During yesterday's final budget deliberations, the Seattle City Council punted Mayor Mike McGinn's proposal to raise parking rates next year, which would have raised an estimated $4.8 million in gross revenue at a time when the city is facing a $67 million shortfall in its general fund. Instead of raising rates, the council opted to fund a citywide parking review.
The council did raise the cap on parking meter rates downtown from $2.50 to $4.00—below Mayor Mike McGinn's requested $5.00—which allows the council to increase parking rates in the future. But McGinn proposal "goes too far," says Council Member Tom Rasmussen.
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will monitor parking rates to figure out how, through variable pricing, the city can keep 15 percent of parking spaces, per block, open throughout the city. SDOT is expected to report back to the council on parking occupancy to city council in January; no rate changes will take place until April 2011 at the earliest. For the time being, Sunday fees and extend metered hours in evenings are also off the table. These are sacred (and we need more studies!).
Here's what the council did opt to do: Raise the minimum amount paid for parking meters downtown from 25 to 75 cents an hour—meaning that if you're running into a store for a five-minute errand, you will be paying 50 cents more, automatically. It's unclear when this measure will go into effect.
Unsurprisingly, the city council also rejected the mayor's proposal to raise the commercial parking tax (aka, "CPT," a tax on private parking lots) from 12.5 to 17.5 percent, which, when combined with the $20 dollar vehicle license fee the city council approved earlier this year, would've generated $13.4 million in funding for bike and pedestrian improvements (among others). "Instead of adding 90 cents to the CPT, [the city council] put off adding wheelchair ramps and sidewalks around the city," said David Hiller, a spokesman for Streets for All Seattle (a coalition of local groups that has been lobbying the council hard to raise the tax). "The council seems to have—deliberately or not—turned a blind eye to the fact that the hardworking staff of city in Seattle have been in leveraging the few dollars we have for bike and ped improvements and getting them matched by state and federal funds... The money that was in the proposed budget could’ve generated another 20 million in investment."
While the council hasn't approved the budget yet—they're slated to vote on November 22—alternative transportation advocates have given up hope on the council having a change of heart. And they're bitter. Hiller points out that the council hasn't lived up to its commitment to fully replace funding for nonmotorized projects that was lost when the the council repealed employee hours tax. "We think the council has been incredibly short-sited," says Hiller. "We're very disappointed."