Archive for the ‘Parking’ Category

Where Is an Hour Not an Hour?

In the new fairy-land of New York City parking, where drivers, who tend to act like children to begin with, will be treated thusly and indulgently, in an act of colossal political cowardice (the car is, if nothing else, the great vehicle for political pandering — remember the “gas tax” holiday?).

Why a five-minute “grace period”? Why not ten minutes? Why enforce any law at all? Perhaps we should start demanding grace periods elsewhere in life (Mr. Taxi Driver, can you please drive me a few more blocks for free?) This is a classic case of Thomas Schelling’s “micromotives and macrobehavior,” where the no big deal of every driver taking the extra five minutes adds up to a great chain of inconvenience for the larger collective. That little grace period just added more cars to your block, circling for that (already undercharged) spot as the driver and traffic agent mull over the metaphysics of time.

Posted on Tuesday, November 17th, 2009 at 8:54 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Parking Politics

What’s the only thing worse than a parking ticket on your windshield?

An anti-parking-permit political flyer, from some aspirant republican councilman whose name was new to me.

I mean, I do enjoy Staten Islanders using my streets as a midway point of their Manhattan car commute, not to mention all the cars with out-of-state plates, but c’mon, is there any other large city in the U.S. without residential parking permits?

Posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 at 8:12 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Shoupism in Santa Monica (and Beyond)

Via the Los Angeles Times:

Santa Monica’s discussion reflects a vexing reality — that parking has an “unbelievable power . . . to shape and distort cities,” said Ventura City Manager Rick Cole.

“It’s illegal for a car to be homeless but not for people,” he said. “As a result, we devote a huge amount of extraordinarily valuable real estate to asphalt and concrete and then we give it away.”

Ventura, which does not charge for street parking, plans to install meters in January, three years after it first committed to market-based pricing. “You have to break the initial barrier of charging for parking,” Cole said of the delay.

He speaks from experience. As mayor of Pasadena in the early 1990s, he helped broker a deal with Old Pasadena retailers that paved the way for paid parking. All the meter revenue went into area amenities, which strengthened demand, turning Old Pasadena into a municipal cash cow.

Posted on Friday, October 16th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Mode Shift

Via the Sydney Morning Herald:

With the advent of high-speed trains, rail travel in Europe has become so popular that some intercity flight routes are being cancelled.

Why would you fly from London to Paris, for example, and tackle Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle airport check ins plus security when you can catch a high-speed train that lands you right in the centre of town?

Now about 90 per cent of people travel by Eurostar between these two cities.

And there’s no longer any flights on the Paris-Brussels route. Many now also go by train between London and Brussels.

Posted on Saturday, October 10th, 2009 at 9:40 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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‘Human Parking’

Glancing at this story, about New York’s Time Square, I was reminded of how the press coverage has constantly depicted the people inhabiting the space as “loungers,” people just “sitting around” who should somehow be doing something better (like waiting to cross against traffic) — a touch of that hysterical productivity ethic that plagues the U.S.

When we talk about cars sitting around — as they do more than 90% of the time — taking up a significantly larger space, we call it “parking.”

Human parking bad, car parking good.

Posted on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 at 2:14 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Costco Effect

Reading this interesting post led me to John Van Horn’s always provocative (for people who think parking can be provocative) blog. There, in a Shoupian riff on inefficient government-set minimum parking requirements (for so-called “free parking”), he mentioned an interesting behavioral twist he dubbed the “Costco Effect” (implicit in this is the assertion that Costco somehow has parking lots that tend to fill up quickly; I don’t know if Costco as a policy builds smaller lots than, say, Wal-Mart):

As I read through the original report one comment stood out. It mentioned that by having fewer parking spaces, even in smaller cities and towns, people would begin to change their habits and, for instance, make fewer trips to the store and stock up when they did go. This is sort of like leaving a pile of stuff at the bottom of the stairs and then carrying it up when you got a complete load rather than making numerous hikes up and down.

It occurred to me that Costco is a perfect laboratory to test this hypothesis. Out local Costco, in an area of Culver City near Venice and Marina Del Rey, is among the top ten grossing stores in the chain. It’s always busy and if you don’t get there when the store opens, its parking lot is always full. Although I find going to Costco is fun, just to look at all the “stuff” and revel at the quality of the meat and variety of wine, there is no way in hell I’m going to fight that parking lot simply to wander as I would at the mall.

