The city council just approved up to $4 million in additional loans through the end of the year to the troubled city-operated Pacific Place parking garage. The new money comes on top of a $1.5 million loan approved last year. The garage has been losing nearly half a million dollars a year as fewer people park in private lots downtown during the economic downturn.

"Due to the prolonged economic downturn, Pacific Place parking garage revenues do not cover expenses," council budget chair Jean Godden said.

The city agreed to buy the garage for $23 million more than it cost to build in 1997, or twice the national average per parking stall at the time, as part of a deal with developers to build Pacific Place and move Nordstrom into its current location downtown. Although the cost to park at the garage was already considerably lower than the market rate downtown, at $5 an hour (compared to $10 to $12 an hour for privately run garages nearby), Mayor Mike McGinn reduced short-term parking rates at Pacific Place to $3 an hour---less than on-street parking in the commercial core, which is now $4 an hour.

City staffers say it's unclear whether the ongoing parking revenue shortfall has been helped or hurt by lower parking rates, although logic would seem to dictate that fewer people parking at Pacific Place, combined with lower parking rates, would result in lower parking revenues.