Bad idea of the day

Mirror Pond Parking lots, downtown BendThis summer, two major parking lots downtown will no longer be free.

The city of Bend will eliminate free parking in its two Mirror Pond parking lots this summer and install an electronic “pay and display” system instead, Jeff Datwyler, the city’s downtown manager, announced Wednesday at a meeting of the Bend Downtowners Association.

Currently, the city allows two hours of free parking in the lots, which are on the north and south sides of the Mirror Pond Gallery on Brooks Street. Users who stay longer are required to pay $1 for each additional hour by inserting money into a nearby drop box.

Datwyler said by eliminating free parking in the lots, it will force employees to park elsewhere, freeing up space for visitors who are likely to spend money in downtown businesses. Datwyler said the average retail customer stays downtown for 90 minutes.

I think this is a terrible, terrible idea. In my opinion one of downtown Bend’s great strengths is the free-for-two-hour parking that we have everywhere, even if it is (ab)used by people who work downtown. It makes it easy and inviting to visit, and more likely for visitors to spend money there… whereas, I think converting those lots to paid parking will have the opposite effect: visitors will be less likely to spend money downtown—if they even stay downtown because they can’t find free (and quick and easy) parking.

Duncan nails it (and even has a comment already proving my previous point):

I really, really hate this idea.

"Datwyler said by eliminating free parking in the lots, it will force employees to park elsewhere, freeing up space for visitors who are likely to spend money in downtown businesses."

Park elsewhere? Gee, I wonder where? Maybe where there is FREE PARKING?

Visitors likely to spend money? You mean tourists, don’t you? What about destination customers who want to park, go in and do their business, and leave? Not spend 90 minutes browsing downtown shops?

So this will just guarantee that no one who actually lives here will actually shop in downtown Bend? (It’s bad enough, already.)

…In any event, I don’t think it will work. The people who move their cars every two hours (known by all as, ‘parking tag’) aren’t going to change now…they’ll just move the arena to the rest of downtown — to the parking spots on my street, for instance, to the spots in front of my store!

Something I didn’t see mentioned: what about the Farmer’s Market during the summer? It’s held every Wednesday right there at the top of Drake Park adjacent to the Mirror Pond parking lot, and all those vendors use the parking lot to load/unload their products (and park). Will there be a special exemption made for them? Or will they be charged (something I could certainly see making them move the Farmer’s Market elsewhere)? What about other festivals/events?

Overall, I’m not against paid parking—but I think if Bend wants to go that route, there should be new lots built instead of converting the existing (and already scarce) downtown free parking to paid.

Funny how all the business owners and visitors quoted in the above article don’t like the idea. Add me to that group, too.

8 thoughts on “Bad idea of the day

  1. You appear to agree that parking downtown is scarce. It’s hard to make sense of the rest of your post because it’s self-contradictory, but econ 101 should alert you that putting a price on a scarce good will increase availability.

    I’m sure we would all prefer more parking – who wouldn’t? – but unless you have a magic parking wand to wave, that’s irrelevant. If there can’t be more parking, then more available parking is the next best thing.

    As to people not liking the idea, well knock me over with a feather! You mean if you ask people "would you rather have something free or have to pay for it?" they typically opt for free? Sure, like this guy:

    >

    That’s right, he has a monthly meeting with his FINANCIAL ADVISER but having to pay a couple bucks for parking is a life-altering disaster. Perfect guy to speak for the masses.

  2. The brilliant no-preview-offered comment software stripped the quote because I set it off with angle brackets. It was:

    "Dave Osgood, a retiree from Sunriver who visits downtown Bend once a month to meet with his financial adviser, said the change “is definitely going to be a pain for us.”

    “It’s gonna change the way we do things,” Osgood said.

  3. isn’t the newish downtown garage free in some way to the casual shopper? I gave up circling the streets for curb parking months ago.

  4. Apologies on the lack of preview (or HTML) on commenting… something I need to fix, for sure.

    I don’t think I’m self-contradictory here at all… I think it’s a terrible idea, and I laid out my reasons why I think so. Curious as to what *you* think about the paid parking plan…

    Go read Duncan’s post for a downtown business owner’s perspective, too.

  5. I think it’s a terrible idea, too. I don’t go downtown very often, but when I do, I count on Mirror Pond parking and the parking garage as two sure-fire places to find a spot — one so conveniently on each end of downtown. Charging to use the MP lot is, for me, like putting a building on it. It evaporates as an option.

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