Nighttime paid parking leads to more 6 PM spaces on Capitol Hill — but you’re still kinda hosed around Pike/Pine

(Image: sea turtle via Flickr)

(Image: sea turtle via Flickr)

Finding an evening paid parking spot on Capitol Hill should have become slightly easier since 2011, that is if you don’t mind the occasional “wow, how did that car fit that space?” feat of inspired parallel parking.

In 2011 the city extended paid parking hours from 6 PM to 8 PM on Capitol Hill and other areas to prevent drivers from locking up a space for an entire night — a great deal for the enthusiastic happy hour crowd, not so great for anyone trying to find parking for an evening show.

An annual study released this month by the Seattle Department of Transportation  found extended paid parking in 10 nightlife areas around the city lead to 20% more available spaces at 6 PM and 18% more available spaces at 7 PM. On Capitol Hill, significantly more spaces opened up at 6 PM in 2013, but nearly all official parking spaces were still being occupied by 7 PM. By 8 PM spaces around the neighborhood begin to open up — according to the study.

SDOT split Capitol Hill into three sections: a north and south section divided at E John, as well as a Pike/Pine section. Metered parking occupancy at 7 PM in all three areas was well over 100% prior to extended pay parking.

“It’s an indication that parking is proving tough … people are willing to risk parking illegally,” said SDOT’s parking strategist Mary Catherine Snyder.

Here’s what it looked like in 2013 — as you can see, Pike/Pine’s fever line never really dips into the easy pickings zone.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 6.24.51 PM

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 6.23.57 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 6.24.12 PM

All in all, the three regions still show that the Hill’s paid parking is stuffed to the gills.

% of parking capacity utilized during 7 PM:

  • North Capitol Hill: 98%
  • South Capitol Hill: 101%
  • Pike/Pine: 104%

Metered parking was similarly overstuffed at 6 PM prior to extended pay. In 2013, North Capitol Hill saw the biggest drop in parking oc,upancy at 6 PM among the 10 areas, falling from over 120% into SDOT’s target range of 70%-85%. South Capitol Hill also fell into the target range in 2013, and Pike/Pine fell just above it. We’ll check in with planners to see what, if anything, they can do to push Pike/Pine into the target zone — what’s the maximum hourly rate you’d pay for an E Pike parking spot at 7 PM?

Throughout the 10 extended pay areas, evening paid parking reduced the 6 PM occupancy rate from 93% to 73% and the 7 PM occupancy rate from 103% to 85%.

SDOT will be meeting with City Council in May to recommend rate changes and other strategies to help open up more parking in areas like Pike/Pine. SDOT representatives told CHS they will not be extending paid parking past 8 PM.

SDOT also identified several other explanations for why parking occupancy may have dropped in recent years:

  • Additional changes to rates and time limits, which occurred in multiple areas
  • Different blockfaces included in the annual survey
  • Neighborhood changes, such as new developments or popular new attractions
  • Seasonal variation, as data were collected during different months from year to year
  • Random variation, as occupancy observations are gathered for only one day each year

31 thoughts on “Nighttime paid parking leads to more 6 PM spaces on Capitol Hill — but you’re still kinda hosed around Pike/Pine

  1. Great. That will make parking harder to find by my apartment when I get home from work. >:| Longer paid parking on main streets = people avoiding meters and more congestion on the neighborhood streets where the residents live.

      • Your comment is kind of calloused. Not everyone can afford the high rates of private parking. Of course no one is “entitled” to free parking, but it is an amenity that all cities offer their citizens.

        • All cities offer free parking – since when? Ever been to New York or San Francisco? A dynamic urban environment, convenient parking, cheap parking – you can’t have all three, so pick your favorite two.

          • have you been to NYC or San Francisco? San Francisco is much more congested and busy than Seattle… and NYC has a population of 8 million people

          • Obviously every city is different, I was taking issue with the statement that “all cities” offer free parking as an inherent right of citizenship. This isn’t New York or San Fran, but surely no one believes that parking demand is low enough in Seattle that the city can give spaces away for free to everyone who would like to park a car. A lot of people still have this 1950s mindset that free parking and cheap gas are practically enshrined in the Constitution, but that’s simply not reality in big cities of the 21st century.

          • Yeah, but SF and NY also have great means of mass transit. They have the BART and Subway systems, and we have…a bus system that we are in the middle of doing major cut backs on. Once we get the light rail extended, then I do think that parking should be viewed as more of a luxury.

          • Please not that I did not say free parking is an “inherent right of citizenship.” That is hyperbole on your part.

