The Economic Case for Converting Parking to Parklets

Emily Badger of The Washington Post Wonkblog writes about a new study showing the economic benefits of converting street spaces in front of storefronts to parklets. Other options for street spaces include bike lanes, bikeshare docks, and bus lanes.
March 25, 2015, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Jonathan Maus/BikePortland

The piece is similar to the recent CityLab article by Eric Jaffe (posted here) that makes the economic case for converting street parking to bike lanes. Emily Badger's main target, though, is the parklet, a sidewalk extension into the street space that can provide a number of uses. "Most of them included tables, planters and bike racks that created something in between a new public park and an outdoor extension to nearby cafes and sandwich shops," writes Badger.

The study she writes about is the work of the University City District of Philadelphia, "a neighborhood development organization that sent interns out in the spring and summer of 2013 to exhaustively record what happened after a half-dozen of these tiny parks were placed."

The result: a lot more people packed into these spaces than could ever be accommodated by a single car.

Not all of these people were spending money at these nearby businesses (that's a good sign — it means that people recognized they could treat these spaces as public parks and not private outdoor restaurants). But the sales data shared by these businesses suggests that the extra foot traffic — and the outdoor attraction — was a boon for business, even when it came at the expense of a little parking.

The takeaway is that the study provides additional evidence "that a parking spot isn't always the best use of roadside real estate, although we often treat it as such," writes Badger. "And there are some signs that bikeshare docks boost business nearby, too," referencing a study done last year on Capital Bikeshare docking stations and effects on nearby business activity, also posted here.

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Published on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 in The Washington Post - Wonkblog
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