Photo courtesy majinandoru

Update: Looks like Publicola’s Erica Barnett beat me to the punch prior to the publication of this post, tackling issues not addressed in this piece.  See her rebuttal for more.

The Seattle Times took yet another crack at Mayor McGinn’s parking and transportation policies today, arguing against proposed elimination of parking minimums near transit and furthering the “war on cars” myth so beloved by transit opponents.  The piece builds a rather misleading case with irrelevant data, essentially arguing that Seattle’s car ownership rate doesn’t support eliminating parking minimums.

There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of parking and land use at work in this piece– elimination of parking minimums has very little to do with how many households own cars citywide, and much more to do with the effects on real estate pricing that such requirements have.  Lynn Thompson, the piece’s author, doesn’t mention anything about the connection with housing, which was one of the Mayor’s primary arguments, nor does she address the issue that housing costs are artificially inflated when parking costs are bundled in.

Thompson’s frame, instead, is very misleading: “If Seattle has more apartment buildings without parking, is that better or worse for the working class?”  She backs this up by citing the 84% of Seattle households that do own a car and presupposing that parking supply has much to do with the betterment of the working class, when we know that car ownership rates decline as household incomes drop.

The most striking absence from the piece is any discussion about the nature of the Mayor’s proposed parking policy– that minimums be eradicated for projects within a quarter-mile of transit.  That’s a big difference from eradicating minimums citywide.  Instead, Thompson applies a very misleading figure encompassing all of Seattle to neighborhoods that would be specifically targeted in the proposal.  When looking at the areas the Mayor has in mind, the Census data paints a very different picture: 29.5% in Capitol Hill, 41.6% in South Lake Union/Denny Triangle, 60.8% in the University District.

While transit opponents will still try to make the majority-car ownership statistic sound as loud as possible, I think a major distinction has to be made between car use and car ownership.  When looking at car use in the form of daily commuting, only 61.9% of Seattleites drive (either alone or in a carpool), and that number shrinks remarkably in the neighborhoods that would qualify for an exemption of parking minimums.  Using car ownership to dictate parking supply, on the other hand, turns housing projects into long-term storage units for cars, adding a rather cumbersome expense to a project, costs which are passed onto the “working class.”

When the mainstream media puts an editorial spin on a supposed fact-checking piece, it distorts the value of arguments on both sides and misinforms public opinion, which we know sways public policy.  Housing, parking, land use, and transportation are intricate issues, and I doubt that even us bloggers fully understand the interrelationships between each.  For a mainstream news editorial writer to go on the record about these issues with that level of misinformation, however, only reflects pandering to the readers and no genuine desire to understand the truth.

72 Replies to “A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Parking and Land Use”

  1. Your 61.9% number, though, doesn’t apply region-wide, does it? In most parts of the Seattle area outside of downtown, having a car is in fact almost essential to having a job, because buses don’t go there, or the trips are unfeasibly long. Even these putative apartment dwellers who by definition live within quarter-mile of transit probably don’t WORK within a quarter-mile of feasible transit, or might not after they change jobs in a year, which so many people do. Unless they work downtown.

    Feasible here means “forget about a quarter mile, try an eighth” and “minimum ten minutes between buses” and “maximum one transfer, preferably none”, and “not more than twice the travel time of driving, or one hour total”.

    Increasing the amount of proper rapid transit increases the number of points where these conditions hold but they will never be a majority, especially since jobs are likely to continue to grow outside the downtown core, which is the only place in this city where the buses are worth a damn.

    Car ownership drops as income drops because car ownership is much lower amongst the unemployed, particularly the chronically unemployed — which the article points out.

    1. The mayor’s proposal isn’t a regional proposal — it is a Seattle only proposal and applies only to areas well served with transit.

      And I know lots of people in the neighborhoods who let their car sit most of the week and take the bus into work everyday.

      But the bottom line is that the mayor isn’t proposing to eliminate parking – he is only proposing to let the free-market decide how much parking is the right amount of parking in those areas that have other transportation options.

      And what is wrong with the free market?

