Calhoun Square: The Psychology of Parking
The idea of free parking is so ingrained into the American collective that we have lost the ability to act rational.
The Star Tribune had a piece about the on-going transformation of Calhoun Square. The quasi-suburban style shopping mall was a neighborhood transplant in the early 1980s over a once-busy commercial streetcar corner. The building and its tenants have had some ups and downs overs the past three decades. But …
In the past year, Calhoun Square has become the home of a busy LA Fitness center as well as the Uptown Cafeteria and Support Group, a restaurant with a popular rooftop patio … And earlier this month, Calhoun Square finalized lease terms for CB2, a younger, hipper version of Crate & Barrel …
Nicely remodeled building. New stores. More restaurants. More parking. What’s not to love? Well, if you happened to read the “comments” section on the Star Tribune website, you’d realize that people are not happy about paying for parking!
Here’s a sample:
“What turns me off from visiting Calhoun Square is the parking situation. Paying outlandish amounts to park somewhere that should really be free is what keeps me away from there. I know I’m not the only one that avoids frequenting the area due to parking.”
“I live less than two miles to the east of Calhoun but I avoid going there because of the parking situation in uptown. There have been several times where me or family members would liked to have shopped for something in the uptown area, but we have a big mental obstacle to overcome when considering the parking. If we do go we often park blocks away where it’s free and walk to the stores.”
“I would think the problem with Calhoun Square is perfectly obvious. I’m never going to drive across town to pay to park so I can get mugged, robbed or beaten, are you kidding me? I used to go there for Haircuts, Dining, Shopping and Movies. Not worth it anymore.”
The thing is that parking isn’t actually expensive.
The rate is $1.00 per hour up to 3 hours, and it tappers off afterwards. The daily maximum (that’s right, parking for 24 total hours) is $9. Furthermore, some businesses will validate parking (usually up to 2 hours free).
This is where the psychology of free, abundant parking really kicks in: Most businesses in Calhoun Square cater towards a higher-end market; such as the upscale pet boutique, designer shoe store or the store dedicated exclusively to selling $18 pairs of funky socks. And this doesn’t include the slightly-more-expensive and trendy restaurants that serve $12 mixed drinks alongside $25 entrees. Meaning: the people who are unwilling to pay for parking are the same people who would be willing to shop at Calhoun Square.
Is idea of free parking is so ingrained in our DNA that we are willing to spend $85 on upscale pet accessories (or $18 pairs of socks or $10 on a glass of house wine), yet balk and complain at the idea of spending $2 to park?