This week SDOT released its initial study on the new, demand-based on-street parking rates in several Seattle neighborhoods. These new rates target leaving one or two spaces available per blockface all day, so drivers spend less time searching in exchange for a bit of money. Key findings:
- In the four neighborhoods where rates increased in early 2011 (Commercial Core, First Hill, Capitol Hill, and Pioneer Square), the June 2011 data showed parking occupancies came down within the target occupancy range, though occupancy varies with subareas of each neighborhood. Data generally showed improved availability of on-street parking, although use of disabled parking permits continues to be high in the Commercial Core and First hill (as well as Cherry Hill.)
- For the eleven neighborhoods where rates were lowered, results were mixed. Parking occupancy actually dropped in six of the eleven neighborhoods compared to last November. The data showed that decreasing rates by $0.50 per hour did not consistently generate increased parking demand, and where occupancy increased, the amounts were relatively modest.
- The seven neighborhoods where rates stayed the same also had mixed results, illustrating that parking pricing is likely not the prime driver for parking demand compared with other factors such as the quality of neighborhood attractions, hours of operation, and willingness to use alternative modes.
Of course, this is one month of data (from June), and this is going to be a continual, iterative process of fine tuning, as conditions change and more demand management techniques are brought to bear. If anything, the lessons the report is drawing from one month of data are too definitive. More after the jump.
For instance, time-of-day variable pricing would help even things out, but only about 700 of 2200 pay stations support this capability. The older stations will start retiring in the middle of the decade, allowing implementation of variable pricing in neighborhoods where the demand patterns are appropriate. Fremont has all the preconditions to implement this; Pike/Pine and Chinatown only await more advanced machines.
SDOT is also looking at varying rates and time limits in different parts of certain neighborhoods, allowing parking a third or fourth hour at higher rates, charging more for special events (e.g. in Pioneer Square on game days), varying rates by season, and cracking down on disabled permit abuse.
In a sign that innovation is infiltrating into the bureaucracy, there’s talk of releasing parking data to third party developers, so that a future Brian Ferris can develop “onespaceaway.”
37 Replies to “Early Results for New Parking Rates”
Not giving disabled permit holders free parking would stop the abuse immediately.
I question whether disabled permit holders who use street parking are in fact unable to walk very far, since it is highly unlikely that they will find parking spaces with short walks to their destinations. Street parking tends to require more walking than using the parking garage connected to the hospital or under the office building.
Maybe SDOT should charge for parking on Sundays, although I seem to remember there was some seemingly intractable problem (staffing costs, union work rules, etc.) that made it less attractive. Even so, tt doesn’t make any sense to have $4/hour on Saturday and $0/hour on Sunday – private operators charge every day of the week.
With the new policy, in theory there’s a parking space on every block. I think it makes more sense to take a less drastic step – give disabled permit holders a free 2 hours. This will keep parking turnover, while being a reasonable compromise between free all day parking and charging for parking.
This comment is ridiculous on so many levels. The city looked last year at limiting free parking of cars with disabled permits to 4 hours, but the state asked them not to implement it (probably because they feared a lawsuit). The real problem neighborhoods are downtown and (obviously) first hill, this is not a city-wide problem.
But moreover, how does it feel to insinuate that people with disabled permits aren’t really disabled? You should be attacking those people who are abusing the system, not the truly disabled who really need the benefit.
According to the SDOT website, they are revising their 4 hour limit proposal.
Why can’t disabled people pay for their parking like everyone else?
The people I know who have disabled parking permits have plenty of money to pay for parking. They are not low-income, at all. I agree that there is no reason to let disabled people park for free on streets with paid parking for eveyone else. And people with disabled parking permits parking for free on streets is one of the biggest problems with parking downtown. How much money is it costing the city per year to allow people with disabled permits to park for free?
By the way, the City of Seattle expects to collect about $76 million from parking fees, fines and taxes this year alone.
According to a friend who has a disability permit, the reason Seattle waives parking charges is that it doesn’t have enough disability-only parking spaces around the city, so it uses the other spaces as a substitute.
Are the disability-only spaces required to be free?
Yes, by all means, let’s make it harder for the disabled. They don’t suffer enough.
How does one register interest in that public data feed?
Someone please show this to the #$%#$% tattoo parlor owner in Pioneer Square who plastered all the meters and half of the street lights in south Downtown with posters showing McGinn holding a gun to drivers heads (or something to that effect — I forget exactly), and has been advocating violence against SDOT (jokingly, I hope — but still in extremely poor taste) if they don’t change this policy.
The city council were the ones that refused to impose pricing on Sundays, basically for emotional reasons.
I agree it’s rather too soon to be drawing firm conclusions from this. There are a raft of secular factors that influence parking and transit demand.
Creating some sort of game day special event rate for Pioneer Square is long overdue.
