How can I show business owners that less parking spaces won't hurt their business?

Think about the last time your council discussed removing on-street parking spots, perhaps for a bike lane: who were the most outspoken opponents? 

Likely, it was the business owners. 

And rightfully so: when business owners have looked at the same street for years and suddenly the view looks different, it's understandable that they might wonder whether the outcome will be positive or negative for their customers and bottom line.

In this article, we'll cover three talking points you can use to show business owners that less parking spaces won't hurt their business: 

  1. Show that customers will continue to have plenty of parking
  2. Explain how the transition benefits everyone
  3. Show how businesses will continue to thrive

Learn more about each talking point below.

Show that customers will continue to have plenty of parking

Say your city council has proposed removing on-street parking so they can install a bike lane. Business owners on that street will be concerned: their customers have parked in those spots to buy their product.

When you zoom out and see the big picture, you'll see that customers would have plenty of street parking nearby.

Before you meet with the business owner, search the business's address Google Maps and zoom out a bit: You'll likely find plenty of parking no more than a block or two from the business.

Let's use Kenmore Boulevard—a street in Akron, Ohio, with a proposed redesign to remove on-street parking—as an example.

Akron's Kenmore Blvd, with available street parking marked in orange and off-street parking marked in pink. (Created by Rachel Quednau with Google Maps image)

We've highlighted all available street parking in orange that will not be removed. As you can see, customers who drive will still have plenty of parking spaces no more than 1-2 blocks (about 150-300 feet) away from each Kenmore Blvd business. 

Customers may need to slightly adjust their habit of parking directly outside a business’s front door, sure. But we’re talking about a difference of a 30- or 60-second walk when we compare a front door parking spot with parking spot just down the street. 

Explain how the transition benefits everyone

City councils rightfully consider removing on-street parking: it's an opportunity to create additional infrastructure, such as sidewalks and bike lanes, that makes the street a more attractive, welcoming, and safe place for everyone, creating a better atmosphere for business to flourish.

Encourage the business owner to picture the busiest, most successful shopping districts in America: Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago or Pike Place Market in Seattle. Are these areas filled with parking lots and parking spaces? No. They’re filled with people walking around from store to store.

Your city or town is likely different from Chicago or Seattle, but that doesn’t mean the concepts won't apply. When you make an area appealing for people on foot or on bike, visitors are lingering longer and stopping in more stores. Suddenly, residents are walking or biking over on a regular basis to see what’s new.

As you'll learn in your own research, business owners won't lose that much parking. And the increase in bike access and walk-friendliness will bring lots of new customers to the area. 

The business owners can capitalize on it, too: 

Extra steps like these aren't necessary to reap the benefits of a street redesign. But they're small things a business owner can undertake to enhance the experience even further and supercharge profit potential in the process.

Show how businesses will continue to thrive

As you converse with business owners, maps and altruisms will help you pitch your case. However, you won't seal the deal until you can answer their most important question: "How can you ensure my business will continue to thrive?"

This is likely the first parking-removal discussion in your city or town, so you won't have data from local projects; however, you can show the business owners studies from similar projects across the country, especially as it relates to new bike infrastructure:

The studies are from large cities, however, the concept relates to smaller communities as well: when you remove on-street parking and make the street more accessible for people who choose to bike, businesses on that street will see an increase in sales.

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