Analysis: Parking Won't Save Struggling Commercial Corridors
Colin Stewart shares analysis of the relationship between parking and commercial activity—inspired by the ongoing debate about how to mitigate high commercial vacancies in Montreal, Quebec.
The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal has proposed more parking, based on feedback from 261 business owners in the city.
"This intuitively makes sense," writes Stewart, "we’ve all had to buy heavy or cumbersome items that are impractical to lug home without a car. Seen in this light, businesses practically can’t function without a vehicle, and a vehicle practically can’t function without a place to park it. More parking, therefore, should mean more business."
More parking for more business is a common argument in almost every city, even in cities located in the country directly to the south of Canada. "However, looking into the data a bit further revealed a different truth," writes Stewart.
The analysis by Stewart's team at Local Logic, a Montreal-based urban planning data consultant, finds that streets with the lowest amount of available parking in the city have the lowest vacancy rates, and vice versa. "These findings may seem counter-intuitive. But there are a number of reasons why parking may not help retail business, and can even be harmful," according to Stewart.
To help build the case, Stewart cites data that show parking to be an inessential component of retail streets—with examples from Philadelphia, New York City, and the United Kingdom.