Businesses are doing better in areas with less parking, data suggests

The fewer available parking spots in a neighbourhood, the more successful the local businesses are, new research has suggested.

It seems counterintuitive, but researcher Colin Stewart, the cofounder of urban planning company Local Logic, analyzed city of Montreal data. He found that, with some exceptions, areas with less parking tend to have lower commercial vacancy rates.

In those areas -- like Fleury Street East, where the vacancy rate is just below 6 per cent, and there are only 300 parking spots per kilometre -- customers come to the stores to fulfill their daily needs. People who live nearby keep them in business, not drivers from other neighbourhoods. "A lot of the people actually frequenting those establishments are locals, so they're often walking there, or they're taking transit there sometimes they're biking there, and it's for a lot of day-to-day needs," Stewart said.

Although many business owners and shoppers believe more parking attracts more customers, Stewart has found that the types of businesses that cater more towards what locals want and need, rather than trying to attract others, are more likely to succeed. "If we look at Fleury, if we look at Masson, if we look at Mont-Royal, they're smaller, more intimate streets. They don't have a lot of big destination things that are going to draw people from far away, but they are doing very well in terms of serving the locals," he explained.

He'd like to know more, however, and admitted that his research is unfinished. He hopes to receive data from 100 more commercial areas to better understand why some streets are thriving, and others are struggling to stay afloat.  

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