Please deposit your severed leg and have a nice day.

We all agree that downtown parking rates are ludicrous, right?  I mean, you pull in and the machine takes your arm off at the shoulder and spits you out a ticket with the words “CHA-CHING” printed on it, and then you’ve got to give your leg to a different machine in order to get your car out. And God help you if you lost your “CHA-CHING” ticket, because then you have to offer up your first born.  Also, come Friday, all of Alco’s garages are increasing by $1 or $2 per day, so you’d best get to growing some extra limbs, commuters.

Rich Lord, who I’ve just decided needs a nickname, explores the impending privatization of the city-owned parking lots and wonders if downtown parking prices will become even MORE ludicrous, considering the private garages are the most expensive and considering the lot operators laugh in the face of tax decreases, pocketing the difference instead of passing it on to limbless, weeping motorists.

Go read it if you’d like, but here’s what really made me all BLLLLLLLLLLL:

The Parking Authority has agreed that the financial services firm Morgan Stanley will lead the effort to engineer a long-term lease, and will get $3 million from the proceeds of any deal. The authority is in the process of picking another consultant that would be paid around $600,000 to assemble data for prospective lessees.

Okay, I will let go of the $3 million fee to engineer the lease, but $600,000 to “ASSEMBLE DATA FOR PROSPECTIVE LESSEES”?!

WTF?

I’m imagining my thinking here is very simplistic, possibly too simplistic, but what data do the lessees need that the current owner, meaning The City of Pittsburgh, doesn’t already have?

They’re your garages, City.  You own them.  Don’t you have all that data on them?  Don’t you know how many cars enter your garages?  Don’t you know how much money you’ve made over the years on those garages? And can’t you assemble the data and makes some national comparisons and even include some snazzy charts and graphs?  And don’t you already have data on commuters and the numbers of cars entering the city and all that jazz that lessees might want?  Can’t you put it together for them?  Or at least have someone do it for less than over half a million dollars?

Six hundred thousand dollars … TO ASSEMBLE DATA.

I want to see this data when it is all assembled, and not only do I want each binder to be trimmed in solid gold, I want every bullet point to be a diamond.  And so help me God, if I find ONE SINGLE SPELLING ERROR in that $600,000 report I will use an eight-inch knife to spear that report to a dead pigeon and I will leave it on the steps of the City County building for Lukey to find.

Lucky for him, there are lots of $1,000 trash cans around to discard the mangled carcass.





45 Comments

  1. Sooska
    December 28, 2009 2:23 pm

    whose brother-in-law of a city official runs such a data ASSembling firm? and will he give me a job?



  2. Greg
    December 28, 2009 2:42 pm

    It’s the continuing joke that is politics in this area.

    Heard from a Pittsburgh voter leaving the polls during the election, “Sure, he’s incompetent… but there’s no way I could vote for a…”

    You asked for it, you got it. Incompetent.



  3. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 2:44 pm

    Lukey:

    “Taxpayers: BEND OVER, SODOMY, NO LUBE!!”

    (aren’t you glad you re-elected me?? Aren’t you idiots who perpetuate this one-party system happy now?? LMFAO)

    Yours Truly,
    Luke Ravenstahl



  4. butcher's dog
    December 28, 2009 3:29 pm

    And, of course, that $3 mil price and $600K data fee will be eaten by the buyers and in no way passed along to the citizens. (He types with tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

    And why do we need this? Oh yeah…so we don’t have to pass along tax increases to our citizens.

    Have a nice day, everyone. The animals have officially taken over the zoo.



  5. unsatisfied
    December 28, 2009 4:02 pm

    maybe the casino can save us.



  6. Mike
    December 28, 2009 4:16 pm

    Have you ever tried to get meaningful data from our municipalities? I can assure you they do not have the data quality required of the private sector. If they did, we would not need to lease the garages… It’s unfortunate, but no surprise, that our region continues to place public assets in the hand of the private sector to avoid the evil words “property tax increase.”

