While small towns are often imagined as idyllic tight-knit places where people can stroll and ride a bike easily, the reality is we have thinned them out and made them more auto-dependent than a lot of bigger cities. Land is cheap, people spread out and buy more of it, and most historic downtown commerce has been destroyed by WalMart or other big-box stores. I'll write more about small towns and their plight in the future, but as someone who largely grew up in a couple of small, rural towns it's close to my heart.
Because smaller towns have become more auto-oriented, parking is often a bigger issue than in some bigger places for a variety of reasons. An obvious primary reason is that small towns often can only support one substantial commercial area - the trade area just isn't that large. So, when the big-box comes in and plants a bunch of free parking in front of the store, it very much hurts the ability to charge for it in the old downtown or main street. We have to be careful to promote the same solutions in larger cities to free-standing rural communities.
Paul Fritz writes a detailed post about parking in his small town: Sebastopol, CA:
I almost always see vacant spaces downtown, in lots and on the street, but people do complain that parking is difficult here. To those people I say, park in the South High Street or Chamber parking lots and you will find a space. Years of parking in suburban parking lots have led to a belief that we should be able to park adjacent to any destination. Even though we are willing to walk 200′ or more from a parking space at Costco, then another 1,000′ or more walking to the back of the store and back to the register and then 200′ back to our car, for some reason, walking the same distance from the South High Street or Chamber parking lots to the Main commercial block of Main Street seems ‘too far’. I suppose this is part of what defines us as Americans.
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