Urban Businesses and Parking

Too often, when people propose removing parking spaces in cities, often to add infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, businesses will argue that losing that parking costs them customers. Well, thanks to a months long shutdown of multiple stations along D.C.’s Blue and Yellow lines, we actually have a test of that hypothesis. You’ll never guess what happened next! (boldface mine):

As the Metro summer shutdown continues, riders aren’t the only ones feeling the heat.

Some businesses are reportedly feeling the burn in their pockets.

During the week, we were down some days by 40 percent. Huge hit,” said Danielle Romanetti.

She is the owner of Alexandria’s Fibre Space, which is a place for materials like yarns and crochet supplies.

“My customers are not going to ride a bike here, spend a lot of money shopping and then ride their bike home,” Romanetti said…

Of the 149 businesses that responded, 46% of retailers and 43% of restaurants reported that their revenue is also down more than 5%.

“There’s no question that when there’s smoke there’s fire,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said.

Many urban customers will be ‘local’, in that they walk to the store. When mass transit doesn’t work, the ‘effective walking distance’ drops dramatically, as Alexandria’s merchants are learning (Is our merchants learning?). Whether cities would be smart to increase density overall and increase the number of businesses accessible by mass transit is left as an exercise for you, dear readers.

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1 Response to Urban Businesses and Parking

  1. coloncancercommunity says:

    We are having that debate in our own community. In the end, there are a lot of issues that govern consumer behavior.
    1. If the stores are selling generic items that can be bought with one-click on Amazon, there is very little that’s going to encourage local shopping. People are LAZY. They aren’t going out to shop if they can do it from home.
    2. My consumer behavior changes with my commute. Depending on the retail available and how close they are to the metro service (and I don’t know the area) a lot of people tend to do the bulk of their shopping from where they work – myself included.

    When you think about it, it makes sense. You can grab what you need, take it on the train and pitch it in your CAR when you get to your home station. Better yet, when you are on your way home, you don’t have kids in tow. That makes shopping a whole lot easier. It also saves you extra trips over the weekend – even more important if you have kids. Your car is there to help you transport whatever you bought home. This does save energy because it spares the consumer extra car trips.
    3. People who have to drag their kids with them are not giving up their cars to shop. Just.Not.Happening.
    4. Increasing density can have a perverse effect on shopping locally. When things get crowded, the crowds tend to stay home and push 1-click. If you face long lines and crowded streets when you leave your apartment, you aren’t going to leave your apartment – unless it is to do something else but shop.

    What I’m guessing is that these are not shoppers who came to the area specifically TO SHOP. These are commuters who shop where they work. If that’s the case, increasing density might not have the effect you want it to.

    What we have to look at what governs consumer behavior. Just saying that increasing local density will do the trick isn’t enough and it could backfire. My shopping decisions are governed by the selection, convenience, and price. I am also more likely to shop local stores if they have things I can’t get anywhere else.

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