      But hopefully someone from the Seattle City County will lead the charge on this, because I doubt the mayor will be able to make much progress on his own.

      1. I live in one of those non-downtown neighborhoods, I own a car, and I sometimes use it. I almost never use it for my daily commute, becuase a bus, a bicycle, or motorcycle eliminates the major parking hassle at my place of employment (time to find a spot, expense). My car gets used for non-commute trips: run to the grocery store, evening excursions for entertainment, out of town trips, etc. Simply put, the transit situation in Seattle is to inflexible to allow me to engage in unplanned, trips.

        On the other side, I have a friend who lives within a quarter mile of the Columbia City LINK stop who is able to utilize mass transit for many non-commute trips. I attribute this to the shorter headway available on LINK. Anecdotally, his morning commute involves a slow amble to the station and a non more then 5 minute wait for the next train.

        Car ownership, however, is not something that he is interested in eliminating, despite his very low annual mileage. If he wants to transport goods that are inconvenient to use the train for (lumber and a sink come to mind as specific examples), or take a longer trip out of town, his car is available to him.

        I see the future as being encouraging single-car households that have infrequent automobile usage by supplying convenient, flexible transit options to relieve congestion.

        Today I had to drive to work becuase I am going to Bellevue this evening, and find an hour bus ride to get to to Bellevue followed by an hour and a half ride home to be unacceptable, particularly becuase the long headways involved would possibly extend my travel even further. I will spend less then 90 minutes to do both driving legs.

      2. “And what is wrong with the free market?”

        So, why don’t we let the free market decide how much transit to provide? As in, if people are willing to pay the full cost of their trips, then that transit should exist.

        Any transit which the people who use won’t pay for, should be eliminated, by “free market” principles.

        The “free market” does not include tax subsidies. That applies to transit, as well as anything else.

      3. You’re always going on about that, Norman. Tell me you don’t support parking minimums. Doesn’t that go against your core values? Or does that just apply to transit?

      4. Andrew, I wasn’t referring to people who live downtown, but people who work downtown — or more to the point, DON’T live downtown. Most of the jobs in the region aren’t downtown, or even in Seattle — they’re out in the sticks, where parking is plentiful and free. It’s only at home that parking becomes an issue, for city residents, because the central city is increasingly becoming a bedroom community for suburban (and exurban) jobs.

      5. “the central city is increasingly becoming a bedroom community for suburban (and exurban) jobs”

        Most people that live in Seattle work in Seattle. Check out the urban village data (look for P28, “Central city” for any area). Most neighborhoods have around 80% rate of working in Seattle. I don’t have data for non-urban-villages, but urban villages are more relevant to this discussion anyway.

      6. If the market provides the right incentives, people who live in dense urban areas, but work in the suburbs at a company with oversized parking garages can leave their car at work during the week, bus back and forth each day, and only park their car at home on weekends. I know one person who used to do this – he lived in Belltown, worked in Microsoft, and commuted to work each day on the Connector, driving in on Monday morning and driving home on Friday evening. The arrangement worked quite well and he saved a lot of money over leasing a permanent parking spot at his home.

      7. “the central city is increasingly becoming a bedroom community for suburban (and exurban) jobs”

        Where on earth did you come up with this gem?

      8. Free market is great except in this case you have very limited real estate and if all of the apartment owners do not build any parking into their buildings, then there’s not a whole of options available to consumers for that parking. So the free market argument doesn’t work when you have as scarce a resource (space in downtown) as we’re looking at here.

      9. If you need a car, you’ll rent an apartment with a parking space. If developers screw up and don’t offer any parking spaces (unlikely), someone will come along and build a parking structure.

  2. One thing that keeps being missed in this topic is that the Mayor is only saying that developers will no longer be REQUIRED to supply parking within a certain area. They can still build parking if they want to, but no one is forcing them to make a decision. So, if people really want an apartment/condo with parking, there will still be hundreds of choices for them in the city.

