Not Just Parking

Posted: November 7, 2012 in Parking, Travel
Tags: , ,

Hi there readers! Welcome to It’s Just Parking, an unofficial blog and news site about, well, parking. I work in the parking industry for LongTermParking.com, a business that’s been active for more than a decade, and in my time with them I’ve dealt with parking facilities, airports, seaports, hotels, parking authorities, and parking corporations across the country and around the world, and I’ve discovered that whether you’re talking about a mom and pop operation or a corporate behemoth, at every port of call and behind every parked car the story is anything but simple; there’s decades old rivalries, family feuds, economic warfare, and fierce politics. And that’s not even getting into the personalities driving it all.

Each post on this site, I’m going to bring you stories and news from the weird and wacky world of (of all things) parking cars, as well as ways for people to avoid getting themselves (and their wallets) caught in the middle of it; also, sometimes I may just rant, this is a blog after all. Whether it’s exposing corrupt port officials in Florida or an airport trying to use city politics to block private sector competition, these stories shed light on what it takes create that empty space you use on your flight or cruise and ultimately how much that space is costing you.

The first thing you need to understand about what drives the drama in the parking business is that there are big profits and big money behind every parking space. For most airports and seaports, a large chunk of their revenue comes from parking fees. The profit margins for the majority of ports is enormous; for instance, Port Canaveral in Florida makes a profit of .97 for every dollar they take in. It’s these enormous profit margins that leave room for private operators to compete with the port for parking, offering cheaper prices and in many cases extra services and amenities. On paper this seems like a good mix of public and private competition, where you’re weighing greater prices with the convenience of being at your destination against a better rate (and many times better service) but at the cost of convenience and a short shuttle ride.

Unfortunately things are never as easy as they seem. Most air and sea ports use the profits from their parking services to make up for shortfalls in other areas of their budget, which would be great if it was being used to build better facilities or go toward infrastructure maintenance and repairs, but sadly that is hardly ever the case; just the other day, the New York transit authority announced that rate hikes were coming for all of their services to make up for shortfalls in debt service and in employee pension and health care plans, while their subways, roads, buses and parking structures continue to be years and billions of dollars behind their bare minimum maintenance schedule (and this was before Hurricane Sandy and it’s billions in damage). This leads to air and sea port authorities across the country to not just compete with their private sector rivals, but to abuse their power and authority as government entities to pass laws and ordinances aimed at driving private parking facilities out of business or severely handicapping them.

So what does this mean for you and me, the average traveler? Well, it means that there’s a lot of YOUR money at stake based just on where we choose to park, and that your choice is part of one of the iconic debates about the role and relationship of government and small business in this country. That’s why a little knowledge and a little thought put into where you park your car the next time you take a trip can save your wallet from getting caught in the middle of the ongoing struggle behind each parking space, and we’re here to make sure you get it!

Check in next week when I delve into recent events in Port Canaveral, and how the Port Authority there tried to make an unprecedented power grab to line their own pockets. Until next week, travel safe, travel happy!

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