Parking on Capitol Hill should be more convenient under a new “pay by plate” system coming to Seattle that will allow people to enter their license plate number to pay for parking rather than print out a sticker and put it on their window.
“People just won’t have to walk back to their cars,” said Margo Polley, strategic advisor to the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Parking Projects/Transit & Mobility Division.
“What we’re doing is changing the pay stations on the street to mirror our pay-by-phone system.”
“Pay By Plate” authorizes new methods of payment for parking in the city. According to the Seattle City Council, the new system will allow you to create an account that holds your credit card information and the license plate numbers of any cars you wish to register. This way, you can go to a pay station, swipe your card, then simply choose the corresponding license plate of the car you’re driving and how long you want to park it there.
The city reports that 29% of parking is currently paid for by phone. The city currently contracts Paybyphone, owned by Volkswagen Financial Services AG, to run the mobile payment service.
Council members raised issues in a briefing last month about accessibility and enforcement of the new program. The Seattle Department of Transportation is still clarifying the administrative process of contesting a parking ticket. Meanwhile, parkers will lose the portability of the old sticker system. For one, you won’t be able to take your sticker with you to park at another location in the city. And the end of stickers will bring to an end the well-meaning but probably mostly fruitless efforts of leaving your unexpired paid parking sticker behind on the meter for somebody else to grab.
Pay by plate follows ongoing expansion and optimization of the city’s paid parking program including some of the more recent changes like extending paid parking to 10 PM in high demand areas like Capitol Hill. The increasingly rare and expensive resource — especially nighttime parking — remains at high demand. Since 2010, SDOT has conducted studies of parking trends and behavior along Broadway and the Pike/Pine nightlife blocks. Demand remains constant despite the increased hours and costs.
Flexible paid parking policies have been championed by city officials for some time now. In 2010, the Seattle City Council and then Mayor Mike McGinn adopted the “Paid Parking” policy, which asks that SDOT structure its parking fee and timing structure to ensure that there is an average of one to two spaces open for use per city block throughout the day. This prompted the annual collection of parking data, and corresponding regular adjustments of paid parking structures on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis. As such, fees get raised and lowered based on demand in the area.
Seattle has also begun to use parking as a lever in its effort to address affordability issues by cutting parking requirements for some development in transit-heavy areas of the city.
The city can begin roll out of the pay-by-plate system now that City Bill 119291, an ordinance that will update parking payment methods and the rules for how the city posts parking requirements, was passed. Anticipating these changes, months ago, the city started installing pay stations that are compatible with the new system.
“I don’t foresee any challenges,” Polley added. “It’ll just be a bit of getting used to for our drivers.”
The city’s transition to the new system, which officially begins in a month, will take four months to complete after which it will be available at every parking meter in Seattle.
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