    What will we do when all our public assets are gone? I suppose we can start newborns at the hospital for the “privilege” of being born in Pittsburgh. Sad thing is… most ‘burghers would favor it.



  7. Mike
    December 28, 2009 4:17 pm

    Correction: “taxing newborns” sorry for the delinquency!



  8. Politicalpartypooper
    December 28, 2009 4:28 pm

    Ginny,

    Here’s your chance! They haven’t hired the consultant yet!

    You can undercut their estimate, and tell them you’ll do it for $ 300,000. Then, you can decorate it like that dinosaur Christmas card thing you tried to put together. How hard could it be?

    :D



  9. Virginia
    December 28, 2009 4:30 pm

    PoliticalPartyPooper wins.



  10. Kathy
    December 28, 2009 4:37 pm

    In answer to your qauestion, No — they actually don’t have the data. If you ask them for data on the pension hole that they are trying to fill, they don’t have that data either. This is why the city is in the position its in.



  11. Joe K.
    December 28, 2009 4:48 pm

    You think parking is expensive here, try NYC or Boston sometime. That said, I’m with those skeptical of continually giving away public assets. There’s no way privatization does anything but raise prices.



  12. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 5:12 pm

    >>> Joe K.-

    Do you work for the Mayor??

    WTF does ANYTHING, or the cost of ANYTHING in NYC or Boston
    have to do with here??

    BTW, you point out two “machine” political cities that have a 100 hundred year “jump” on us!! Great!!



  13. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 5:16 pm

    “…skeptical of continually giving away…”

    Would you be “skeptical” if someone continually RAPED you??
    Then continually stole your wallet, then stole your kids’ possessions, continually??

    Skeptical??? WTF?



  14. Bram R
    December 28, 2009 5:36 pm

    “$600,000 to assemble data for prospective lessees” … I read that a little differently. I thought it was so WE could do research ABOUT the various candidates that wish to lease our garages, so we can make a wise decision. I mean I’m not in lust with all the consulting contracts or even the leasing idea, but I think the theory works in that direction.



  15. Virginia
    December 28, 2009 5:44 pm

    Bram,

    But then wouldn’t Rich have written it as “data ABOUT” or “data ON” but not so much “data FOR”?



  16. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 5:46 pm

    duhhhh…

    OK, you own your own home, so, uh, you’re gonna “lease” it to
    someone else…uh….so THEY can then charge YOU to continue living in it!!

    yeah, that’s a good idea….

    no wait, let’s pay some crony $1000’s to “look” at the deal for us.. uh…

    SHORT VERSION- BEND THE F*** OVER!



  17. Bram R
    December 28, 2009 5:55 pm

    Yeah, just did some research and you’re right. From older Rich Lord AKA Battlecat:

    “The authority board voted to allow Mr. Onorato and a five-person panel that is overseeing the garage lease process to pick a consulting firm from four interested bidders. The firm’s job would be to evaluate the garages and lots and their improvement needs, study their financial performance, explore the market demand for spaces, and assemble other information that would be provided to firms interested in leasing the garages.”

    Also from that article:

    “The authority board today also voted to pay New York-based TransPerfect Deal Interactive $25,000 to create and manage the online “data room” that prospective bidders will view.”

    The online data room will be on a private, closed circuit, so good luck evaluating the binders.



  18. Joe K.
    December 28, 2009 6:09 pm

    @ Bojack: Just trying to give some perspective, it’s not really that expensive to park in Pittsburgh, especially in the city-owned garages. By “skeptical” I was trying to say I agree with Mike in post #6. I’d like to keep the city garages in the hands of the city to keep parking at a lower cost.



  19. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 6:13 pm

    @Joe K-

    That “perspective” is 100% IRRELEVANT to us, here, in Pittsburgh,
    Decemeber 2009!!!!

    That is no more relevant than to point out that the murder rate is
    5x in Somalia than it is here!



