Do you know why the parking meter was born in the first place? Because businesses wanted them! Back when mass car ownership started becoming a thing, people would just park their cars for as long as they wanted because curb parking was free.
But in a compact walkable area, if you let people leave their cars in the same spot for too long, not that many customers can come to your store because the same small group of people will be hogging all the spaces all day.
Business owners used to know there’s no relationship between low parking turnover and higher sales. Most people who come into your shop don’t buy anything, so it’s really all about getting a lot of different people through your store’s doors throughout the day.
What was once the transportation mode for the rich has become de rigueur for the masses. Streets meant for horse and buggy now needed to transport hundreds of cars to and from work every day. Then, of course, there was the question of parking. By the 1920s, downtown shop owners had begun to complain in earnest about the parked cars left by workers during the day.
Without proper infrastructure, shoppers had no place to stop; as a result, business was dropping rapidly.
Somewhere along the way, lots of business owners stopped understanding this, and started believing customers’ bullshittings about not coming downtown anymore because they hate paying for parking so much. That’s what’s called an empty threat. If you have a downtown full of nice stores, people will come shop, high parking meter rates or not. Plus, the cheapskates who care that much about paying for parking are exactly the type of people who won’t spontaneously buy anything from you.
Not everybody’s caught a case of the stupids though, as Carl Feldman points us to a PennLive article where Harrisburg clothing store owner Michael Boyd shares some of the old wisdom with the business owners whining about the city of Harrisburg’s parking meter rate hike:
But Michael Green, owner of Michael Boyd clothing store on North Third Street, believes the higher rates might help businesses by diminishing the occasions when people park longer than necessary. That will cause faster turnover of spots, increasing the chances a customer will find one.
As were several merchants, Boyd wasn’t concerned about the higher fines, and was more concerned about people who park too long. “There’s an easy way to get around the fines — that’s to put some more quarters in the meter,” he said.