St. Paul retail community has different needs from Minneapolis’

It makes me a bit crazy, as a new downtown St. Paul retail business person, to hear Kathy Lantry compare us to Minneapolis (“Will St. Paul finally end the acrimony over parking meters on Grand Avenue?”) and remark, “You just have to cross the river, and Minneapolis has meters everywhere. Commercial districts have not been harmed, and I don’t know that Uptown would be considered lousy.”

Minneapolis has an existing vibrant retail life, and St. Paul does not. You can charge people all you like when you have something they want, but until you have established that need the city should give the retail community every opportunity possible to draw folks downtown.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 09/30/2015 - 01:11 pm.

    St Paul lacks a vibrant retail life precisely because they bulldozed much of it for surface parking. It’s known in urbanism circles as “Pensacola Parking Syndrome.” As NY Times described it in 2012, “Pensacola Parking Syndrome is a term of the trade used to describe a city that tears down its old buildings to create parking spaces to entice more people downtown, until people no longer want to go there because it has become an empty lot.”

    Now things are changing, especially in Lowertown. There’s more demand for parking – including scarce on-street parking, than there is supply. As such, when there is a shortage of a private good (and, even though publicly provided, on-street car storage is a private good since it is rivalrous and excludable) there are two ways to apportion this private good: by queue or by price. Apportioning by queue is devastating to cities, with people circling blocks endlessly trying to find an available space, and with an incentive to stay in a spot for longer visits rather than turn it over for more customers. As such, the only reasonable method to apportion this private good in shortage is to raise the price. That’s precisely what demand pricing of meters does.

    I agree with you completely that “the city should give the retail community every opportunity possible to draw folks downtown” which is precisely why we need meters to preserve last-space availability of scarce on-street parking.

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