City’s parking solutions somehow forget about cars

Apr 14, 2015, 9:50 PM | Updated: Apr 15, 2015, 9:39 am

The Seattle Department of Planning and Development and the Seattle Department of Transportation sub...

The Seattle Department of Planning and Development and the Seattle Department of Transportation submitted a set of recommendations to address the problems of parking in residential neighborhoods. (MyNorthwest)


The Seattle Department of Planning and Development and the Seattle Department of Transportation submitted a set of recommendations to address the problems of parking in residential neighborhoods. The only problem is they ignore proposals that make it easier for residents and visitors with cars. In fact, they blame an “over-supply” of parking on rising rents (yes, they say there is an over-supply of parking spots while offering recommendations on how to address lack of parking. Only in Seattle).

Related: City departments release new parking recommendations

The very first recommendation listed on their press release has nothing to do with people who currently own cars. They would like to “[r]equire bus passes for new residential developments in center city neighborhoods and other areas frequently served by transit.” They want to force developers to purchase Metro passes for residents because they think that will cause people to get rid of their cars and not have to worry about parking to begin with. Of course, Metro will happily take the money from the developers purchasing the passes that go unused because not everyone who moves into an apartment will be able to use Metro. The bus system doesn’t work for everyone; it’s why people have cars. Giving someone a pass (that they’ll end up paying for from increased rent) won’t change that.

Another recommendation, also having nothing to do with parking, includes coming up with ways to compel bike sharing memberships, offering space on the developer’s property for bike sharing kiosks, and offering better space to store bikes. This is problematic and silly on a couple levels.

First, bike commuting has gone down since 2012 and only represents 3.1 percent of Seattle commuters, yet the City believes better accommodating bicyclists will help drivers find parking? You will always have a low ceiling on people willing to bike to work; not every workplace has a shower or a space for you to change into your work clothes, nor do people want to bike in the rain and up/down hills after a long day of work. It’s not to say we shouldn’t offer options for bicyclists, but we do need to stop pretending this will have a meaningful impact on the driver experience, whether it relates to parking or overall traffic.

They do not recommend adding more parking spots – including asking developers to build enough to accommodate their residents.

Now a lot of these recommendations are being informed by a belief that cars actually increase the cost of living in Seattle. It’s a newer angle that the City is going after (they’re looking for anything to blame for the rising Seattle rents so you forget that all of these problems have gotten worse under progressive leadership). Remarkably, they claim “parking is often significantly over-supplied, needlessly contributing to high housing costs.” They make a very weak case to back this up.

Using a Portland, OR study (read it!), the City claims parking construction can cost between $20,000 and $50,000 per space. This claim is provided to make it seem like the actual cost of paving the parking lot and digging the hole accounts for the total cost, but this number comes, in large part, from the opportunity cost (the argument is you’re using space for parking you otherwise would have used for a dwelling, which will guarantee you X amount of revenue, but now you won’t get that because of the parking lot).

Now to try to convince you that new buildings shouldn’t provide enough parking spaces to accommodate the residents, the City makes a misleading argument that you should reject parking because it increases the cost of living and because “parking can add as much as $500 per month in rental costs to a lowrise apartment building.” But the price is that high because of a lack of supply (and the study they cite admits only “a slim rental rate increase [is] observed.”)

By not requiring developments build enough parking spots, they have to price it high enough to convince some residents not to ask for spots. So they jack the prices up. Some people with cars will refuse to pay and then fight for street parking (and if you have ever around driven Capitol Hill or South Lake Union after work hours, it’s a vicious fight looking for street parking). Now, because the pricing scheme for these apartment parking spots has to be high enough to scare some people away, you will have some empty stalls – it’s inevitable. You don’t want a full parking lot because you don’t want to tell a paying resident who expects parking and is willing to pay, that they don’t get a spot.

Now, the City knows this and they manipulate the data to tell you there is an “over-supply” of parking. Sorry – if there was an over-supply of parking, we wouldn’t be having this conversation about how to address parking problems in residential zones. And if there was an “over-supply” of parking, the City wouldn’t be installing “smart meters” that are designed to price you out of a spot in congested areas to cut down on, as city’s parking manager puts it, drivers “circling the block in frustration” trying to find parking.

Regrettably, this is another example of the City pushing an anti-car (pro-everything-else) ideology rather than actually representing all modes, including driving. Instead, they’re further demonizing drivers, now claiming they’re responsible for rising rents. Right.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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City’s parking solutions somehow forget about cars