Archive for the ‘Cruise’ Category

On Friday, I had the opportunity to speak with FlightCar CEO and co-founder Rujul Zaparde and get the latest on their battle with SFO, how the company has been doing and where he sees it going in the future. For those of you who aren’t familiar with FlightCar, it’s a peer-to-peer car sharing business that was started by three teenage college students in February which has been making waves and getting lots of attention thanks to its innovative business model and a suit recently brought against them by SFO airport.

One of the first things we talked about was how FlightCar went from idea to reality. There’s been quite a bit written about when the lightning first struck in February of 2012, but I was more curious about the time between then and when FlightCar actually opened its doors in February of 2013, and Rujul was happy to fill me in. Rujul and his friends Kevin Petrovic and Shri Ganeshram, had all been fascinated with the rapidly emerging sharing economy being spearheaded by companies like AirBNB, and it was one day in February, while talking about travel hassles over lunch at a Panera, that they had the idea to bring the sharing economy to traveling, specifically parking and car rentals. It made perfect sense; everyone going to the airport was leaving their cars there or a nearby parking facility, and many of the people arriving were renting cars to use, so why not kill two birds with one stone and rent out cars that people weren’t using while they were traveling? Rujul, Kevin and Shri, researched and played with the idea for a couple months, and Rujul says it was during the following May that the idea really went from a pipe dream to reality, when they all said “Let’s do it!”

What followed was a whirlwind of activity. The teens applied for and were accepted in a startup accelerator called Brandery, which gave them hands on training in creating and developing a brand, as well as $20,000 in seed money to get them started. Even more importantly, the program gave them connections to people throughout the business world, connections which helped them hammer out a solid business model and line up investors who were excited about this new entry in the sharing market. Rujul, Kevin and Shri went on to participate in another startup accelerator, one which was also very helpful, though not as hands on as Brandery. After that, it was a mad dash to line up investors, such as AirBNB co-founder Brian Chesky, and getting the business actually setup and ready to go. By February of 2013, only a year after having the idea, Rujul and his friends had officially opened FlightCar for business.

While the business is steadily growing, as I mentioned last week it has not been without some speedbumps, mainly the suit brought by SFO. Rujul was able to shed some light on the dispute and share some details that bolster their case far more than what was apparent until now. The crux of the matter gets down to whether or not FlightCar is defined as car rental business under SFO regulation. While on the surface FlightCar may seem to be just that, that’s an oversimplification of their business. Rujul thinks the best label for their business is peer-to-peer car sharing. Unlike the actual car rental businesses that operate at SFO, FlightCar, has no desk there, and in fact is prohibited from having any kind of advertising at the airport. On top of that, despite the fact that they pick up and drop off customers at the airport, this is all handled through a third-party car service, so no FlightCar employees are ever on the property; so in essence, their interaction with the airport is more like that of a taxi service or an offsite parking facility. Now here’s where the SFO case really falls apart: FlightCar has been paying the airport access fee the airport charges for each car that picks up or drops off a customer, meaning that SFO has already been charging and treating FlightCar like something other than a car rental service and that slapping them with the usual rental business fees would be essentially double-taxing them. The final nail in the coffin is that FlightCar doesn’t operate exclusively at the airport and will pick up and drop off customers anywhere within ten minutes of the facility.

While these facts severely undermine SFO’s case, Rujul said that they are still very much open to dialogue and negotiation, and they’d much rather come to a mutual agreement with SFO than have a court make a final decision that may not be amenable to both parties. Whatever the outcome, it will set the precedent for how other airports classify and respond to FlightCar as they continue to expand to new locations (they’ve already opened a Boston location and have one in the works for Los Angeles). If worse comes to worse and FlightCar is saddled with a host of new fees, Rujul doesn’t foresee the costs being passed onto customers. He points out that rental companies spend 25% or more of revenue on maintaining their fleets, a cost they don’t have to contend with, thereby dramatically lowering their overhead. The one change he is concerned may happen if the case doesn’t go their way I that they’ll have to switch from a car service to a shuttle service for transporting their customers, which he feels would detract from the customer experience. But all that said, Rujul and his friends aren’t sweating the SFO suit; “It doesn’t help us to start worrying about what the airport thinks and what these guys think,” says Rujul.

