Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Nothing Else to Add on Free Parking

Reprinted in full, a commentary from today's Star Tribune by Ian Klepetar, who is described as a livable-streets advocate and author from St. Paul.

The local grocery store where I shop gives a discount on store purchases to patrons who ride their bicycles there. I’ve made this perk known to others in the bike-riding community, and many respond with something like: “I’d feel bad taking money from them. Biking is its own reward.” Though I understand where they’re coming from, the truth of the matter is that as nondrivers, we should be getting a bit of a kickback each time we bike or walk to the store.

Let’s briefly look at the facts. Most, if not all, grocery stores in the Twin Cities provide free parking that costs approximately $25,000 per spot, with an additional $2,000 per spot, per year, for taxes, staffing and maintenance. These incredibly high costs to store automobiles come directly from the $4 gallon of milk, $5 jar of peanut butter or $3 loaf of bread that wait for us on the shelves inside the store.

The entirety of our transportation system has been conveniently and discreetly subsidized in countless ways that prioritize automobile travel. However, on a day-to-day basis, those who may be the most guilty of transportation inequality practices are our very own businesses and retailers that are providing parking and perks to car drivers without providing an equal benefit to those who cannot afford or choose not to drive.

Whole Foods on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis not only provides “free parking” to patrons but will pay it out on a car-by-car basis. Since it does not own or maintain its parking facilities, it directly pays the parking-management company every time you drive to that store to cover your tab through the behind-the-scenes act of parking validation. The same store that advertises itself as “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” is paying people to drive their cars and pollute.

Cub Foods has its own gas “rewards” program that is inclusive only to car drivers. Most grocers or high-volume retailers in the area provide lot or garage parking to their patrons at no cost to the user.

Just as many of the seemingly acceptable practices related to race and gender years ago are now viewed as overtly wrong, discrimination related to how we move needs more attention than ever. Foremost, our grocery stores and retailers must stop providing “free parking” and subsidized parking perks to the most-affluent group in the Twin Cities: the automobile owners. The high cost of groceries and products is partly due to the fact that retailers and grocery stores have been floating the tab to provide parking and perks to patrons and passing that cost on to the shoppers across the board.

To those who feel bad about receiving a discount for riding your bike, take what is yours and thank these forward-thinking businesses for being on the cutting edge of eliminating transportation discrimination in the Twin Cities.
I imagine I should not read the comments (of which there are 15 so far). Oops, I read them, and they 100% think Ian is ridiculous. Somehow everyone who grocery shops is buying bags of water softener salt every time they shop!

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