Study shows old parking spots in major city made nearly 50x more money after transformation: ‘Any city can do this’

One North American city that increased access to alfresco dining during the COVID-19 pandemic discovered a surprising benefit that may inspire other neighborhoods going forward.

The Globe and Mail reported in October 2022 that Toronto brought in 49 times more revenue than it would have generated with parking fees after it converted a number of parking spots into outdoor seating, as detailed by American nonprofit Strong Towns.

Residents spent $181 million while dining at the new curbside patios in the summer of 2021.

“This is an example of how productive a place can be when we don’t fixate on parking. … Any city can do this math,” said Daniel Herriges, a senior editor for Strong Towns.

While the additional revenue is notable, with Toronto having more money to potentially invest in infrastructure, there are other reasons why these findings could pique the interest of city planners and residents of other communities.

Asphalt is costly to maintain, as Strong Towns noted, and outdoor dining may appeal to North Americans hoping to recreate that vacation feeling at home.

Multiple studies have shown that being outdoors can have a positive impact on health, even reducing cortisol levels and blood pressure.

Consider, too, that the transportation industry is responsible for more than 16.2% of carbon pollution linked to dangerous rising global temperatures.

Cars and asphalt contribute to the formation of heat islands, and heat is the primary cause of weather-related deaths, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The key is to think of the street not as inherently being a space to park or drive cars, but as [a] public space that can be purposed for any sort of public activity,” Herriges said. “Very often, using that scarce curb space to help create an inviting destination is going to blow using it for parking out of the water.”

“The success of curbside dining in Toronto underscores the value of these spaces for businesses,” one commenter added.

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