Archive for June, 2007

Arrrgggh!

June 25th, 2007

Google Reader is down, and has been down for hours now. How did people surf the internet before RSS?


Free Parking

June 25th, 2007

From RiotACT I found this web page calling for action on parking:

The purpose of this website is to channel our frustration with the parking situation into change. Let’s stop whinging to our co-workers and tell someone who has to care – the Government. What we propose is not unreasonable, but the recommendations are designed to fix an unreasonable system.

Specifically, the site mentions or complains about:

Excessive and unfair fines

Limits and No Parking zones

It’s not “just $70”.

The first big problem I have with the site is that it talks about a set of recommendations they want to make to Government, without ever showing these anywhere. I’m not keen on signing a petition without any details of what I’m signing.

But, more broadly, what’s the problem here, and how will the things they seem to be proposing help?

The main complaint is about lack of parking. Now most non-economists probably think this is just a supply issue. But economic tells us that there are two halves to every market: supply and demand. If there aren’t enough spaces to park in, then that’s a result of supply being greater than demand.

The simplest answer is to build more carparks, but there are a couple of arguments against that. Firstly, it’s not always easy to build the carpark near where people want to go. Think about the CBD of any city: where would you put the extra car parks? Cars take up a lot of space, especially the 4WD behemoths. Secondly (and reluctantly), maybe it’s not the greatest idea in the world to encourage more people to drive everywhere. There are congestion and environmental arguments in favour of rationing car parking.

If increasing supply isn’t the answer, then you can address demand. The simplest way to reduce demand for parking is to charge more for it. Anyone from Sydney or Melbourne knows how cheap Canberra parking is, even in Civic.

Fair Parking Canberra notes the government is building more sites, but calls for a few things. Firstly, different fines depending on how long you’ve overstayed your parking. Secondly, change some existing no parking zones and one hour zones into four hour zones (presumably so you can go move your car at lunchtime…). And thirdly, lower prices for parking and parking fines.

So what will these do?

What about making some one hour spaces into four hour spaces? (I’m going to ignore the stupid idea of getting rid of no parking areas. Those lines are normally drawn with regard to public safety or access) Think about a one hour space. In a normal day, 8 cars can park there. Change it to a four hour space, and only 2 can. Even if you argue that the majority of people are looking for 8 hours worth, so long as there are substantial numbers of people who don’t you’ve just reduced the supply of parking. Good for people who get there early, terrible for everyone else. Bad, bad idea.

What about changing the fines? A little bit of law and economics will come in handy here. Say you park illegally, how much do you expect to pay?

E(F) = p * F

WHere p is the probability of being caught, and F is the fine. In order to ensure people follow the law, we need to make:

E(F) > L

Where L is the price of legal parking. The fine is $70, and the probability of being caught appears to be around 1 in 7 (based on the experience of people around work who accidentally stay in a 2-hour space too long). So the expected fine is about $10. Probably enough to discourage people from parking illegally.

But if we lower the fine, then more people are going to park illegally. We’ve effectively reduced the ‘price’ of overstaying in a parking spot. Which means that the supply of available parking is going to shrink.

And what about charging based on how long you’ve overstayed? Well, firstly you can’t do that for any of the free car spots, because you never know how long you’ve been there. The way the parking inspectors work, they often can’t tell if you’ve overstayed one minute, or four hours. So this only works for pay-and-display car parks (as pay-on-exit obviously doesn’t apply). It’s not a terrible idea in that context, but the extra complexity (both legal and administrative) would make it hard to implement.

‘Fixing’ parking isn’t hard. Charge more for it. People won’t like it, especially those who would prefer to always park for free (the subtext I read into the Fair Parking site). But it will fix the problem.

By way of disclaimer, I should note that my workplace has free parking. And I hate it! It’s impossible to get a park after around 9:30am, which makes it very hard to sleep in, or to run out for an errand during the day. I really wish that we could introduce pay parking, because it would reduce the demand.


Not for the faint of heart

June 25th, 2007

A 33-story high swing.


Got an hour to waste?

June 25th, 2007

Another one of those fun ‘locked room’ games. (Via)


Worst. Parking. Ever

June 25th, 2007

Photographs of terrible parking.


Give your gadgets a home on the road

June 25th, 2007

A dashboard gadget holder that may actually work.


Free book

June 25th, 2007

EE Doc Smith’s classic Triplanetary. (Via)


The Redskins don’t suck…

June 19th, 2007

…yet.

As at least a few people reading this know, my sport of choice is the NFL. The pre-season kickoff is in a little

over a month. Which means that technically speaking the two teams I support (the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders) are, right this moment, equal leaders of the NFL. With around 30 other teams, of course…

Which is not to say they have a great chance, of course. The Redskins are currently at 18:1 to win the NFC championship, and

the Oakland Raiders are 45:1 to win the AFC championship. The New England Patriots are 6:5 to win the AFC, by comparison.

Oakland has had a few bad years recently. Ever since the complete meltdown in the Superbowl a few years ago they’ve been completely in

the wilderness, and they’re showing no signs of getting better. My fondest hope is that they can manage to win as many games as they

lose. They’re also in the AFC, which has several dominant teams.

The Redskins look a little more interesting. They went 5-11 last year, which is a lot poorer than they should be able to manage. They

have quite a bit of talent, and avery interesting coach. They have a very strong running back in Clinton Portis, and Antwan Randle El

has a lot of talent as a wide receiver, and Chris Cooley and Sanatana Moss have a lot to offer. The big problem is a lack of serious

quarterback. If they can find a good quarterback, or if their existing quarterback can find a rhythm, then 2007 could be a good year

for Washington.

But most likely it’s all downhill from here.


For your next drinking night

June 19th, 2007

How to make a bottle opener from a piece of paper.


Cutest Office accessory ever

June 19th, 2007

The cutest little paper shredder ever.