So what are they focused on? The future. FlightCar already overcame one of its first major hurdles last week with the 4th of July. One of the concerns about FlightCar’s model was whether they could deal with demand during a busy travel time such as a major holiday, and last week proved that they could manage that challenge easily. They had more than a 100 cars come in for the 4th, and they had staffed up in anticipation of the increased demand. The week went smoothly without any major hiccups and posting some of their best numbers yet. Down the road, Rujul hopes that FlightCar will be like a gateway to the sharing market for the general public. As he explains it, some like Relay Rides or AirBNB is big life impact, involving a lot of planning, logistics and trust, whereas FlightCar is a very minor impact, as most people are already used to leaving their cars or renting cars when they travel so using FlightCar is already a familiar process. As enthusiastic a Rujul is about the sharing market, he doesn’t foresee FlightCar trying to expand into other types of markets. As he puts it they want to “focus on one thing and do it really well.” From where I’m standing, I’d have to say that Rujul and his friends are doing exactly that.

Last week I talked about how local governments have been putting a squeeze on the travel parking industry, citing a few examples across the country in addition to the numerous instances I have covered in this blog. This week, we’re going to examine the motivations behind this industry squeeze and how these efforts have progressed beyond individual instances and turned into an endemic that is having a chilling effect on the entire industry.

So what’s the motivation behind this abuse of government power? Well money of course, though more specifically budget deficits. Parking is usually one of the only sources of revenue with a low relative overhead available to most municipalities, and these funds are frequently used to pay for special projects and budget shortfalls, as well as too infrequent infrastructure improvements to parking facilities. More often, infrastructure improvements are funded with bonds, which can come back to bite the city in the ass and all too often end up being used for unnecessary projects rather than vital improvements. With so many local governments struggling with a severe shortage of funds, they’ve been leaning even more heavily on their parking revenue, and more than a few have been willing to wield their authority to squash out any perceived competition. Because hey, why rise to the challenge of your competition when you can just change the rules so no one else can play the game?

A common way that parking authorities put the squeeze on off-site operators is through the access fees they charge to allow their shuttles onto the airport. You see, for each shuttle run to the port (air or sea) a fee is charged to the offsite parking facility. These fees typically were only a few dollars if that, but whenever budget shortfalls occur or there’s a new project that needs to be funded, raising these fees is usually one of the first things that happen. Since many offsite parking businesses operate with a low profit margin, having to rely on the quantity of their business to remain profitable. As these fees have risen, parking  businesses have had to pass that access cost onto the consumer, hence the one-time access fee of a couple dollars that’s added onto your bill at most offsite parking facilities. Not only will port authorities raise these fees to beef up their budget, they’ll also wield it as a weapon against offsite businesses, such as in Port Canaveral where they wanted to raise the fee so high that it would have instantly forced the closing of all the offsite parking businesses. In other cases, such as what’s unfolding in Nashville, they’ll selectively raise the fees on offsite parking facilities (more than tripling it in Nashville) while reducing the fees for hotel shuttles to access the port, even when those hotels are actively running an offsite parking business out of their lots as many of them do these days. It is literally robbing Peter to pay Paul, and this happens because the hotels typically hold far more sway over municipal authorities as such large economic drivers in their local economies, to say nothing of the typically incestuous relationship between hotel management and the commissions that run most air and sea ports. It’s one of the oldest forms of political corruption out there and it’s alive and well in many port and parking authorities.

