Streets for All Seattle isn't the only advocacy group leaning on the Seattle City Council to pass the mayor's proposed commercial parking tax and on-street parking rate increases, which would secure roughly $13 million in funding for pedestrian, bicycle, and transit improvements for 2011 and 2012. The Sierra Club wrote a letter today leaning on council pressuring them to accept the increases and uphold its promise to make Seattle a carbon neutral city by 2030.
"We're getting mixed signals on the increases," says Brady Montz, chair of the Seattle Chapter of the Sierra Club. "Council members talk about cutting the city's carbon rates and promoting [biking, pedestrian, and transit] projects, but they seem to be dragging their feet when it comes to actually committing."
From the Sierra Club's letter to the council:
According to the 2008 City of Seattle Greenhouse Gas Inventory (.pdf), "At 62 percent, the transportation sector is the largest source of emissions, and fully 40 percent of emissions come from cars and trucks on Seattle streets." And according to Seattle's Climate Action Plan, "Since motor vehicle emissions are the single largest source of climate pollution in Seattle, the City must do even more to provide climate-friendly transportation choices such as public transit, biking and walking — and to encourage greater use of those alternatives."
Earlier this year, the City Council declared the bold goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. If the Council is serious about achieving carbon neutrality, now is the time to prioritize city money to accomplish the next steps towards this bold and necessary goal.
Your support for the commercial parking tax increase (or a different funding mechanism to pay for the crucial projects funded through this mechanism) is needed to prevent funding for biking and walking from being reduced by 25% in comparison to last year. We cannot afford such a huge step backwards in the city's commitment to walking, biking, and transit; and a large step backwards in building a climate-friendly transportation system.
"The Seattle department of transportation for years has been talking about the need to raise the parking rates," says Motz," and it ties into the city's general strategy to lower carbon rates. If the council doesn't agree to the changes, what does that say about their commitments and how do we fill that hole for [ped, bike, and transit] improvements?"
Meanwhile, the Downtown Seattle Association still argues that it can't get behind a parking rate increase until SDOT does better research on parking trends in Seattle. "We don't know if the rates are too high," says Jon Scholes, a spokesman for the DSA, "I don't think at this point, the city can say it knows. That's the point—we need more information, and better information, before the city moves forward with the most significant change in parking rates in our city's history." Scholes says that when the city raised parking rates in the First Hill neighborhood, the city first hired a consultant to produce a 21-page report on parking to study trends and pinpoint peak parking times in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, "SDOT's study for the entire city is only four pages," argues Scholes. "The average wine list downtown is longer than four pages. They need to do the work before residents and business owners can be comfortable with the decisions that they're making."