  20. Joe K.
    December 28, 2009 6:46 pm

    @Bojack: Virginia started this post with the statement “We all agree that downtown parking rates are ludicrous, right?”, and I used to agree with that until I parked in other places. Given that, according to the article, there’s no lessening of demand for the spaces, it appears that parking rates aren’t too high. If parking rates get too high people will start taking the bus into town. But I think that having the city own garages helps keep the price down a bit.



  21. Jen
    December 28, 2009 7:44 pm

    Joe K, I think if you want to compare parking prices to NYC & Boston you really need to compare the ratio of price to cost of living or the ratio of price to average income. I haven’t done those comparisons, so I don’t know if that ratio is higher or lower for Pittsburgh. I suspect it is still lower in Pittsburgh, as you believe, but just comparing rates doesn’t really give an accurate picture of the relative costs.

    That said, I personally think non-safety services like parking, garbage collection, janitors, accounting, HR, payroll, etc. should be privatized. The city government is orders of magnitude less efficient than the private sector in almost everything it does. As a (little “l”) libertarian, I believe the price of parking *should* adjust to what the market will bear. However, I also think the city shouldn’t tax parking (or anything else, for that matter) at ridiculously high rates.



  22. bucdaddy
    December 28, 2009 7:46 pm

    I’ll do it for half that.



  23. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 7:58 pm

    @ Joe K.-

    OK, I’ll say it s-l-o-w-l-y for you,

    we OWN the parking spaces!! It doesn’t make a difference if it

    costs $1.00 to park, we OWN them! They belong to US!

    It makes ZERO difference what people in other cities do or don’t

    pay, get it??

    Of COURSE if we let someone else run them we will pay MORE!!!

    Why?? Because a 1-party shithole of alleged government can’t

    do simple math!!

    THESE ARE PARKING SPACES!!!! WITH PARKING ATTENDANTS!!!!

    THIS ISN’T ROCKET F’ING SCIENCE!!!!

    You can’t even ID the pimps from the whores in this game!!!



  24. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 7:59 pm

    PS@ Joe-

    Oh yeah, when was the last time you used, let alone depended on our 2nd worst joke the Port Authority????

    GOOD F’ING LUCK!!!!!!!!!!!



  25. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 8:09 pm

    Let me clarify-

    They are NOT talking about a private “management” firm, they are SELLING them out from under us!!!



  26. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 8:12 pm

    BTW-

    Anybody seen that loose change, you know, the $16 million

    G20 payback we were supposed to get??????



  27. Joe K.
    December 28, 2009 8:13 pm

    Bojack I’m not disagreeing that the city owns the spaces, just that parking costs aren’t as onerous as people like to whine about.

    Jen, the problem I have with privatization like the “little l” libertarians always want to do is that it can lead to foreign ownership, thereby sending local dollars overseas. And if I’m not mistaken, the Port Authority came into existence because private operators didn’t want to stay in the public transportation business because of high maintenance costs.



  28. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 8:19 pm

    “Monetizing” the parking we already own =

    borrowing cash from Tony Soprano!



  29. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 8:24 pm

    Next brilliant idea (like NYC Joe LOL)-

    let’s “monetize” the Ft. Pitt, Liberty, Veterans, and Ft. Duquesne

    bridges and charge to cross them!!!!!

    WAHOOOO!!!!

    Yeah, and we could pay some member of the Onorato family

    $5 million to study it first, then someone else another

    $10 million to incorporate an EZ Pass system……



  30. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 8:32 pm

    Oh, don’t forget the Ft. Pitt and Squirrel Hill tunnels!!!

    We can get a buck or two each way there too!!!

    Maybe only $0.50 for the Armstrong and Corliss tunnels tho….

    How about a $10 cover charge for all non-residents entering the

    Southside after 6PM??

    Oh Hell, just hit every sports & entertainment ticket in the city

    with a $25-100 surcharge!!!

    $2.00/ per every drink, $5.00 for very meal, but a $4 million study to figure out fast food charges!!

    Ya feelin’ me Mayor Doggy Dogg???



