By: Joe Sciulli, CAPP

A funny thing happened on my way to the coffee filters on a Sunday morning a few months back. My world-class sniffer instantly diverted my eyes and hands to a half-full bag of ranch-flavored tortilla chips hiding in the cupboard. Eureka! In the very next instant, distracted by an interesting segment on CBS’s Sunday Morning, I was standing over my wife’s shoulder chewing tangy triangles left over from the Super Bowl.

Following my fourth or fifth crunch, my beloved voiced her displeasure with my 10 a.m. snack. “I can’t believe it! You’ll eat anything, any time,” she said. But her real beef wasn’t with the munching in her left ear (though that didn’t help); it was the scent of ranch-flavored anything, which she abhors.

Now, behind every man’s transgression is either a quote from “The Godfather” or a parking management lesson–in this case, it’s the latter. In short order, I had violated a No-scent/No-standing Zone, overstayed the time limit, and was cited. This obviously begat the following lessons on parking regulations and enforcement:

Lesson One. Regulation signs need to be clear, up to date, and understandable. I still lost my case in Family-room Court even though there was no sign that ranch-scented anything was verboten. But as I’ve documented in countless surveys over the years, the mere presence of well-located, clear, and understandable parking signs in good repair will reduce the rate of violations significantly.

Lesson Two. In my Sunday Morning example, my “citation” came on the fourth or fifth chip —in other words my better-half achieved a 20 or 25 percent violation capture rate. That’s pretty good for a No-scent/No-standing regulation (translation: safety or service zone). But had I not fed a parking meter (instead of my face), it would have been underperforming. Even in our tech-savvy curb environs these days, meter cites should still reach 33 to 40 percent of the violations to ensure a credible deterrent to fragrant (uh, flagrant) infractions.

Lesson Three. All things considered, safety and service zones benefit from more frequent enforcement passes than do paid parking spaces. Written enforcement guidelines and customized patrol patterns, when included on beat maps and tested and refined as curb regulations change, optimize PEO efficiency, raise capture rates, and increase compliance.

Ah, but wait: There’s one more lesson to be had.

As we all know, a man will go to great lengths to get a clear shot of the TV screen regardless of what he’s doing or eating at the time and regardless of who’s talking to him. It’s a primordial thing, coded in our DNA, right next to the same gene that makes a dog focus on a tennis ball.

And that same gene unsheathes our inner caveman when we’re on the hunt for curb parking. It also emboldens us to park illegally risking the odds of a ticket when we’re circling the block, short on time, and unable to find a space. So, parking people, be forewarned: with continued incursions on curb spaces everywhere, the chances of more parker-hunters circling blocks and risking tickets may be on the rise!

This also raises a question, at least in my mind: All things being equal are men or women more likely to risk—and/or receive—a parking ticket?

This question isn’t as absurd as it may appear, given recent work by urban development consultant David Feehan, et al., in his recent book, Design Downtown for Women – Men Will Follow. (One of our own–Barbara Chance, PhD–contributed the chapter on transportation and parking.)

Now, maybe one day I’ll view a Sunday Morning segment on whether gender influences parking behavior. In the meantime, I may see if there’s a soul courageous (or foolish) enough to join me in meandering down that rabbit hole, willingly risking the slings and arrows of political “incorrectness” and charges of misogyny.  It just may be that better parking signs and regulations could come about as a result.

There’s a bag of ranch-flavored tortilla chips in it for the first one to hop in!