Tesla Photo Shoot, Amsterdam, Coming to America


Tesla Photo Shoot, Amsterdam, Coming to America

A few days ago, I was on my way to Birmingham (the original one in England, not Alabama) and stopped for a coffee. The place is strategically located about mid-way between London and Birmingham and has a huge car park, laid out by someone who obviously had never actually seen or used a car, but that’s another story. 

At the back there is a line of double-length bays for cars towing trailers or caravans and even farther out is a line of electric vehicle charging points. This is unusual for two reasons. First the number, there most be a dozen or so and; secondly, that they are so far away from the buildings.

Usually there are one or two empty spaces, right next to the building, next to the handicapped parking. This, I presume, is purely pragmatism; the closer to the buildings, the lower the cabling costs. 

What nearly made me crash my car was that all the charge points were full! Have I been wrong to be so dismissive of the coming e-car revolution? Has the new world dawned whilst I slept? As it turned out, all the vehicles were brand new shiny Teslas, obviously set up for a PR shoot. This may become the new norm, but not this week.

Death has Pedals

Sometime later, I went to the Netherlands. Elder daughter’s husband (works in IT, may be able to speak, but mostly stares into his smart phone) got a job there and up to now he has been splitting his time between the UK and Amsterdam. They just bought a house there and daddy got to screw the IKEA furniture together. 

The Dutch have totally got the transport thing sorted. There’s space between the buildings and just about everyone can walk, so they provide sidewalks. Almost everyone has a bike, so they provide for bikes next. 

They can all use buses, too, so next buses, up to and including high-speed bus ways where desirable. The bit left is for cars and everything else, including, occasionally, a bit of street parking. 

If there isn’t enough space then other things are allowed to share the pedestrian and cycle space, but only on the strict understanding that they accept the ped/bike supremacy. Any conflict and motorists wait, or travel at walking pace. 

And it almost works. The fly in the proverbial ointment is the bike. Walk in a clearly marked pedestrian-only zone and you need eyes in the back of your head. Pedal cycles and low powered scooters zoom at you from everywhere and they take no prisoners! Why fatalities are not endemic is beyond me.


Coming to America

I also came over to your side of the pond to attend the Temecula group and to visit the NPA bash in Las Vegas. I like Temecula, its chaotic, but that’s half the fun. Our leader kicks off the discussion with a framework but five minutes in that’s pretty much out the window as people start to bring out ideas and pet hates/loves. It’s a few years since I last attended and it’s fascinating to see how much the parking super tanker has turned. 

Uber was the kiss of death to our industry in 2014. For sure it has changed some things. Airport operators have been hit by a switch to Uber and its competitors, but even this is conditional. 

People understand the trade-off between Uber and parking costs. They continue to park for short trips and switch to Uber only when the Uber fees are less than the long-term parking charge, plus the vehicle operating costs. 

Another message that is becoming clearer is that, far from reducing traffic, TNCs, as I must learn to call them, add massively to congestion as unoccupied vehicles cruise waiting for a customer. 

I also understand that in reality, far from being a low-cost alternative to the taxi, on average Uber users pay just 41 percent of the true cost of their journeys! 

Now as a start-up, a loss leader is fine, but this cannot be a long-term sustainable business model. So, adding massively to the congestion that they claim to reduce, being sold for less than half the cost price, I don’t see that the concept has a long-term future, at least not in the present format.

Autonomous vehicles were headline news last time I was there, but they didn’t even rate a mention this time round. I am a fan of the concept, but many of the proponents of the idea seem to simply see AVs as a clever, and safer, way of moving. 

They really haven’t thought through the down time issues through. I believe that about 85 percent of people in the U.S.A.’s biggest cities drive to work. For sure, if vehicles are a common asset, and that’s a big if, then some of these vehicles will be reused during the day, but most will park. 

The only impact that I can see is that there may be some benefit because AV storage will require less space meaning that we can sell more slots in a given footprint.


Shoup Shape 

And finally, Professor Shoup. Four years ago, he was a super star, the New Messiah saying the unsayable and giving the whole industry a massive and overdue shake up. 

I have always felt that Donald’s most important message has largely been ignored. He showed, beyond reasonable doubt that the trip generation data that was being used nationwide to demand large amounts of parking at new developments was, to be polite, unsustainable pseudo-science; or to be blunt, bullshit. 

However, instead of a public outcry about this we seem to have got hung up on his theories about curb parking vacancy rates and the like. Shoup quite correctly criticizes the ITE for projecting national parking requirements from too few data points and then repeats the same mistake himself for espousing universal truths, based on observations in one neighbourhood in LA and the lot outside his office window. 

This has upset quite a few people and “fixing the resultant mess” (not my words) seems to be creating a whole new area of work for some of those at Temecula.

NPA, very interesting. Walking the show floor, it seemed as much a software trade show as selling parking hardware. John Van Horn made a very valid point (it had to happen), thinking aloud he wondered just how many of the 55 first time exhibitors would be around in 12 months? I have had similar thoughts about shows in the UK, and the answer is not many.

Article contributed by:
Peter Guest
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