Another way that municipalities have been having a chilling effect on the parking industry is through the way they’ve put a squeeze on investment, slowing or preventing the growth of parking businesses. As most of us are aware, since the recession, investment capital has been much harder to come by unless you’re already a mutli-million dollar corporation. The parking business is generally seen as a safe investment, as there is very little capital or debt needed after the initial development phase and it provides stable long term returns. While there’s nothing to be done about the general investment climate but to weather it, the real damage is being done by the uncertainty that is being created by local governments. One of the three key factors in investing in parking is how stable and sustainable the business in question is, and for travel parking businesses that means how likely it is that the business will retain ownership of their land, the ability to acquire more land down the line for expansion and growth, and how likely continued access to the air or cruise port in question will be in the short and long term. Traditionally this has been a strength for parking businesses, aw air and cruise ports don’t move often and the land around them tends to be undesirable for most other business and residential concerns, but that has changed since the recession, particularly in the past year. Whether it’s Indianapolis’s airport fighting to keep parking businesses from buying land for years on end, Port Canaveral pulling a 180 and refusing to issue permits to businesses that had already bought the land and marketed their grand opening in good faith as happened to Premier Parking, or trying to seize offsite parking businesses through eminent domain as happened to Cramer Airport Parking in Pennsylvania, these actions, particularly their ramped up frequency and aggression, has made for an uncertain and unstable investment environment. While the parking management giants continue to barrel ahead and reap ever greater profits, the industry as a whole has been suffering from this uncertainty and investment crunch, something that is borne out by 2012’s being the markedly slowest year of growth since the 2008 crash.

So what’s the remedy to this endemic corruption throughout our municipal system? Well daylight seems to be one of the best solutions. Most of these things are able to happen because no one is paying attention. I’m someone who works in and writes about the parking industry, and even I find it dull at times. And of course anyone who’s been to a city council or municipal committee meeting knows that those are typically duller than traffic court. When the Port Authority in Canaveral was declaring all-out war on the parking industry, it was the public outcry in support of the only two non-cronies on the Port Commission that stopped all their shenanigans and led to the ouster of the Port Authority’s CEO and greedy-bastard-in-chief Stan Payne. At the end of the day, it’s up to the public to take a stern look at their public servants, hold them accountable and tell them to stop being lazy and corrupt and to deal with their competition by rising to the challenge instead of trying to poison the well, because, frankly, no one else is going to do it. Surprisingly, many of these incidents happen in areas that have very active Tea Party and anti-government movements, yet none of these groups have pounced on these instances of government abuse; hopefully that will change and government watchdog groups will realize that tackling these abuses are not only good for their local economy and government, but great publicity for the need for keeping an eye on the government and the good that watchdog groups can have.

The economic crash and recession has affected everyone’s lives, and it’s no secret that the travel industry has been hit particularly hard. While many sectors of the travel business have been receiving government support, whether in the form of giant subsidies like the airlines receive or marketing from local government to promote tourism, one important sector has not been completely ignored, but has been actively under siege: offsite travel parking businesses. Whether cruise port or airport parking, parking businesses across the country have been facing obstacles whose size and number the industry has never seen before.

One of those obstacles, one more easily dealt with but still of concern, has been the privatization of parking management at many cruise ports and airports. Parking authorities and management are notoriously plagued with waste, inefficiency and corruption, so much so that they’ve bankrupted cities on more than one occasion (I’m looking at you Scranton). As many municipalities have been gripped by crushing budget shortfalls, they’ve finally been paying attention to their under-utilized and mismanaged parking programs. One relatively easy solution to these problems has been to lease or contract out their parking services to a large private parking firm such as Standard Parking. These private management firms will typically pay a lump sum to lease the parking infrastructure from the city for years or even decades at a time, giving the city a big short term windfall, such as what Chicago did with their entire parking system. When they take over a parking facility, these companies frequently invest in infrastructure improvement as well as upgrading facilities with the latest parking technologies and management systems, dramatically improving service and efficiency and putting far more competitive pressure on offsite travel parking businesses.

