Parking Supply and Demand, And a Non-PC Bully Solution


Parking Supply and Demand, And a Non-PC Bully Solution

 We don’t often consider the “law” of supply and demand when it comes to parking, but it fits in our business just as much as the selling of commodities, or widgets, or frankly anything else.
Consider: If the supply of parking spaces goes up, and the demand remains steady, the price of a space tends to go down. On the other hand, if the demand for parking spaces increases, and the supply remains the same, the price tends to go up. (Can you say Manhattan?)
I had a conversation the other day with a parking pro in Vancouver, BC. I had parked in a rather large structure near his office and noted that it was controlled by pay-by-license-plate equipment. I also noted that at noon on a business day, the garage was virtually empty.
“Yep,” he said. “When the demand went south and the supply stayed the same, we had to do something. It meant reducing staff by automating and keeping our operational costs at
a minimum.”
Seems that about four years ago, the Canadian city opened a rapid transit system linking Downtown to the Vancouver airport. In addition to helping travelers get from the airport to downtown more easily, it also reduced about 50,000 daily trips into the downtown area, and the resulting need
for parking. 
Demand down, supply the same.
The parking industry in Vancouver is flat, but not emotionally depressed. Many office buildings are under construction downtown, and few, if any,  have parking included in the design. In a few years, I’m told, as these new buildings fill, demand will rise, and with supply remaining the same, parking will be back in “Hollywood North,” as Vancouver is known in entertainment circles.
This cycle is being played out in other cities across North America as “progressive” city councils look for ways to keep vehicles out of the central business districts and legislate autos, and hence parking, out of existence. 
More than three decades ago, Seattle approved Columbia Center, a 72-story skyscraper Downtown. Virtually no parking was added to the facility. San Francisco completed Westfield Shopping Center in the trendy SOMAarea with no parking. 
Is the trend pervasive?  Yeah, kinda, sorta. Look around your city.
We are told that “young people” today think less about cars than about their smartphones.  In “my day,” the first thing you did when you turned 16 was get a driver’s license. Now I try to bribe my granddaughter with a car, and she isn’t interested. Yikes.
Some tell us that the urbanization of youth is a passing trend, and as soon as they marry and have families, they will return to the ’burbs and the lure of that quarter acre and white picket fence. I know that oldsters are moving downtown, living in lofts and walking to clubs, restaurants, shopping and work. And apparently they love it.
Wanna go skiing, or a quick trip to Vegas? Rent a car. Why have the expense of owning one and the hassle of … parking?
What’s all this mean to our industry? Operators I spoke with were cautiously optimistic. They felt that it meant that not just demand would affect bottom lines, but also the “way” parking was run would be a major factor.
We have seen that automation and technology are making the way we park a different experience. Parking apps that connect what we are doing downtown with parking also are becoming more important as demand lessens.
We’re told that patience is needed. As central business districts become more crowded, as buildings are renovated, built, and filled with offices and living space, parking supply will remain the same and demand will increase.
If that occurs, smiles will again appear on operators’ faces. In the meantime, to survive, they will have to rethink their business model and how they handle and operate parking space supply.  They ignore change at their peril.
I received an article the other day about bullying. Here are some recommendations as to what to do:
• No one should make excuses for bullies.
• Parents should monitor their children’s cellphone and Internet use.
• Schools must be at the forefront of the battle.
• But the problem goes beyond the schoolhouse doors.
OK, fine. But did you notice that there was not one word about what parents should tell their children as to how to react to bullies? It would seem to me that that should be the first line of defense. Don’t get me wrong: Bullying is not the most pleasant part of growing up. I’m just not sure what we are supposed to do about it.
I know you might find this impossible to believe, but I was a 90-pound geek in high school. Although I kept to myself, a group of malcontents did harass and bully me. My father wasn’t a violent man, but he told me that the only way to stop it was to stop it. I had to face up to them.
So, in my senior year, I had had it.  I picked my time. The lead bully came up to me and started his shtick. I grabbed his arm, twisted it behind him and surprised the hell out of myself when he ended up on the ground with me on his back. 
He screamed and yelled, but I just sat there.  Seems I didn’t know what to do next.  You can’t plan for every eventuality.
I noticed the football coach heading our way. I was sure he was going to give me detention, but I just held on. He was walking very slowly. He stopped to chat with some students, and again at a drinking fountain to take a very long drink. 
Coach then walked over and said in a very calm voice, “Having a problem, Van Horn?”  “No,” I said. He walked away. I thought I detected a smile on his face.  Teachers know who the bullies are.
The next week was senior “ditch day” at Disneyland. (If you don’t know what that is, ask your kids.)  The word got back to me that my bully and his friends were going to “get” me at the Magic Kingdom. What to do?
I decided to go.  What the hell could they do at Disneyland (except maybe give you the measles)? As I got on the bus, the bully group saw me and started to trash talk. I wasn’t happy. My anti-bully routine was a one-shot deal.
Then the strangest thing happened.  The quarterback on the football team and his wide receiver sat with me on the bus.  I really didn’t know these guys well.  I was in the band; they were on the field. 
When we arrived at Disneyland, the QB said, “Stick with us. Our girlfriends are in the next bus, and they have some friends you might like to meet.” Strangely, I had no problems with bullies for the rest of my high school days.
(I always wondered what would have happened if I had twisted that bully’s arm three years earlier.)
Am I a proponent of fighting in the sandlot? Do I believe that violence solves all problems? Of course not. But bullies aren’t typical of most violence issues.  They are cowards and work well only in groups. If you push back, they often move on to someone who is less trouble.
Don’t get me wrong. You have to pick the right time and place. It’s helpful if your friends are around and it’s in the middle of school, and not down a dark street at midnight. I’m not crazy.
But sometimes, and maybe most times, when you push back, you find out who your friends really are. Sure, I could have ended up with a bloody nose or a black eye. But the lesson learned would have been worth it.
I was a wimp, and it took almost four years to work up the courage to take action. But I did. And although he never said a word, I knew my dad was very proud. 
I wonder if the four recommendations above would have as much effect as a good arm twist applied at the right moment.
Who knows?
See you March 30 at PIE 2015 in Chicago. Look me up. I’ll be the one in the geeky glasses.
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