Ian Sacs on Planetizen:
Streetsblog SF recently posted a great piece on the results of a SFMTA survey that showed that only about fifteen percent of people get to heavily-shopped Polk Street by car. The remainder arrived by a mix of walking, bicycling, and transit (By the way, I have heard some angry merchants speculating that people without parking might get to their shop via a “magic carpet” mode, which would probably fit in the “other” category).
I believe these findings are important because they demonstrate in cold, unemotional numbers yet another counter-intuitive fact about traffic and parking; namely, that many busy shopping streets are way more dependent on non-auto customers than they realize; perception versus reality strikes again. It’s a shame that this survey was done by SFMTA, because it’s much more difficult to trash the findings of a highly respectable professional transportation agency than some crazy fixie-fanatics.
I did some hunting and found several other studies that showed little correlation between changes in parking supply or price to the vitality of bustling business districts, even the ones that were procured by local businesses trying to bust up less-parking plans. The general consensus of various analyses seems to support the idea that “more parking”, “cheaper parking”, or the hideous “free parking” are farce demands of local businesses based on truisms that, if met, unnecessarily tax communities with outrageous construction bonds and/or lost opportunities for improved public spacees for no good reason. In many cases, the same communities have plenty of underutilized parking that is simply not made available when needed or it is not properly priced.