Now this in and of itself is not a bad thing. Competition is good for the market, as it means better service and prices that more accurately reflect the level of service that you’re getting. And frankly, there are offsite parking businesses that are not well run and have only been able to survive because their county-owned competition was even worse; these businesses being forced to meet basic business standards or go under is a good thing for travelers and the parking business as a whole. Where this becomes a problem is when local governments try to interfere with the market and use their ability to control and abuse the laws and ordnances governing the business to drive out the private competition. A great example of this is Port Canaveral, Florida. I’ve written about the Port Authority there and their downright repugnant attempts to kill the local parking businesses there on a number of occasions (and about one incredibly unsavory illegal business “owner” that they allowed to operate under their noses for years with no license). And the situation there, while extreme, is far from unique. Across the country, local governments have been using their authority to unfairly bludgeon offsite travel parking businesses.

For instance, earlier this month the Indianapolis airport finally gave up their fight to keep any parking businesses from opening near the airport. You see, back in 2008 the Indianapolis International Airport moved to a new location, while at the same time not approving any permits for new parking facilities to be built near it. This move had forced a number of off-site parking facilities to close, as they no longer were close enough. It was rather shocking, as I lived in Indiana until the end of 2008 and flew out of Indianapolis frequently, and always parked in one of the close to half dozen parking facilities there. When I started working in the parking business a few years later and was looking to contact Indianapolis parking facilities, I was shocked to find that that there was only one left. That was because the Airport Authority has been wasting money in court for years fighting the development of new off-site parking, a battle which they finally gave up earlier this month after three failed appeals and more than $55,000 wasted, and more than $250,000 in legal fees spent by the business they were fighting. And all so they could maintain a government created monopoly.

And these are just a couple examples. In part two of this story, we’ll look at some of the other ways local governments have been putting the squeeze on the travel parking business and the motivations behind those moves, and how they have had a chilling effect on the investment side of travel parking, changing what was once viewed one of the most stable industries to invest in to one which now faces unprecedented amounts of uncertainty. All this and more in part two of The Big Squeeze.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there must be something in the water down in Florida. I was reminded of this when speaking with a facility cruise parking facility manager down in Port Canaveral, who was talking with me about the trials and tribulations parking operators have been put through over the past year by the Canaveral Port Authority. As some may recall, I detailed some of the Canaveral Port Authority’s blunders and mismanagement in this blog back in November. While the level of crazy seems to have peaked back then, things have far from calmed down, even with former Port Authority CEO and apparent anti-free-marketeer Stan Payne recently being fired.

Case in point, while the Port Commission backed away from the onerous fees they wanted to enact on the local parking operators, they still decided to stop issuing new permits for off-site parking facilities. This derailed the plans of a number of facilities that had been planning to open at Port Canaveral, and with them went dozens of new jobs. But for the Port Authority, this was apparently a small price to pay for the opportunity to squash any new potential competition. This move was particularly costly for Florida’s Premiere Parking company, which was in the process of opening a facility when the new permit policy forced them to close. Ironically, they had been opening a facility to replace the one run by Jose “Jay” Nieves (whose outrageous antics I have discussed before) that had been operating illegally for years with no business permit and beyond shady business practices right under Port Authority’s nose. And it wasn’t even the Port Authority that shut him down, he packed up and ran after Jeff Deal of Orlando‘s WFTV Channel 9 filed a story where he documented Nieves joyriding in a car parked at their facility. But of course when a legitimate business wants to open in the same spot, the Port Authority was all too happy to shut it down.