    Also, maybe a slight bit off topic here…but when you drive around some neighborhoods, like say the Meridian neighborhood along 50th and Meridian, you see that many people are not using their garages. Maybe their garage is too small for their SUV, or they want to use if for extra storage. But, I think just the fact that they don’t use their garage can be, in a way, a kind of acceptance of McGinn’s proposal. Since their house is not providing a parking space, they have to use an alternate(usually the street). I think this should be brought up in this discussion about providing parking.

    1. I wish the mayor was able to articulate your point. We don’t have a law requiring people to sell a certain number of tomatoes, and yet they are sold anyway. Taking away parking requirements doesn’t mean there will be no parking.

    2. Developers would probably like not having to provide parking. They can build more and it’s other people’s problem afterwards.

      1. Developers only provide amenities if they think they can charge a premium and/or make a profit. Take for example, balconies. Balconies are not free. A condo building with balconies costs more to build than one without. Yet, developers know that people like balconies, and are sometimes willing to pay for them. So some developers take a risk, and spend the extra money to provide buildings with balconies. Prospective buyers/tenants then decide if they want to spend the extra money to live in a unit with a balcony.

        One of the key parts of a developer’s job is to judge what people are looking for in a new property. If people are willing to pay for parking, developers will build parking. If people don’t want it, or don’t want to pay for it, they shouldn’t be forced to.

      2. Exactly. The thing is, the nice thing about parking is that unlike balconies, the market can provide the same benefit later. There is no reason why a company can’t build a big parking garage somewhere, to service all of the cars that need parking.

      3. Actually, the numerous balconies on condos and apartments aren’t a pure product of the free market. Check out the municipal building code. There are open space requirements and balconies meet them.

        The whole argument about letting the free market control the number of parking spaces loses its footing because of the availability of street parking. If there were no street parking, then sure the free market could decide the value of providing parking. Instead, developers and apartment dwellers will try to free load on street parking, making things harder for everyone else who wants to use parking as temporary parking rather than a place to store their car.

        If you aren’t addressing this problem, you’re probably not making a compelling argument for your case.

      4. I wonder how many streets near transit hubs that have unrestricted street parking. Even my street in a single family neighborhood on upper QA has 2 hour parking.

      5. Banks, on the other hand, understand what sells and typically won’t finance buildings without parking.

      6. “Instead, developers and apartment dwellers will try to free load on street parking, making things harder for everyone else who wants to use parking as temporary parking rather than a place to store their car.”

        Two problems with this logic:

        1) If street parking is scare and everybody really needs to own a car, the free market will demand off-street parking. Developers will provide it not because big government is forcing them to, but because if they don’t, people won’t pay to live there.

        2) You assume that street parking must always remain free and available to everyone for an unlimited amount of time. What if street parking were time-limited, or were metered? This would make it impractical for people to use the street as long-term storage of their car, while still letting the free market, not the zoning code decide how much on-site parking at the new developments is really needed. If lack on on-site parking at existing residences makes this impractical, just issue residential parking permits to existing residents of the area, but don’t issue them to residents of new buildings in the area that haven’t been built yet.

        With appropriate regulation of street parking, we can ensure availability for existing residents, and deny developers the opportunity to freeload off the street.

      7. Why does it matter why someone is parked on the street? Why are the needs of short term parkers who don’t live in the neighborhood being placed above those residents who “use it as a place to store their car?”

        Seems backwards if you ask me.

      8. Meh, the new building that’s going up at Madison and Minor has no balconies, which struck me as being a little odd, giving me the inspiration for what I wrote. I’m not an expert.

      9. Why does it matter why someone is parked on the street? Why are the needs of short term parkers who don’t live in the neighborhood being placed above those residents who “use it as a place to store their car?”

        Seems backwards if you ask me.

        It depends on what you think the purpose of a car is.

        If it’s just to own it and have it sit on your block, then fine, don’t worry that there is no short term parking in a neighborhood. If you think the purpose of a car is to take you some place, then maybe you would want policies that maximize the chances there will be a place to park when you get there.

        As far as the no worries the free market will just build lots and garages argument goes. That’s all well and good in theory, but I’ve lived in several neighborhoods where these private garages have failed to materialize. Real life does not always match a theoretical free market with very elastic supply and demand.

