’Tis the Season…For Free Parking?

Sacramento, Calif., this year joined lots of other towns and cities that offer free parking between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Some cities say the strategy encourages people to visit downtown areas and shop with small merchants in-person; others say it’s a backfiring practice that lets people leave their cars in those areas for hours, preventing others from parking at all during one of the busiest seasons of the year.

We want to know what you think. Is free parking a holiday miracle or more like coal in one’s stocking? Sound off in the comments.

5 thoughts on “’Tis the Season…For Free Parking?

  1. I think offering free parking during the holidays sounds like a nice gesture, however if people take advantage of it and just “store” their vehicles without creating turnover, others may get frustrated with the lack of available parking.
    Private operators may also look at this as taking away from their business
    Parking should be friendly not free

  2. We agree that offering a ‘free parking’ benefit lends itself to misuse and can even limit buyer traffic reaching the doors of the merchants those parking spaces were intended to support. There are other ways to accomplish the same parking benefit without clogging parking spaces, – merchants can offer to refund parking fees against any purchase of $xx.xx or more, based on presentation of the customer’s parking receipt at the time of purchase. This would attract customers with another small ‘discount’ benefit, perhaps offered through the merchants’ own advertising (store windows, circulars, coupons, etc.). It could be one more incentive to make sure that browsers become buyers at a store before they walk out. And, at the same time, parking management retains its stake in ‘holiday cheer’ revenues.

  3. Sounds like a good deal for employee parking, not necessarily one that will benefit shoppers – who may find it more difficult to find a place to park.

  4. Every year Virginia Beach removes the meters at the oceanfront on November 1st. During the resort season the space turn over can range from 2 to 10 turns per space per day depending on location and surrounding land uses. This year we performed a simple car count survey for several random days after November 1st and found occupancy to relatively high around 80 percentile, but the space turn over to be incredibly low. The new average space turn over is less than 2 turns per space per day and in some locations, the space turn over is 7 times lower than the seasonal average for the same block face. The surveys are showing numerous vehicles parking on-street several hours at a time. We can only presume that these long-term parkers on the street are employees or the merchants themselves.

  5. All the negative comments here seem to be about metered street parking. What about garages and surface lots?
    We have three multi story garages and several surface lots that at best are at 40% capacity on weekends, probably less. I think these locations are good candidate for free holiday parking on the weekends, when there is already very low demand, why not make it free for a month or two
    Street parking is another story and in my opinion, should not be free since it is in such high demand.
    Does anyone have experience with under utilized parking garages or surface lots being free during the holidays? If yes would appreciate hearing about the pros and cons

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