While Rockville seems to be a success by many measures for a walkable pedestrian friendly suburb parking still plagues the town center. Merchants struggle with lack of shoppers and have (per the usual) decided the parking is the key issue. Parking usually is an issue, but retail experts have illustrated that parking is only one minor reason people stay away.
From the Washington Post article:
Rockville Town Square is two blocks from a Metro station, but merchants said many customers drive there. Suburban shoppers accustomed to free parking have balked at paying for garage parking, merchants said.
Rockville officials reduced garage rates and offered free parking during the winter holiday season. Town Square merchants also agreed to hand out fliers at the Shady Grove and Rockville Metro stations, advertising $60-a-month commuter parking in the town center garages. The hope is that those commuters might shop or eat on their way to and from work, even if it means they contribute to traffic congestion.
Seth Harry, founder of a Columbia-based urban design firm, said the willingness of area residents to drive to Rockville Town Square shows that "people crave the experience to park and walk around. . . . People want to be somewhere. There's a 'there' there. That's an experience people don't always get in suburbia."
I doubt the real issue is parking but more that people want a more authentic experience. It takes years and decades to create the most desirable neighborhoods in cities, so when developers create the mix-used planned communities they should realize it will also take years for it to gain its grip and become the "spot" to be.
Rockville Town Square is very popular. Go there at lunch time, or in the evening, especially on weekend evenings. The place is busy, kids are running around in the square, and many of the restaurants have long lines waiting for tables.
Retailers will generally argue for a lower price of parking, because their competition provides acres of free parking. But the competition doesn't provide the walkable experience, and that is the essential tradeoff.
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