City Hall

Parking Rates Raised to $4 In Much of Downtown, Reduced North of Central City

By Erica C. Barnett January 14, 2011

The Seattle Department of Transportation announced this morning that it will be raising parking-meter rates in eight center-city neighborhoods and Fremont in an effort to reduce parking occupancy to an optimal 78 percent. Currently, occupancy in First Hill, the downtown commercial core, and Pioneer Square is at or near 100 percent at peak hours, meaning that people who want to park in those neighborhoods have to drive around for a long time looking for a spot. In those three neighborhoods, parking rates will increase from $2-$2.50 to $4; in six other neighborhoods, rates will increase from $1.50-$2.50 to $2-$3.

Additionally, the city will extend paid parking hours from 6 to 8 pm in eight neighborhoods: Belltown, Capitol Hill, the central business district, Chinatown, Pike-Pine, Pioneer Square, the University District, and Uptown.

Initially, Mayor Mike McGinn had proposed increasing the cap on parking rates to $5. In response, city council members Mike O'Brien and Tim Burgess proposed asking SDOT to do a citywide parking study to determine where demand for parking is higher and lower, with the goal of leaving one or two spaces vacant on every block.

At a press conference this morning, SDOT traffic manager Charles Bookman said the city monitored 7,800 of the 13,500 paid parking spots in Seattle. Overall, he said, the city expects to take in about $6 million more in parking revenues in 2011 than 2010---around $32 million total.

"The purpose of changing the rates is to find that sweet spot, that one or two parking spaces per block," Bookman said. "The rates stay the same or go down for over 60 percent of the parking spaces in the city. This contrasts with the original 2011 budget proposal, which proposed to increase rates for every parking space in Seattle."

As part of the new meter rates, SDOT will also implement a proposal by Mayor Mike McGinn to allow people to park overnight without fear of getting a ticket if they feel they shouldn't drive. The so-called liquor sticker would allow drivers to pay for parking from 8 to 10 am and pick their car up in the morning after they've sobered up.

The neighborhoods where rates will increase are: First Hill (from $2 to $4), the commercial core (from $2.50 to $4), Pioneer Square (from $2.50 to $4), Capitol Hill (from $2 to $3), Cherry Hill (from $1.50 to $2), Pike-Pine (from $2 to $3), 12th Ave. (from $1.50 to $2), Chinatown (from $2.50 to 3), and Fremont (from $1.50 to $2). The neighborhoods where rates will go down are Uptown (from $2 to $1.50), north Belltown (from $2.50 to $2), the Denny Triangle (from $2.50 to $2) and the Uptown Triangle (from $2 to $1). In six other neighborhoods, rates will stay the same.

The new parking rates will start to take effect around the beginning of February, and the city will start charging for parking at night between April and August.

Bookman said the city has no plans to charge for parking on Sundays, as McGinn initially proposed. "There are no plans for Sunday paid parking at this time," he said.

However, the city will consider changing the price of parking by time of day, starting as early as 2012, Bookman said.

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