There are two fundamental ways of thinking about parking and car access. One view, understandably common among local businesspeople, is concern that some new activity will reduce the abundance of free public parking. It’s an entirely reasonable attitude for incumbent business owners to take.

What’s harder to understand is how higher demand for parking is against the interests of the city at large, but Councilmember Tom Rasmussen feels that way about the arena, possibly after listening to those incumbent business interests:

Add the arena into the mix, Rasmussen says, and the parking crush is only going to get worse. “Any major attraction that’s going to draw people is going to have an impact on parking further north” of the arena, which would be in SoDo. “People may come early, they may dine and give themselves 45 minutes to walk to the arena. There isn’t a lot of capacity.”

Follow this argument to its logical conclusion, and the City Council should actively militate against attractions in Seattle. The various venues and festivals at Seattle Center make parking much harder in Uptown and Belltown. UW makes parking much more difficult in the University District. Like any other activity that draws people, a new arena will make parking either more scarce or more expensive. That’s a vibrant city, not a problem to be averted.

There are plenty of reasons to be upset about the arena, but more competition for parking is one of those “concerns” that we should toss in the trash bin.

43 Replies to “High Parking Demand is Good”

  1. This doesn’t make any sense. The BBall arena would drive parking demand farther south than the other two stadium. I don’t believe there is any metered parking to the south of Holgate. And the crowds for the new arena would generally be smaller than for the other sport teams. There should be a smaller effect on parking around the north end of SODO and in the ID.

    1. Sounds like an opportunity for new metered parking to make the city revenue.

  2. Listening to business interests is, yes, something that politicians do. I’m sure business owners in Pioneer Square and the ID would love for people to come early and dine in their neighborhoods, but not clog up free/cheap (you can read: government-subsidized here if you’re so inclined) parking spaces outside their businesses for the duration of a sporting event.

    The counterpoint is that it’s dead easy to prevent people from doing that with sensible parking restrictions. The area around Wrigley Field in Chicago is pretty successful at doing that; some areas actually have game-day specific parking restrictions (as do areas around UW for football games), residential areas have permit parking, etc. I don’t think any business in Wrigleyville is complaining about the impact of more people being around their businesses (I could be wrong). Especially when any business with so much as a driveway makes extra cash selling game-day parking.

    Not that this stadium will be Wrigley exactly. I can think of plenty of reasons it might not be so great. I actually have no strong opinion on the stadium as a whole…

  3. Games at the existing stadiums have a huge impact on traffic through downtown. This year I’ve noticed in particular as an injury had kept me off my bike and had me crossing the city in a variety of ways, more so than ever before. Southbound traffic is noticeably worse as far north as Belltown on game nights (and impossible in the event of Monday night football – which has slowed a bicycle crossing of downtown to over an hour for me on at least one memorable occasion).

    I think its great that the stadiums are walking distance from downtown. But there doesn’t seem to be any effort to encourage people who live and work elsewhere to get to games any way other than driving. In my seven+ years as a resident of Seattle, I can’t recall seeing a single ad or program designed to encourage people to park outside the city for games. I would think the existing park and ride lots could be combined with game express buses to mitigate game traffic. Especially if they could be counted on to be expedient and ran for sufficient periods before and after game time that people felt they could partake in pre/post game activities. Of course, to get people to really use such a thing, game parking would probably have to be more expensive. But, why shouldn’t it be?

    1. I think I recall seeing ads for special weekend Sounder runs. But, yeah, there could be more of a broad marketing push across agencies.

    2. They can start by prohibiting off-site parking (i.e. no buying temporary parking by the arena owners and prohibiting parking in Sodo on industrial zoned land) and dropping parking ratios required for the project and implementing a parking maximum. That could help force people to carpool, be dropped off (taxi or otherwise), bike, use transit, or walk.

    3. I’ve seen ads for not only Sounder, but the airport’s special parking rates on game days–an overt encouragement to take Link to the games.

