Good Grief….So many mistakes. Is This a City by the Bay Nominiee

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Good Grief….So many mistakes. Is This a City by the Bay Nominiee

Easton, NJ is my next City by the Bay Nominee for dumb parking decisions. And everyone is making them, businesses and government.

What caught my eye was the headline "Easton offering Free Parking on Saturdays".  It just went down hill from there. Read about it here.

First the local merchants asked the city to make parking "free" on weekends through the Christmas Holidays. That would attract folks downtown to shop.

You can’t convince me that people come downtown to shop simply because the parking is free. They will come because its a good place to shop. Making parking free will make parking more difficult. Employees will take all the spaces. Folks will drive downtown to shop, not be able to find a space, and head straight to the mall.

Second — The mayor wants to double parking fees (I assume during the times when its not free) to "raise more money" for the city. Ah, the famous "general fund". Is the money earmarked for streets, or infrastructure, or whatever. NO. Its for revenue generation.

Third — some of the merchants are "feeding meters." That is, they are telling people if they shop in their stores, they will pay their parking.  Hey, good idea. The problem is, if its free, how does that work.

One thing on the "free" parking program is that the city will still get its lucre. The merchants have to "sponsor" a parking meter and pay $15 bucks to the city and the meters will be covered on Saturday. Gee, what happens if some of the meters are covered and some are not. Who gets those covered meters, the folks that paid?  Not really — The rules appear to be that you can’t sponsor just the meters in front of your store. 

Oh well — this is going to be something.  At the end of the holidays, the person who though it up will declare it a resounding success and recommend doing it for every holiday, the merchants will be grumbling about the inherent unfairness, the parkers will find there is no place to park downtown on Saturday…

And a good time will be had by all.

JVH

John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. I had to smile when I read this..bit of deja vous:)
    Firstly, I’d like to try and convince you that free parking does actually attract visitors! Some time back we ran an ‘experiment’. Having watched weekly parking patterns we wanted to see if we could somehow stimulate parking use on a saturday, so in conjunction with local sponsor businesses and the city we offered to rebate saturday parking fees compliments of the sponsor. Guess what? traffic jumped 30%..just got lucky right?, nope, we deliberately skipped a week and the traffic went right back down. We then even restricted the offer to certain hours of the day and the traffic spiked in those hours. In a nutshell, skeptical even as I admittedly was, customers did actually respond to the prospect of a $2 rebate especially with the added bonus of an occasional discount coupon from the sponsor.
    However, there is one key difference between what you described and what we did. What you describe is UNCONTROLLED free parking, employess taking spaces all day etc, no way to tell when they arrived or how long they are there since there are no active meters etc, basically as you point out…a shambles and probably a disservice to the motorist, the city business and the city itself
    On the other hand, what we did, and actually will continue to do every saturday from now till Christmas in our “Christmas comes early” campaign is to continue to work with traders and the city, incentivising downtown visitors in a CONTROLLED manner. The parker doesn’t pay but must still abide by parking regulations. Enforcement is unaffected.
    So what’s the outcome? Well, the city get paid and get some very nice PR and kudos, we get paid (hey we gotta eat right!), the parking customer gets ‘free’ parking and the sponsor although paying for the parking gets his/her message straight into the pocket (cellphone) of each and every arriving parker. For the sponsor this has been very cost effective marketing, they get their message to each potential customer that IS actually in the city and not those who MIGHT be in the city (as with newspapers etc)
    So there you go, an entirely different viewpoint and one with a proven track record. ParkMagic customers get a better deal than their meter feeding friends, the city gets paid and the city businesses have a very cost effective means of reaching their customers. We’d (obviously) be very happy to talk to the City of Easton NJ or indeed any other US city and I think while Easton should be commended for seeking to stimulate city commerce and looking at the parking activity as a way of doing it, there is a way of avoiding the big pitfalls you identify.
    I’m happy to give any of your readers the detail on this approach, they can contact me philip.hayes@parkmagic.net or Jim in our US office jim.oconnell@parkmagic.net
    I must say I enjoy your blog! It’s refreshing to see such a robust and enthusiastic approach to the issues we all face.
    regards
    Philip

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