Curbman wisdom and other assorted thoughts from the peanut gallery

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Updated Nov 30, 2015

So I was packing the house last week and realized I didn’t have enough boxes. Instead of just going out to buy more boxes, I sent our boy up to Ohio State with $50,000 and the square footage of our house, so they could do a study and tell me how many boxes I’ll need.

Crazy, right?

Try $25 million on and see how silly that sounds.

The Federal gubmint has $25 million to give away to be spent on posting signs to advertise the number of parking spaces available in rest areas and truck stops, because there’s a lack of parking available, and it’s funny to see your desperate faces when you pass the “zero” signs.

OK, that’s not really why, but it certainly seems plausible. The grant is spread out over several states and includes other things, but the signage seems to be the main focus and cost associated.

The signs are a great idea, in theory. It would be wonderful to think that just knowing there aren’t any spaces available would create new ones, wouldn’t it? Magic is fun, but not very practical.

They have solid numbers from the Jason’s Law Truck Parking Study that state unequivocally there is a lack of spaces available, and no amount of signage or communication will change that. And who’s the genius that decided a phone app would be a good idea for truck drivers to check “real time” available parking? Does anyone else feel like someone would probably have to look at their phone while driving for this app to even be the least bit useful?

Those numbers change minute by minute — it’s not something you can use at the beginning of the day while trip planning with much effectiveness.

I appreciate that better information will make better use of the spaces available, and I understand the need to impart that information, but it just seems smarter to take some of the money and build more parking, instead of going whole hog on the signage. Consequently, there is a distinct trust issue between those signs and the truckers we’ve heard from who have tried to use them. The information has been reported to often be inaccurate, with the sign displaying no parking available and the drivers seeing available parking as they pass the stop by.

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Or vice-versa, they pull in because spots are advertised, and there are no spots actually available, and it’s so jammed up they spend precious minutes ticking away on the drive clock getting out to find parking.

I talked to someone who knows a little bit about what it costs to build parking lots. Chris Gabaldon is also known as “The Curbman” and he’s built more than one parking lot during his near 20 years in the business. I gave him a call, just to get a very rough estimate of how many truck-size parking spaces could be built with about half the money in the grant – $12 million, so we could have a nice, even number.

Curbman and crew, gettin’ it done.Curbman and crew, gettin’ it done.

Chris mathed for a few minutes, and I listened and pretended I understood what he was talking about, and when he was done, he came up with a very rough estimate of 2,500 spaces.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Now mind you, this is assuming the land is there and prep is done, so realistically if we had twelve million dollars to spend on new spaces, we may get a thousand out of it. But even so, a thousand spaces could mean at least a hundred each for the top ten most needy states, and they’d still have money to put new signage up, even though no one really trusts it.

Forgive the musings of a simple mind here, but from the standpoint of someone who has been inside a truck, circling a parking lot, looking for an empty spot while the clock ticks down, it would be completely awesome to have both the smart signs and the added spaces, instead of a bunch of signs telling us there is no room at the inn.

For liability purposes alone, I would stay as far away from a “real time” phone app as possible. I can just see the joy on a lawyer’s face when they discover someone involved in an accident had that app open and was being distracted by “real time” updates during impact. It’s a great idea that would probably be used for evil purposes. I think the money might be spent better by posting real time information at weigh stations, but again, musings of a simple mind.

At least someone admits there’s a problem. I’m not a fan of Dr. Phil, but I do agree with him when he says the first step in solving a problem is to admit it. So at least there’s that, although the baby steps of progress sure do seem to be expensive.

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