Sometimes The Best Ideas Come From the One on the Couch


Sometimes The Best Ideas Come From the One on the Couch

Consultant Joe Sciulli takes his parking problems to his shrink. And he’s not happy with the good doctor this month. Editor.

JS: I’ve got a bone to pick with you, Doc.
Dr. VH: Damn, Sciulli, the turkey isn’t even defrosted yet, let alone cooked. What gives?
JS: I’ve been hearing that you think I’ve got a bad attitude, and that you called me an “ersatz” consultant. That means fake, bogus, fugasi. And you wonder why I have a bad attitude!
Dr. VH: How does that make you feel, Joe? Have you done any research on it?
JS: Yeah, I’ve got your research for you. I’ve researched that for the past dozen years I’ve had this so-called bad attitude, I’ve lived and worked on the same latitude as where I grew up. Whaddya think about that?
Dr. VH: That you’ve got too much time on your hands, and you’re assuming a lot by saying you grew up. What do you think it says about your attitude, Joe? Or as they probably say in Philly, “attytood.”
JS: Maybe my attitude’s the same because my latitude’s been the same.
Dr. VH: So you’re telling me that if you had changes in latitude, you’d have changes in attitude? Hey, that could be a song!
JS: It was. Jimmy Buffett, ’77. But that’s not the point. The real truth here is that where somebody is, that’s where they are. It shapes their perceptions, their attitudes.
Dr. VH: Sometimes I wish I never traded my cushy publishing gig for
this psychology degree. You think UCLA would give me a refund if I
asked nicely?
JS: Nah, they need the money; cutbacks are coming. But I’ve found this attitude thing is related to parking, especially when it comes to folks not wanting to do surveys out on the “lattytude,” as you’d say – out on the street.
Dr. VH: OK, how’d you trip that light fantastic?
JS: Doing on-street surveys – out on the latitude – can inform your attitude about parking. The activity is out there on the latitude, and it’s where parking managers need to be. Can you dig it, Doc?
Dr. VH: Can I dig it? Who are you, Sly and the Family Stone? Next thing, you’ll be busting a rhyme.
JS: You want it, you got it. Here goes: “The capture rate’s cool, you take a parker to school; but the parking pro sees, the turnover’s key.”
Dr. VH: Despite my better judgment, I’m digging what you’re laying down about capture rates vs. turnover. “Tickets divided by violations” is one thing, but “unique cars divided by surveyed spaces” is even better. You need both of those indicators, don’t you?
JS: You sure do. Now let me lay this one down in honor of my man Eminem: “We need a little con-tro-ver-sy,” ’cause 85% occupied “feels so empty, without me.”
Dr. VH: Whoa! You’re telling me that 85% on-street occupancy is “empty?” These days, that’ll give you some “con-tro-ver-sy,” my friend.
JS: Well, the Doctor Is In! Listen. Your typical downtown block has about 12 paid spaces. Eighty-five percent occupancy means almost two spaces should be vacant at any time. OK, 1.8 spaces if you’re into precision. But in a dense downtown, what are we talking here, economic recession? But at 93%, it averages to be one more car parked.
Dr. VH: Look, if you’re saying that an 85% occupancy target keeps people from parking, or drives customers away, or keep drivers circulating toward cheaper pastures, what’s your solution, rapper-man?
JS: “Nine-three is the place to be” – as in occupancy rate – “the Doctor will see!” Then, for every block-face of a dozen paid spaces, at least one more car would be parked.
Dr. VH: And what gives you any street cred to say that?
JS: Three decades of survey experience shows the average stay on a two-hour space is 1 hour 40 minutes in a well-run program. For 10 regulated hours, say 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., it equates to six cars using a two-hour space, at the very least!
Dr. VH: So, that’s not so hot.
JS: Do the math, Doc. Twelve paid spaces times six cars per space times the difference in cars between 93% and 85% occupancy means that six more cars are using that block during the day, at the very least. Now, for every 100 block-faces in a downtown, that’s 600 people parking closer to their destinations! Or 150,000 happier parkers in a year!
Dr. VH: So what happens then, Sciulli, we all hold hands and sing “Kumbaya?” What’s hanging in the balance, my rapping friend? What’s the good? Where’s the beef?
JS: More people parked, shopping, business-ing, not circulating; more people closer to their destinations. And all my survey experience shows that when a program is well-managed, all the different parking activity indicators become predictable and balance out just right. It’s what I’ve always called parking equilibrium – just like the Libra constellation in the night sky: the “scales,” you know.
Dr. VH: Look, Joe, you’re making a big presumption that the regulations are well-suited to the land use. Time limits of one or two hours in commercial areas, three or four hours in institutional zones, and so on. But doesn’t enforcement have to be matched to the regulations to achieve the proper turnover?
JS: Now you can see where the capture rate comes in! And it takes only one-third of the violations to be ticketed to make it all come together, all things being equal.
Dr. VH: So how do you get all of these stats?
JS: Surveys, Doc, surveys. And by calculating the percent of optimum turnover, too: a neat little formula yours truly devised while cruising the Jersey Turnpike one afternoon a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But that’s another story.
Dr. VH: Well, you’re giving me something to think about, aside from the facts that you’re an awful rapper and a reckless driver. Eighty-five percent isn’t as good as 93%. You think that might change attitudes in some latitudes?
JS: Anything’s possible.
Dr. VH: Except your earning a living as a rapper, and my getting a refund from UCLA.
JS: Chill, Doc. It’s all in your attitude.
Dr. VH: I can dig it. Now, Joe, it’s time to change your latitude, as in get your butt off my couch! My next appointment’s here. Some professor who says he’s the rock star of parking. Go figure. But on your way out, tell Robyn to get me UCLA on the phone – the bursar’s office, somebody who handles refunds. And one last thing …
JS: Give me the order.
Dr. VH: Call me sometime about this percent of optimum turnover thing you talked about. But please, not while you’re driving!

When he’s not on a shrink’s couch, Joe Sciulli is Vice President and Senior Operations Consultant at CHANCE Management Advisors, Inc.. Contact him at

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