For centuries, the scientific method has been used to arrive at logical conclusions supported by data. Often, the process includes weeding out variables systematically until one, or none, remain.
It is said that correlation does not imply causation. This fancy way of saying, “Don’t jump to conclusions” reminds us that just because events coincide, it doesn’t mean that one caused the other.
So it is in the spirit of scientific inquiry that we regard the recent lawsuit by several Cooperstown merchants against the village board over the recently installed parking meters on Main Street.
In their suit, the merchants argue that the meters, which went online in May, are driving away customers and costing them money.
But correlation does not imply causation. While we aren’t in a position to dispute that the merchants’ collective take may be down this spring, we aren’t comfortable attributing that solely to the new meters.
Let’s consider a couple of variables:
We’ve known since January, when the Baseball Writers’ Association of America failed to select a living player for induction, that this was going to be a down year for the Hall of Fame. The celebrations will still go on as planned later this month, but it’s not likely to be a big draw.
Consumer spending, while on the rise recently, has been slow this year. Bloomberg reported in late June that vacation and travel spending were among the sectors of the economy taking a hit.
Perhaps the most important variable of all is the village’s need for more money. There are a lot of ways for a municipality to collect revenue. This system attempts to siphon some money off the tourists who spend plentifully in Cooperstown every year, while minimizing the effects on locals by offering parking passes and limiting the meters to the peak season. It also has the side benefit of helping to free up premium parking spots.
The $2-per-hour rate is certainly high for the local market. But it seems hard to believe that it is enough to keep tourists away from Main Street. A family traveling to Cooperstown from California, Michigan or even just from Albany or Binghamton, probably came to Cooperstown to visit the Hall of Fame — which is on Main Street. If they can find their way to baseball’s shrine, what’s to stop them from strolling down the block to visit some of the shops?
The parking system is not perfect. Technical glitches plagued the meters when they were brought online. And again, the fee may be a bit much for the local market to bear. But paid parking in Cooperstown is probably here to stay. Rather than fighting to get rid of it, we should just try to have the best system we can.