restaurants. Hop in the car and get the feel of the open road. Visit a park. Go on a picnic. Just go.

The City Dads and Moms in the Big Apple, in their finite wisdom, seem to have decided to do nothing. After all, their goal is to get cars out of the city and if there is no place to park them, that is all the better. Their constituents, however, see it differently. The city is becoming uninhabitable, and they are looking for the freedom offered by a personally owned vehicle. The irresistible force has met the immovable object and something is going to give.

Whereas many cities actually protect that resource called “parking”, New York has decided to do little about the problem. Residential permit programs, routine in most cities, are basically nonexistent there. Instead of looking for ways to provide more parking, the city is removing on street ‘free’ parking with bike lanes, reserved spaces for car sharing, and even street closures to make an area more ‘pedestrian friendly.’

A small $30 monthly fee to park in the city’s 3 million on street spaces would generate over a billion dollars a year. Think what that kind of money could do in helping alleviate parking issues. Don Shoup call your office.

In many cities the private and public sector work together to find ways of solving this car storage problem. However the car has become anathema to governments in cities like New York, San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles and others.

Trying to get people out of their cars doesn’t seem to be working, in fact, the contrary seems to be taking hold. All the hubbub about getting cars out of cities to make them more ‘livable’ doesn’t seem to be actually having any affect in the neighborhoods where people live.

Maybe its time we ask a few hard questions:

As an industry, just what are we doing to help alleviate this problem?

Is it not time to offer different and thoughtful solutions rather than simply opening our garages and hoping for the best?

Is climbing on the ‘mobility’ bandwagon really helping?

Since parking space isn’t often available within walking distance of a residence, are we looking to offer last mile alternatives that work for families with kids, shoppers with groceries, and in inclement weather?

People are willing to buy cars to provide themselves the freedom that is being taken away by government edict, are we, as an industry, moving in to provide the parking tools needed?

Think about it.

JVH

H/T Astrid at parknews and John Hammerschlag

 

 

 

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Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

As we contemplate the New Year, today’s quotation over on Parknews.biz is most appropriate. Of course it comes from that wondrous quote monger, Sir Winston himself: “All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”

I could spend paragraphs holding forth on those six words, but there is no need. We all know what they mean.

We cannot change the past, but we can affect the future. May each of these concepts surround and protect you in 2021. Freedom, Justice, Honor, Duty, Mercy, Hope. We can pray for no more.

Happy New Year from all of us here at Parking Today.

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Its Christmas Eve – Time to Dump Everything on your Desk on Someone Else

A few decades ago when I was working in the trenches the company for which I worked was holding our annual Christmas party on Christmas Eve afternoon. It was 2 PM and everyone was having a gay old time when the phone rang and a customer began berating our service department. Our owner got on the phone and noted that the ‘problem’ under discussion was an ongoing issue for nearly a year, had no bearing on the workings of the subject garage, and would be addressed after the holiday. He also noted that the garage was closed and would not be opened until after the New Year.

The customer was incensed and continued a profanity filled diatribe. My boss gently but firmly hung up the phone. He called this the “Friday Syndrome.”

The Friday Syndrome in effect takes all the problems on my desk and shoves them on your desk, just a couple of hours before the weekend begins. That means I don’t have to worry about them and your weekend is destroyed. Your choices are worry about them until Monday or spend the weekend solving all the problems, I should have solved the previous week.

I had a customer, one of PT’s first and most loyal, who would call about some issue or another and tell me that his goal was to ‘get it off his desk.’ In other words, dump the problem on me. He could go home feeling he had a ‘job well done’ when in fact all he had done was shove the issue off on someone else. Great work if you can get it.

I noticed someone doing this in our office today. I intervened and said that the task could be accomplished after the holiday, gave them instructions to get a summary of what was needed to me, and said I didn’t think it was right to give someone a new job on Christmas eve. I noted that I would read the summary next week and act upon it then.

I know someone who fired a colleague on Christmas eve. When I asked him why he couldn’t wait a few days, he said he had a choice, he would be miserable until he fired the guy, or the guy would be miserable after he was fired. He couldn’t see why he should be miserable, so he acted.

They guy who called on Christmas Eve raising hell accomplished nothing except ensure that my company was going to go into slow motion on his problem. The fellow who ‘got it off his desk’ accomplished nothing but a clean desk and the fellow who fired someone on Christmas Eve still felt miserable and made another miserable too. When you dump your problems on someone else, what you are doing is telling the world that you have failed in your timing and attempting to solve the problem by shoving it on a colleague.

Think about it.

JVH

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