      I used to park around Starbucks HQ before light rail (I worked in Tukwila at the time; when I worked downtown I just walked). Now I use the Beacon Hill station when possible, mainly because I like it. :)

      This would seem to be an opportunity to strongly militate for a 2nd Avenue subway/West Side line–or at least a greatly sped up planning process–as building HCT past the arena on the west side would mean little or no need for many to drive. Proponents are already stressing the area’s access to light rail, which is a good thing and more “advertising” if nothing else. The walkshed for sporting events is quite a bit larger than for normal trips, especially where parking is scarce and very expensive ($50 across the street from Safeco, anyone?).

      The stadiums are the best advertisement for people using alternatives to driving that we have. When they were in planning, we were told that the area had to have 12-15,000 parking spaces in the area or nobody would go. There are now as few as 8,000 and yet fans still have found alternative ways to get to the events. And up north, at Husky Stadium, transit brings 20-25,000 fans to the game (per Metro and the UW, who pays for the services) and the vast majority of cars are 3+ passengers and are driving so that they can tailgate. Very few cars arrive less than an hour before kickoff. These are all successful advertisements to “choice riders” that transit can be a viable alternative if frequent and convenient…things we’re all very much aware of on this blog!

    4. There are a couple problems I have with taking transit from where I live in NE Seattle to a game. I still take it from time to time, but not every time.

      Evening games during the week are a problem because the Express Lanes are pointed the “wrong” way. I have to sit in rush hour traffic along with every car. If I drive, I can mostly avoid the freeway by getting creative on city streets. I generally park N of downtown and grab the next bus/link in the tunnel to go the rest of the way. Any route that travels I-5 is terrible for this which I think accounts for most of NE Seattle and points further North. When I lived in NW Seattle, this wasn’t as big of a deal because the bus routes didn’t even sniff I-5. I would still generally get off near Westlake and take the next bus/link in the tunnel to the ID because DT streets were near gridlock. Can’t wait to get me some North Link (10 years? Really?).

      The other big problem is the return trip, this goes for weekdays and weekends. If I want to go out after the game, my options back home become far more limited when many routes go to every hour after about 10:30. I miss a bus by a few mins, I’m looking for a taxi. Now I’ve just spent waaay more money than I saved by not parking. Plus I have to look for a freaking taxi. If I drive, I can still go to the tunnel, catch any bus that comes by to Westlake , go to my car and I’m on my way. Sure, I may spend a few more bucks (then again, I would save over a taxi), but peace of mind is a Good Thing.

  4. Parking in general should be more expensive not just game parking. If we really want to raise the price of parking we need to hurry up and build subways and trams (with decent signal priority and lane designation) and we need to market and promote the hell out of these trains. I still meet people that are blown away when I mention light rail. They honestly don’t even know it’s there.

    1. Even before we build the transit, if we make parking more expensive, it’ll increase projected cost effectiveness for future transit, which does help us get federal dollars.

  5. My parents live in Kent and would LOVE to not have to drive to events in SODO, but they don’t.

    They love the Sounder and would take it all the time for their Seattle trips if was more frequent.

    1. There is the 150 or Link + 180 or 101/106. It’s unfortunate that the express buses don’t service on game days. They’d ironically probably get better ridership going to Seattle for fans rather than from with commuters. Actually, what would be good is getting the stadiums to fund express buses (the City Council could pass a law) and charge passengers a bit higher fare. They could operate on days that will generate enough ridership.

      1. San Francisco does this with Candlestick park. They have a series of bus lines going from various points in the city to Candlestick Park on game days, and they charge a special fare for those trips. (The only problem is that most people coming to the game are from outside of San Francisco, and San Francisco MUNI doesn’t run any service outside of city limits, save for a couple of minor exceptions)

      2. UW does this with buses to 8 (I believe) park-and-rides around the region, and has since 1987. It’s very successful. Your game ticket covers the ride, but of course that cost is built into the ticket price. The fare without a ticket is higher than the normal bus fare.

    2. I’m slightly confused by your wording, but assuming you are saying they would take transit to SODO if they could, what’s wrong with the 150?

