A small miracle: Seattle business offers free parking to neighbors
Finding parking in Seattle is about as pleasant as getting your teeth drilled.
To find a spot that doesn’t somehow break one of the city’s myriad rules — thus resulting in a ticket or tow — can feel like a miracle. But there is one small parking miracle happening daily: a Seattle business giving away parking spots for free.
Steve Ritt, owner of Leather Care Inc. on Elliot Avenue, lets tech workers park in their lot – for free – if they arrive before 9 a.m.
Leather Care doesn’t use all of its parking, which is why it essentially “donates” parking spaces to its tech neighbors. There are times when it needs to make room for delivery trucks, so they have a system: they leave a note on the windshield of a car to let drivers know they’ll need to move so Leather Care can do its business.
According to long-time employee Ted, this is all in the spirit of being a good neighbor.
“Our owner, Steve Ritt, his whole idea was, ‘let’s be good neighbors.’ We have this new, beautiful building next to us and there’s a need for parking, right? And we got this whole parking lot, and so long as everyone follows the one simple rule — if you block somebody in then leave your phone number so that way they can call you and you come out — and everyone has been really, really good about.”
This simple act of being “neighborly” feels unusual.
“It’s worked out for both of us and parking is a premium everywhere and I’ve worked here for 12 years now and with these new buildings around here … there never used to be people parking around here on Elliot.”
With Expedia moving in across the street, he says it’s only going to get busier.
Ted, like the rest of Seattle, feels the parking pinch, too.
Leather Care was able to create their own solution to parking. But to organize parking for an entire city? That’s a complicated system where effectiveness is harder to prove.
According to the city’s website, “SDOT sets on-street parking rates and hours of operation based on data to achieve a goal of one to two spaces available per block. This means that visitors and shoppers can find a parking spot more easily, with less time spent driving around circling in traffic.”
In 2010, the city council approved a rate hike from a maximum of $2.50 per hour to $4 an hour. The parking meters with the coin slots were replaced by solar-powered parking meters that cost the city $10 million, not including installation and annual operating costs.
In 2010, the city generated $26.5 million from parking into the general fund.
The first annual rate changes were made in 2011.
SDOT says they collect data every year from all the meters. They study the information to determine rates, time limits, and paid parking hours by comparing results to their targeted goal of 70 percent to 85 percent occupancy.
In 2016, the price went up again to $5 an hour. Yet there’s no conclusive data that shows the city’s system of pricing and setting time limits is helping any visitor find a spot.
According to SDOT Communications Director, Mafara Hobson, the city expects to make $40.4 million in 2018 from parking revenue.
According to SDOT’s Director of Transportation and Mobility, Andrew Glass-Hastings, no one is getting gouged, “The program is working. And it’s working because there are more areas, more times of the day that are within the target range of parking available.”
Glass-Hastings went on to say, “If every year, year after year, we were raising every single area of the city I would be concerned. But that’s not what’s happening. That hasn’t happened in any stretch of the imagination that anyone is being gouged with the on-street parking.”
Meanwhile, Ted from Prestige Cleaners says their policy of providing free parking has worked like a charm, “Everyone has been so appreciative to have parking and for us, it’s all about being good neighbors.”