  31. Kim Z
    December 28, 2009 9:04 pm

    NOOOOOOO! Chicago recently leased its parking meters, and it has been a horrible nightmare for the people AND the city. I won’t go into the details because it will just make me angry but some googling (or just perusing the Sun-Times or Tribune) about Chicago meter leasing should give you many reasons to tell Pittsburgh to hold onto their own parking assets. I think this debacle is secretly why Oprah is bailing on us.



  32. Jen
    December 28, 2009 9:40 pm

    Bojack,

    Please spare me the tired “the foreigners are stealing our jobs” rhetoric. Are the other private parking garages in Pittsburgh foreign-owned? The one mentioned in the article, ALCO parking, has been in Pittsburgh since 1925.

    http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=49973998

    And anyway, if a foreign company can manage it better and make it more efficient, more power to them. It’s not like they can export the parking lot attendant jobs to other countries with lower labor costs (although if they are smart, they’ll automate as much as possible).

    Government is horribly inefficient because they don’t have to be. They are not held accountable for their decisions like the private sector is (unless you’re a big bank with friends in the White House).

    If Pittsburgh seriously wanted to reduce parking prices, they would reduce barriers to entry for building new parking garages, such as the property tax, income tax, parking tax, payroll tax, etc. Increased supply + lower operating overhead = lower prices. If there really is more demand than supply, it should be economically viable to create more supply to meet the demand, but it’s not because Pittsburgh makes it incredibly expensive to start up new businesses.



  33. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 10:16 pm

    @ Jan-

    Please withhold your ignorance!

    Where are you from? Not Pittsburgh obviously!

    ALCO (the Stabile family) incorporated in 1961 and the Pittsburgh public-owned parking garages have been the ONLY thing keeping him (and his son) from monopoly-gouging the last shekels out of parkers!! I knew the old man before he retired to FL, and I went to school with Merrill.

    Our inept (read corrupt) politicians could not even enforce a tax-break give-back on parking costs from these thieves!!

    They could share notes with the Nuttings!!!

    If the city govt can’t run a parking garage what CAN they run???

    According to you, we should find, oh wait, “outsource” our WHOLE city govt!!

    Maybe some firm in India?? Get’em here on Grant St!!!



  34. Bojack
    December 28, 2009 10:26 pm

    @Jan-

    It’s NOT ABOUT operating at a profit, it DOES operate at and make a profit!

    OF COURSE the city can operate the parking at a profit!!!

    What they want to DO is SELL the goose!!!!



  35. Steelman
    December 28, 2009 11:44 pm

    why are you surprised? that’s how incompetent governments function. They confiscate our money thru taxes and waste it on surveys, feasibility studies, brainstorming sessions, etc because these officials could never make a living in the private sector. The city politicians could not run the janitorial services in a small high school. It is becoming increasingly clear that local, state and federal governments are havens for ineptitude.



  36. Jill
    December 29, 2009 9:05 am

    “The firm’s job would be to evaluate the garages and lots and their improvement needs, study their financial performance, explore the market demand for spaces, and assemble other information that would be provided to firms interested in leasing the garages.”

    Great so the City is going to pay $600k to tell the firms interested in leasing the garages just how high they can raise prices before commuters will give in and actually take public transportation (probably like $50 a day)….. yeah that makes sense – why should the private firm buyer actually have to pay for the due diligence as if it were a transaction taking place in the real world ….



  37. Mary
    December 29, 2009 9:17 am

    Hey somebody watch our kids, Ginny and I need to make a bitchin’ spreadsheet in Excel for Lukey. Then we’ll take our earnings and blow it at the casino. Then we’ll study why the casino is tanking.



  38. Bojack
    December 29, 2009 10:19 am

    :-) @ Mary



  39. Heydee17
    December 29, 2009 2:30 pm

    I love when so called “crisis” leads us down the road of privatizing government (our) assets. Also add in that we lose the future revenue generated from the parking garages, as what we will we sell off next year to balance the budget. For other government assets given away can we say “The 1996 Telecommunications Act” that gave away our airwaves for practically nothing. This seems to happen all too often. If you want to know more about the relationship of “crisis” and the selling off of governmental (our) assets, I do recommend “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein.



