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Valet Parking Sets Wrong Tone For Downtown

June 9, 2008 Downtown, Valet Parking 17 Comments

For a good decade now downtown boosters and city leaders have talked about creating a 24/7 downtown. Large doses of valet parking isn’t going to get us there.

I’d argue that too much valet parking sends the wrong message — these are expensive places and unless you can afford a few bucks to avoid walking a block then perhaps you should just stay away.

Now in the last six months or so the valets have been pretty tame compared to a couple of years ago when they’d cone off entire blocks for their use only — adding to the perception of a parking problem downtown.

Those of us that live downtown don’t need valet parking because we are likely to be on foot (or wheelchair). Even those that arrive by car should be encouraged to park & walk. Some in the party like me and unable to walk to far, just drop them off and then find a spot. We need people walking, not just doing the valet thing at the front door.

I personally tend to think of places with valet parking as being too hoity toity for me. Thus I tend to think of other places when contemplating dinner. If others out there have the same tendency then our downtown restaurants that do valet might suffer because their valet service sent the wrong message about their prices.

Image: Signs and cones illegally placed in the street on a slow Sunday afternoon at Lucas Park Grille located on Washington Ave at 13th.


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. Josh says:

    I would have to agree about steering clear from the fancy pants valet parking. In addition, the Valet parking takes up half the road on Washington Ave. How many times have I been stuck in traffic because someone is waiting to turn into the valet parking and there is no where else to go, but sit in that one lane.

  2. Craig says:

    Number one, shouldn’t it be up to the restaurant owner to determine if valet parking is hurting their business.

    Number two, Steve, I know you’re gay, but surely you must understand that when you are taking a woman in two-inch heels out on a date, she isn’t going to want to walk much more than half a block to the restaurant. At times like those, a valet is much appreciated.

  3. OneShoePam says:

    geez, if the broad can’t walk in the shoes, then maybe she shouldn’t wear them.

  4. Jim Zavist says:

    But the valets don’t need to take up half a block (or more) – they need just one or two spaces to unload and load, then they need to get the cars offsite and secure. For example, a month ago, I took my wife to Revival for nicer night out. We chose to use the valet service (which was only using a couple of spaces in front, and for the very reasons Craig pointed out), assuming the car would be parked across the street in a secure lot. When we came out, surprise, our car was parked on the street a half block away – we could’ve done that ourselves! The only thing we saved was that half block walk each way. Unfortunately, it gets back to priorities and enforcement. Without either, unfortunately, what you see is what we’ll continue to get . . .

  5. JMedwick says:

    Two thoughts:

    1. The trees are growing well and adding a nice feeling to Washington Avenue. Hopefully downtown can add more street trees in the future.

    2. Craig, you are right that a woman dressed to the 9’s with nice heals doesn’t want to go for a real long walk. That said, to make use of the valets, a one or two parking space length area (40 feet) is all thats needed to give the man a space to drop of the car and the woman, not taking up on-street space for parking said car.

  6. Dole says:

    Off Topic, but….wow! those trees are looking good!

  7. Reginald Pennypacker III says:

    I noticed that hoosierville…errr…I mean Lucky’s is back open (or at least was Sat night). Not only did they have space in front of the bar, but also across Washington, and all of the spaces on the west side of Tucker between Washington & St. Charles! They easily had 15-20 spaces tied up.

    Who do we complain to?

  8. Tready says:

    Question. Since these valet areas are supposedly illegal, can someone just go and park their car in the area? Would the police have jurisdiction to do anything if the restaurant called them? I’m not saying park in front of the front door, but towards the edges of these long valet areas. Could this be a way to send a message to these folks that they only need a small space?

    [slp — the illegal park is placing signs and cones in the roadway.  Many of the valet companies have permits but they often refuse to show the permit as proof.] 

  9. william kruse says:

    I used to valet for the seven gables while I was in undergrad, and we didn’t have much trouble at all handling the hotel, bar and restaurant customers using only a three car pull through area. If this matters to everyone so much, I’m sure there is a board of alderman meeting to address these concerns. I may be off on the venue for public forum, since I have been expatriated from home for the last six years, but I am sure that there is a forum in which to complain. If that fails, you could always seek an injunction from the county court prohibiting them from using public places without a permit.
    I think I would just try a polite call to the owners first though. You never know, they might be more responsive to a nice request from a few locals than you think.
    On another side note, I will officially be home for good (soulard) in 52 days!!!

