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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.




When Aretha Franklin (and before her Otis Redding) sang about respect, they weren’t asking to be loved, or even liked. They were asking their mate to show them respect, ‘at least a little bit,’ when they came home. After all, while you were out doing whatever it is that you do, I was home keeping the fires burning. I’m tired, I have been working, show me a little respect, not love, or even affection.

When a couple of employees almost came to blows, their manager took them aside and told them:

“If you want to go into the parking lot and have it out, so be it. But when you are in the office, you will respect each other. You are not required to like each other. But you will begin to understand the relevance of each other’s work, and respect that.”

One of those staff members told me later that she had never considered respecting. She thought that the important thing was being ‘liked.’ She told me that it took her a considerable amount of time to move from ‘liking’ to ‘respecting.”

Respect means that you accept somebody for who they are, even when they’re different from you or you don’t agree with them. Respect in your relationships builds feelings of trust, safety, and well being. Respect doesn’t have to come naturally – it is something you learn.

Liking someone means that you are happy being with that person.

Do we work too hard to be liked? In the workplace, is it necessary to be liked, to be happy to be around? If we aren’t happy being around someone, does that mean we can’t work with them. Even if we don’t ‘like’ being around someone, cannot we still respect them for who they are. How many times have you heard something like: ‘I wouldn’t want to go out drinking with that guy, but he is one of the best surgeons I have ever met.’

I sometimes wonder if we don’t spend too much time being concerned if we are “liked” and not enough time accepting the world as it is. Do we concern ourselves too much with the negatives of a person’s personality, without balancing the good they bring to whatever we are trying to accomplish?

There will always be people who we simply don’t like, people we aren’t happy being with. My suggestion is that we  keep away from them. However if you are thrown into the workplace with them, is it not reasonable to begin to build respect and through that a feeling of trust, safety and well being.

Why not give them R.E.S.P.E.C.T, at least ‘a little bit.’


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Chicken or the Egg

Which came first?  The question has puzzled folks since time immemorial. The same question could be asked of the current EV push. Which comes first, the car or the charger?

The government of New Jersey, for instance, is attempting to get EVs on the road. The governor has called for 330,000 on the road by 2025, but there are only about 41,000 registered now. The problem seems two fold, first the cost of the EV, and second, how does the new owner get it charged.

This is a particular problem for those living in apartment buildings where no chargers exist (read that most of them.) They are left to the vagaries of public charging stations, and in New Jersey, that means scrambling for the fewer than 600 public chargers in the state.

Let’s apply a little critical thinking to this problem. The state can barely support the number of EVs on the road now (with charging stations) and they want to increase the number of EVs by a factor of 8 in four years. It appears that the state is mandating that each town and city in the garden state have at least one charging station. There are 565 towns in the state. So this plan will double the number of charging stations to support eight time the number of EVs.

My guess is that the EVs owned in New Jersey are owned by people living in private homes with garages where they can be charged overnight. They are going to have to tap into those living in apartments to hope to reach their 330,000 goal in four years. Note: there are over 2,600,000 cars registered in New Jersey. The gov want’s to jump from around 1.5 percent EV to 12 % EV in four years. Good luck with that.

Is it possible that it isn’t really the price of EVs that keep folks considering ICE vehicles, but the charging problem and related range anxiety? Therefore, is it possible that we need to have the infrastructure in place before we expect car sales to explode.

Elon Musk understood this problem and began a program of installing high speed charging stations in strategic locations around the country for his Tesla super car. Rather than have the government invest billions in charging stations, shouldn’t the private sector begin jumping on board this problem. If Toyota, Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, GM, Ford and the rest were to put their money into charging programs think how many eggs might appear across the fruited plain.

But my guess is that those facilities would charge the EV owner the true cost of the electrons and their delivery and new EV owners would find that charging their clean air vehicles would approach the cost of filling a tank with gasoline. After all, when the numbers begin to approach 10, 15, 20 or 40 percent of the fleet, electricity suppliers will, if they haven’t already, begin to understand that the delivery of those electrons will require major infrastructure cost increases including transmission lines, generating stations, and the like. And someone is going to have to pay for them. (By the way, I understand that wind and solar, for some reason, don’t work well generating electricity at night, the exact time most EVs will be charged.)

When you are filling your tank with gas, you are paying for exploring, drilling, extraction, refining, delivery, and all the machines required to do same. It only makes sense that those driving EVs would have to pay all those similar costs. Today they are piggybacking on the infrastructure that runs our homes, cities and factories. Perhaps when our betters (yes, our betters, Tony) in government realize that simply passing laws and wishing doesn’t make it so.

So what is first, the EV chicken or the charging station egg. My suggestion is that we allow the free marketplace to work. If manufacturers see that supplying electricity to EV owners is a profitable business you will have charging stations on every corner, in every apartment garage, in every parking facility.

Yes, electricity for EVs shouldn’t be cheap. It must pay the cost of generation, transmission, and loading onto the vehicle. The egg will appear quickly if the money is there. Then the chickens will come running.



Would We Storm the Cockpit?

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the worst foreign attack on American soil, ever. Four wide body passenger planes were commandeered by suicidal fanatics and three were flown into iconic American buildings, killing over 3000 men and women. The fourth was a different story.

The heroes on United flight 93 knew what was going to happen when their flight was seized over Pennsylvania. They had heard about the planes hitting the towers and the Pentagon. They knew they were headed for certain death. Most likely even if they ‘did something’ the result would be the same.

As Kylee Zemple writes in the Federalist:

It’s a question we all should ask. None of the ordinary passengers aboard United Flight 93 on that September morning had any idea they would soon be voting whether to try wrestling their flight away from terrorists, meaning their quick, mid-air decision to do so was one they had made long before they boarded the plane, in their principles and everyday habits.

Men like 32-year-old Todd Beamer — a husband, father of two boys with a baby girl on the way, brother, son, account manager, Sunday school teacher, baseball lover, and Christian. Beamer, who was flying for work, was on the morning flight because he had opted to spend the prior night with his family instead of taking the evening flight.

Like others aboard the flight, Beamer tried to call his wife from a credit card payphone on the back of one of the seats, but his call went instead to customer service and ultimately to airphone supervisor Lisa Jefferson, who would later describe him as “a soft-spoken, calm gentleman.” Jefferson talked with Beamer, prayed with him, and later relayed his parting words of love to his wife and children — and his final candid words of bravery to the rest of the world: “Let’s roll.”

Heroes like Todd Beamer don’t suddenly appear, but are forged in the lives they lead. People who knew Todd had no doubt he would lead the charge that would put United 93 on the ground and not in the Capitol building. America in the latter half of the 20th century and the history that came before, was the crucible in which Todd Beamer grew up. It followed on the “Greatest Generation” and the Todd Beamers were everywhere, across the street, down the block, sitting beside you on your next flight.

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.

As we near another anniversary of that dark September day, don’t just remember the heroes. Strive to be like them.