This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
Downtown Seattle has around 79,574 parking stalls, with an average occupancy rate of 65%, which means we have at least 54,500 cars parked in lots downtown. Traffic flow downtown is around 96,400 cars per day. If we assume that 90% of these cars drive in and out of the city every day, that means that 96% of car traffic in the city can disappear if we remove the parking lots.
You might call this idea insane. How will people go to work, or the movies, or go shopping? That’s where the idea gets interesting. You probably recall that we’re almost done building a light rail line through the city to the south, and we’ll soon continue it northward. What if we built a giant parking structure south of the city, and another one north of the city, and located them both right at our new light rail line?
For every new stall we build, let’s remove one from downtown. This will free up room downtown for more retail, more businesses, and more residential units. As traffic declines we can add streetcars and make some areas pedestrian-only areas. The freeway will clear up as fewer cars queue up at exit ramps on I-5.
We’ll keep some cars around – they’re great for delivering goods to businesses, or if you need to get through downtown to somewhere else less accessible by rail/bus. But our downtown is very walkable, so it’s a shame we’ve given up so much to cars.