  10. Jim Zavist says:

    There are two parts to this equation/problem, a place to drop off and pick up and a place to put the vehicles. I don’t have a problem with a business using a couple of spaces to provide valet parking – they’re making a business decision to trade convenient parking for a few customers for the ability to offer premium parking for more customers. More customers equals more profit for the business and more taxes for the city. I do have a major problem with using any of our limited on-street parking to park the vehicles the customers are paying the valet company to take care of. Parking in garages is percieved to be more expensive than parking on the street. Reducing the amount of on-street parking both creates the perception that cheap/free parking is less available and it allows garages to charge more (supply and demand). The idea of paying to park is a huge disincentive to many potential suburban customers. Raising the cost and reducing the supply is the last thing we want to be doing to help our local economy.
    The solution lies in both better regulations and better enforcement. As Steve points out, many valets are unwilling or unable to produce a copy of their permit. Perhaps, the simple requirement that the permit must be posted (similar to elevator permits of health inspection ratings) would be a good first step. The other half of the equation is making sure that any permit is reasonable (a half block or more is not) and that someone is responsible for enforcement. The Police have bigger issues to deal with, and if it’s like Denver used to be, parking enforcement drops off rapidly after “normal” working hours. Parking enforcement, of both meters and valets, should be self-supporting – the revenue generated by tickets being issued should be more than enough to cover the wages and benefits of the people generating the tickets. There’s no reason why one or two parking enforcement people can’t be working every night until 10 or 11 and checking for compliance.
    Denver’s solution could work here. The first two spaces are affordable. After that, you need to obtain a city-provided “bag” to cover any parking meters you’ll be using to park customer vehicles. You need to pay for the year’s use ahead of time. The cost is $2600 per meter! Guess what, very few businesses now need more than two parking spots! http://www.denvergov.org/Portals/490/documents/Valet%20Parking%20Services%20090303.pdf

  11. Jesda says:

    Yeah, thats why I live in west county.

  12. Adam says:

    ^ because of valet parking? something tells me that’s not really why you live in west county…

  13. Jesda says:

    The lack of need for valet parking, due to the abundant space. Also, the lack of crime, reduced congestion, good schools, clean spaces, decent (maybe not all friendly, but certainly not scummy) people, and clean air.

    My commute downtown sucks, for sure, but I’m looking for work out west to eliminate that.

  14. John M. says:

    Jesda, living in fear is no way to live your life, and I feel sorry for you. I wish you the best as you widdle your days away in the warm cacoon of the county.

    My personal feeling having grown up in Creve Coeur, is that this isolationist ideal of disconnect you espouse to better living, is exactly why we find ourselves here. So while I accept that your decision for you is best for you. I must ask, why troll a blog devoted to improvement and discussion of the issues facing St. Louis? You obviously have the answers for yourself, albeit a bit too smug for my tastes, but at least your honest in your ignorance of the reality, which is as respectful as I can be towards this notion of superiority that you think you grasp.

    That said, I am only angered by your sentiment so closely mirroring my perception of a long held major obstacle in St. Louis as a region in moving forward. So while I have refrained from commenting on the subtext your words conjure up, I am perplexed as to the motivations you might have? How do you find yourself here, if life is so grand in West St. Louis County? I truly am interested.

  15. Jesda says:

    I don’t live in fear because I live in Chesterfield. Its great how that works.

    Or rather, I fear congestion and pollution… LOL

    [slp — You’ve got more congestion on Clarkson Rd due to the poor design of the suburban street system.  And pollution, if you can find a sidewalk along a major artery try walking next to it at rush hour.  Also it takes a lot of chemicals to keep those uselessly large lawns on the McMansions green.  And if a house catches fire don’t breath in the fumes from the toxic vinyl siding.] 

  16. Jesda says:

    I’ll take Clarkson Road and you can have the homeless people. Everyone gets a prize!

    [slp — I was thinking that after folks begin abandoning Chesterfield because it costs too much to drive back in to walkable communities that we use the vacant McMansions to house the homeless.  But then I remembered what a genuinely horrible place it is — the homeless have things bad enough, they shouldn’t be subjected to life in suburbia as well.]

  17. John M. says:

    While my question was never answered directly, No answer is an answer. I think it is clear you are proud of your home, as well you should be. Chesterfield is a nice place. But it is not a center of larger metropolitan area, that I know.

    St. Louis city whether you like it or not, is still very much the center. The core of a metropolitan area should be important to us all. It is not only perception to outsiders that will view St. Louis not on chesterfield, but its core, the city. I venture to go further and say that each of us take some meaning of St. Louis through its city. Even though you, Jesda, do not like the city and its brutal reality, you seek it out in your search and finding yourself here. You didn’t plug in “C-H-E-S-T-E-R-F-I-E-L-D”, because you know about it, what it offers you and everyone residing in and around it.

    St. Louis on the other hand is something far different from one of its suburbs, it is the foundation to our connection to this area. I have great memories of growing up in Creve Coeur. It was a great place to be a kid, free from many pains that affect the urban core. Life was good and not entirely devoid of diversity. As a note to your comment: I also used to view my neighbors as “good people”, and they still are, but the veil of childhood and innocence certainly lifted over time to reveal very flawed human beings. Same as in the city.

    Social and economic differences to persons with means creates this buffer between those without that ultimately creates a misunderstanding to our connectiveness to them. This is unfortunate but understandable. I do not choose the city because I think your suburban lifestyle is wrong; I choose it because I recognize that I love this old city for what it is to me.

    There is truth that we have mortgaged many things that we cannot as a society pay for in affording us the lifestyle that my parents generation and I have been allowed. You too and your beloved Chesterfield are part of that equation. It has taken many years to understand what that means and I don’t expect you to understand where I am coming from on it. That is okay, I am not expecting to change your mind on things. But everything has a price and you may never have to pay the price of the things you currently take for granted. We are all a part of this system and I am just as guilty too. But I am now aware of my choices and the effects they have, because ignorance of something is not the same as innocence.


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