A Philadelphia program that made meters free on the Saturdays between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is no more.
The promotion, which ran for more than two decades, made the meters free after 11 a.m. as a way to draw holiday shoppers into the city. The thinking went, free parking made the city competitive against suburban malls.
Critics of the free-parking tradition argued by giving away valuable parking, the city was effectively encouraging all-day on-street parking, actually making it harder for other holiday shoppers to find a spot, creating congestion, and reducing potential foot traffic for the businesses the policy was supposed to help.
The city’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability (OTIS) ultimately found the policy was indeed discouraging turnover and “counterproductive.”
Similar parking promotions have been canceled in the past in the name of creating increased parking opportunities for shoppers and diners.
In 2016, the city canceled free Center City parking on Wednesday evenings, which coincided with Center City Sips, and first Fridays, a celebration of the city’s arts scene.
The city said the cancellation of these past programs yielded no negative impacts.
According to an OTIS analysis, it’s best practice to have at least one open parking spot on every block.
“This allows residents to find a spot and patronize businesses without excessive circling the block,” read a city statement announcing the change.
The Philadelphia Parking Authority does plan to keep an $8 flat-rate parking special at select garages between 11 a.m. and midnight on Saturdays between Thanksgiving and the new year. To participate, drivers need to go to the garage management office to validate their tickets.