Columnist Danny Westneat has a piece in yesterday's Seattle Times that basically calls the city out for being at war with its residents by issuing parking tickets (gasp!) and attempting to raise on-street parking rates to help shore up our $67 million budget shortfall. Both of his points are terribly argued.
From Westneat's column:
The number of parking tickets issued in Seattle, citywide, has jumped 23.5 percent in the past five years to more than 500,000.
The total fines levied are projected to jump 17 percent this year alone.
On top of that, Mayor Mike McGinn, is proposing to raise the street-parking rate downtown by 60 percent, to $4 an hour — making Seattle more expensive for street parking than Manhattan.
Weastneat's column handily ignores the fact that if people are receiving parking tickets, it's because they're parking illegally. He also doesn't mention that people aren't paying their tickets—the city currently has roughly $52 million in unpaid parking tickets floating around. If everyone with outstanding tickets paid them off, say, tomorrow, the city's budget crisis would be reduced to $15 million, which sounds like a pittance compare to the gaping maw of debt we're currently facing. If there's a war going on between drivers and the city, I'd say the drivers are winning. (On that note, starting next year, KIRO reports that cars found with four or more outstanding tickets will get a parking boot to remind/encourage them to pay up.)
Westneat also complains that raising on-street parking rates to $4 downtown will make parking in Seattle "more expensive for street parking than Manhattan." This is true but it's not an argument; it's an observation. A whiny one. If you want an argument, you have to do the research. In this week's issue of the paper, I do the research:
Donald Shoup, a UCLA professor of urban planning and nationally recognized parking expert (he authored the 733-page tome The High Cost of Free Parking), says that cities with healthy business districts have 15 percent of their on-street parking available during peak hours. Seattle currently has zero or close to zero. Ideally, Shoup says, people shouldn't have to park more than a few blocks from their destination (and they pay the price for this privilege). Recent studies in New York and San Francisco show that in areas where parking was maxed out (similar to downtown Seattle) 25 to 40 percent of vehicles on the road were simply circling looking for parking. These cities raised their parking rates to fix the problem.
Seattle has also studied the issue at length. In July, SDOT sent a report to the mayor's office that detailed the effects of three potential rate increases (to $3, $4, and $5 an hour). The study concluded that an increase to $4 an hour would create more downtown parking turnover and keep roughly 9 percent of street spots vacant at any given time—well below Shoup's golden 15 percent (SDOT's report estimated that an increase to $3 would free up 2 percent of parking spots—a negligible amount—and an increase to $5 would free up 19 percent). The study also notes that San Francisco is currently piloting a program that adjusts rates according to peak on and off hours, ranging from 25 cents to $6 an hour.
Read my piece with all its action-packed parking detail here.