The number of visitors versus parking rates is a simple equation that starts with free parking attracting the greatest number of visitors, and zero visitors when parking rates exceed what a person is willing to pay.
Every time the Lake Geneva City Council increases parking rates there is a negative ripple effect on the city’s downtown business district. Despite the city’s desired image, it is not the kind of exclusive resort where price doesn’t matter. If Walmart or Target charged one or two dollars an hour for parking do you think that such a move would reduce their business? So why should charging one or two dollars more an hour for parking in the city’s downtown area not adversely affect the downtown businesses? Other than one to two dozen peak weekends a year, when the sun is shining or a dozen special events occur during the week, the Lake Geneva parking stalls sit empty.
That’s about 60% of the time. If decision makers feel that the parking rates don’t affect visitors, then:
- Why do the free residential parking areas near the downtown fill up first?
- Why do many locals, who visit downtown restaurants for coffee and/or breakfast, make sure that they leave before 9:00 am when charges for parking starts?
- Does the charge for parking also contribute to the abnormally high turnover (failure) of businesses in the downtown area?
Every parking dollar effectively adds to the price of every downtown product or service that the consumer purchases, thus making the downtown business less competitive and if the visitors don’t buy something, then the parking fee is a charge for just looking. Although Geneva Lake is such a beautiful lake that “just looking” is a great thing to do, the practice, though, can well mean that many of the businesses currently doting the streets could be gone one day soon. Lake Geneva has lost five major stores in the last week alone. Qdoba and Noodles came in, but way over at the east side of town. Only the Thrift-In’ is new (opening December 1st). The city leaders of Lake Geneva have to remain intensely sensitive to how the small businesses are doing, or the beauty of the lake as an attractant will lessen or even become meaningless when it comes to paying for upkeep and access.