THe town of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in British Columbia has a parking problem. Folks look downtown and see no parking spaces so they go to the malls. At least that’s what downtown merchants think. See the article here.
From my read, it would seem that there are in fact lots of parking downtown, but folks don’t want to walk a half a block to their destination. At the mall, however, they are happy to walk twice as far. So what’s the deal.
I suggest that its a matter of training and perception. There is always a place to park in the lots by the mall, and walking is part of the deal. Downtown you can’t readily see parking spaces because the prime ones are always taken. There’s always space in the structures, but you can’t see that space.
Solution — charge more for on street parking, (that will get most of the employees in the area off the streets and let the customers get to the prime locations. You might note that in the article one of the downtown employees said outright that he had no problem finding parking spaces, probably because he arrived before the stores opened, and he took the first available.)
Then take the money generated and fix up downtown. Have concerts, hire buskers, replace the plants, install benches and widen sidewalks for open air restaurants. Put in a "stadium seating" theater. Make the place attractive. If you build it, they will come.
People will walk through fire and brimstone to get to a fire sale, but can’t be bothered crossing the street for overpriced goods in out of date stores. Sorry, merchants, its just a fact of life.