Besides their ongoing war against the local parking businesses, which is mostly out of the public eye, the Port Authority also managed to snag itself some spectacularly bad publicity just recently that made national headlines. As many of you probably recall, Florida youth Trayvon Martin was murdered last year by George Zimmerman under the supposed justification of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Trayvon was targeted by Zimmerman because in his paranoid mind a black teenager in a hoodie in a nice neighborhood could only be up to no good and was probably a criminal just waiting to strike, and so he confronted him with his firearm. While many details are still disputed, what is known for sure is that George Zimmerman shot and killed a teenager who had nothing but a Snapple and some Skittles in his pockets and whose only crime was being a black kid in the “wrong neighborhood”. The whole story reeks of paranoia, racism and classism. So where does Port Canaveral come in, since Trayvon’s murder happened in Sanford? Well earlier this April,  it was discovered Sergeant Ron King of the Port Canaveral Police Department had been distributing targets during firearm trainings he was running for other officers of a person wearing a hoodie with skittles and an ice tea in the pockets. For the few of you reading this that are sociopaths/investment bankers, normal human beings feel using Trayvon targets for Florida Police training is wrong and insensitive to the point of malice on about a dozen levels.

Now in the Port Authority’s defense, interim CEO Jim Walsh immediately denounced Ron King’s actions. “We are offended by this. We are outraged that one of our officers would have this conduct,” said Walsh. “It is not tolerable. It is not acceptable.” While this incident calls into question the screening process used by the Port Canaveral Police Department, the Port Authority and Police Departments responses were swift and appropriate; and frankly, given the history of institutional and overt racism that has been ever-present in Florida politics and government, you can’t say the PCPD is doing worse than average for the Sunshine State. That said, being the best polished turd of the bunch still makes you a turd. The PCPD fired Sgt. King, with Walsh commenting, “Whether it was his stupidity or his hatred, (this is) not acceptable.”

Hopefully, Port Canaveral’s capacity for craziness is waning rather than waxing, at least for the sake of the local economy to say nothing of parking facilities and all of their employees. I know that many of the facility owners and managers are anxious or worried about what the Port Authority’s next move will be, and many of them feel like their business’ future as well as their own is in the hands of the Port Authority and is therefore very uncertain. Only time will tell whether those concerns prove to be true (they’re certainly valid given the past rollercoaster of a year there.); who the Port Commission chooses as their next CEO will be a big indicator of what is to come. Hopefully whoever is chosen will. want to foster the local business community instead of fighting it, but whatever the character of the eventual CEO pick, you can be sure it’ll be covered by It’s Just Parking.

 

Happy new year everyone!

Hopefully, many of you made resolutions to travel more and spend less this year. With that in mind, rather than talking about the latest antics of parking authorities and parking companies (I’m looking at you here Chicago) I’m going to pass along a few pieces of advice that can help you save on money and unnecessary stress the next time you have to use long term parking on a trip.

My boss Daniel Jadick always recommends putting together a parking checklist that you bring with you to the parking facility to make sure you don’t forget anything. This is an especially good idea for the frequent traveler. He suggests that these things be on your checklist:

  • Remove valuable items (electronics, money, jewelry, media, anything worth more than $1.) from your vehicle. If not possible, store them in the trunk. At the very least, place them out of sight in the vehicle. Cover them with a piece of clothing.
  • If parking for more than a couple of days in a humid environment, consider purchasing and opening a can of desiccant in the vehicle. Sold at drug and hardware stores, this product will absorb moisture so your vehicle does not smell musty when you return.
  • Make certain that all windows are closed including the sun roof.
  • Turn your lights off!
  • Unplug cell phone chargers and other accessory power supplies.
  • Lock your vehicle and right now put your keys in a safe place where they will stay for the duration of your trip. Self-park facilities will not keep your keys for you.
  • If you are concerned about dings and dents, walk around your car and make note of existing dings and dents, or better yet take some pictures with your cellphone, before you part ways. You may discover one that you were not aware of. When you return, walk around your vehicle and again look for dings and dents. Any new ones should be reported before you leave the parking facility. Important: Any vehicle damage needs to be reported BEFORE you leave the parking facility.