      10. [Geoff] Street parking is a scarce resource. My opinion is that near businesses it’s best used to attract customers and reduce circling time, rather than as a free handout to drivers that chose not to build (or buy) a place to park.

      11. Street parking in most areas near work places now is limited to two hours, and on Capital Hill and the U District and other places mentioned is a very scarce resource. Why do you think it is so hard to park in Wallingford or other places where you need a local permit to park at all on the street? It’s only a matter of time before the City starts installing those credit card enabled meters in areas adjacent to business districts – like near Broadway – where lots of people live. Then what are the car owners going to do? (They will leave and drive to work or if they can ride transit from somewhere else where they can park a car.)

      12. In Seattle, it is illegal to park on a street for 48 hours without moving your car. It is a law honored mainly in the breach, but when I got towed once the hearing examiner told me that when he went on vacation, he always found off-street parking somewhere to put his car.

  3. This may be a bit tangetal, but I was disturbed by a report on King 5 Morning News today regarding the 3 new high rise office buildings that Amazon is intending to build around 7th Ave and Blanchard. The reporter mentioned the office towers are expected to house ~4000 workers and have parking for ~3000. But then goes on to mention both how parking is becoming such an issue in Seattle AND that there is concern about all the traffic that the office buildings would add.

    Building downtown (albeit on the northern side of the high-rise district) should be encouraging for transit usage and being able to absorb more workers without a proportional increase in traffic since many should have the option of transit from buses and light rail stations a few blocks to the south.

    1. Considering most workers in downtown Seattle don’t drive alone to work, that’s an unfortunate ratio of parking they’re adding.

      1. Many things about the Amazon buildings are unfortunate. They got one thing right — build downtown instead of in the suburbs. But then they decided to bring the suburbs downtown. That complex is a very suburban office park. It’s also a street-killing design. A place like that should have maybe 500 car slots max.

      2. What’s the ratio look like when you take out city, county and federal jobs?

    2. Short term, parking is less of an issue today because the economy is still suffering and there is still a relatively high office vacancy rate. Bring the economy back to where it was 10 years ago, and you will find that there is not enough parking. People in Seattle do more than just commute. They leave work on short notice, drive home, pick up kids, go to Costco, go to Queen Ann, and go other places where it takes hours if it is possible at all go go anywhere on transit.

  4. Where is the study showing how many offstreet parking spaces provided under the current guidelines mandating a minimum amount of offstreet parking, is going unused? What percentage of the offstreet parking in new condos and apartment buildings is not being used?

    Wouldn’t this be relevant information?

    And what is to prevent people who own cars from buying or renting apartments with no offstreet parking, to save money? This happens all the time now, because there are a lot of old buildings in Seattle with no offstreet parking, and many of the people living in those buildings do, in fact, own cars. Which, of course makes finding parking on the street in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, and the U. District very difficult. This is why offstreet parking minimums were instituted in the first place — to prevent the onstreet parking situation from becoming even worse than it is now.

    For those who don’t own cars and are “forced” to rent or buy an apartment or condo with an offstreet parking space, they can always rent that space to someone who does own a car. This happens all the time. So, that person without a car is getting income from the parking space which they don’t need or use for their own car.

    But let’s see the study of how many offstreet parking spots which developers were “forced” to build are currently going unused. Where is that information?

    1. The definitive book on this subject is “The High Cost of Free Parking” by Donald Shoup, ISBN: 1884829988

      Those studies do exist. One of the more memorable anecdotes from “Parking” was Shoup describing how he asked a number of city planners how they determined parking requirements. Most of them seemed to have simply asked planners from other cities.

    2. I can tell you that Chicago requires parking for 45% of residents in buildings downtown, and the lake shore east development, which was built many many years back, only ever sold up to about 31% of their residents spots, so they had to basically eat the cost of building parking for 14% that didn’t want it and chose to live in their buildings. (These numbers may not be perfect, they are from memory, but this is basically the case with most of downtown Chicago, and I recognize that it is a different city, but some day we want Seattle to be on a similar level I’m supposing. Parking requirements in Chicago are too high. )

      1. There are several examples of condos in Downtown Seattle and even Bellevue that have too much parking. Escala, in Seattle, and the Bellevue Towers come to mind, both of which have 2 parking spots per unit. You can rent out spaces to other unit owners but not to anybody else, for security reasons. I’m not sure if these examples are due to parking minimums or if the developers made the decision for that amount of parking on their own.

