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Tim Burgess: Basing Meter Rates on Demand Is Just Smart Policy

By Erica C. Barnett December 30, 2010

On his blog, city council member Tim Burgess points out a couple of little-reported facts about the city council's proposal to base parking meter rates on demand, rather than setting flat rates by neighborhood: Higher meter rates will increase turnover, making it easier to find parking; and in lower-demand areas, rates will actually go down.

Burgess writes:
[C]urrent parking policy does not provide adequate turnover and it is very difficult to find parking at some times of day in our business districts.  For example, have you tried to find on-street parking downtown on a weekday afternoon?  Or in Pioneer Square?  On on Capitol Hill in the late afternoon and evening? The status quo is not acceptable to many drivers and retail business owners.  And that's exactly why the new approach is designed to keep one or two spaces open and available per block face.

Ultimately, meter rates will be variable based on neighborhood parking area and time of day, an approach that makes rates highly sensitive to demand.  This means that meter rates will decrease in some areas, a key fact that has been lost in most of the public discussion of this topic.

People like to whine about the prospect of $4-an-hour parking; what they don't consider is that the reason they so often can't find parking is that cheap parking inhibits turnover. Higher parking rates in high-demand areas and at high-demand times (and lower parking rates in low-demand areas) will mean that parking is more easily accessible for everyone.
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