If Seattle is waging a war on cars, it's the Iraqi army.
The Seattle Transit Blog posted outtakes from its city council candidate interviews today and this snippet from District One (West Seattle) candidate Shannon Braddock tripped me up.
From the STB Outtake:
STB: On charging for parking in West Seattle
Braddock: I’m open to discussing charging for parking, but I have not come to any conclusion yet. People will lose their minds, but yeah, I think we have to talk about it.
Okay. Getting up of the floor now. What? West Seattle—including around the Junction—doesn’t charge for parking?
Well, neither do the business districts in Southeast Seattle like Columbia City, nor in North Seattle around Northgate or Lake City. Unfortunately, that argument doesn’t justify free parking in West Seattle, it simply reveals how skewed Seattle public policy is toward accommodating cars.
“There isn’t the demand to warrant it at this time,” SDOT spokesman Norm Mah tells me.
SDOT does regular surveys to track demand, and they only institute paid parking if the supply of spots isn’t meeting the demand to encourage turnover. (I guess Seattle's parking problem is overrated.) SDOT’s goal is to have one to two available spaces on a block throughout the day, which translates to a target occupancy range of 70 percent to 85 percent. At that occupancy, parking is well utilized, and customers and visitors can reliably find an available space.
Over in the Junction, SDOT surveys still show there are plenty of open spots. (In Ballard, recent surveys showed the demand was crimping supply, and so SDOT introduced new rates and time limits there to free up spaces.)
The fact that there are eight private lots between SW Edmunds and SW Oregon Streets around the Alaska Junction, though, settles any debate about whether the city is actively providing subsidized parking. If private businesses found a market to make money, why can't the city?
Meanwhile: Only one portion of West Seattle charges for residential parking, the Fauntleroy zone in far-west West Seattle by the ferry dock. There are 31 residential paid parking programs in Seattle (it’s $65 for a year.) The 31 Restricted Parking Zones (RPZs) stretch from Rainier Beach, dotting central Seattle north to Licton Springs with zones in Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, Wallingford, Roosevelt along the way. (Queen Anne, Magnolia, and Uptown are in there, but Ballard and Crown Hill are not.) The recent HALA report recommended some smart ways to reform the RPZ program by linking pricing to demand and making pricing more competitive with on-street rates. They also recommended reducing the quantity of RPZ passes.
As for the paid spots around the city, hundreds out of half-a-million on-street parking spots citywide, I have written before about how the majority of those spots allow between two hours and...10 hours! for paid parking. This belies SDOT's claim that parking spots are intended as a shared city asset for people to move in and out of on quick stops as they complete daily errands.
More importantly, the fact that the public right of way in any business district in this city is handed over for free, undermines all the dreamy talk about remodeling our city around pedestrian and transit priorities. I’m all for prioritizing a West Seattle to Downtown ST line in the upcoming ST3 debates, but who are we to lecture Federal Way for undermining Transit Oriented Development when our own policies promote Car Oriented Development.