1. File this under Parking Dharma (ie, a much calmer perspective than Parking Karma—that revises our steering wheel myopia for right-out-front-parking with a larger, bird's-eye view.)
Or, put less garrulously: File this under Reality Check.
Much like the recent Nelson-Nygaard study that exposed the driving public's frustration about the supposed scarcity of parking as mildly delusional (on average, the supply exceeded the demand by 65 percent when drivers were willing to expand their search one or two blocks), the Seattle Department of Transportation's report on parking supply in neighborhoods near light rail stations shows there's actually plenty of parking available.
However, state Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-11, SE Seattle), responding to complaints from his constituents in neighborhoods along the light rail in SE Seattle that commuters are using residential streets as light rail park and rides, is pushing legislation to make Sound Transit cover household costs for exclusive parking permits, known as RPZs (Restricted Parking Zones).
SDOT's report on parking supply in neighborhoods near light rail stations shows there's plenty of parking available.
Here's the reality check, though: According to SDOT's data, parking occupancy has not increased since light rail went on line in July 2009.
Around the SoDo and Stadium stations, where there are no exclusive parking zones (known as RPZs), the data shows little change pre and post-light rail. In SoDo, occupancy rates rose slightly in the mornings, from 70 percent occupancy before light rail went online to 71 percent after. In the afternoons, it has stayed the same at 73 percent. Near the Stadium station, there's been a slight increase in occupancy in the mornings, from 67 to 69 percent occupancy and a decline in the afternoons, from 76 to 71 percent.
For some context on occupancy rates: SDOT's threshold for paid parking downtown is 85 percent occupancy—meaning that there are about one to two spaces available per blockface. (Anything above 85 percent is a problem.) The threshold in the neighborhoods, according to the SDOT light rail occupancy study, was no more than 10 percent of blocks at 75 percent.
In an average RPZ area—let's take the streets around the Beacon Hill station where Sen. Hasegawa lives—the occupancy rate has gone down, from 33 to 29 percent in the afternoons and from 38 to 31 percent in the mornings.
In SDOT's mind that means the RPZ program has been a success because it has protected residents and businesses from being displaced by "Hide and Ride"commuters who drive into the neighborhoods for light rail parking.
Meanwhile, and challenging Hasegawa's argument that locals shouldn't have to pay for that protection, it's not clear the permits are the key. The SDOT study notes: "Since 2011, the number of residential permits issued has decreased by 36 percent. The reduction in permits issued has not changed parking utilization in the neighborhoods."
And I'd add, we're still talking, on average, a status quo of around just 30 percent occupancy.
The report found that only 4.1 percent of the blocks in Beacon Hill ever exceeded 75 percent occupancy. (In Rainier Beach only 2.6 percent of blocks, that's 1 block, exceeded 75 percent occupancy; on the highest end, 10.7 percent of the blocks near the Othello station ever exceeded 75 percent occupancy.) Again, the threshold for problems during their RPZ pilot was 25 percent of blocks at 75 percent occupancy.
The report states: "Overall, parking utilization [occupancy] at the stations with RPZs has remained below 45 percent."
2. And, just like my US Sen. Maria Cantwell vs. US Sen. Elizabeth Warren post, file this one under: A Super Bowl angle for PubliCola.
Last week, when veteran Seattle city council member Nick Licata announced he wasn't seeking reelection, I asked—given that he first rose to prominence as a critic of public funding for the Seahawks stadium (and continued his nerdy opposition to sports by opposing Sonics funding and telling Sports Illustrated infamously that the Sonics had zero cultural value ), what he thought about the Seahawks stadium and the swell of civic pride now.
Me: Nick, you rose to prominence a bit on your opposition to the stadiums and public financing. You had a funny quote in Sports illustrated too about how the Sonics weren’t a cultural asset. How do you feel about the Hawks today?
Nick Licata: Go Seahawks! I’ll tell you there’s a weird thing, they should be paying me. I don’t actually watch football games all that much, but I’ve noticed a really funny quirk. I generally watch football towards, literally in this case, the last four minutes of the game. And, I walk in and they start winning. Honest to God, it’s happened twice before. Now, I know the Seahawks have a reputation of winning towards the end of the game, it could just be coincidence. But I just happened to turn on the TV towards the end of the game [against the Packers], and I see them winning. But there could be something more than that.