Point of View

The Getty, Handicapped, Arrogant Recruiters and Red-Light Cameras

June, 2009

By John Van Horn

The world-famous Getty Museum in Los Angeles is free. No cost, zip, nada. If you drive, however, you have to pay to park. It was $10 and has been raised to $15. All the granola types have come out of the woodwork.
You go to Dodger Stadium; you pay $15 to park, plus entry to the game. You go to the Hollywood Bowl, ditto. Staples Center to see the Lakers, the same. So whatís the problem?
My guess is that the Gettyís, what, 1,000-space garage is beginning to fill and they need to entice people to car pool or take the bus, which drops off visitors just across the street. And why canít people take the bus? It runs fairly regularly from all parts of the city.
People can afford a $20,000 car, gas, oil and insurance, why shouldnít they pay to park it? Getty had to build a garage costing millions so people could park. Why should money that could be used to make a better museum for everyone go to pay for the folks who decided to drive instead of taking the bus?
An LA blogger commenting on the price hike says heís going to go to the museum less now because of the new pricing. I would love to see where he is going instead. Perhaps to the Walt Disney Concert Hall or perhaps to Disneyland? How much will he pay to park there and not complain about the entry price? Just asking Ö
Columbia, SC, is attacking handicapped-parking cheaters with a new law. The idea is that handicapped permits would have to have the personís picture on them. Thatís a start. The law also is listing the reasons doctors can use to issue the permit in the first place. They are also, I think, ensuring that the doctorís names can be cross-checked to ensure they actually signed the application. Hey, itís a good start.
This has always been a problem for me. In most cases, people with disabilities park for a reduced rate or for free. This makes the permit placards as good as gold. Iím not sure why they should be parking for free. Most disabled people I know need the wider spaces near the entrance for ďaccess,Ē not because they are free.
If the disabled paid for parking like everyone else, there would be no traffic in handicapped permits. Those truly needy, whether disabled or not, should have another way to avoid paying for parking, if thatís to be the policy. The handicapped permit should not be it.
Iím sorry to report that even the U.S. military has a touch of arrogance. My guess is that their marketing branch (recruiting) has to be a bit arrogant, but when it comes to parking, they are going too far. Merchants in the Bronx are irate at the fact that important parking spaces are being taken by the recruiting departmentís vehicles and the merchantsí customers canít find places to park.
There was a similar case a few years back Ė I commented on it then but canít find the reference now Ė where the city actually towed the cars and held them ransom since the government was ignoring the parking tickets on them.
In this case, the local parking enforcement folks are simply not ticketing the cars with government plates. Perhaps they feel itís futile.
My solution? Have the recruitment NCOs pay the parking tickets out of their own pockets. My guess is that the problem would go away instantly.
The issue, it seems to me, is not the parking concerns, which are bad enough, but the fact that these soldiers and sailors simply think they are above the rules set for the rest of us. Time for a little humble pie.
Holman Jenkins, writing in The Wall Street Journal, has one of the best arguments against red-light cameras I have ever read.
In essence, he says that studies have shown that only about 8% of all traffic accidents are due to running red lights or speeding. The rest (taking out drinking) are due to inattention on the part of the driver.
Jenkinsí point is that these suckers are there to enable the cities to collect revenue, not to make the streets safer.
His point is made by this: It seems that if you extend the yellow light one or two seconds, the vast majority of red-light violations go away. Itís the fact that yellows are set to the state-mandated minimum (three seconds) that catches folks. If you had just a bit more time either to go through the light or to stop, the problem goes away.
Jenkinsí proof? Cities where cameras are installed have reduced the yellow to three seconds because they know more people will be caught.
As for the big problem at intersections Ė the ďT boneĒ accidents where people are maimed or killed Ė Iím not certain that red-light cameras really stop that. People running red lights at 50 miles an hour are going to do it Ė ticket, camera, or fine. It also has been shown that people slamming on the brakes when they see a red-light camera actually can cause rear-end collisions.
So, if you wanted to make intersections safer, extend the yellow light a second. No cost. But no revenue.
Jenkins also comments that in the UK, they have so many traffic cameras that every trip by every person is on tape somewhere. Frankly, I would just as soon my every move isnít recorded for posterity, or data-mining.