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Portland celebrates holiday shopping with free parking in downtown garages

Posted by on December 8th, 2015 at 11:07 am

outside target

Parking is always free for many shoppers.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The latest piece of Portland’s ongoing effort to get people to realize that there are places to park cars downtown other than curbs is to offer free parking in its six public garages.

Here’s the word from tourism promotion group Travel Portland:

On three Sundays in December 2015 (Dec. 6, 13 and 20), parking at downtown SmartPark lots is free. Customers who park at SmartPark garages can visit the customer service kiosk at Pioneer Place (lower level near the Gap) or Boys’ Fort (902 S.W. Morrison St.) or PDX Pop-Up Shops (438 N.W. Broadway and 341 N.W. Fifth Ave.) any time between noon and 5 p.m. to show their eligible SmartPark ticket and receive one $5 parking voucher to cover parking for the day.

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There’s nothing inherently wrong with a special like this — it’s a little bit like a special on milk, beer or chicken that gets you to walk in the door of an unfamiliar grocer, or the free transit rides that TriMet offers each New Year’s Eve.

But it’s also a little ironic that an organization that works so hard to communicate that walking, biking and transit are major joys of Portland…

…still feels the need to promote the expectation of free parking (which only tends to interfere with the proximity that is needed for good biking, walking and transit) as a way to compete with suburban shopping malls. (Or at least with the idea of suburban shopping malls … actual malls are failing across the country.)

And it’s also a sign of one of the fundamental truths of parking: no matter how much off-street parking you build, you will never get people to use it unless it is cheaper than the nearby on-street parking.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Guest
kiel johnson

$5 equals all day trimet bus pass. Where do I go to get that reimbursed?

Tony Jordan (Contributor)
Subscriber

The City of Santa Cruz decided NOT to make parking “free” this holiday season, instead they are donating the parking revenue from those days to charity: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/lifestyle/20141212/parking-for-charity-santa-cruz-to-donate-holiday-meter-revenue

Lurker
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Lurker

Out of curiosity, are these types stories and their comments ever shared back with the “offending” parties? I.e. is there ever an activist component to the journalism? In this case, is BikePortland going to notify Travel Portland of the inconsistencies in their actions and share the alternative actions offered in the comments (thus far the Santa Cruz example)?

Spiffy
Subscriber

why promote driving?

are those garages usually at extremely low capacity on Sundays in December?

although I’ve never avoided a place due to parking costs I’ve found new ways to get places that had parking issues…

I’m with kiel johnson on this one, reimburse for TriMet passes instead…

Tim
Guest
Tim

Since when is a place to store you private property (park) a legitimate role of government? What would Adam Smith say? Just wondering why the city owns parking garages in the fist place.

Adam
Subscriber

Yet another example of Portland saying one thing, yet doing another. They claim to put SOV travel at the bottom of the so-called Transportation Pyramid and say they are looking for solutions to solve the parking crisis; yet they are handing out yet another subsity to people driving. Are they just worried that people will shop at Clackamas Town Center instead of downtown? Why not give free TriMet passes instead? Parking is already free at the Park and Rides.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Michael – it is interesting that you chose to use a photo from the City Center Target, it has to have one of the WORST off street bike parking areas in the City for a development built since Portland went Platinum. (Have you tried it yet?)

Chris
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Chris

In my opinion, there is ONE thing holding the bicycle back: PARKING. It is THE major advantage of cars for local transportation. No matter if you use a cable, a u-lock, two u-locks, or three, your bike will get stolen eventually.

The city needs to sponsor bicycle valets at each and every parking garage for your holiday shopping.

ED
Guest
ED

It does surprise me that stores and businesses haven’t caught on to offering customers their choice of TriMet or parking validation. When I go downtown for a meeting, many firms–especially law firms–offer to validate your parking, but I’ve never found one offering to give you a bus ticket. What kind of deal does SmartPark have with merchants, and could TriMet look at developing a similar partnership?

Brad
Guest
Brad

This sounds like a desperate downtown scheme from a different era. A time when downtown was on the ropes and the suburbs thrived at its expense. Now that the tables have really started to turn and downtown is robust and gaining strength every day, a promotion like this seems like a useless holdover from the 20th century.