We've written a few times in the past about the wonderful business model of the parking business. Buy some land. (Or lease some land. Or manage somebody else's land.) Let people park their cars there. Take their money.

It's just sheer genius, this model, combining the timeless truths of real estate -- like the man said, they aren't making any more of it -- with a captive audience of customers who have an absolute need to place their cars on that real estate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every workday. It's a model that drew me to invest in Imperial Parking once upon a time (before it was bought out). It's a model I still look to see repeated in one of the two remaining big nationwide parking chains, Central Parking (NYSE:CPC) and Standard Parking (NASDAQ:STAN).

Sadly, it's also a model that appears to be utterly broken at Central Parking (and not much better at Standard). Six months ago I took a look at Central Parking and was disappointed to see that, while earnings looked not too awfully bad from a GAAP perspective, when you examined the company's results from the perspective of free cash flow, well, there was hardly any cash to be found.

Last week, Central Parking reported its fiscal Q1 2005 earnings results -- and they were the financial equivalent of a 12-car pileup. Net profits fell 58%. Even after the company sold off some underperforming properties, profits from continuing operations still fell 36%. Both of these despite a 4% increase in revenues. Result: Each share of Central Parking yielded just $0.10 in profit this quarter. (The good news is that the properties remaining post-sell-off are a bit more profitable, in consideration of which, the company predicts GAAP profits of about $0.55 per share for the full fiscal year.)

Turning to the balance sheet, accounts receivable climbed to $78.3 million from $56.1 million three months ago -- a 40% increase. And long-term debt climbed 5% over the same period, now standing at $166.8 million in debt and an additional $78.1 million in subordinated debentures. Last year's $2.3 million in free cash flow dried up, leaving a dry gutter, -$8.5 million deep, this quarter.

When you consider that even Central Parking's continuing operations were free cash flow negative for the quarter, even the $0.55 in GAAP profits that the company expects to record in nine months time don't seem to justify Fools parking their investing dollars here.

For more Foolish news on the exciting world of parking management, read:

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any of the companies mentioned in this article.