Car wars in Seattle

Oct 13, 2010, 3:26 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

SeaTrafficIs Seattle trying to “balance its massive budget deficit on the backs of motorists?” Mayor Mike McGinn’s office says there are “several factual inaccuracies” in a Fox News blog post about the city’s war against cars.

Fox News field reporter Dan Springer, based here, writes about “Seattle’s war on cars .”

He cites a series of actions Seattle has taken:

  • Last year Seattle jacked up taxes on parking lot owners who are now passing those costs along to customers.
  • Last year, officers wrote 508,675 parking tickets which works out to one ticket per minute. And they’re on pace to write even more this year. Parking ticket fines are projected to bring in $23 million next year up from $18.4 last year.
  • The transportation department is taking car lanes and giving them to bicyclists. At a cost of more than $300 million over 10 years, Seattle is creating hundreds of miles of bike and pedestrian lanes.
  • Most recently, Mayor Mike McGinn has proposed raising the metered parking rates up to $4 an hour.
  • There’s no subway in Seattle. Light rail currently only goes from downtown to the airport. And because of budget problems, the city is actually cutting bus routes.

The Mayor’s office tells me “there are several factual inaccuracies” in the Fox News report, beginning with the “accusation that the city is cutting bus routes.” As we know, the city has no control over Metro, which is a separate agency overseen by King County.

McGinn’s spokesman Aaron Pickus sets the record straight:

People ask that their government be run more like a business. It is not our job to subsidize those lucky enough to find on-street parking. The hourly rate to park at Pacific Place starts at five dollars for the first hour. The parking rate increase in the mayor’s proposed budget is four dollars, 20 percent below the market rate reflected at Pacific Place. And other private pay lots are in the eight to nine dollar range for the first hour. Should we let private lots take all the profits in parking while we cut library hours? It doesn’t make good business sense to so heavily subsidize the use of our limited resources.

Parking fees support the operation of our transportation system for all users. If we do not increase the cost of on-street parking, support for our transportation system will have to come from the General Fund. In closing a $67 million deficit, that would mean fewer dollars for Police, Fire and Parks. Our transportation system includes pot hole repair, sidewalks, the Bicycle Master Plan and snow removal crews. The mayor made difficult choices to balance the budget. Seattle residents need new sidewalks to make our neighborhoods safer for children to walk to the library and school. And we have a new snow removal strategy to help keep the roads clear when the next big storm hits. City government must provide these basics, even in tough budget times.

About half of all trips downtown are by foot, bike or transit. For those who drive, we are working to make it easier to park. That is why the mayor recently started e-Park, an on-street guidance system to direct drivers to six downtown pay lots with open spaces. And we just sent legislation to the City Council to allow parking around light-rail stations for those commuting downtown, an action prohibited under the former administration. Also, downtown businesses rely on short term on-street parking to support more customers coming in and out of their stores.

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Car wars in Seattle