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