Brandy and Charlie have Good Arguments, but Dan Tells it Like it Is…


Brandy and Charlie have Good Arguments, but Dan Tells it Like it Is…

We are talking about resetting parking meters when a customer leaves so the next person can’t piggyback. If you scroll down a bit you can see Brandy and Charlie’s comments on my screed on the subject.  Basically I say that resetting the meters is bad PR and in an industry where we need PR, it probably isn’t the best idea…OK its a pretty lame position but I did get the ball rolling.

Brandy and Charlie give good arguments for resetting — new technology costs a lot of money and cities need to recover that money. Fair enough. Scroll down a few posts and read their comments.  They are good.

They are good, if you live in a revenue driven world.  I agree 100% that revenue should cover costs.  And if resetting meters is the only way to do that, so be it. However other service oriented companies do similar things, but get browbeaten because of it. Airlines charge for bags, extra room on seats, food, drinks and in some cases water. They drive the cost of the actual service down but get you on the extras. When you go to the movies, what costs more, the ticket or the popcorn and coke?

If we are revenue driven, then super — lets generate money and ensure that we get it all, any way we can. But if our goal is to protect a resource, or change commuter habits, or obtain the true cost of the service we provide then we are going about it the wrong way, it seems to me.

It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what it costs to provide an on street space — real estate, paving, signage, maintenance, enforcement, technology, overhead, infrastructure, and the rest. Add it all up and show our public just what it costs to provide that 20 foot piece of real estate for them to park in front of the dry cleaners.

Then provide that money to the city to provide those services and take the left over and do something with it that ‘touches’ the space  — better sidewalks, trees, parks, lighting, street fairs, etc etc etc. The PR problem would go away if people thought they were getting their money’s worth.

Most cities, however, take the money and slam it into that bottomless pit known as the ‘general fund’ and realize that be adding technology they can get 30% more by squeezing the parking public.  They can’t raise property or sales taxes, so they have parkers pay the fee.

All that having been said, Dan’s comment on the discussion bears being brought into the light of day:

Yes, we want to stop piggybacking for the money, which is a common practice. Many rent and lease agreements are non-transferable, as are most tickets to events. You can’t finish someone else’s meal at a restaurant (ok now I’m reaching). The nice thing about multi-space is that the piggybacking goes away automatically. Politicians can call it an unintended consequence. With single-space you need to take the extra steps (and costs) of adding sensors, so you appear greedy – like the airlines charging for leg room and luggage. Why do they do it? The same reason we’ll reset the meters – because we can.

The last three words say it all.



Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

6 Responses

  1. It’s amazing, and a little bizarre where technology has brought us. Today the argument is about whether or not Parker “B” has the right to Parker “A”‘s unused, but paid for time. They used to argue about whether or not the meters were constitutional;

    Wonder what those courts would have thought of today’s technology or the idea of increasing parking rates and income just to plug holes in a city’s budget. Based on some of these original court opinions it sounds as if using the $’s generated from a parking meter for any purpose OTHER than the parking program would have been considered unconstitutional.

  2. In State College it goes to the GF. We do not ear mark funds and I will try to explain why. Many of our Capital Plan Projects and most of our normal operating expenses can be directly attributed to the downtown. BUT our tax revenue mainly comes from our neighborhoods. That is because our tax base in the downtown is mostly non-income students. We far outspend our tax and parking revenues that are generated from the downtown. Basically, parking revenues go right back int the downtown. I just cant tell you that it was for a specific light project or sidewalk project. Make sense?

    So in my view, although we do not specifically say parking is spent on the lights and streets, it is, as it should be.

    This is where I disagree with Shoup. His model works great in larger cities where they can be “districts” and the money that is generated in District A can stay in District A and not spent in Districts B-F. I only have one district.

    To Daves Comment- If you are getting the sensors solely for the purpose of meter reset, then I agree with you 1000%, that it is greedy. I am testing 50 sensors right now, and have been for a year. The information that I get from them is golden. The information gives me the ability to speak with facts and not maybes, or “industry assumptions”. You should see the look on peoples faces when I tell them that 34% of people never drop a quarter, or we only “catch” 5.6% of violators, or that our occupancy rate is 69% between 9am-12, 78% between noon and 3, and 98% after 6pm. When I am trying to convince businesses that it is in thier best interest to have the meters enforced until 10pm(instead of 6pm, hence the 98% occupancy), this information is key. I see a value to that, that is why I have sensors, plus the added options for the customers to pay. But the customers can get the same options to pay through pay by cell, at no cost to me. The only real revenue increase that can be attributed to sensors is meter reset.

    Now lets get to the bigger question after all is said and done- If you could increase revenues by 20% by using meter reset, and the public understood that the money goes towards paying for the technology and for capital projects, do you think that would change their minds? It goes back to educating the public BEFORE you institute the reset.

    1. Hey Charlie — I think I disagree with one thing, that is that small cities don’t have the flexibility that large cities do. I would think it was the opposite. OK, your parking revenues go into the general fund. You know how much goes into the fund and you also know how much money is spent on infrastructure projects in your down area (where the money comes from).

      My guess is that you could put up a sign next to a new tree, or light post, or park bench that says something like “Part of the money used to buy this bench came from the money you pay in parking fees.” Most likely you could do that almost instantly.

      However in a large city, the causing of that sign to be created would be a world class bureaucratic headache.

      Just because the money goes into the general fund doesn’t mean that you can’t take credit for benefits that the area around the parking spaces receive.


  3. If you allow parker B to piggyback on parker A’s unused time, are you also going to allow parker A to sell the unused time to parker B? I am parker A, I am leaving my spot and I have 1 hour left on my meter, parker B is waiting for my spot because there are no open spaces in the vicinity, using your logic of allowing parker B to have my time, I should also be allowed to sell my remaining hour to parker B for whatever he or she is willing to pay. You are assuming the time on the meter belongs to parker A and he or she is allowed to do with it what they want.

    Would this also hold true the next time I visit an all-you-can eat buffet? Can I give my buffet plate to my friend after I have eaten? I didn’t have dessert so there is still some “value” left on my buffet plate.

  4. The argument that leftover time on a parking meter is the same as charging airline customers fees for “extra” services doesn’t seem like an accurate analogy to me; it seems like a manifestation of the entitlement attitude that everyone in our industry battles every single day. Resetting the meters has absolutely no corollary to charging a customer for an additional service. We don’t offer additional services. We offer a parking space, period. We never made it a practice to clean everyone’s windshield for free and then all of a sudden started charging people for it.

    Resetting the meters realizes revenues from overselling real estate. We do it every day in parking garages and off-street facilities. We know that a monthly parker isn’t going to be in the facility 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. So we oversell the facility knowing that even though we’ve sold more parking real estate than we actually have, we won’t have to turn away customers. Oversell and our ability to recognize and manage it is in large part what keeps many of us employed.

    So how does applying that same principal to real estate on the street make us morally bankrupt? I’m confused and perhaps someone can enlighten me.

  5. Morally Bankrupt? WOW = You have been in Vegas too long, Brandy — I see no moral issues in resetting the meters, I only wonder at the policy issues and whether or not maximizing revenue for the sake of revenue and to meet a city budget shortfall is good policy. I would suggest that taking money from a small portion of the citizens (those that park on street, for instance) and using it to say pay for the retirement program of the city’s employees is bad policy.

    If, however, the money went for things that the people paying the fee could use (the sidewalks, lighting, trees, parks around the area) it would seem that would be more reasonable and the people paying would see the money they pay (even with resetting) a reasonable value.


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