Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sixty Percent of Mall Parking Spaces are Empty, Which is Good News Apparently

I may be the only person who was eagerly waiting for this year's press release about Black Friday sales from Remote Sensing Metrics, but my wait is over! Remote Sensing Metrics is a company that uses satellite images to count occupied parking spaces at mall and big box retailers to estimate expected sales. This year the company counted parked cars and thinks the holiday shopping season will be comparable with last year because parking lots were almost 40% full on early November weekends. That's great. Over 60% of parking spaces--required by minimum parking requirements in the zoning code--are empty, and that's good news. Egads! From the press release:
Remote Sensing Metrics reported today that measurements of car traffic at US malls on the weekends leading up to Black Friday were running even with last year and encouragingly above 2008 or 2009 levels.
On the last Saturday in October mall parking lot traffic grew 11% above 2010 with lots at 39% full versus 35% last year. 2008 and 2009 saw lots at 37% and 29% full respectively.
Parking lots were 38% full on the first Saturday of November 2011, matching last year’s fill rate, while 2008 and 2009 saw depressed levels of 27% and 23%.
Shoppers took a bit of a breather two weekends prior to Black Friday as car traffic for November 12th, 2011 dropped to 27%, which was a 7% decrease versus 2010’s 29% average fill rate. On the same Saturday in 2008 and 2009 lots were 26% and 31% full respectively.
Big increases in retail traffic are normally seen starting on the Saturday prior to Black Friday weekend. In 2010, malls were over 40% full for the first time since 2007.

This business exists because we require way too much parking to be built and all of it is free to the driver (To be clear, I don't fault the business for identifying an opportunity to collect and sell these data.). Everybody should be offended and outraged that over 60% of required parking spaces are unused almost all the time. Sure, the spaces may be full on a few shopping days per year, but that does not mean that acres of empty parking lots is a reasonable use of land on the other hundreds of days annually.

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