I’m on the tattoo parlor guy’s side. [ad hom]
1. Disabled use of street parking. My FIL and MIL both have a lot of problems walking. They are not in a wheelchair nor do they use a walker, but a cane sometimes. If they have to walk over a block, some days just to a front door depending on how they are doing that day, it can be a big problem. Oftentimes parking garages are way too far away to use at all. Just because there are people out there illegally using the tags doesn’t mean that all users are in the wrong.
2. The city recently instituted 2 hr parking limits near the new Safeway in West Seattle along California Ave SW just south of Admiral. Sometimes I have to drive to that area and find that it is much easier to park there now at almost all times. Even with seemingly heavier traffic. I am a huge supporter of shorter term parking and like this change.
Why can’t your FIL and MIL pay to park like everyone else?
They could up to a point (they are classified officially as low income) but the costs do add up for them. Being able to park for hours at a time, multiple times a week for multiple doctor appointments (I would think that many people with a disability have more doctor appointments than most). I would be in favor of discounted parking rates IF there were also available exclusive parking for disabled persons in the vicinity.
You have the choice to ride the bus. Many disabled people would like to ride the bus but it’s too difficult. Because they have to drive more than they would if they were healthy, their transportation expenses are higher than they otherwise would be. This takes a big chunk out of an already low income, alongside their medical expenses and other disability-related expenses. The free parking allows them to get to medical appointments and senior events and shopping, rather than staying home all day and having people drive them or bring groceries to them and missing out on participating in society.
They could up to a point (they are classified officially as low income) but the costs do add up for them.
Yeah, and everyone else is rich.
Until you have relatives or friends, or hopefully not yourself, in a situation where the financial strain is dire, due to absolutely no fault of their own and medical problems and bills compounding the situation, don’t judge it. It is hard to understand without knowing the details, but as the “safety net” of financial help for the disadvantaged grows these little things like parking help greatly.
Disability does not necessarily equal poverty. And there are plenty of able bodied poor people who you are perfectly fine with soaking. So, you’ll have to forgive me for calling your “compassion” a pose.
My understanding is that handicapped people don’t want to walk very far, not that they are unable to pay, so I don’t see how the current policy helps them. If the free handicapped parking was removed it would eliminate abuse of the system which should generate more spots — allowing handicapped people to park closer to their destination. So in effect the handicapped are paying less (which they probably enjoy, but don’t care too much about) to walk further (which they probably do care about).
Variable parking rates won’t greatly affect space availability from one hour to the next for a really simple reason: You don’t know what the rate is until you’ve parked and gone to the pay machine.
A decision based on price has to be made while the driver is still in his or her car. Without that up-front information, the question is simply this: “Do I want to park on the street or not, whatever the price?” If the rate is lower or higher is irrelevant because you don’t know what it is until you park.
I agree. Options to fix this:
1. Big sign on each block, or several per rate zone. Potentially expensive and visually intrusive. However, the current parking sign program wasn’t too expensive and isn’t bad visually. Might be an option.
2. iPhone app. Inconvenient, and won’t likely be widely used.
3. Not completely variable. Widely known and advertised pricing. For instance, rates double throughout the city between 3pm and 5pm (or whenever the peak time is).
First, that isn’t quite true; if the rate is higher, then people won’t stay for as long. So that helps.
That said, I agree. I think Matt has the right idea; just publish the per-block rates on the web and don’t change them more than 2-4 times per month. Eventually they’ll reach a fixed point, and won’t change very often, and then people can learn the parking rates in the areas where they park frequently. (This isn’t so great for tourists or other people who don’t have a basis for comparison, but oh well.)
Somehow, though, you have to be able to adjust the parking policy to handle events. Parking during a Mariners game should cost significantly more than it would on a non-event day. Private garages have been doing this for decades; the city should too.
“First, that isn’t quite true; if the rate is higher, then people won’t stay for as long. So that helps.”
Is there evidence of this? I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation where I needed parking downtown, and could leave earlier because I didn’t like the parking rate. You go downtown for an event (work, concert, etc.), in which case it has a fixed start and end time. Or you’re going to run an errand, in which case you’re not going to just hang out afterwards if the parking is cheaper.
Or you go for a day out — like a shopping trip — and you have a rough idea of how much money you want to spend, and so if parking is more/less expensive, you decide to leave earlier/later.
To answer your real question, no, I don’t have evidence of that, but it’s just basic economics that, as prices for a good go up, less of it will be consumed. I’m not really concerned about what form that takes.
As someone who once held a disabled parking permit, I can weigh in on the disabled parking. It was an absolute godsend when I had to choose between ACCESS transit or carpooling to get to work. My handicapped parking permit never left my possession and certainly wasn’t abused. We used it to park close to my office when the bus couldn’t do the job. I’d be happy to pay for that parking if the meter would spit out tickets in more than 2 hour increments. But it didn’t, and I wasn’t going to go down and do it every day, every two hours, with a very bad knee. That sorta defeats the purpose.
