Sorry, the City's Parking Study Doesn't Convince Me

Comments

1
Could the discrepancy be accounted for by commercial vehicle/loading space occupancies (which of course are important to keep empty, but are used frequently)? Either that, or there's a few dozen secret parking spots downtown somewhere.

I never thought parking in Seattle was all that bad, but I've been in SF for 10 years now, and don't mind a short walk.
2
Depends what the goal is. Is it to maximize revenue? Deter driving? Skew driving/parking to higher-earning demographics? Shift long term parking to private garages?

Especially with a fairly straightforward policy change like this, I'm not sure I see the point of a lot of debate in advance. Why not make the change, run it for three or six months, and evaluate the impact to see if it's a net positive? It's easy enough to revert if there's consensus that it was a bad idea (and if there's not consensus, *then* we have the debate, once we have measurements from before and after rather than just guessing).
3
It's possible that they're overdoing the changes, in which case they can reevaluate based on the data collected a few months from now. The assumptions they're making might not be correct but seem to be sensible ones to make in the circumstances.
4
I'm confused. Whenever I visit downtown, street parking occupancy is 100% everywhere (except my secret spot which I'm not revealing, and which isn't very close to the core). Literally every single spot on every single block, on First, Second and Third, from at least as far north as Battery all the way to Pioneer Square. This is obviously not scientific but it's something like a hundred observations.
5
The current plan is meant to produce empty spaces at peak times, so overall availability will be lower than target. When they start adjusting rates for time of day, we can optimize parking levels.
6
Seems like First Hill parking is largely driven by the hospitals, which means it's less likely to be seasonal and more likely to be people who need to drive.
7
@6, First Hill also has a ton of large apartment houses with no internal parking. On the other hand, a huge portion of hospital parking is employees, who do not all typically "need" to drive. And the hospitals provide an awful lot of parking in garages.
8
If you removed free handicapped parking (why is it free? reserved, sure - reduced rate, ok - but free?) and commercial loading zones it makes more sense. A lot of parking space is taken up with those and no-park zones for fire hydrants and driveway access.
9
also, what @4 said.

same on the hill - never tell people where you can find parking or it's gone.
10
Dear dipshit @8, you say you want to "remove" handicapped parking. But then you say "reserved? sure". You can't have it both ways. If it's reserved, it can't be used by anyone else, and whether they charge a penny or a hundred dollars for it doesn't change that. Free handicapped parking does reduce the revenue (by a tiny amount) but it does NOT take up any spaces. Reserved handicapped spaces take up space.

Your position makes zero sense whatsoever.

Is this anti-handicapped stance of yours part of your political platform? You should bring it up when you campaign, you'll get a lot of votes that way. Who WOULDN'T get behind the "screw the handicapped" candidate?
11

Uh, it's to make more $$$. Duh.
12
@2,

It costs money to implement. The parking meters have to be reprogrammed, and new signs have to be put up. Changing everything back after three to six months seems like a waste of money to me.
13
@4,

That hasn't been my experience at all. In my experience, as soon as you're north of Virginia, parking frees up considerably. Parts of Belltown are practically empty at midday. I also haven't had trouble parking near Pioneer Square most of the time (with obvious exceptions on game days).
14
Two responses to Fnarf.

@4: If a place is more crowded at certain times than others, then it's a mathematical fact that most people will observe the place to be more crowded than it actually is. This is simply because, by definition, the number of observers is highest when the place is at its busiest.

To use an extreme example, suppose that a restaurant is open for three hours. 10 people eat there from 11-12, and then 80 people from 12-1, and then 10 more people from 1-2. It's clear that the restaurant is pretty quiet for most of the time it's open. But if you surveyed everyone who had ever been to the restaurant, 80% of them would tell you that it's much too crowded.

@10: As with any good/service, the lower the price for parking, the more people will buy it (and vice versa). If parking is free with a disabled permit, then you would expect the number of spots taken up by people with disabled permits to be higher than if disabled parking cost money. Thus, since there are only a limited number of spots, there will be fewer spots available for people without disabled permits.

Now, personally, I don't have a problem with subsidized disabled parking. Many disabled people have no alternative but to drive, while able-bodied people could easily walk/bike/bus. But the current situation does create a strong incentive for people to illicitly gain/use disabled permits. In the commercial core, something like 20-25% of parked vehicles have disabled permits; it's hard for me to imagine that all of those are legitimate. I would strongly support measures to make it more difficult for people to inappropriately use disabled permits, both for revenue and for demand management purposes.
15
@14, your second point makes no sense. If a space is reserved for handicapped permits only, it DOES NOT MATTER how much, if anything, they charge to park there. A person without a permit can't park there at all. Even if it's empty, you can't park there. Whether they charge or not doesn't affect availability to non-permit-holders AT ALL.