  40. Joe K.
    December 29, 2009 2:37 pm

    I did a study and concluded that we should replace the parking meters with mini slot machines. If you win you get a free parking token for the next time you park downtown!



  41. WDOphoto
    January 2, 2010 10:48 am

    It’s certainly data FOR and no they don’t have that on hand.

    I’ve worked for government contractors before. When contracts change hands or go up for bid it’s the folks that are potentially loosing the contract that have to provide all kinds of data. In this case there isn’t anyone loosing the contract so there is nobody to provide it because nobody has been collecting it.

    Pittsburgh is a tech city but like most things in this awesome town the city government is a poor example of what we do here, who we are, and what we can achieve.

    So sadly the 600k is not that unreasonable.

    I’d assume that most of these garages don’t keep their data past close-of-business every day so you’ve got to start compiling that data which means adding computer equipment to each garage that can gather the info – what does that cost?

    To do it right they should get 12 months worth of data from each garage otherwise the data provided may show lower profitability meaning anyone who signs a contract is going to charge higher fairs than they need to.

    So that’s a few thousand for the computers plus the cost of a skilled network technician to install them and troubleshoot them because they’ll be MS Windows machines most likely which means they’ll break once in a while over the course of the year.

    Then they’ve got to pay for a data server to store the data which means renting a place to store that stuff. If they’re setting up the server somewhere they’re not just paying for an office – they’re paying for a room that is temp. controlled, has an uninterrupted power supply, and is protected from power surges.

    It would only make sense to put them in a place where the database admin (dba) can work from. Keep in mind they’re probably signing a 1 to 3 year lease. One year to collect the data then another 6 months to a year to complete the reporting then the city can turn over the data to the people they award the contract to – assuming it’s done in that time frame.

    They are not renting just any old office space either – they need a location that the server can be placed in which limits the location somewhat. Let’s be honest though whomever lands the job are probably not going to be local.

    They’re also probably collecting the data from the garages via a network (via the internet or private network connection) so they’ve got to pay for the connection for EACH garage and the data-center. I mentioned the dba which costs at minimum $50k for a year ( that’s the cost assuming they only hire one and they are local).

    If they can’t collect data directly from the garages in digital form they’ll also need to hire some data entry people at around $8-12 an hour to add stuff to the database. If they cheap out the data it’s going to be entered poorly. Bad data in = bad data out.

    So now they’ve got the raw data and now have to pay for a reports analyst which cost at least $50k a year, $70k if you want it done right. Honestly though the time frame will probably be as short as possible so they may need more than 1 reporting person.

    They’ve got to have someone managing the whole thing and if that’s me I’m certainly going to want $100k per year for my troubles because it’s my ass on the line if my people shit the bed – like if the data entry person I hired entered everything wrong.

    So now they can generate the data in a way that the people bidding want. Which means they’ve got to write a ton of reports and put out this data in a meaningful way that the bidders can use to figure out what they want to bid on the contract.

    So you see – it’s not that outrageous of a price for the data gathering and it will cost commuters a lot more in the end if they don’t get the data right.

    In the end since it will probably end up taking 2-3 years that is only maybe 200k a year which won’t pay for the people, the rent, or the gear for that time and will likely leave the people who do the job holding the bill and being screwed by the city all the while people like you and me are hating on them thinking they are fat cats taking a chunk of our money and running away with it.

    I’m not a fan of privatizing the garages but I would be in favor of the city compiling data on them and everything else because they don’t do that now and it means that you can find inefficiencies that will save vast amounts of money.



  42. Bojack
    January 2, 2010 12:12 pm

    @ WDO-

    Fancy servers?? WTF?? Are you sniffing glue???

    X # parking spaces, X # days, X $ costs!!

    This is OUR property being SOLD to someone who will then charge us MORE to continue using it!!!

