14 April 2007


The enlightened leader has a vision for the future that will make society a better place. The usual chaos of human interaction and free will shall be replaced by an ordered system of centralized decisions. ( Bees create the most successful utopian societies. ) New revenue must be brought in to create the new order; an army of people is needed to direct everyone into this order.

The Dodgers are trying to create a parking utopia. Someone saw how the cars seem to randomly fill the lots, and flit around without any apparent order. Someone did not like this, and thought that there must be a better way.

People chafe under control. Organically developed patterns of behavior that allowed people to cope are no longer allowed. The loss of freedom is galling.

But it’s just parking. We can all get over some loss of freedom in parking if it works, right? The problem with a parking utopia, with any utopia, is that if the centralized plan fails, there is no backup. If everything does not go according to the abstract plan, then what? In the real world, things will break down in ways that the plan designers never anticipated, and if people are not allowed to cope with these breakdowns on their own, to organically find solutions, then it will be a disaster.

My wife and I attended last night’s game. We arrived at the ballpark at 6:20, more than an hour earlier than Derek Lowe’s first pitch on this Friday night. At this relatively early time things were not yet hectic, but I could see that there could be trouble as game time neared and there were more cars to deal with.

I could see the plan, and it does seem reasonable. Direct each car to the lot closest to it, and fill up that lot systematically. Slowdowns occur when two cars want to each occupy the same bit of road, such as at an intersection. The goal of this plan seems to be to eliminate as much of this automotive interaction as possible, and thus eliminate the slowness. I can imagine the planners drawing up one slide of the old way, with a bunch of lines representing car routes all crossed and snarled, and one slide of the new way, with a lot of parallel lines, swirling in directly to their spots without ever crossing each other.

We came in on the left side of the Golden State entrance, and so we were directed to lot 4. The parking attendants were filling this lot up starting with rows closest to the stadium and going out. They waved us around with glowsticks and in general made an ad hoc human road.

The big problem with this was that since all cars were sent along one route, and since all people who were getting out of cars were originating from rougly one spot, there was a constant bottleneck where the stream of cars going to the designated spots intersected the stream of people walking to the stadium. Normally this car-human interaction would be spread out over the parking lot, but now it was concentrated, and a real problem. If the volume of cars had been higher, we would have all been backed up, because there would have been no other way we would be allowed to go.

However, at the time I was there, parking was rather easy. And it was almost easier after the game to get out, as easy as it’s ever been for me. We left after the last pitch, and it took maybe three minutes of manuevering and waiting for other cars before we were out, through the gates. I am at a loss to explain this. I didn’t see any parking attendants directing cars to make things smoother. In fact I think this would have made things worse, at least in our lot. I think what made the biggest difference was that none of the openings from lot four to the access road were shut off, and no one from any outlying lots was coming over to add to the traffic on our side. Lot 4 may also be one of the easier lots to get out of, just based on its orientation of long axis along the access road, allowing for many exit points.

I think the Dodger parking utopia does have a chance to work if the number of cars is managable. There were 49000 announced at this game, and from my observation parking was okay. The problem is that it doesn’t seem to be much value for the extra money we have to pay to park, and that if things go wrong it will quickly turn into a full-scale parking dystopia.

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