Sidewalk cafe seating vs metered parking


In St. Paul’s Lowertown area, which has come into its own as some version of a Strong Town over the past half decade, business owners want to remove metered parking to expand the sidewalk.

It seems remarkable that business owners not only want less parking, but are willing to pay $300,000 to do it. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, a city subsidy is helping¬†“unconvert” a century old building from its current use as a parking garage. And what neighborhood would be complete without a city-owned parking facility.

Here are my unanswered questions:

  • Would removing parking remove a valuable buffer between auto traffic and sidewalk users?
  • I think this is the case, but I’d like to quantify how much sidewalk cafes and other sidewalk uses that bridge the public and private realms create a sense of place… value that can be captured.
  • What would Shoup do? How much influence should land owners have regarding the presence of street parking on their street?
  • Should the city be compensated for any loss of parking revenue or sidewalk right of way?

That last bullet seems to be a sticking point. People seem to be upset that either there will be less parking (these are the folks who feel entitled to free/cheap parking) or that a business owner will get to use the public’s sidewalk without compensating for it.

  • I assume streets are intended to serve adjoining land uses in a manner that creates and captures value.
  • Shoup would address the parking revenue issue by arguing that the parking revenue should be going back into the neighborhood/streetscape anyways instead of becoming politicized. Shoup’s approach to pricing street parking, which is principled rather than political, would likely mean little loss of revenue anyways because a loss of parking on this block would increase the dynamic price of parking on adjacent blocks.
  • The city, the neighborhood organization, and even the land owners should recognize the value in maintaining a good usable sidewalk for mobility’s sake.
  • Finally, we can’t make a decision until we calculate the financial sustainability of each option.

Considering these points, and assuming the options would be a wash financially, I’m open to this change. If this is what the neighborhood wants, and its what the property owners want, then isn’t that the purpose of the public right of way?

What are the thoughts on the dynamic between parking, sidewalks for mobility, and sidewalk space for outdoor dining?

Join the discussion over at the StrongTowns network

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