      1. Most people’s criticism of the route: slow and the clientele of the route are the worst. Have you ridden it? I’m a veteran rider of it and can say unequivocally that I can’t blame people for not wanting to board it. It is definitively worse than whatever beef people here have with the 358 (which I ride all the time). Safety is probably the biggest reason why people don’t want to bother with the 150.

      2. It takes an hour, that’s what’s wrong with it. It crawls through Southcenter making turn after turn, looking more like a milk run than serious Kent-Seattle transit.

  6. “Follow this argument to its logical conclusion, and the City Council should actively militate against attractions in Seattle.”

    I think the logical conclusion is that the City Council should encourage more parking spaces. If there is a shortage of parking, provide more parking. That would be the logical response.

    1. “I think the logical conclusion is that the City Council should encourage more parking spaces.”

      Government interference in the Marketplace? Why not just let the market determine parking prices? Or do you only want the market to determine what people pay for transit? Come on, Norman. At least be consistent.

  7. In my view, the difficult of parking and general inaccessibility for all those driving in from the exurbs contributes to the current low attendance.

    That is why I think the relatively idle Tacoma Dome, with its huge parking facilities, would be the better option.

    Also, to carry your argument further, I think that when a person has his car nearby, and knows he can leave any time, he feels more secure and is willing to stay or has the option of driving to the venue of his choice.

    Another benefit of the Tacoma Dome is that it has its own station…reading about it, its a huge cornucopia of transit:

    I we really want transit and transportation, we should be able to utilize a regional resource like the Tacoma Dome.

    What I am seeing now is the usual chicanery, with a whole bunch of hustlers ramming through yet another proposal designed to line the pockets of a few insiders.

    1. The T dome couldn’t even support minor league hockey. If the site was picked for an NBA/NHL venue then the first thing that would have to happen is demolishion. It’s pretty sad that it can’t generate more than one major attraction per month but that should be a red flag on the area deal in Seattle. Horse racing lost major attendance when it moved from Renton to Auburn (thanks Boeing… idiot execs).

      1. Actually the T Dome was the site of one of the most spectacular Sonics seasons and I am told it already has hosted professional class hockey.

        So it is ready to go as is.

      2. What’s wrong with trying to stuff an NBA and NHL team in the ShoWare Center? A lot of people would love an excuse to take the 150 to beautiful downtown Kent.

      3. It is not unthinkable.

        ShoWare has 6500 seats. The Sodo proposal is 19,000.

        However, given Seattle’s low enthusiasm for sports, it Sodo would probably be 1/3rd full most nights anyway…

        KEC has parking, transit, adjacent shopping and Kent per se is a city of 120,000 with a loyal and interested sports fanbase.

      4. Good luck convincing people in Seattle to drive a full hour each way to go to a game in Tacoma. Even better luck convincing people in Lynnwood and Everett to endure an hour-and-a-half+ drive get to a game.

        And even with the 594, door-to-door travel time to Tacoma Dome from most of Seattle by bus is still around an hour and a half.

      5. Basketball fans will go to wherever the stadium is, if they’re driving there. Tacoma Dome is an existing transit center, so it makes sense to put events there if feasable. The problem of the last bus leaving at 10:26pm can be solved by a mere decision by Sound Transit. The Everett Events Center has the same problem. And, just dreaming, but if Link did go to both those places, it would run until 1am….

      6. Although, is the TC really within a reasonable walk of the Dome entrance? I haven’t been to the Tacoma Dome since high school, but as I’ve passed it various times since, it seems like it’s several blocks from the eponymous TC.

      7. Major league sports teams make most of their revenue nowadays from private boxes and premium season ticket holders, and that requires well-off corporations and rich people, neither of which exist in Kent or Tacoma. If you’d look at the reasons the Sonics wanted to bail from Key Arena you’d realize why the Tacoma Dome or Showare will never be a major league sports venue.

      8. @Zed:

        1) Tacoma Dome could easily add.

        2) Kent Events Center. With only 6500 seats every ticket can be premium priced, the whole arena a gourmet experience.

        All the NBA and NHL need is a full arena so it looks good on TV where 99% of the real audience and customers are.