      2. The part of Chicago you are talking about has more density than any part of Seattle, AND Chicago has MUCH better transit than Seattle. There are too many places that you simply cannot get to without a car. Forcing developers to build units without parking will force people to move out of the city and drive in – which is NOT what we are trying to achieve.

      3. You’re just making this stuff up, right? Bellevue Towers. The units are mostly vacant because of the recent bubble but there’s already a parking bubble.

  5. To quote Cool Hand Luke: What we got here is… failure to communicate.

    There are so many bad arguments made on both sides that folks get lost in the details. It really doesn’t matter how many people own cars in Seattle. Yes, that would strengthen the argument against requiring parking, but it isn’t an essential argument. Likewise, unlike some people, I believe there is a benefit to society in having parking. But again, that is not the essential point.

    The key argument to be made is that we are better off letting the market decide. Unlike many public amenities (roads, mass transit, electric lines, parks, etc.) the market can easily provide parking. There is nothing stopping someone from building a parking garage, or building a new building with only a few apartments and lots of parking. Developers will do this if parking really becomes expensive. But right now, the regulation only serves to push that service onto new construction.

    Pushing the cost onto new construction is common. We do it all the time for other public services. Sidewalk construction is a good example of this. But there is a cost for this. It pushes up the cost of housing, both old and new. If you own the housing, the value will go up. If you don’t, then you are out of luck. In other words, the folks that rent or haven’t bought yet are asked to pay for this benefit.

    Once you get through the basics, there are followup arguments to be made on both sides. Some would suggest that loosening the parking restrictions will lead to more parking garages and that these are ugly. I would counter that argument by saying that the parking requirement limits the design options of developers, making the buildings uglier (this was certainly the case in the 80s, when the dreaded ugly duplex and quad, so prevalent in Ballard, became synonymous with “increasing density”).

    I guess you could make the argument that parking is an essential public service, and that we should all pay for it. At least that would be fairer than the current system. But I personally don’t think that parking is an essential public service. I believe that each car owner (including myself) should pay for their own parking.

    1. There’s an argument that on-street short-term parking is an essential public service.

      Residential car storage? I can’t see any way that’s an essential public service.

  6. I’d be honestly curious to learn how the people pushing the “War on Cars” meme foresee provisioning future transportation infrastructure as Seattle’s population grows. Even if they believe that reducing parking minimums, charging for street parking, adding bike infrastructure, and paying taxes for transit causes too much pain today, do they think that Seattle can continue to grow without the car modeshare declining and transit/bike/walking’s modeshare increasing?

    Between 1990 and 2010, the city of Seattle grew by about 92000 people- about 4600 new residents each year. Over those 20 years, Seattle’s population density increased by about 1100 people/sq mile. If we keep adding 4,600 residents a year, in 2030, Seattle will have another 92,000 citizens (compared to 2010)- another 1100 people per sq mile. Another 20 years in the future, and we could have another 92,000 people. Do the “War on Cars” folks think it’s both viable and optimal to add parking and road capacity for all the additional tens of thousands of people, or more, who’ll likely add to Seattle’s population during the next few decades?

    It’s obviously impossible to plan exactly for the future- growth could be slower, or it could be faster. At the moment though, our population is growing at a steady rate, and given how long major infrastructure projects take, we should be thinking a few decades into the future when we plan transportation and land use policy.

    Alternatively, we could avoid these decisions by freezing Seattle’s population in place by refusing to issue permits for new multifamily housing. Though if we constrict the housing supply, housing costs will likely skyrocket as the wealthy bid up prices in the artificially constricted housing market. Another possible solution is to let the city fall apart- make life here unpleasant enough, and people will move out, freeing up parking for those who stay.

    If you don’t want skyrocketing housing prices and you want to keep Seattle a desirable place to live, you have to provide transportation infrastructure for a growing population. So, in the medium-to-long terms, what do the “War on Cars” folks propose we do?

