Bad Business Decisions: Part III

Youngstown, Ohio — The City of Youngstown has gotten a lot right recently.

Greater police presence downtown and new business attraction are just two examples.

But this week Youngstown got something, so, so wrong.

It decided it wants to charge for parking.

The reason is respectable; it wants to deter downtown workers from hoarding parking spaces intended for restaurant-goers and, on rare occasions, tourists.

But installing parking meters in a city that can’t decide on a way to fully market itself is like a movie theatre charging $8.50 for a week-old flick at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday.

There may be a parking problem in downtown Youngstown, but parking meters are no way to solve the issue. (Photo by William D. Lewis | The Vindicator)

You’re charging a premium for a good or service that otherwise has little value.

Some employers, such as Richard Thomashow, owner of Jerry Lee’s Jewelry, says the parking issue is “killing the revitilazation of downtown.”

“I’m 100 percent in favor of meters,” he said.

You know what else will kill the revitilzation of downtown?

Parking meters.

The reason goods and services cost money is because that particular good or service has value.

Parking spaces in Youngstown don’t have value, and likely won’t for quite some time.

Parking spaces are abundant.

I work downtown at least five days a week and don’t pay one cent for the privilege to park. (No, I do not have employer-sponsored parking.)

Parking meters in most cases don’t work and are not favored by most business owners.

Don’t believe me?

Check out Sarasota, Fla., Delray Beach, Fla., Gainesville, Fla., San Francisco, Berkeley, Calif., Columbia, Mo., and Grand Junction, Colo.

I’m sure I can find more examples of parking meters negatively impacting business, but I limited myself to a five minutes of Google searches.

Don’t mistake my disdain of parking meters in Youngstown (from a business, not a personal standpoint) to overshadow the target idea for parking meters.

Parking meters are a way to regulate traffic in booming cities or city districts while providing a revenue stream.

This overregulation, however, could be deadly to up-and-coming businesses. Enforcing parking laws already in place, or — gasp — employers offering parking stipends or other parking arrangements for their employees, would not only free up parking spaces for business purposes, but could actually attract suburbanites to the city.

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