I can’t offer a solution to the problem, other than finding a way to curb abuse of possession of disabled parking permits. Free on-street parking for those who are disabled ensures that all businesses meet the federal mandatory access laws for free, disabled-specific parking and can better serve customers without having to worry. Some way of catching scofflaws would be nice, though.
Jennifer, why do you deserve a free parking space when others have to pay?
She doesn’t think she deserves free parking, just the ability to park in a spot for more than 2 hours at a time. That’s fine by me if disabled parkers can go up to the meter and type in some special code that lets it spit out an 8 hour ticket at cost.
I’d be okay with that, as long as the fee was the same as anyone else’s.
“Free on-street parking for those who are disabled ensures that all businesses meet the federal mandatory access laws for free, disabled-specific parking and can better serve customers without having to worry.”
“I’d be happy to pay for that parking if the meter would spit out tickets in more than 2 hour increments. But it didn’t…”
That’s because it would be illegal. I know everybody likes to buy 2 hours, then come back and buy 2 more hours for the same car in the same parking spot, but that is technically illegal. 2 hour parking means you get 2 hours, and then the car has to leave the block.
What burns me up is when the blocks around apartment buildings are completely full, especially when it’s SUVs taking up 1 1/2 parking spaces each — leaving no room for disabled people who really need their cars and need a nearby space to park — to find a space. That can prevent them from visiting people who live in the buildings. How many of those people really need to drive, or need that big a car?
It’s a pity to take the “war against cars” to the very people who least have an alternative mode available — the disabled. Let the lazy rich healthy people put their cars in expensive garages before you go after the disabled. There may be rich disabled people, or people who aren’t really disabled but connived a permit, but those are relatively few. Being disabled by definition means higher medical bills for tests and doctor visits and prescriptions, and higher transportation expenses because you have to drive when you used to walk or ride the bus, etc. Sometimes the main purpose of the car is to hold your walker so you can use it when you get somewhere, or to carry your groceries because you can’t carry them yourself. And it’s not just the isolated difficulty of walking a block or two. It’s that on top of having limited energy and increased stress. Making a trip is such a big ordeal that you can only do one or two of them a day before you run out of energy.
Perhaps there’s room to distinguish between disabled-rich and disabled-poor, or mobility disability vs other disability, or to charge disabled people a parking fee. They already pay full rate when they park in a garage. But any policy changes have to be made with their actual impact on the disabled in mind, not on armchair quarterbacking by people who have little grasp of what the impact would be. And any crackdown on fraud must be based on the actual level of fraud, not on whether passers-by can see or recognize the disability. The disability may be in their brain, not in their leg.
We also need to focus on land use. Disabled people wouldn’t need cars as much if we still lived in streetcar suburbs and things were in human-scaled walking distance of each other. I’ve seen people with temporary disabilities (a broken leg) say, “When my leg was broken for three months and I couldn’t drive, I wished I hadn’t bought that house in Kennydale where there’s no bus and I had to stay home the whole time.” This is going to be a bigger deal as society ages and has more age-related disabilities.
SUVs taking up 1 1/2 parking spaces each
No they’re not.
The largest SUV is a Chevy Suburban. It’s 18 feet long. Most SUVs are much smaller. A Toyota RAV4, for example, is 15 feet long, shorter than the favorite smug Seattle vehicle, a 15-year-old Volvo sedan.
Meanwhile, a standard parking space is 22 feet long. Now, will Mike Orr retract his ridiculous, fact-free screed? Of course not. Why? Because it was never about any facts. It was about feeding his smugness.
That’s what Seattle’s ever-so-precious “eco” types are about. It’s not about “sustainability,” whatever that means. It’s about affecting a certain style. Now I am all in favor of style, but do you really have to try to enshrine it in the law? I don’t think so. Try the following, instead: You do your thing. Others do their thing. The rules for you are the same as the rules for them, even if you think you are so much better than they are.
“No they’re not.”
Perhaps if the drivers parked their SUVs like tetris blocks, but many of them do park such that they occupy 1.5 spaces.
The SUV you mention is over 18.5 feet long, and more importantly, nearly 7 feet wide. That’s pretty close to the size of a typical parking space, and they tend to park a couple feet from the side (so they can open their doors to get out). If a particular parking space is 7.5 feet wide, and a Suburban parks in space #1 so there’s 1.5 feet to the left of the car’s body, and a Suburban parks in space #3 so there’s 1.5 feet to the right of the car’s body, that leaves 2.5 feet of free space for space #2. You’d have trouble parking most motorcycles there.
“The largest SUV is a Chevy Suburban.”
No, it isn’t. The Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, and Ford Excursion are all both wider and longer, for example.
“It’s 18 feet long.”
That’s an interesting use of rounding down. The link you provided yourself shows that it’s over 18.5 feet long.
Funny. We point out that the market provides a perfectly workable solution to allocating a scarce commodity a
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