Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Streetsblog.net

Why Free Black Friday Parking Is a Bad Idea

It can be hard for downtown retailers to compete with big box stores in the burbs. That’s why a lot of cities like to offer free street parking on “black Friday.”

It sounds good in theory. But in practice, giving away parking might not do much to help central business districts, or their patrons.

Citing ecologist Garrett Hardin and economist Donald Shoup, Clevelander Tim Kovach writes today about his disappointment in seeing this policy pursued by some local politicians:

Will free street parking help or hurt downtown Cleveland's Tower City mall? Photo: ##http://timkovach.com/wp/2013/11/20/clevelands-parking-policies-are-stuck-in-the-1960s/## Tim Kovach via All Things Cleveland##

I have no doubt that having to pay for parking keeps some people from coming downtown. But are people who base their shopping choices around whether or not they have to spend $2-3 to park their cars really likely to spend a lot of money on retail purchases?

Secondly, providing free on-street parking for retail businesses does not appear to increase actual retail purchases. When free parking is available, people who are not shopping may access it and those who are shopping will tend to remain parked for longer periods of time. Retail businesses depend upon customer turnover to increase their sales. Research from the Netherlands has demonstrated that higher prices for retail parking increases shopper turnover, which can lead to higher retail sales. Accordingly, Councilman [Zach] Reed’s plan to increase retail sales may have the opposite effect.

Lastly, providing free parking creates an inequity issue for people who do not own a car. As I’ve noted before, more than one-quarter of Cleveland households lack access to a vehicle. Yet, because the cost of parking is already factored into the price of retail goods, these individuals will have to pay for the hidden cost of parking, despite the fact that they will not take advantage of it. Ohio’s transportation policies are already skewed heavily enough towards driving. The round-trip cost of taking public transportation to Tower City ($4.50 per person) is higher than the price for two hours of on-street parking. Requiring the City to pick up this tab only serves to widen the gap between drivers and non-drivers.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Pennsylvania Walks and Bikes reports that after multiple failed attempts, the commonwealth has passed a transportation package that seems to be a winner for transit, biking and walking. Streets.mn urges Cincinnati to complete its embattled streetcar. And Cyclelicious considers the fairness of laws that require cyclists to keep “far to the right.”

Photo: Tower City Mall via All Things Cleveland

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Talking Headways Podcast: IrrePLACEable

Kevin Kelley on his book Irreplaceable: How to Create Extraordinary Places that Bring People Together, and the future of downtowns.

July 18, 2024

This Heat Wave is a Car Dependency Problem

Our quickly warming planet has a unique impact on people who don't or can't drive — and we need policy action to protect their health.

July 18, 2024

A Hillbilly Elegy for Thursday’s Headlines

Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, the Republican nominee for vice president, supports more federal subsidies for giant, deadly, gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs.

July 18, 2024

We Need to Stop Killing People On Our Roads; a New ‘Bikes Belong’ Campaign Could Help

A ground-breaking campaign in the 90s helped deliver the federal money America needed to fund active transportation infrastructure. Is it time to re-laucnch it?

July 18, 2024

Encouraging Seniors to Use Active and Public Transportation

Using - and encouraging the use of - active and multimodal transport can greatly enhance people's lives, especially seniors.

July 17, 2024
See all posts