The Freakonomics edition: can parking tickets be a good thing?

Parking tickets are almost a right of passage for drivers in New York. An estimated $440 million in revenue is collected by NYC annually via parking tickets. Put another way, that’s ~$50 per New Yorker. This raises a question about incentives: are New Yorkers incentivized to violate traffic laws by the City of New York? Do ticket recipients usually feel pangs of angst and injustice at the site of the orange envelopes, or are they more often calculating whether it’s the lesser of two evils?

Let’s look at the specific example of street parking. Is it, in fact, often cheaper to rack up parking tickets than to pay monthly parking garage fees?

Suppose you are choosing between free street parking and a parking garage. Let’s assume you live above 96th Street. Parking garages above 96th cost a minimum of $300 per month, plus tax.

Let’s suppose also that you only use your car on the weekends, and that it is easier to find street parking on the weekends, so you leave your car in its spot during the week. But during the week is when street cleaning is happening where you parked. That’s a $45 ticket for each Alternate Side Parking violation. Yet even if you do this week in and week out, you may still find that your pile of tickets adds up to less than a garage.

Below 96th St, at $65 per ticket, your violations would add up more quickly, and yet still may be less costly than many garages. As the image above depicts, the expensive park-front garages seem to be anchoring around $700 p.m.

It is entirely possible this dynamic is a total unintended consequence in the NYC system. And the Department of Transportation is certainly making strides to create a better user experience: they recently made it easier to dispute tickets with a user-friendly app! No need to see a judge to raise a dispute now. This could be especially helpful for out-of-town friends who get slapped with the other NYC traffic police trope – towing.

This article contains personal opinions and observations only. The above analysis is not legal advice or advice to break the law.


Restaurants now help serve up ideas

There’s a visible trend of communal seating in the dining world, especially at fast casual restaurants like Dig Inn. At first I wondered if the Sharing Economy had gone too far – taking out seating real estate just like WeWork has small businesses share conference rooms and kitchens. Are these businesses just squeezing out more dollars per square foot or actually adding social value? I suspect that Dig Inn is just using timely positioning for its foot traffic goals. But others like Coup, former bar and now a pop-up bar, have leveraged the communal seating for a actionable social good.

At Coup, 100% of profits go to non-profits, including those de-funded under the Trump administration. Patrons each received a token per drink with which to vote on featured charities by placing chips in jars placed along the edge of the room. Social interaction is encouraged by placing the jars on ledges behind tables. Did ideas end up being exchanged between strangers? Possibly on occasion. Whether it worked or not, I endorse the concept. And whether it happens or not at Dig Inn, I’m still eating their delicious meat balls and roasted sweet potatoes.

The Slow Shipping Movement

Had it really only been five days? It had felt like aaages (and by ages, I mean at least a week), as I wondered where my special edition collectable bobble head set was. And then it dawned on me, this company must be part of the Slow Shipping Movement! After all, why do I need those bobble heads in two days? Slow Shippers know customers will appreciate items more once they arrive because of the delayed gratification.

Like the Slow Food Movement, Slow Shipping gets you to appreciate where your products are coming from, the “ingredients” of what are being shipped to you.

I wrote in my gratitude journal that evening, still awaiting my package, that I am grateful for all the hands that have touched this unique product, to deliver it to my shelf.

Adventures in re-branding: Hotel execs get wrong what Airbnb gets right

Hotel execs must be reading my blog; I think they loved the re-branding of the solar system so much, that they’ve decided to keep doing what they are doing, but re-brand it as giving a “feeling of home comfort”. Now at hotels like The Standard, the concierge is labeled the “personal concierge”. You can have laundry access, just like a home – but limited to two items per day. Some tasty snacks will be ready in your room – all for the already rolled in $100 surcharge. And at a week or longer, you can get up to 40% off of your rooms (already a common practice among hotels).

These hotels marketing a homey experience are doing nothing different to what they’ve always done; the ingredients to their conception of a “home stay” are not so earth shattering as is their marketing. And this is also where they reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of their unique selling point.

What differentiates hotels from coach surfing and home sitting is the guarantee of comfort – a good night’s sleep in a clean room and a comfy bed, and your own personal space with no house rules to follow. What makes Airbnb competitive is the lower prices and good locations, more so than the home-made experience. So unless a hotel grows legs and moves to a more optimal location or slashes prices, fresh muffins in the morning ain’t gonna win those customers back.