    1. I want skyrocketing housing prices. It will attract well paid folks who can pay for the $1B in unfunded pensions costs the city has along with all the other stuff that is non critical.

  7. I think the business about the 1/4 mile of frequent transit is a bit misleading. I think that’s what’s causing people to cry bullshit here because the fact that 1/4 mile of transit is a trigger seems to suggest that the city is trying to say that living within 1/4 mile of frequent transit means you don’t have to own a car.

    As a non-car-owner myself, I can definitively say that the “1/4 mile of frequent transit” trigger is complete bullshit. While I do use transit quite frequently, the lone bus route that comes within 1/4 mile of my front door is a bus that I almost never ride(*) and has virtually zero effect on my ability to live car-free. What actually matters are the fast express buses that get me to work (even though I jog 1.8 miles to get to them), along with the city’s walking and biking infrastructure, and the abundance of retail stores within walking distance.

    So, while I think the idea of eliminating parking requirements is great, I think the “1/4 mile of transit” rule is a red herring and the elimination should just be universal. Even if we eliminate the parking requirements in places like North Bend, where everyone pretty much has to have a car, the free market should still provide enough spaces for everyone anyway. Granted, it might have no effect if the parking requirements were set reasonably to begin with, but it still does no harm. And it may even do good. Even if one assumes that everyone must have access to a car, parking demand is based on a bunch of factors that require big government to use a lot of guesswork in coming up with parking requirements. If they guess wrong, every resident has to pay their share of the construction costs of parking spaces that just sit empty and never get used. For example:
    – How many people will actually live in an apartment of a given size? If the planners require 2 parking spaces for a 2-bedroom apartment on the assumption that 2 people will be living there, but half the 2-bedroom apartments are home to only one person, we’ve mandated 25% more parking spaces that required, even if we assume everyone has a car.
    – To what extent family members are able to share cars between them. The number of households where a husband and wife share one car is a lot more than the number of households that have no cars. Often, this has at least as much to do with the attitude of the people living there (e.g. willingness to give each other rides) than the quality of the transit system.
    – How many guests people are going to have over. Even if we assume every guest has to arrive in a separate car (in practice, guests are often couples, which will probably be riding together), the maximum numbers of guests a resident will invite over for a party is a matter of guesswork. Subtle characteristics of the neighborhood might affect this in ways that would be difficult to capture by planners in meetings that set parking requirements.

    (*) The bus in question is the #30, which basically parallels the Burke-Gilman trail. Anywhere I could possibly want to go on that bus, I can get to much faster, with zero wait time, by just biking down the trail instead. The few times I actually ride the #30, it’s usually a one-way trip for which I walked the other direction.

    1. If you’re going to eliminate off-street parking minumums, you have to also be willing to charge for street parking. Otherwise you get some weird and messy results.

      Of course, I’ve never lived in a place which didn’t charge for street parking (at least in the districts with multifamily houses or businesses).

  8. That ownership stat for the U-district is unfortunately out of necessity. Once Link reaches it, I think the area will be easy to transform into a great urban center, but we really should begin sooner.

    1. Hee hee.

      No, no, see, the terrorists hate our freedoms, that’s why we have to get rid of our freedoms, then the terrorists will leave us alone.

  9. The problem is that the city is not increasing transit to offset the increased scarcity in parking. It’s great that there may be transit in an area, but if the transit doesn’t go to/from the necessary locations at the necessary times a car becomes highly desirable.

    I am quite happy to take transit when it is safe and convenient. However, from my house, I can easily get to downtown and the U-district during the work week. During weekends and evenings, the wait becomes too long. Last time I waited for a bus downtown at night, it was very creepy.

    If transit isn’t convenient, I drive. If, in addition, parking isn’t convenient, I tend to avoid the area. I don’t mind paying a small amount to park, but downtown is getting to the point that it’s not worth the additional expense. I’ll just go somewhere else that I can get to easily.

    Besides having to circle to find parking just adds to pollution and traffic.