Hence, R and I have a list and when we discover items we need that would be a good “Costco” buy rather than buying it at the “store” (toilet paper and vitamins for instance), we put them on the list. When the list is of a certain length. We get up early on Saturday, drive to the store, stake out a parking spot and get in line with the 300 or so others that are jockeying shopping carts waiting for the big red doors to roll up.

Our behavior has been altered by the lack of parking. Costco’s sales aren’t. This is a rocking store, among the top in the chain. They have limited parking, but it doesn’t seem to hurt business. And we smart shoppers still buy the same amount we always would. However , dare we say it, the parking, or lack of it, has caused us to think more clearly about how we go about shopping.

This is an interesting corollary to another “Costco Effect” that’s been identified by
Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School and Leonard Lee of Columbia Business: Essentially, that people spend more at discount clubs with fees than those without. I’ll leave it up to you to draw any linkages between the two effects.

Posted on Monday, August 31st, 2009 at 7:42 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The High Cost of No Parking

My latest Slate column is up, and it concerns bicycle parking. I notice some of the earlier commenters, perhaps mistaking the headline for the actual story, seem to think I’ve suggested that providing better bike parking facilities will magically transform the U.S. into Copenhagen. This is not the point, of course — instead I wanted to draw attention to the often overlooked factor of parking as it applies to traffic, how this plays in as well — and even more — to cycling, and that indeed providing it (along with all the other things) may be yet another of those small ‘pull’ factors that makes it more feasible (or at least eliminates another excuse why someone cannot do it).

Posted on Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 at 9:12 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Nonsensical Friday Posting

Vis a vis the hottest, most annoyingly ear-worming song of the summer, referenced in the above video, I wonder how Trip Generation (and ditto Parking Generation) handles combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bells? Do they generate more, fewer, or the same amount of trips as individual Pizza Huts and Taco Bells? And is that a more potent combination than the combination Dunkin’ Donuts/Subway/Baskin Robbins?

Posted on Friday, August 7th, 2009 at 9:38 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Politics of Parking

Via the Forward comes news of violent clashes in Jerusalem over contested ground — only this time it’s parking.

In the months of June and July, there have been mass protests, turning violent at times, against the decision of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to open parking facilities just outside the Old City on the Sabbath…

In early June, Barkat set out to tackle a strange situation concerning Jerusalem’s Old City, the jewel in the crown of Israel’s tourist sites. Because Sunday is part of their workweek, most Israelis make their visits Saturdays. But not only does public transport come to a standstill over the Sabbath, requiring people to drive their cars, but parking lots near the Old City also shut down to please Jerusalem’s Orthodox Jews.

“It was a pain. People parked and double-parked all over,” said Mark Feldman, CEO of Ziontours Jerusalem, a large travel agency.

The mayor responded by opening a new parking lot, outside the Old City, which hardly quieted those aggrieved.

Despite the continued protests, Barkat considers the issue closed. “The mayor found a real solution to a real problem and has now returned to tackling the economy and education,” his spokesman, Stephan Miller, told the Forward.

But experts believe that the conflict will continue. “It’s a question about who runs the city — it’s a power struggle in the city,” said Noam Shoval, a geographer at the Hebrew University.

Isn’t it always?

Posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 at 7:29 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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In Traffic I suggested that optimal foraging models might be a useful way to think about parking. A press release I recently received, reprinted below, takes this to a certain (unscientific) extreme. The biggest takeaway I had from the piece is: Stephen Fry drives a black cab? He has claimed this helps him get around London easier. But how? Perhaps he also enjoys people waving at him at all the time?

Release after the jump…

Posted on Wednesday, July 1st, 2009 at 11:25 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Pink Lines

Following up on my earlier post about parking for expecting mothers (we know them well in these parts), I came across this Korean oddity: Special “women only” parking spaces.

The “pink lines”, painted pink, are 2.5 meters wide rather than the standard 2.3, offering aid to women drivers unskilled at parking.

I’ll reserve comment, as my jaw seems stuck to the floor.

Posted on Friday, April 17th, 2009 at 7:23 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Unfortunate Product Placement

In this Daily News story about a driver blowing a series of traffic lights before causing a fiery crash, I couldn’t help notice the banner for the “World’s First Automated Parking Facility,” from a company called Automotion, in the background of the singed Mercedes.

This was the first I had heard that my humble borough was to be home to such a remarkable contrivance. This bit of text seemed particularly ironic: “Working with a manufacturer that has over 90 automated parking projects worldwide, we have a proven system that delivers cars to their owners within 2 minutes…All without anyone touching the vehicle! No scratches, dings, or accusations of stolen personal items…Because no one ever touches the cars.”

