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City of Seattle

January 13, 10:49 AM click here to comment > 11

Why I suspended all-day parking restrictions near light rail stations

After hearing from Southeast Seattle residents and businesses, and conferring with DPD Director Diane Sugimura, I decided to suspend enforcement of all-day parking restrictions near light rail stations while we propose a new policy for Council consideration. By the way, deferring enforcement is standard operating procedure when a policy is likely to be changed. It hardly seems fair to fine someone when a rule change is pending.

This has spurred a lot of discussion (The Seattle Times, Seattle Transit Blog, HugeAssCity, PubliCola, HorsesAss and others) about parking policies near station areas, and a more general discussion about how to promote mixed-use development and walkability near station areas.

Proponents of the ban have some reasonable concerns about parking deterring development, or easy parking encouraging more driving.

Opponents of the ban argue that parking availability might lead people to reduce the length of their driving trips, help light rail ridership or help local businesses.

As I stated when I announced my position, I certainly don’t support construction of new parking structures, tearing down buildings for parking lots, or letting station areas turn into a sea of parking lots. None of these is a good long-term outcome. On the other hand, the current economy means we are not going to see existing parking lots converted to new development anytime soon. As an interim measure, allowing all-day paid parking gives us some benefits.

I think it will intercept some trips headed to downtown and get a few more people used to using rail. It will provide some potential customers for the businesses located near light rail stations. Having had our southeast campaign headquarters at Othello Station I heartily recommend trying out the local restaurants and shops. They are great.

As a condition of permitting, we can also look at requiring lighting and landscaping improvements to parking lots to improve walkability. Perhaps, even go further and dedicate commercial parking tax revenue generated by the paid parking to finance walking, biking, or public safety improvements in the station areas. And let local residents have a say in directing those investments.

As for the paid parking becoming permanent, we can help avoid that in a couple of ways. First, look at zoning and permitting regulations to make it easier to build good mixed-use development that promotes walking and transit use. The pause in development gives us the opportunity to do just that before the next cycle of development. That, combined with the local investments described above, will do more to change the “tipping point” at which new development will happen than banning all-day parking at a time when new development is pretty much frozen. As for the concern that we won’t have the guts to be harder on parking later, well, folks may recall I helped lead the fight against the Roads and Transit ballot measure which would have built 184 new miles of highway and advocated against building new highway capacity on the waterfront. Those projects were endorsed and supported by all the traditional power brokers (and indeed, a few of the environmentalists concerned about this decision), yet I was happy to work hard against tough political opposition for the right outcomes.

And to be clear, I love the debate and discussion over the parking lot issue. Talking about the future of the station areas is worth it so that we can lay the groundwork for good choices in the future.

Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn


Comment from Hinto
Time January 13, 2010 at 10:57 am

Wow, timely communication on a relevant topic, that’s understandable and not full of doublespeak… this is going to take some getting used to. Thank you, first off for that.

Getting to the point, what about the creation of bike lockers or some sort of bike parking situation that allows people to bike to the stations instead of driving? Is that being looked at in terms of this situation?

Comment from Joe Brewer
Time January 13, 2010 at 11:02 am

Thank you, Mayor McGinn, for clarifying your position on this issue.

I really appreciate your candidness and transparency about this entire process, which is right in the middle of a number of larger contentious issues.

Please continue to keep us informed about your thinking as you move forward. The more we become connected with your processes as an engaged community, the better will be likelihood that we get outcomes that match the needs and concerns of neighborhood citizens.


Joe Brewer
Director, Cognitive Policy Works (a local Seattle business)

Comment from Matt the Engineer
Time January 13, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to publicly act on what some may consider a minor issue, and absolutely love the blog-like style of your communications.

“As for the concern that we won’t have the guts to be harder on parking later…” I don’t think we’re not worried about you, but about what could happen in future administrations. Please consider putting in either a hard timeline (say, a 10-year non-renewable permit) or escallating taxes into the requirements. This will give land owners time to plan for development while knowing the exact consequences of not acting.

Comment from Leif Espelund
Time January 13, 2010 at 1:22 pm

I will jump on the bandwagon of “wow, great to see our Mayor providing clarity and explanation of his decisions.” I totally agree with the decision and hope we can work to keep current buildings in place and convert parking lots to TOD ASAP. Also, the part of me that never matured past “teenage boy” enjoys that you linked to not one, but two blogs with the word “ass” in them.

Comment from Joshua Daniel Franklin
Time January 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Thanks! Landscaping requirement would also be a welcome improvement to the many pay parking lots in other parts of the city (downtown, Denny Triangle, University District, and so on).

Comment from Bill Bradburd
Time January 13, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Thanks Mike. It has been suggested elsewhere that some data should be collected to see who is using the lots. Community members outside of a walkable catchment to the station or commuters from the eastside looking to reduce downtown parking expense, should yield a different response from the city (e.g. circulator transit or higher parking fees) .

Regardless, I hope that any future development around the station areas NOT allow any parking for residents (other than car share spaces). Making it optional will only yield it being built because developers will argue that they can not finance or sell those units without parking. Creating parking for those units will raise the unit costs and defeat the intention of reducing autos in the city.

Thanks for your enlightened response to this issue.

Comment from Jon Morgan
Time January 14, 2010 at 9:50 am

I have to admit this seems to make sense in the short-term. I really hope you will look hard at split-rate property taxes in the longer or even medium term to encourage the development we want in station areas.

Comment from Nancy Helm
Time January 15, 2010 at 4:24 pm

I agree. This is a pragmatic and timely decision that will provide near-term support for light-rail ridership. Sure, people should be walking, biking or using other transit to get to the light-rail stations but some of the stations are in neighborhoods that will take 5-10 years to develop into the dense, transit-oriented communities we dream of. In the meantime why not give the property owners a little revenue and the riders a chance to develop a love of light-rail. I do agree with the commenter who asked for more bike lockers to encourage riding to the stations.

Comment from Mr. Baker
Time January 18, 2010 at 8:08 am

What eventually replaces the temporary parking should also pull cars off the street, freeing that car storage street space to be used by other transit.

Comment from David
Time May 3, 2010 at 7:16 am

I loved that part “And to be clear, I love the debate and discussion over the parking lot issue. Talking about the future of the station areas is worth it so that we can lay the groundwork for good choices in the future.”
This is an important point of view we need to know about.
Thank you!!

Comment from tyo
Time July 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm

This is an important point of view we need to know about.
Thank you!!