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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…

JVH

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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.

JVH

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R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

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.’

JVH

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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.

JVH

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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.

JVH

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Critical Thinking

You can read books about critical thinking. It seems complex. However I’m not so sure. I believe critical thinking could be related to common sense.

The term, in its simplest form, means that when you think, you also don’t accept your thoughts on face value. You tear them apart, look at all aspects of the thought, and then, after considering all sides of the story, you come to a conclusion based on what you have determined.

Let’s use as an example perhaps the most famous of all parking statistics, attributed to Don Shoup, that 30% of all traffic in a given area is searching for parking. Nearly one car in three. The idea being that if we get them off the street, quickly to a parking space, we would reduce the traffic by a third. Seems reasonable. Until you think about it.

One could posit that ALL cars in a given area are looking for parking, in one way or another. With the advent of expressways and freeways, you could hold the position that few cars are just “passing through.”

On the other hand, you could say that few cars, except those that had reached their destination, were ‘looking for parking.’ Then one must consider the definition of ‘destination.’ Is that within one block, two blocks, half a mile, of the club, restaurant, hotel, office building, or apartment you are seeking.

The purpose isn’t to unleash the dogs of war on Don Shoup (who has commented that it’s ‘simply a number in a book,’) but to question the thought processes that one goes through when considering one fact or another. Remember, many laws, much money, a tremendous amount of technology have been passed, spent, or invested in due to the “30% factor.” It is simply accepted as fact. A critical thinker would perhaps rethink the entire concept and hold a position strongly in one direction of another.

We blindly accept as fact things we hear, read, or see. How often have you heard ‘it’s in the New York Times It must be true,” or “I saw it on the internet, so there you go.” The Venerable Atlantic Monthly published a 9000 word article a few years ago accusing members the Duke University Lacrosse team of rape. Turns out it was completely untrue. One wonders how much critical thinking on the part of the magazine’s editors went into approving that article.

Without applying critical thinking, we can accept things as fact because we WANT them to be fact. Rather than questioning our own conclusions, we blunder on, and in doing so, make decisions based on assumptions rather than facts.

But critical thinking takes practice. How often to we say “hold it” and then actually tear apart a ‘fact’ or statistic. Stats are the worst. Simply by altering the numbers on the x/y axes of a graph, not changing them, but placing them different distances apart, one can make the results ‘look’ different. In doing so, the graph misrepresents what is purports to show, without actually lying. A critical thinker would look at the graph, then based on their personal experience, apply that thinking to ensure that what the graph shows is reality, not just a PR stunt.

One can simply check if the statement is plausible:

 In the 35 years since marijuana laws stopped being enforced in California, the number of marijuana smokers doubled every year.

If one starts with ‘1’ and doubles it annually, the result after 35 years would be more than 17 billion. Try it – 1,2,4,8,16,32, etc. Probably a tad more than the number of pot heads in the golden state. Critical thinking enabled us to see through the claim.

See you can do it. But it takes practice. Challenge your thoughts and assumptions. No need to have Google or Wikipedia at your fingertips (although they sometimes help,) challenge your thoughts, think it through, and even if your don’t like the outcome, consider that the results of your critical thoughts plausible. Who knows, you may just be right.

JVH

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Weighty Legal Matters

It goes like this: A woman received 14 parking tickets for overstaying the two hour limit on the streets of Saginaw, MI. She found a lawyer with nothing better to do and took the city to court, claiming her fourth amendment rights had been violated because the PEO used chalk to mark the tires on her car as a way to prove she overstayed the limit. The city fought the lawsuit. The court agreed with the city. She then kicked it to the court of appeals and this week the appeals court agreed with her. It’s being kicked back to the lower court for whatever happens next. This will affect chalking in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

I guess if you consider all the ramification of a two inch chalk mark on the bottom of your tire, you could twist yourself into knots and claim ‘unreasonable search and seizure.” Certainly technology has moved on so manual chalking is no longer required (Bill Franklin call your office). The PEO in Saginaw told the court that she also kept note of scofflaws in her personal notebook.

This could be a boon to our industry tech LPR providers. There are a number that have cameras you attached to a vehicle and it serves the same purpose as chalking but you can do a lot more area and a much shorter period of time. However I have an issue with the whole concept of this type of enforcement.

Let’s say I park at 9 AM in a two hour zone. The “Chalker”, manual or electronic, comes by at 10:30 and tags my car. I leave at noon. I have parked for three hours in the two hour zone. Scott free.

I suppose it has to do with the neighborhood. If it’s a commercial area, then enforce it as much as possible. If it’s a residential area, then if you miss a few (as in the example above), so be it.

I’m not sure just how seriously the court took this case. To wit:

Despite the weighty constitutional question, there were light moments when the court heard arguments on July 29.“I haven’t gotten many parking tickets,” said Judge Joan Larsen, a former Michigan Supreme Court justice. “Only because I have a reserved parking spot.”

This has to be frustrating to small cities with limited budgets. The court is basically saying that if you want to enforce properly, you have to go high tech.

JVH

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Strangely, Folks Prefer Larger Homes in the Burbs

According to a recent survey, Americans prefer to live in larger houses, with some land around them a few miles from schools, stores and clubs, than in smaller houses within walking distance of such amenities. I’m not sure one would need a survey to come to that conclusion, but there you are. You can read all about it in Parknews.biz.

It would seem that this would be good news for the parking industry, meaning that more travel, even short term, is on the horizon, and if the numbers stay the way they are, 85% of that travel will be by car and will need some place to park.

The survey goes to great length to sort our demographic groups (age, race, politics) and virtually all had a majority preferring larger homes in the burbs.

I wonder what this means to civic planners. Their goal is to build cities with extremely high density, virtually no single family homes, and no land where the kids and pets can romp. What if you built a city and no one came?

I drove north on I 15 from San Diego toward Temecula on Friday at around 3 PM. There was traffic, lots of traffic. But as I got further and further away from the city, the traffic lessened. People were driving to Escondido, Vista, Valley Center, and similar suburbs. They were willing to spend 45 minutes commuting each way in exchange for that larger home and plot of land. Whether planners think this is a good thing, or living in the city is better than in the burbs is not the point. The people buying homes and driving the cars think it is.

For central cities to become more popular as places to live, perhaps we need to clean them up, lower crime rates, lower housing costs and make them more livable. When you can drop the cost of a home by half by driving 45 minutes, it’s a small wonder people will do so.

JVH

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Micro Mobility

Wow! The City of Los Angeles has contracted with an electric scooter company (Superpedestrian) to locate 5,000 scooters in the city. They will be focused in areas of the metro that seem to be lacking in micromobity. Fair Enough.

In my highly scientific survey (looking out the window) I have seen a few more scooters lying on the sidewalks of the local neighborhoods, but virtually none actually being ridden. Admittedly I have not frequented areas around local colleges and universities where I would expect these critters would be popular.

Cost could be a factor – they run about $25 an hour and seem convenient only when you have a smart phone and credit card, although Superpedestrian has work around for those smart phone and credit card challenged.

Since Bird and Lime came on the scene almost four years ago, I haven’t seen a requisite jump in scooter usage here in LA, which would seem to be one of the epicenters of such activity. I realize that companies and cities are trying to get these established, but I wonder if they aren’t simply proving one of Einstein’s sayings: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

JVH

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