Point of View: It’s a Contract – and 15 Minutes…


Point of View: It’s a Contract – and 15 Minutes…

September, 2023
John Van Horn


Let’s tell it like it is. Our industry has a bad reputation. Garages are dirty and filled with crime. Prices are through the roof ($30 for the first 10 minutes in some places). Citations are given without forethought. PEOs are so afraid of their customers that they mail citations rather than face the drivers on the street. What is the parking world coming to?


Taylor Swift is a hot ticket these days. She is worshiped by fans young and old. And of course, she fills parking lots around her venues. Go Taylor!


The parking reservation companies eat these concerts up. They provide prepaid parking months in advance for those fortunate enough to score tickets. The fans are happy to pay in advance for a space on concert night. That is, if they still have a space on concert night.


According to a story on Cincinnati’s WLWT, some folks who paid for parking and were given a space in advance of the concert, received emails the day before the concert telling them that due to “demand” their space was no longer available. This happened at Swift’s concerts in Detroit as well as Cincinnati.


Seems the price for parking skyrocketed and well, why sell a space for $30 in November when they are going for $75 or $100 in June? You can read all about it on parknews.biz.


As one frustrated parker said:


“I’m sorry, you know, in November, you didn’t realize that this was going to be as big as it was. But I booked it in November. You need to honor that,” Bolger said. “To me, it’s like a contract.”


From my point of view, it’s not “like a contract,” it IS a contract.


Once again, our reputation gets it in the neck. You are either in the reservation business or you are not. If you provide a space in advance, and undercharge, that’s your problem, not your customer’s. The concept behind your business is that people get a guaranteed space by paying in advance, sometimes months in advance.


A friend of mine who ran some surface lots around Staples Center in Los Angeles would personally go to his lots on game night. He would start with signs at $25. Then as the game got closer and his lot still had spaces, he would raise the price to $35. Then as the tip off drew nigh, he raised the price to $50 and got it. His experience told him when to raise the price based on what was happening on the ground. No fancy apps, no cancelling reservations, just good old parking knowledge.


Folks who arrived late to an event knew they were going to pay more for the spaces, and were glad to get them.


We tout technology. We promote apps and reservations, and lower prices to fill our locations by selling spaces in advance. Fair enough. But we do ourselves a disservice when we cancel the agreement we made with our customers for short term gain.


I was soundly criticized for my comments in my blog on the 15-minute city. Fair enough. I would like to expand on my thoughts.


The 15-minute city is the brain child of Carlos Moreno, of the Sorbonne in Paris. Here is a direct quote:


A new urban planning model which can change a capital and the goal is to reduce replacements. Sounds familiar and very recent, right? Staying in your own area is something we have been doing since lockdowns, haven’t we? Carlos Moreno: “COVID-19 has accelerated the introduction of the 15-minute city in many cities, thanks to the rediscovery of proximity, the use of active mobility and the strengthening of social ties.” To be confined to only a 1 km radius to your home can be refreshing. You get to know your neighbourhood and buy from local shopkeepers, craftsmen and entrepreneurs. This increases our social contact and we meet new people. (Emphasis mine.)


Christopher, in response to my blog, said the following:


You know it will be rubbish, when the article is by JVH. A 15-minute city makes life MORE convenient, and is more sustainable. There is no restriction of traveling wherever the hell you want. The point of a 15-minute city is to make it so you don’t HAVE to. Your freedom remains intact. (Again, emphasis mine).


Christopher and his ilk truly believe that ‘your freedom remains intact.’ However, the inventors of the 15-minute city use words like ‘confined’ and ‘staying in your own area.’ That doesn’t sound like freedom to me. In the end, they want to do away with all mobility, except bicycles and feet. You won’t need buses, or trains or airplanes since you will be confined in a 1 km radius. Hell, that’s only six-tenths of a mile – about the size of a medium sized prison. Cars are anathema.


The privately owned vehicle is our passport to freedom. Picnics in the country, quick weekend ski trips, maybe a short visit to a cabin in the mountains or the beach. Our kids can visit friends across town, or play soccer or little league. It means that if we want to work at a job that we enjoy, but live an hour away on our little piece of ground, we can. And it’s our business whether or not we do so. No urban planner will tell us where we are to be “confined” and in “what area we are to stay.”


I live in a diverse neighborhood – within 200 yards are blacks, Hispanics, gays, folks from India, Pakistan, and Eastern Europe, seniors, young families, singles, apartments, single family dwellings. We all know each other. We meet when we walk our dogs. We chat about the neighborhood, the issues within our city, and have each other’s backs. No one told us to live there. It was our choice. Yes, Christopher, our freedom remains intact. We all own cars and use them to go to the Bowl, or Dodger games, or to work building other homes for people who want them. Some work in nearby hospitals, in offices downtown, or at the airport. We are a few minutes from professional football games, from a dozen universities, and we love it.


However, if, by choice, we want to live in the country, we can do so. There are many small communities within an hour’s drive. To have freedom, Christopher, you have to have someplace to go, whether you go there or not.


But if you wish to live in a 15-minute city, more power to you. It’s your choice.


For me, a 15-minute city is Balderdash. But that, fortunately, is just me.

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John Van Horn
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