    1. (sigh) You don’t want to pay to park, and you don’t want to circle to park. You know where the logic is flawed there, right?

  10. This argument ignores something huge:

    “When looking at car use in the form of daily commuting, only 61.9% of Seattleites drive (either alone or in a carpool), and that number shrinks remarkably in the neighborhoods that would qualify for an exemption of parking minimums. Using car ownership to dictate parking supply, on the other hand, turns housing projects into long-term storage units for cars, adding a rather cumbersome expense to a project, costs which are passed onto the “working class.””

    It ignores that even though I don’t drive to work on a daily basis (I walk from Belltown to downtown where I work), I still own a car and need to own a car to get around to places on the weekend, such as to visit with family and to hit the golf course. I cannot take public transit to these places. So while I don’t drive, and live in Belltown, I need to own a car (or rely on a car rental service, which isn’t any better than owning my own rarely used car). The Mayor’s proposal would impact where I live by not requiring a parking minimum. I’m part of the working class, too…

      1. Uh, to clarify. Look up Car Sharing programs like Zipcar, which are most suitable for people in your situation. They should be promoted, obviously. Where I live in Ithaca we have a not-for-profit one.

      2. Sadly, Zipcar is not quite ideal for someone who uses a car more than a few times a month.

        My girlfriend has a mobility-related disability, so riding the bus is very hard for her. We used to use Zipcar and taxis (mostly Uber, but regular taxis aren’t much cheaper when you include the tip) pretty frequently. A daily rental costs about $80, all things included. Four daily rentals in a month — every Saturday, say — is $320. Throw in a few shorter rentals and taxis, and you’re easily up to $500/month in transportation expenses.

        We’re now paying $355 a month to lease a Jetta, including the lease, parking, and insurance. (If you add in the amortized down payment and expected monthly gas costs, it climbs to about $450.) And instead of only being able to use the car on Saturdays, it’s available every day.

        If you’re planning on using a Zipcar for day trips every weekend, Zipcar would cost you $640 — way more than just leasing the darn car. And if you have a “free” parking spot, or if you have a paid-off car with cheaper insurance, the numbers only get better for owning.

        The irony, of course, is that there are a whole ton of cars which *only* get used for commuting, and sit virtually idle for the rest of the week. So, theoretically, car-sharing should be a great way for commuters and weekenders alike to save money by not paying for a car they’re not using. Sadly, the economics just aren’t there yet.

        The even greater irony is that there are entire fleets of cars sitting unused and clogging our roadways. That’s why I’m really excited about companies like Getaround, which provide a way for under-using car owners and over-using renters to meet in the middle.

  11. As many above me have also clarified – I am NOT anti-transit, but it sure looks to those of us on the outside of all of this that the City IS anti car. As many above me have already pointed out – just because you live near a transit line and don’t use a car a lot does not mean you do not own one or use one with relative frequency. Legislating against cars ‘all over’ makes no sense. LEAVE the decision up to the land owner/developer. If they want to put in parking – LET THEM, by making all the regulations neutral to cars. Don’t provide incentives or disincentives for cars. let the market take care of it. That way, anyone who wants to build lower cost buildings for people who may not own cars can do that, and anyone who wants to build more costly buildings that include parking spaces can do that. The Number of spaces should be the business of the developer – not the city.

    1. Bill, that’s exactly what the Mayor’s proposal would do. There is no “legislating against cars” here.

    2. The Number of spaces should be the business of the developer – not the city

      …which is exactly the point of the proposal.

      Current city rules mandate a minimum amount of parking in all new construction.

      The proposed rules would eliminate that minimum requirement in certain areas.

      There’s certainly no rules AGAINST adding parking, or against building more than the minimum in areas that retain a minimum.

  12. I have no problem with letting the market decide.

    I used to live in Vancouver .. I could walk to the nearest bus stop and know that there would always be a bus along within 10 minutes, and I worked downtown near the bus. So guess what … I always commuted on the bus.

    Now I live in Seattle … the busses near me run sporadically, and I’m not interested in living my life on their schedule. And where I worked took at least one, if not two transfers. So guess what, I elected to drive and pay to park.