            Capitol Hill is about 90% residential, with many quiet, non-congested streets. Do you favor metered parking in these areas just because you believe that free parking is evil?

          • Please note that I did not say “free parking is evil.” There is probably better technology than parking meters, but I think that on any street where people regularly find it tough to get a spot, it makes sense to charge something for parking. Maybe it’s only a dollar or two a week on quieter streets, but there are a lot of streets in Capitol Hill where we need to stop pretending that parking is plentiful enough we can give it away for free.

          • My job involves me analyzing New York City on-street parking patterns.

            New York has a glut of free parking. More than you can dream of.

          • Sorry, JB, guilty as charged.

            Your proposal is interesting, but from a practical viewpoint if would be difficult to determine which streets should have paid parking. And, really, we already have a form of “paid parking” on many of our residential streets…the “RPZ” program….people must pay a fee to get one of the placards.

          • Well, it’s clearly too difficult for the government to figure out which streets should have paid parking, which is why we need the delicate feedback mechanisms of a market-based approach. Basically, the optimal condition is one or two open parking spaces on any given block at any given time; as parking gets tighter than that, you nudge rates higher until supply and demand come back into balance. How hard could it be to write an algorithm that would do that? Actually, my understanding is that San Francisco and some European cities are already implementing this, though I don’t know the details off the top of my head.

    • After 5 you can already park for the rest of the evening (it’s a 3-hour time limit since it only goes till 8, but then you don’t have to pay after 8, so effectively, there’s no time limit). Congrats.

  2. I’m curious if anyone has looked at how Car2Go has impacted parking in terms of spacing of cars. Sometimes I’ll see a stretch of blocks where there are only Car2Go shaped spots but nothing big enough for a normal car. It seems like they are making things a bit awkward. Just a sort of funny observation!

    • I’m pretty sure someone has studied whether standard spaces or the squeeze-in-as-possible type provided more parking overall, and in mixed-up street parking squeezing wins on average.

      Those aren’t spaces marked off at Car2Go size? they’re just leftover gaps? Could also be due to big and small cars moving out of synch, or cautious drivers, etc etc.

  3. What annoys me the most is how commercial load zones got changed to 8pm when the changed the metered spots. Pretty sure commercial deliveries are finished by 6pm.

  4. In this day and age, se should have parking rates that fluctuate continuously with demand – low parking occupancy, rates fall; high occupancy, rates rise. Makes a lot more sense to take signals from the free market than what the city bureaucrats think they know about parking demand or motorist expectations of when there “should” be free parking.

    • Wow, just wait…Are you saying the partly communist City Council cannot gauge the market?

      But seriously, yes it should all just be based off of demand in the big scheme the city would prolly bring in a lot more revenue.

      • More revenue is fine, but I think the main thing is that we should be managing this limited and valuable resource in an economically rational manner. That would boost both economic growth and quality of life in the city.

    • But when a system does that, e.g. Uber surge pricing, carryon luggage by the pound, people *hate* it. I agree that it’s more sensible in economic theory, and often as just as any way of handling scarcity — but it seems to be a PR pitfall.

      • Well is Uber getting rid of surge pricing anytime soon? I doubt it. No one likes paying more than they were used to, but people have gotten used to the idea that if you want, for example, a last-minute airline ticket you may need to shell out some big bucks, but hey that’s better than not having the option at all. There is of course a faction of old guard Eisenhower-era suburbanites who will never give up on the idea that everyone can have personal transportation on uncongested freeways right up to the door of their destination even in dense urban environments like Capitol Hill, but must city-dwellers have come to realize that parking that is both cheap and convenient is not part of the deal in places like this.

        Btw, Car2Go will help change this conversation too – that model makes it pretty obvious how time is money, and how it’s actually better to have parking rates set high enough that can find a spot when you need one.

  5. Well is Uber getting rid of surge pricing anytime soon? I doubt it. No one likes paying more than they were used to, but people have gotten used to the idea that if you want, for example, a last-minute airline ticket you may need to shell out some big bucks, but hey that’s better than not having the option at all. There is of course a faction of old guard Eisenhower-era suburbanites who will never give up on the idea that everyone can have personal transportation on uncongested freeways right up to the door of their destination even in dense urban environments like Capitol Hill, but must city-dwellers have come to realize that parking that is both cheap and convenient is not part of the deal in places like this.

    Btw, Car2Go will help change this conversation too – that model makes it pretty obvious how time is money, and how it’s actually better to have parking rates set high enough that can find a spot when you need one.

  6. Pingback: With demand as high as ever, Pike/Pine parking rate likely rising to $2.50 in August | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

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