      9. You’re missing my point, no one with the money for private boxes and premium seats is going to want to go to Kent or Tacoma on a regular basis for games.

      10. So should we move the Tacoma Dome to Seattle or Bellevue/Kirkland where the moneyed people are? Hmm, there is an underused site at the South Kirkland P&R, and along the adjacent Northup Way. And it’s right near a freeway exit.

      11. As others have correctly pointed out, the T Dome never was designed with the needs of the NBA or NHL in mind. It’s a concert venue, good for HS sports and trade shows. Basically an oversized high school auditorium. The Showare Center is even more of a laugh. Face it, the Key isn’t up to league standards. All current NBA teams play in arenas that seat right around 20,000. The only two that are less than 18,000 are New Orleans and Sacramento. It’s not a coincidence those teams are looking for a new home.

        Most corporate season tickets are handed out to employees, customers or strategic vendors. Often they are visiting from out of town or out of the country. Shipping them off to Tacoma is out of the question. Kent, maybe. Actually Seatac would be an interesting venue. Belleuve’s traffic makes driving a nightmare without an event center and transit to anywhere there’s enough room to build an arena is non-existent. It’s much easier to get from the eastside to DT Seattle than anywhere else on the eastside which often involves a trip DT. Also, since it’s really entertainment the downtown scene makes either the Seattle Center or the Sodo area the most attractive.

    2. “In my view, the difficult of parking and general inaccessibility for all those driving in from the exurbs contributes to the current low attendance.”

      John –

      Since Seahawks (67,000) and Sounders (35,000) sell out virtually every game, you must be talking about the Mariners. When they had a competitive team on the field 2000, 2001 and 2002 they lead the major league in attendance. You should do your homework.

      1. Indeed, since the Mariners draw so poorly especially during the week, it’s pretty easy to score a free parking spot on 1st Avenue for any game. There are far better connections to the exurbs from there than there is to North Seattle right now with the 99 construction going on.

      2. The Sounders “sell out” because they close off half the stadium. The Seahawks are still coasting from 2006.

        However, as in the case of the Mariners, you can’t always count on having a good team but you can provide a venue that is as easy to get to as a shopping mall and then people will go just to have something to do.

    3. “In my view, the difficult of parking and general inaccessibility for all those driving in from the exurbs contributes to the current low attendance.”

      John – I am confused. You say poor attendance is due to lack of parking. Everyone is selling out except the Mariners and we know that has nothing to do with parking. Please explain your comment above.

      1. I think what he’s trying to say is that nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.

  8. Giving in to demand for free parking makes less sense than giving in to demand for all bus service to be free. Charge for parking at levels similar to bus fares, and demand will drop noticeably.

  9. One parking space takes up 186.7 sq. ft., which is LARGER than a typical office cubicle.

    1. Actually they average well over 300 sf including circulation, and that’s assuming a big, efficiently-proportioned garage. Smaller buildings often devote over 400 sf per space.

  10. My read of the short outtake from Rasmussen in the post is that he’s concerned about parking turn over. That restaurants and retail will suffer from parking “poachers” that grab spots in a neighborhood outside of the stadium district and camp on that spot for the entire evening. Of course the answer is to extend maximum parking time limits as has already shown to be successful even though the business community is in denial.

    The parking paranoia seems a bit misplaced. The arena will add thousands of new parking spaces. At least it will if the City enforces any sort of rational parking minimums on the development. Most of the time other events are going on at Safeco or Century Link these new spaces will be available to event goers. The parking synergy is one of the strongest reasons to put the arena there. Almost all of the special event parking goes unused most nights out of the year because there’s not enough going on.

    Another way to increase parking availability is to enforce existing laws. The Seattle Times reports Seattle’s parking boot reaps $2.2 million — so far

    Parking-enforcement officers attach the yellow steel device to a car wheel if the owner has four or more unpaid parking fines, and then the owner calls a hotline in New Jersey … The city’s income doesn’t include a $145 fee that PayLock charges for boot release

    About 75 vehicles a week are booted, with high concentrations in the U District, Belltown, and Capitol Hill — advertisers say they will target young, active adults who drive in these areas.

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