    If I own a car, and its too difficult to do so when living in one area, I’ll choose to live in another area.

    Shopping? I never shop downtown anymore (though I prefer the downtown stores). I always shop at University Village, Northgate, or Alderwood Mall. I can drive to them quicker and with less hassle and at less cost than to downtown. Same goes for eating out and for movies.

    And luckily, I can walk from home to the shops I most frequently use.

    No matter what is provided, the consumer will decide and make choices accordingly. Make things too difficult in one area, the consumer will go elsewhere.

  13. If the mayor supports any building of Condominiums or Apartments without a minimum of one parking space included for each residence then he will not get my vote. I voted for the Mayor in the last election. With his support of reducing parking spaces, endless bike paths which see little use, and the support of public bonds to fund private business concerns, he will not see my vote again.

    The last mayor mishandled snow management and lost his job. Mayor McGinn has already done enough to insure he will not be re-elected. People in the city have the right to own a private vehicle and we need a mayor who can support that. I put on average 8000 miles a year on my vehicle each year. The majority of that is travel around the State of Washington. My primary mode of transportation to and from work is public transportation. For weekends and vacations I do not use public transportation. The mayor has a distorted image of what urban lifestyle should be and I for one do not support his policies.

    1. Dan,

      Can I send you the monthly bill for the parking spot I don’t use at my apartment, but am forced to pay for?

      Thanks for forcing me to subsidize your car.

    2. Dan,

      What you’re arguing for is not the right to own a private vehicle, but an obligation.

      As Brent says, if I don’t have a car, why should I have to pay for a parking space that I will never use?

      Turn it around — what if the law required that every single-family homeowner buy a transit pass for each member of the household?

  14. Bam! Gridlock! Who could have seen that coming? Let me know how paving your way out of the congestion goes. Should be as easy as following all those other cities that have, right?

    But not to worry! Energy prices will only go down, housing prices only up, and everyone will have flying cars and ponies and live happily ever after, or whatever the pro-car Mayor promises.

  15. Approximately $30,000 per parking stall for developer to build belowgrade.

    Average per month charge for use of parking stall is $100, on top of residential rent (short term parking for retail or business: add fees and overhead for parking company management).

    Couple that with exemption of parking requirement in 1/4 mile area surrounding a light rail station. Oh, and land use establishing new surface parking lots is banned in that area. That’s over 5,474,000 square feet impacted per station. A lot of people and cars, and no new street spots. How many years and $$$ to permit and build new garages?

    I’m looking into getting a RPZ established in my neighborhood.

  16. If people are encouraged to walk, bike, or take public transit to work, then why is there a complaint that people leave their cars at home parked in front of their houses? Even those not using cars for work, generally still need cars to get other places in evenings when there is no bus service or it is not safe to use, as well to go many places that would require several bus transfers and hours of time, not to mention leaving town for the mountains, water and other places that are the reasons many people live here. The mayor seems to think everyone should come into Seattle and never leave. Most people still need cars and all new dwellings should be required to provide it.

    1. “why is there a complaint that people leave their cars at home parked in front of their houses?”

      “Most people still need cars and all new dwellings should be required to provide it.”

      Wait… are we supposed to force people to build garages, or are we supposed to have people leave their cars in front of their houses?

      It sure sounds like you don’t have a garage, but want to force other people to build garages so you can keep parking for free on the street.

      1. I have a garage and use it, but some of the comments are complaining about cars being parked on the street as though there should be no parking anywhere. Even though I use my garage, people who visit or have other business in the neighborhood should have parking available and if apartments have no parking, they will just park in front of houses that do, and obviously, the density of apartment dwellers is many times that of people in houses so any available parking will be gone completely.

      2. This is generally solved by charging for street parking. If you don’t have a private driveway or garage, and you want to park your car in front of your house forever, and the area is busy and crowded, you should pay for the privilege. As soon as you start charging, why, suddenly a lot of people in apartments decide they don’t need to have a car parked in front all the time. And the ones who really want a car will decide to live in a different part of town.

        In other words, Ms. Nysether, you’re arguing for parking meters.

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