Cars are Freedom, How Can We Help?


Cars are Freedom, How Can We Help?

There are two articles over on that caught my eye. 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 lockdown at home.

As I have noted here before, people are buying cars like mad. Car ownership is up 30 to 50 percent in New York and those cars have to go somewhere. Parking reservation firms like SpotHero are seeing 100 percent 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 effect in the neighborhoods where people live.

Maybe it’s 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 a 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.

The following piece asks at least 16 questions. Can you answer all of them? Or even one of them.

When you purchase technology for your parking operation, do you know what that technology is going to do for you? Have you thought through your business needs? In fact, do you know what your business is doing and how this tech or any tech, for that matter, is going to help? Do you even know what business you are in?

I know this sounds impertinent, but a few decades ago, a major bank, one of the largest, had a problem. It was getting further and further behind in its daily clearings. IBM, which was the computer provider at that time, sent in a senior vice president to address the senior management of the company. He told them that his company could fix their problems, and through a fantastic PowerPoint and multimedia presentation showed the board just how they were going to do that.

When the IBM exec left, the CEO turned to his assembled management team and said, in essence, you have two years to solve our problems, and to get IBM out of here. He knew that by turning over his back shop to a tech company, he was admitting his company did not know how to run its business. He could not allow that to happen.

When you buy technology, are you basically turning your company over to the supplier? Do you have the personnel on board to properly use the tech and ensure that it is doing what you want, what you need? Do you actually KNOW what you need? Have you thought about it?

After all, at the end of the month there is more money in the bank than there was at the beginning of the month. That’s a good thing, right? Something must be going OK.

Don’t feel bad. If one of the largest banks could have this problem with technology, why couldn’t you?

A solution? I wish I knew. The first might be to look at what your core business is. You are renting space to people to park their cars. What do you know about the rental business? Your inventory changes minute by minute. How do you know how many spaces you have and for how long. Do you make more money on hourly rentals, weekly rentals or monthly rentals? Would you be better off to charge different rates depending on when people agreed to rent the space? Someone once told me that auto rental companies have thousands of different rates for the same car depending on when and where the deal was made. Should you?

That last paragraph addresses only one aspect of your business. Once you have sorted through it, how do you think that the tech you purchase will help you specifically in solving all those problems?

Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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