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After Extended Parking Meter Hours, Seattle Restaurants See More Revenue

2:08 PM PDT on April 2, 2012

Parking reformers, this is one you're going to want to bookmark.

The announcement that Seattle would be raising parking rates in certain neighborhoods was greeted with a good bit of teeth gnashing -- and that continues, especially among some business owners. But the data just doesn't bear out all the concern, according to an analysis by the Sightline Institute, a Northwest policy think tank.

Gross receipts for downtown restaurants have actually risen since the parking meter hikes went into effect.

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According to Sightline's Eric de Place:

It may sound counter-intuitive at first, but on inspection it turns about to be totally sensible. By increasing turnover in on-street parking and ensuring that spaces are available for customers, well-calibrated parking policies really can increase patronage. (After all, would you rather grind through congested downtown streets in the rain while hunting for a parking space or pay a few bucks to stash the car curbside until 8?) In fact, boosting business is exactly what Seattle set out to do when officials adjusted meter rates and extended paid hours downtown.

It's worth noting that full-service restaurants have been faring better this year nationwide as a result of an improving economy, according to this analysis by the New York Times. And downtown Seattle's jump of 5.5 percent, as shown in the chart above, is substantially below the national increase of 8.7 percent nationally, as reported in the Times, though that number is specifically for sit-down restaurants. There are a million factors that could be at play there, and there's no reason to assume two more hours of paid parking per day kept Seattle's numbers down.

So more research on a wider sampling of cities would be necessary before we say with certainty that higher parking prices don't impact local business receipts. But when Seattle's restaurant revenues are still robust and growing, it sure does make all the alarmism over parking reform less convincing.

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