And yes, the permit system is horribly abused, but that's another topic.
16
@15: Sorry, I should be more clear. I disagree with Will's claim that we should have reserved-but-not-free spaces, and I'm not trying to defend that. Rather, I'm responding to your claim that free disabled parking does not "take up any space".

What I'm saying is that, when spots are cheaper for people with disabled permits than for cars without, the effect is to increase the relative demand for spots by people with the permits. Thus, disabled parking subsidies effectively lower availability for non-permitholders.
17
I'm calling fuzzy math on this, or at least poor reporting in the Citywide Parking Data Report PDF. Looking at Pioneer Square, the neighborhood average (74% seasonally adjusted) is below the target (78%), but they are increasing the cost for the entire neighborhood because of some data they don't include in the report that somehow leads to 91% in a core block.

Based on the numbers, I don't see the justification for a 60% fee increase for the entire neighborhood. At least show us the numbers for the 'core' block in the report!
18
@8 removed from the space availability measurement. sorry, that was shorthand. not physically removing them.

Certain locations, due to the nature of service or habitation, have higher ratios of handicapped or commercial parking zones. Which are not usable by most other people, and thus not available to retail patrons who don't fall into those categories.

Free - as in totally free - disabled parking space is suboptimal. It NEEDS to be near the destination, obviously, and it SHOULD have a longer time period, since disabled people literally can't get out of their car/van, go to the destination, shop/etc, return, and get back in during the same time period. Thus it SHOULD be cheaper (e.g. if $4 per 3 hour parking is standard, it should be say $1 per hour or be $3 per 3 hour parking) but it should not be FREE). This assumes we have available transit for handicapped people, however.
19
@15 and permit abuse is a shame. However, from personal experience, I know there are many people who appear non-handicapped but who are in fact handicapped or disabled.

Even an additional block from parking to their destination can literally be agony, but they may not appear to be impacted. Sometimes you can tell because they seem to move slower, but sometimes they just kind of grin and bear it (the pain).
20
I've never heard the rationale for free parking for cars with a handicap placard. Are the parking meters too hard for handicapped people to operate (but they can drive a car)? Can handicapped people not afford to pay for parking (but they can afford to operate a car)?

How much revenue does the city lose each year because of this?
21
@19: Certainly. As I've said, I have no objection to the concept of subsidized disabled parking.

When an able-bodied person parks in a reserved disabled space, they're potentially taking a space away from a disabled person. Similarly, when an able-bodied person uses a placard to park in a space for longer than they would have otherwise (because it's free), they're potentially taking that space away from a disabled person.

@20: The argument is that disabled people have fewer practical alternatives to driving. By charging a higher rate for able-bodied people than for disabled people, you end up with more of your parking supply being used by the latter.
22
For example, SDOT spokeswoman Marybeth Turner said in October, "Downtown street parking is at 100 percent capacity for most of the day." . . . But the study's findings, at first blush, don't necessarily back-up this claim. In the city's "commercial core," occupancy was at 84 percent at its highest at midday (between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.), 80 percent in the evening (between 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.), and 88 percent at night (7:00 to 8:00 p.m.).

Well, a cynic would say that the city is raising rates to generate revenue but saying they're doing it to increase turnover because that makes it seem like they're doing it on behalf of drivers.

On the other hand, the study's findings don't square with my experience (or perception) of parking in the "commercial core." Occupancy always seems more like 95 percent at midday and night, although I'd agree with the 80 percent in the evening between 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
23
I saw the detailed study for the U-District (with various point-in-time counts on 35 blockfaces or something like that), and the numbers seemed pretty honest to me. There was a lot of business support for increasing the times meters are enforced until 8PM (especially what is left of the specialty retailers on the Ave), and the numbers showed high utilization there.

North of 47th, usage drops off, and it drops off even more north of 50th - and they didn't add new paid parking in those areas because there lower utilization and it wasn't called for.

Can't speak for other neighborhoods, and while I'm no fan of increasing rates or extending paid hours I don't think it was arbitrarily or egregiously done in the U-District.

(But I do wish they could lower the rate on some of the outlying pay stations and/or turn them back into 2 hour zones, because NOBODY parks there now. They said they'd look into that for their next set of recommendations. We'll see).
24
@23: Totally agreed. At the neighborhood level, this proposal seems worse than useless. We need block-level parking rates (at a more complex granularity than "free" or "not"), and we need them yesterday. That's the only way that you can truly maximize the utility of these spaces. Otherwise, you're either going to have 100% utilization within two blocks of 45th and the Ave in every direction, or 0% utilization north of 47th.

(As an aside, did anyone notice that the report said that Capitol Hill had over 100% utilization at night? What does that even mean? It makes me wonder if I'm misreading the data somehow.)
25
Over 100% means people are cramming cars in - too close to hydrants/driveways/etc...