Are Parking Meters a Tax on Small Businesses?

by Mark Hay : magazine.good – excerpt

Back in June, a bunch of drunk youths shambling around Cardigan, a Welsh town of about 4,000 people, decided to try to get more beer money by breaking into the city’s four pay-and-display metered parking machines. At first this act of vandalism seemed like a real headache. The bill to fix the meters came in at around $35,000, a fee the local city council had so much trouble sourcing they had to leave the meters broken, and subsequently downtown parking free, for weeks. But as the days dragged on, shoppers and local business owners started feeling glad that the meters had been destroyed. It seems the convenience of free parking and the liberty to stroll from shop to shop without worrying about feeding the meter had increased main street storefront revenues by an  average of about 30 percent and by as much as 50 percent. The boost evened the playing field between local vendors and megastores with free lots outside of town.

We’ve long campaigned for free parking,” Keith Davies, a 64-year-old butcher who’s run a shop in Cardigan since 1978, told the city council. Davies, along with other local businesspeople, is angling to use the evidence from this accidental experiment to eliminate metered parking downtown. “While we don’t condone the damage to the machines, the difference it’s made is unbelievable.”…

Over the past couple of months, journalists (including one columnist in the nationally distributed Independent) have started talking about parking meters as a tax on local businesses, one paid indirectly by customers just for the right to spend their money. Even prominent members of the sitting conservative government seem to be getting behind free parking as a means of reversing the decline in main street shops, 20,000 of which have closed in the last few years alone. Member of Parliament Marcus Jones, who this May became Undersecretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has even publicly suggested that small towns could use meter-free status as an effective means to save local shops…

At the very least, though, Cardigan’s recent experience (along with mounting bodies of evidence from other British towns) has started serious conversations about forcing reticent local councils to experiment with decreasing hourly fees and increasing stays. Hopefully these small towns can attain the gains Cardigan felt during the brief vandal-born parking anarchy, all without losing major revenue or running the urban planning risks of free parking… (more) 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s