    PERIOD!!

    Which bidder do YOU work for???



  43. Pingback: Proportional Response... an aggressively normal take on everything

  44. WDOphoto
    January 4, 2010 4:33 pm

    @Bojack –

    If only the world was as simple as you see it.

    No idiot in their right mind is going to sign a contract without knowing what they are likely to earn from it.

    Your first variable is worthless. It doesn’t matter how many spaces there are – if those spaces are not used then there could be ten billion of them and it will not mean a thing.

    You have to know usage – if you don’t know that you can’t make a bid. Knowing how many use it in one week is not enough – you need to know over a full cycle; i.e. a repeatable period of time. The longer that observed period the more accurate the average.

    Is this that difficult logic to follow – It would be a real challenge to dumb it down any more than I already am.

    Just for fun we’ll have a go at your idea – NOT collecting the data, (because we can pretty much rule out the idea of the city changing it’s mind). If you could actually get anyone to bid let alone agree to sign a contract they would need some way to come up with a number that they could expect to gross you’re not getting around the need for that – nobody is bidding without some idea of cost and profitability. To do so without actual data would be a precarious shot in the dark.

    I was keeping it very simple – I didn’t even mention the data they need to collect on the structure and infrastructure. How often do the garages need painting? What are the human resource costs? How long before this garage needs resurfaced? How long until this garage needs new elevators?

    What do you suggest they use to figure these things out without “fancy servers”?

    I assure you anyone that would bid based on assumptions and indirect data would be out of their mind. Plus they’d have to pad their numbers to ensure that they make a profit. So in execution of the contract if they do it your way they’d end up over charging commuters and under paying the city. How does that make any sense? How does that make things better?

    You’ve saved the city $600k but cost it how much over the length of the contract plus let’s assume that you’ve just cost the commuters another $5 a day each – how much is that over the length of the contract? Is it a 5 year contract? Are there an average of 100,000 commuters a day over that period – that’s $2.5 million dollars that your idea just cost the commuters on top of the city’s lost revenue – good job buddy.

    The point is until they know how much money they can expect to make and can subtract from that what they would like to profit nobody is going to bid. You can’t figure that out with the simple formula that you put forth – you need the data.

    Again – to do it right (and when I say right I mean in a way that would cost commuters less over the length of the contract) you should have 12 months worth of data to look at. That is the only way you’re going to get an accurate predictive model of expected earnings that will allow you to calculate a figure that is sensible.

    Also let me set the record straight – I DON’T like the idea of government services being bid off – I’m quite nearly a socialist. I’d like to see the government get it’s head out of it’s ass and manage MORE services themselves, not less. More than that I’d like to see them do so in a sensible way that would save money. Sadly most government contracts actually DO save tax payers money. This is often because we (the tax payers) refuse to pay for things that would save money – like data collection and analysis.

    Now since you asked – I work for myself:

    WDO Photography LLC
    Owned and managed by ME:
    W. Donald Orkoskey II

    As for if I’m bidding – I don’t think so. If you actually read what I wrote above rather than resorting to name calling and a childish overuse of exclamation points you’ll see that I’ve shown where it would be hard to make a dime off of what they are willing to pay. Add to that the fact that I’ve no interest in being a government contractor plus the shiftiness and backhandedness of this administration and I assure you I’m not interested in working with the likes of them.

    I’d be much more likely to run for office in opposition to them. However – people don’t want sensible logical people in office – they want people that change their last name to that of the local football team. Voters want people that make them laugh, that will pretend to take charge, not people that can actually lead and make difficult but intelligent choices. Lastly the voters DON’T want to listen to reasons for choices – they just want things to go their way.

    No matter who bids they’ll likely give the contract to a “special friend” – someone like John Verbanac or someone who gave Luke a huge campaign contribution. They’ve probably already chosen who they’re going to give it to.



  45. Luiza
    February 2, 2010 9:53 pm

    li o texto mas nao entendo desse assunto mas, percebi corrupçao