Car privileges – an outmoded trapping of hierarchy

In most big Sydney CBD companies, a car space is a sign that you’ve made it. In my company, and the last company I worked for, the most senior executives are entitled to a car space. They are allocated strictly by rank, and neither the cost, nor the Fringe Benefits Tax that the company has to pay on top, is charged to the employee.  It is one of the trappings of heirarchy that annoys me the most.

Because it is such a privilege of rank, there are very few senior executives who don’t use it. Once you’ve got to that exalted status, you have to use the car space, just to show how important you are. And so far more people drive into the city than would do so if there was no status attached to doing so.

Ten years ago I worked for a company, in the CBD, which made no effort to buy or manage car spaces for its employees. And so only two of the 150 people who worked there parked in our building. When you have to pay for it yourself, and there is no status attached, the equation changes.

I’m not sure if even a congestion charge on the CBD streets would change this; the only way to change it would be for the Sydney City Council to stop letting companies put parking into every new building. If the spaces had to be more seriously rationed, then companies would probably start charging for them, as any economist would expect them to do.

It is easy for me to scoff; I hate driving, and I live close enough to the city that public transport is mostly just as fast as driving. But if our senior corporate citizens caught public transport on a regular basis (and our senior beauracrats, who also have the same rank based parking privileges) I suspect public transport would work a bit better.

  2 comments for “Car privileges – an outmoded trapping of hierarchy

  1. November 8, 2008 at 8:16 am

    We have tremendous competition for university car park spaces and I’ve occasionally wondered the same thing. And senior academics frequently seem to have rather bigger egos than most of the senior execs I’ve known.

  2. bobalucci
    January 27, 2009 at 7:17 am

    I have noticed that in just about every public transport system I have ever used there are more women than men catching them.
    This is certainly true in Madrid where I live now, but Madrid is by no means unique. Sydney’s bus system has a similar demographic makeup.
    I can’t help but think that the reason is not unrelated to the observation about parking spaces and the status associated – a status symbol that doesn’t seem unique to Sydney, Madrid and (if I’m right about unrelaxeddad’s location) the UK as well.
    As the parking spaces are allocated to more senior members of businesses (which still in general tend to be more male dominated) more men are going to get them. Hence more men drive and don’t catch public transport.
    But for a young single sociable lad such as myself (that doesn’t mind catching public transport) the imbalance isn’t all bad.
    It would intrigue me to know if the people that run the transport systems are aware of that imbalance, either to modify the way they provide or market the transport service, or correct it (if that is the right word)

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