“Off-the-Record,” and a Last Go at Shoup


“Off-the-Record,” and a Last Go at Shoup

 I recently spoke to someone at Visa U.S.A who actually was clear and concise about what the upcoming migration to “chip cards” (EMV) means to the parking industry, to both the vendors and the organizations that actually accept credit cards. 
He also told me that he couldn’t speak “on-the-record.” I had figured that, because he didn’t mince words, told the truth and was clear.  Almost exactly the opposite of those who can speak on-the-record. He promised to get me the name of someone who could.
I think that this all goes back to our litigious society. Visa is afraid of being sued, so it limits the amount of information available to the public. After the press release has been cleansed, edited, approved by legal, it is basically useless.  
Visa isn’t alone. Fear is rampant in boardrooms across the fruited plain. A slip of the tongue, and millions in liability money could change hands. Quotes also have political ramifications.
I was interviewing the parking manager for a medium-size city a couple of years ago.  I asked him whether the policy of the city in setting rates and enforcement rules was based on protecting the parking resource or on generating money. 
He said, “On-the-record or off-the-record?”
I said on-the-record. He said, “Of course we set policy to protect the resource, to have as many spaces available to the public and to support our merchants. Parking is extremely important, not only to individual drivers, but also to business in our community. I can’t say enough about how the mayor and the city council have been working to make our city ‘parking-centric.’”
I then said off-the-record. He said, “Are you nuts? Of course we set policy to maximize revenue. We are constantly looking for money for the general fund, and parking is a ‘cash cow.’”
Hmm. Interesting, different approach, on- or off-the-record. Which one do you think was the truth and not BS.
Unfortunately, journalists need to keep the faith. If we didn’t, no one would talk to us more than once.
I know PT readers might be on “Professor Don Shoup overload” after our last issue with “the Shoup Dogg” on the cover and articles from his students and me praising the “parking guru.” Fair enough.
I did attend a reception in late May at UCLA for Shoup, and he was lauded by his students and his peers. They really seem to like him over there. The event was appropriately held on the roof of a parking structure near the campus. 
(They charged us to park. I thought that was cheeky, but what can you say. I was told that they had to pay for the spaces they used on the roof for the event.) 
There were posters discussing Shoup’s theories, an excellent spread of hors d’oeuvres, an open wine bar, and TV screens noting his accomplishments during his four decades toiling at the university. Quite a few non-Bruins were there. 
Liliana Rambo and Cindy Campbell from the International Parking Institute were present, as were media from the LA Times and parknews.biz. I ran into Peer Ghent from the City of LA (Project Manager for its LA Express Park program); and Parking Services Manager Mario Inga, and his wife, from the City of Beverly Hills. It was the place to be if you were in parking.
When Robyn and I walked in, Shoup was alone, looking at an octopus-like bicycle built for eight. Strange creature. Shoup noted that he was glad to see us (I introduced my wife, who had never met him). He noticed my hearing aids, and commented that he had gotten his own a few years before. 
“I noticed I couldn’t hear the students in the back rows,” Shoup said. “I would have to walk back there to get their comments or questions. Actually, it wasn’t a bad idea: Then I could see what they were really doing on those laptops.” 
That was typical Shoup – a great sense of humor.
He told us that he wasn’t really retiring; he just wasn’t working for someone any more. Shoup said he was going to be writing another book and keeping his fingers in the parking and planning pies. 
I asked how it was that whenever there was a story on parking, he figured prominently in the copy. Shoup said he wasn’t sure, but once when he was on “Good Morning America,” they sent a limo to pick him up at 4 a.m. and take him to the studio. He was interviewed for nearly half an hour. The interviewer told Shoup that there was far too much “good stuff” to use in the one segment, and that he may show up on “GMA” again and again. Shoup laughed as he said that the segment used that day was about 30 seconds.
However, he is quick with a parable whether it’s talking about how parking minimums are set by counting the number of nuns in a convent (so many spaces per nun) or the number of gallons of water in a swimming pool (so many spaces per gallon). He notes that the relationship between who actually drives at a convent or a swimming pool is irrelevant. 
Newscasters love to see a senior professor who actually looks like a “senior professor” expound on a topic that affects everyone. 
“If you have to pay for a car, insure a car, put gas and oil in it, provide maintenance, why should someone else pay for you to park it?” There is no “free parking,” he also notes, only parking paid for by someone else — the merchant, the city, the apartment building owner, or the shopping center. He says the cost for parking is plowed back into everything you buy, your rent, the cost of a movie ticket, your taxes. Talk about not being fair.
Don Shoup caused a firestorm in the industry when he published his book “The High Cost of Free Parking.” He reached out to not only parking folks, but also to mayors, city managers, city planners and the like. 
They began to ask hard questions of their parking managers and consultants. No wonder he is off so many Christmas card lists.
At the reception, Shoup spoke for about 15 minutes and had the crowd in stitches. Wife Robyn commented that she doesn’t know if Shoup knows anything about parking, but she can see why I Iike the guy. PTT
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