Until they get out on the streets of Brooklyn, that is (and remember kids, it’s the traffic light cameras that we have worry about)…

Posted on Monday, April 6th, 2009 at 1:55 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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One Problem with Tinted Windows

From the Daily Mail: “Traffic wardens slapped seven tickets on a parked car over a two-week period without noticing the driver was dead inside the vehicle.”

Posted on Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 at 3:59 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Google Earthing the Cost of Cheap Parking

This post uses aerial imagery to graphically illustrate one man’s epic quest to find a parking spot in Toronto — stranded between overpriced off-street parking and underpriced on-street parking. A great way to illustrate the Schelling-esque example of how of how seemingly irrelevant individual actions can incrementally add up to negative collective outcomes. Shoupism in action!

(Horn honk to Reinventing Urban Transport)

Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 at 9:27 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Ugly American

Sometimes I weep for my country, I really do.

From the Shropshire Star:

A motorist caused traffic chaos at one of Telford Shopping Centre’s busiest car parks today when she launched a protest against paying – by blocking off the exits.

The motorist trapped cars in the centre’s Red Oak car park at lunchtime by parking her 4×4 vehicle across the exit barriers.

Eyewitnesses said she was “raving” and “shouting” about having to pay for the time she had parked in the town centre car park.

Drivers stuck in the jams caused by the woman’s protest said she seemed to be a tourist visiting from America and claimed they did not have parking charges in her country.

They also don’t drive on the left, let’s hope she didn’t try to protest that.

Posted on Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 at 8:45 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Pregnancy Parking?

When I was at Google HQ this past summer I was struck by a few parking signs that said: “Expecting Mothers.” For some reason, I read it as for being for people who were waiting to pick up their mothers. Maybe it’s because we have nothing of this sort in NYC (at least that I’ve seen).

In any case, I was reminded of this by a recent dispatch from Kentucky:

Should pregnant women and new parents be afforded the same parking privileges as those with disabilities? It’s an issue that is stirring up controversy in the Commonwealth.

Earlier this week, House Speaker Greg Stumbo filed a bill that would allow pregnant women and parents with children under the age of one year the opportunity to utilize the same parking spaces as those with physical disabilities.

The idea does not sit well with the Baker family of Paris. They have a son with cerebral palsy and they rely on handicapped parking spaces, especially since they need room to operate a wheelchair lift. They say it’s already difficult to find available parking spaces. Furthermore, they’re not convinced that all pregnant women and new moms are in need of such accommodations.

Karen Baker says she does not have a problem with women who have been labeled as having high-risk pregnancies or those who have limited mobility gaining access to handicapped spaces. However, she does not feel that pregnancy is a true handicap.

“The (parking spaces) were designed for people with disabilities and for the safe entry and exit of their vehicle,” she said.

The Baker’s say they would be a little more open to the idea if more spots were created to accommodate new moms and moms-to-be. However, at this point, the bill does not include such a measure.

Is it me, or is this more than just a bit silly? Before you accuse me of insensitivity, my wife is well into her pregnancy and routinely walking fairly good distances around the city (longer than your average schlep in the Trader Joe’s parking lot). Most parking lots have too much capacity to begin with, and so adding extra spaces that will likely sit empty much of the time (except maybe at Pea in the Pod or some such) for a marginal social benefit seems highly inefficient.

Posted on Friday, February 20th, 2009 at 3:50 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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First, Do No Harm

John Van Horn issues a welcome rebuke the U.K.’s health secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, for calling hospital parking fees a “tax on ill health”:

“She is saying that if you charge people to park, you are then in essence “taxing” them for being sick. I suppose then that it’s also true that if a person has a headache, then charging them for an aspirin is ‘taxing’ them for being sick. So it would follow that all ‘over the counter’ meds should be free because we don’t want to “tax” someone who has stubbed their toe, or has a hangover, or a hangnail…

…It’s little wonder that parking is now become a “right” and that it is up to the medical insurance system to pay for those who elect to drive to the hospital. Let’s see if I get this right. Everyone pays the same amount (as a percentage of income) for their health care. However, those who take a cab, the bus, or walk, pay for the parking for those who drive. How is that fair?

I’m sure that Nicola hasn’t considered the issues of “free” parking, not only some paying for others, but the fact that it isn’t “green,” the fact that it causes congestion, and the fact that what started all this charging for parking half a decade ago was the fact that there wasn’t any parking space at the hospitals, since locals were parking “free” in the hospital lots and garages and taking all the space needed for ambulances, doctors, and dare I say it, patients.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 11:28 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Smart Grids, Smart Roads

Last week Business Week was asking people, myself included, what advice they had for the new President vis a vis infrastructure and the stimulus package.

