MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Seattle parking hours could last even later into the night

Sep 22, 2016, 5:50 AM | Updated: 12:57 pm

Parking is a lot of things in Seattle: a skill, a prize, and a major pain. Now city officials are considering how to manage Seattle parking in the future. And that likely means people will pay for parking later into the night.

“We know we have occupancy issues in areas where we have a nightlife,” Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson said during Tuesday’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee meeting. “Where we don’t charge for parking after 8 p.m.”

That includes neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square, and Belltown.

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“Having a data-driven approach would lead us to conclusions of having longer periods of (paid parking) time,” he said.

That’s exactly the direction Seattle parking could be heading, according to representatives with the Seattle Department of Transportation.

SDOT representatives informed the council committee that Mayor Ed Murray’s coming budget will include a portion that will raise paid parking hours in some areas past 8 p.m.

Seattle parking until 10 p.m. or midnight?

The City of Seattle implemented a parking plan in 2010. That plan sets policy in which parking is not managed to create revenue. Rather, Seattle parking prices are aimed at keeping some spots open. The idea is that people will move their cars, or not park as long when they have to pay a certain price. Therefore, a spot will be freed up for the next driver. Ideally, one or two spots will be available in each block in paid areas throughout the day.

At first, paid parking went to 6 p.m. Then it was upped to 8 p.m. in some areas over the past few years.

“We set on-street prices based on demand,” said Mike Estey, SDOT’s parking program manager, further commenting that Seattle has the best parking program in the country – the best practices. “The beauty of all of this, it has taken the politics out of what is a third-rail, controversial, challenging issue in terms of setting rates.”

While Seattle parking is not revenue driven, it does take in considerable cash for the city. According to SDOT’s presentation to the council committee, Seattle’s 12,250 parking spaces generated $37.04 million in 2015. A majority of those parking fees — $23.16 million — were collected in district 7 of Seattle which includes downtown. The second highest generator of parking fees was district 3 with $7.26 million. District 3 includes Capitol Hill and the Central District.

But paid parking until 6 or 8 p.m. is not handling the high demand for spots in some areas of Seattle.

“We followed the data and found that there’s not some cliff that demand falls off at 5 or 6 p.m.,” Estey said. “Now, in most parts of the city we have parking extending to 8 p.m. In places like Pike, Pine and Capitol Hill where it looks like the data continues out, we’ve started to collect more data out to 10 p.m., 11 p.m. and midnight … that’s where the data shows there is still a lot of demand, occupancy is still high, and so those are the next places we’ll go to and look and see if we have access issues.”

“We will work with the community, look at the data and see if we need to extend hours a little further,” he said.

He said that the city adjusts parking prices annually to better manage the spots. Estey informed the committee that Seattle will soon be replacing old pay boxes with updated technology. This will give the city the ability to charge different rates at different times of the day. Morning rates will be different than afternoon rates, and different than evening rates — all depending on the demand for parking in an area.

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Seattle parking hours could last even later into the night