The Wrong Side of my Car

The blog that wants to go obsolete

25 Nov 2018

Park or Parking?

One of the more odd features of Hobson Street is the little cluster of businesses on the corner with Victoria Street. A few restaurants and grocery shops, surrounded by large apartment towers. In between we find a handful of parking spaces (with the obligatory collection of tow-away signs).

Vogel Lane

But is parking really the best use of that space? Is that really the way to draw in as many customers as possible?

How are my customers supposed to get here?

There’s a wide-spread belief that most customers arrive by car. Parking must be retained to survive. That is the reason why High Street still looks the way it does.

Even in suburbs surveys often prove that assumption wrong. Here in the city centre it is just plain weird. Seriously, can you really fill a restaurant with those 2 or 3 spots allotted to you? You can see the homes of your potential customers by literally just looking up. Do you really think they’ll get the car out for a loop around the block?

One of the restaurants is a Denny’s Burgers outlet, which at the time of writing is still boasting free customer parking. That assumption is alive and well.

What if

This is an aerial image from the neighbourhood. Something is missing here, and it is not parking:

Count the parks. Victoria Park is 600m away. And a bit closer we have St Patrick’s Square. That’s it. Other than that, huge roadways and parking lots squeezed in everywhere. There are many people without private outdoors space. Where will they go if they want some fresh air?

What if we get rid of that parking and make a little park? How many of these people would come here? And hey, you can get something to eat or drink right here.

Why not?

Parking may be private (here it obviously is), and owners can make sure their patrons *1 have exclusive use of that car park. This in theory makes them easier to reach than the competition.

Parks are usually public spaces, and telling people to stay out unless they eat at one of the restaurants would be quite a stretch*2. I can imagine that maintaining a park for the benefit of everyone, not just the customers is quite low on the list of things to spend money on.

But in the end I think the wider community, including said business owners, are losing here.


An alternative assumption is that the owner is driving in and wants the convenience of a parking spot in front of the door. There is this rumour that this is the real reason why one of the High Street shop owners opposes any reconfiguration of High Street.


McDonald’s uses this strategy with their little playgrounds. This attracts families (business) and introduces kids to fast food (future business). But it requires a little fenced off playground, and I don’t think that is a good use of this space either.

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