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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Will Salt Lake City's 'Jingle Bus' lead to a Happy New Year?

Photo Source: Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake City is doing away with free holiday parking in the downtown area. However, a 'Jingle Bus' (i.e., free trolleys) will be available to help ferry customers from place to place to eliminate the occasional need to park several different times during a single visit.

The fees to park will likely keep away certain patrons, but overall this appears to be a change with a lot of upside.

The city's cost to cover the tab for holiday shopping has been significant. I'd have to take a look to see what precise numbers are involved, but the gift of free parking easily came at an annual cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The idea was to make that money back on sales tax while growing the economy at the same time, making the downtown area attractive to merchants.

However, the landscape of downtown Salt Lake is not what it once was. Temple Square remains an attractive tourist location, but the presence of The Gateway and the new City Creek Center provides most customers with incentive enough to make the trip. The mass transit system only makes things easier, even for those who drive and park but then take a TRAX train in between the two malls. It is unlikely most vendors will have serious complaints about a lack of traffic.

What makes this fantastic is that almost everybody wins. The only real loser I can think of at this point are those customers who would really like to shop downtown, but for any number of reasons see the parking fees as a deal-breaker.

The store-owners are likely to do well.

Customers will have access to an array of increasingly impressive goods.

And the city can turn around and put the parking revenue right back into downtown transportation line items.

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