In addition to the checklist above, here’s some helpful advice from Daniel for valet and self-park facilities:

Self-Park

  • Do not park under a tree! It looks inviting but trees carry a number of problems that can leave you with a dirty or damaged car including damage from broken branches, birds and their “leavings”, sap, pollen, leaves,etc.
  • Do not squeeze in between two large vehicles if you want to avoid door dents.
  • If the surface is paved, don’t choose a spot with an obvious low spot if you think it might be raining when you return; or if it’s raining when you are parking. That way you don’t have to swim through a puddle to get to your car.

 

Valet Parking

  • If you are at all concerned that a driver will a Ferris Bueller on your car, write down the odometer reading or punch it into your smart phone or PDA. Or write the mileage on your claim check. It is highly unlikely that your vehicle will be removed from the parking facility, but recording the mileage will put your mind at ease when you return.
  • If you find that your radio has been “reset” upon your return, this probably means that your battery went dead in your absence and your car had to be jump started by the valet driver. A dead or weak battery will usually reset your radio presets.
  • Take your house keys off of your car key ring and put them in your luggage. If your vehicle came with a valet key, give only that key to the valet driver.
  • It’s not a bad idea to have a spare vehicle key with you in addition to the key you give to the valet. The reason is that sometimes, rarely, but it happens, the parking facility will lose your key. If you have a spare, you won’t have to wait around until they find it.

I’ve dedicated a fair amount of space on this blog to the parking failures of the government, but parking scandals are anything but one sided. With that in mind, I present to you the story of Jose “Jay” Nieves, entrepreneur, petty crook and one time “owner” of Premier Parking Spot in Port Canaveral, FL.

Jay Nieves, “legitimate businessman”, being confronted by WFTV Orlando Channel 9’s Jeff Deal

Premier Parking Spot used to be an off-site cruise parking business in Port Canaveral. Last spring, after hearing some rumors about Premier Parking Spot employees taking customers cars out on joyrides, local WFTV Channel 9 Orlando reporter Jeff Deal decided to investigate. With that in mind, he rented a fire-red, 480 horsepower, V-8 2012 Corvette, the kind of car that would make anyone, not just Ferris Bueller, want to take a day off and take it for a spin. And I’ll say one thing, Nieves is probably about as ballsy as Ferris Bueller.

You see, Deals outfitted the car with a GPS tracking device and hidden cameras, and then had a couple that was taking a cruise drop it off at Premier Parking Spot. The car was there for all of six hours before the gps tracking device started reporting that the car was on the move. Following the GPS signal, WFTV film crew recorded Nieves taking the corvette on a joyride with another employee, peeling out on dirt roads and posing for pictures in front of it. Nieves left it at his home overnight, then later used to run errands, at one point even loading the Corvette with lumber and letting a dog run around in the car. Although the car had been left at his parking facility, technically what he did was car theft (WFTV decided not to press charges, as the whole point had been to expose Nieves and inform the public).

After a couple days of this, Deal confronted Nieves outside of his business, where they had just watched him drive up in the Corvette and then leave it out front with the top down and one of the doors open for 20 minutes before coming out again. It was at this point that Deal confronted Nieves, showing him video they had of Nieves driving the car all over town. Not only did Nieves deny any joyriding, he denied the car was a customers, even after being told that there was a GPS tracking device in the car and seeing the video! Like I said, if nothing else Nieves is certainly ballsy. When you watch the ease with which he tells such a bald-faced lie, you have to wonder how this guy hasn’t already run for congress.

And surprisingly, this was the tame part of the story. You see, the next day it was reported by the Sheriff’s office (who had received calls from angry customers) that Nieves had closed up his business and disappeared overnight. Customers who were arriving back from their cruises that day waited for more than an hour for a shuttle to come before finally taking a cab to Premier Parking Spot. When they got there, they found the lot devoid of any employees, the keys to all the cars just left hanging in the doors of all the cars!