I said this:

“The Interstate Highway System was a marvel, but we don’t need another. By all means, fix the existing traffic infrastructure — roads, bridges, bottlenecks. But heedlessly laying more asphalt is a retrograde approach that rewards a counterproductive quest towards mobility for mobility’s sake. Instead of building new roads — which encourage unsustainable development patterns, more vehicular traffic, and are often only fully occupied at a few peak periods — we need to emphasize transit, but also smarter roads: Sensors that detect “non-recurring” traffic disruptions (the cause of an estimated one-third of traffic delays), intelligent traffic signals and variable speed limits and that react to changing conditions, systems that allow “hard shoulders” to be converted into extra traffic lanes, and real-time, occupancy-based tolling and parking programs.”

I was reminded of this when I read, in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, an op-ed by IBM’s Samuel J. Palmisano.

He wrote: “Smarter infrastructure is by far our best path to creating new jobs and stimulating growth. We at IBM were asked to map this out by President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, and our research shows that a $30 billion stimulus investment in just three areas — smart grids, health-care IT and broadband — could yield almost one million new jobs within one year. That’s possible because these kinds of infrastructure have significantly greater economic and societal multiplier effects than traditional infrastructure like bridges and highways.”

I was particularly interested in the next graph, and, as a thought experiment, try replacing the word ‘power’ with ‘travel’ (as in car travel):

“Our power grids are the largest remaining artifact of the Industrial Age, and they’re due for a smart upgrade. Using broadband data streams, digital sensors and advanced analytics, demand can be understood in real time. Utilities can source and manage power more intelligently, helping to bring renewable sources onto the grid. And consumers could understand the variable cost of power and alter their behavior accordingly. A smarter utility network could also handle the growing demand for hybrid and electric cars. Today’s utility grid would struggle to manage this burden.”

The idea of electric cars becoming part of a utility’s grid is an interesting one — in essence, then, congestion pricing would be the same thing as charging more when electrical usage surges. Of course, up to this point, most driving has been “too cheap to meter.” (or is that ramp-meter?)

Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2009 at 4:50 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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My old pal Roadguy wrote recently about a curious parking-garage pricing structure in Minneapolis:

“$2 for the first 20 minutes, a whopping $12 for the next 20 minutes, then $2 for every 20 minutes after that, with a daily maximum of $23. But if you’re in before 9 a.m. and you leave after noon, you pay eight bucks.”

Parking pricing, which in New York City can seem capricious and non-transparent, deserves its own chapter in economics textbooks — is there anything comparable? (OK, I suppose there’s plenty of things, daily versus weekly rates at hotels, for example). My bet here is that given that it’s across from a court house, the garage receives a lot of people coming in for short visits (renew licenses, etc.). Those people are in a hurry and probably not in the mood to shop around. You can further imagine that, under normal bureaucratic conditions, there’s no way you’re getting in and out from your car and back in less than 20 minutes. So you hit that ‘sweet’ spot of the next 20 minutes (perhaps the garage has ascertained the average visit is around an hour). To stop short of outright highway robbery they probably ease off after that, but the damage has been done. Perhaps the people who arrive before 9 a.m. and leave after noon are the daily commuters, and perhaps they wouldn’t use the garage if they had to pay the short-term rates. Any other thoughts?

There’s an interesting discussion of parking pricing structures over at Marginal Revolution. I like the Occam’s razor approach that one poster suggests: “Isn’t there a much easier explanation–third-degree price discrimination? People who want to park for short period have inelastic demand and as a result they end up paying higher price.”

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 4:28 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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While We’re Talking About Parking…

Greenwich Village, NYC, has just doubled its hourly meter rates for street parking in a trial, reports the NYT.

I’m not sure if they’re going for that Shoupian “85% occupancy” solution, but judging by some of the quotes, the price might need to get higher (or time limits need to be enforced).

“On Wednesday, shortly before noon, Sal Rincione sent one of his employees to feed the meter where his 2008 Acura sedan was parked on Seventh Avenue South.

Mr. Rincione, who runs Five Guys Burgers and Fries on the corner of Bleecker and Barrow Streets, lives in West New York, N.J. The increase, Mr. Rincione said, is not likely to change his parking habits.

“Even at $2 an hour, it’s still cheaper than putting your car in a garage,” he said.”

Posted on Saturday, October 18th, 2008 at 1:59 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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