Emily Heffter at the Seattle Times reports today that the city-run Pacific Place parking garage is losing a half-million dollars a year. The subterranean parking lot cost $50 million to build in the late 1990s, but the city spent $73 million, essentially a subsidy, in a deal to revitalize the downtown core. At first it broke even. Now, even though the city has repeatedly raised the parking rates, it's running deep red while competing lots that cost more are staying in the black:

Private garages have turned to "early-bird" all-day parking deals for downtown office workers to offset lost short-term revenue, but the city garage isn't authorized to do that. It costs $5 to park at Pacific Place for an hour, up from $2 an hour in 2003. City officials most recently increased hourly rates at the garage in July 2009.

In the three or four blocks around the garage, the average off-street parking rate is $10 to $12 for two hours, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Joe Quintana, a hired political gun representing downtown business interests, sent a letter to city officials arguing that, likewise, parking taxes are hurting private lots:

I was encouraged to see that city leaders understand the market forces at work in the case of the Pacific Place parking garage. But please do note that the same applies in the private sector when higher parking rates are imposed in the form of taxes, especially now that nearly 23% of the commercial parking rate in Seattle is taxes.... The cost of this high-tax policy comes not only in the form of lost income to the retailers, restaurants and others; it also means fewer jobs. Parking costs in Seattle are a competitive disadvantage and I can only hope that city leaders come to realize this truth—and not only in cases when it is the city’s own budget ox that is being gored.