It was later discovered that Nieves had a long history of driving violations, domestic violence, and had even been busted in 1991 for smuggling a kilo of cocaine into the country. On top of all of that, it turns out that he hadn’t had a business license for Premier Parking Spot, apparently operating it off the books the whole time. This makes you wonder whose job it is to keep track of these things and making sure career criminals aren’t just setting up whatever kind of illegal business they want; lord knows the last thing Florida and the parking industry needs is more shady businessman of questionable ethics.

Since this all went down last spring, another, reputable parking operator has moved into the space and built a new facility there. Ironically, it was Premier Parking USA that bought the lot, an operator with facilities throughout Florida and the east coast. One has to wonder if they knew the history of the lot they bought and the name of it’s former occupant. With any luck, they’ll be able to overcome any justifiable prejudice cruise goers may have against the name; but just in case, I suggest they not joyride any of their cars, especially any shiny new Corvettes.

A big kudos goes to Jeff Deal and the WFTV News Team in Orlando for bringing this story to the light. You can see the full report they did below. Although these types of incidents are the exception to the rule, better to be safe than sorry, so always check to make sure you’re parking with a reputable company and take a look at their online reviews before you park.

Finally, I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season and a happy new year!

There must be something in the water down at Port Canaveral, or at least in the water that Port Authority CEO Stan Payne has been drinking. Over the past year, Mr. Payne has seemingly declared war on private sector parking operators at his Port, going so over the line that multiple members of the Port Commission have tried to get him to step down due to his egregious use of the Port Authority’s authority.

It began back in January, when Mr. Payne and his staff released what can only be described as an attack video on their website aimed slandering offsite parking services, saying that if you park at one rather than the port you will wait for hours, have your car damaged and broken into and your vacation ruined. The video is poorly done, the acting terrible, and their portrayal of offsite lots hilarious if you didn’t know they were being serious. While there are always some bad apples in any business, for the vast majority of parking facilities their claims just aren’t true. But hey, if you’re trying to get people to pay $34/day more for a parking space, I guess honesty is not going to be your ally. Not only did Mr. Payne come up with this video, he had it made and posted on the Port Authority’s website without bringing it to the Port Commission. Not only was there a furor from the commission, but the video was widely mocked and criticized by the local media as well. And all of this for the low, low cost of $18,000 of tax payer money to slander local businesses!

And as ridiculous as that is, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Back at the beginning of the summer, Mr. Payne had an independent consultant brought in to do a presentation on their parking services and how they could improve them. At a recent meeting before that, the Commission had discussed numerous mostly in-house changes and improvements the Port Authority could make to improve parking revenue and traveler satisfaction, so this seemed reasonable, even if the commission was subjected to a surprise presentation by this consultant. Rather than talking about further in-house improvements that could be made, the consultant dedicated their entire presentation to painting a scary and completely untrue assessment of the “threat” presented by off-site parking facilities, and recommended various ways that the Port Authority could use it’s power to force them out of business. The Commission was then immediately called upon to vote on enacting these ideas, with no period of review or outside opinions. Despite the protests of two of the five Commission members (Mr. Weinberg and Mr. Allender), the Commission passed these new ordinances, including a moratorium on new port parking permits for any businesses and a $50 per trip fee for any offsite parking shuttle wanting to access the port. These policies would essentially kill the entire offsite parking business in Port Canaveral in one fell swoop, destroying multiple local businesses and putting dozens if not hundreds of people out of work.

And what was the reasoning for all of this? Profits. The consultant presented the offsite facilities as a clear and present danger to the Port Authority’s revenue stream. Now while that may seem like a reasonable concern (even if the response was unreasonable), it was not. The Port Authority had been making record profits. Going into the third quarter of 2012, they already had made more than $4 million more than the Port authority had made for the entirety of FY 2011. On their $20-$40/day parking, the Port made a 97% profit. The only thing they were in danger of was having to make too many deposits at the bank.

The story doesn’t end there either. Next week, I’ll talk about how the destruction of the local parking industry in Port Canaveral was narrowly averted and delve deeper into Stan Payne’s attempts to use the parking authority for his own gain.