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Why Capitol Hill? Analysis behind SDOT $ parking jump shows we can take it

Broadway business owners are going to need to come to the table packing some large datasets with big numbers. Stats show that nowhere in the city is there demand for parking like there is demand for parking on Capitol Hill.

Broadway business owners protesting changes to paid parking rates on Capitol Hill are going to have to push for a roll-back — not a pause. Representatives from the Seattle Department of Transportation briefed the City Council’s transportation committee Tuesday morning and said rates for 2011 have been set and the process to implement the new parking rules will go into motion across the city starting in April.

A SDOT rep addressing the Council committee also pointed out that when it comes to nighttime paid parking, Seattle will be behind the times even with the new 8 PM paid zones in some parts of the city including Broadway and Pike/Pine. Vancouver BC has implemented paid parking that extends through 10 PM.

In the briefing, the SDOT representative said the department hopes to meet the parking goals set by City Hall with even more granular paid zones in the future involving smaller geographical slices and more day-parting so different rates can be charged at different times of day.

In the meantime, Broadway’s business owners will worry about an increase in empty parking spaces along the busy street. Will a $1 jump in the cost of on-street paid parking scare shoppers away? We can’t say, either. But we can say that when it comes to areas of the city that should be able to sustain a possible decrease in demand, our area looks like a strong candidate. Here’s why.

From our look at SDOT’s analysis behind the changes, nowhere else in Seattle can match the Capitol Hill area’s nighttime parking demand — and our daytime demand clocks in second only to First Hill and Downtown. Broadway, for example, didn’t drop below 50% utilization even at slow times before noon. Below are the capacity tables and time of day trends measured in areas around Capitol Hill and First Hill during a one-day (Wednesday, November 10th) sample used in the analysis. The study simply counted the total number of vehicles parked in paid spaces on blocks in the areas listed below. For some areas, SDOT also measured the number of RPZ vehicles. We’ve attached the full analysis PDF to this post.

Capitol Hill area breakouts are below. In this first summary table (full table is in the PDF), note the Hill’s dubious achievement of producing +100% occupied totals after 6 PM. How do we do that? Creative (ie, illegal) parking!

Now the Capitol Hill area and First Hill breakouts including the full block by block look at the data collected on Broadway.

Broadway all maps


Want more analysis of the analysis? Publicola’s look into the initial pull-back on rate changes earlier this year is worth a read.

Here is SDOT’s technical report on the analysis.


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14 thoughts on “Why Capitol Hill? Analysis behind SDOT $ parking jump shows we can take it

  1. Thank you for providing some actual data on this subject. This is basic supply and demand: if demand for parking on the Hill exceeds the supply (which it does), the result is people circling blocks forever looking for parking. The only solution is to build more parking supply, or price the parking higher to meet the demand. So we want to tear down houses to build several massive city-owned parking garages (I personally shudder at the thought), the only solution is to move to the market price of parking.

    Another point worth mentioning is that parking demand is very inelastic. This means that if people want to park in a neighborhood badly enough, raising the price will have little effect on demand. In other words, raising the price will increase turnover and availability of spaces but will not lower the number of people parking here. Businesses do not have to worry about this. Demand is so high for Capitol Hill that we could raise the price by way more than a dollar with no real effect on business. I’m surprised at how many business owners cling to myths and unfounded fears about parking policy. Do they really think Bellevue Square is successful simply because they have free parking? It’s more like a sign of desperation that demand is low that they need free parking to lure people. The data above show that capitol hill has no demand problem.

  2. What about the economic impact to individual people? I have some favorite locally owned shops around the city that I like to give my business. One day last week I made about seven stops in Ballard, Fremont, Queen Anne, Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill. My parking for these quick stops was more than $14. It’s getting difficult to afford supporting these businesses…I often pay a little more for their products already, plus the gas. With parking rates going up and the free 2-hour parking being transitioned into metered spaces I just can’t justify helping our local-owned shops as much. I’m sure I’m not alone. And let’s not forget socioeconomic factors of having diverse populations within our neighborhoods. Do we really want everything to turn into Bellevue?

  3. If anything, Mike, that argument lends itself more to Seattle needing an express Seattle type shuttle between neighborhoods than to cheaper parking.
    Honestly, if these business actually cared about drumming up business from people who live in the city they would be harassing city leaders for progressive ideas rather than ranting about parking being raised a $1 per hour.
    I don’t drive. The few people I know who do drive don’t within the city limits. If there was a shuttle to get us from the Hill to Ballard, I know we’d get out there more. And I know a few people in Ballard with the same reaction to getting to the Hill.

  4. ZEF – I bet as far as shopping goes, you know nothing at all.

    Every woman I know in this city likes to go to Bel Square for hard core big time, big money shopping. And YES, part of it is parking. YES, part of it is about parking. Both cost and ease.

    ALL retail will leave Broadway. High priced food and a sprinkle of small exotic stuff places will remain. On the street they say Urban Outfitters will not renew. Low sales volume.

    City Hall is nuts.

  5. …until it does.

    I have some sympathy for hill business owners concerned about the effect on their bottom line but, really, fuck ’em. If their business plan requires me (and everyone else) to subsidize ’em, it’s a bad plan. If they argue seniority, well, the writing has been on the wall for a good long while. The hill is crowded with cars. It’s not Bellevue or Bellevue Square and will never be.

    As for the SDOT report… It’s beyond fucking ridiculous that the data comes from a single day. That said, I can couple their data with mine and everyone else’s anecdotal evidence to believe there is an issue regarding parking that need be addressed.

  6. There is a bus that goes straight from the Hill to Ballard. If you take the 43, it turns into the 44 which goes down Market. You can even catch it back after last call at around 2 AM.

  7. Yep, totally agree. I live right off of Broadway and will do all my big-item purchases in Bellevue, simply because it’s easier to get in, park, get your stuff to your car and not worry about paying the meter, etc, and time-limits.

    For smaller items, sure, the one-off shops are fine in the neighborhood.

    Capitol Hill businesses will suffer once people figure out they’re getting MASSIVELY ripped off on parking. We’re not a New York or Chicago that can somewhat justify these higher costs.

    It’s absolutely insane that Seattle wants to have this “world-class city” mentality, but runs itself like we’re in the middle of Alabama.

  8. Granted that Capital Hill has a lot of business that attracts drivers. But there are many residents that also have to find street parking. The City in it’s wisdom to not make parking proportional to new condo/apartment developments has made this problem worse. My building only allocates one parking space per unit. I live in a three bedroom condo with a wife and child. As a resident, if I don’t get home by 4:30, there are no parks to be found within three blocks of my residence. There are other developments where parking is even more restricted, meaning some units have no in-building parking. The whole idea of an urban-village is great, except that Americans like to drive cars and mass transit doesn’t serve the party crowd that flocks to Capital Hill.

  9. @Scott2- You say the city created your problem by not requiring enough parking of new construction on Capitol Hill? From my perspective, it sounds like you have tacitly accepted this Faustian bargain by living in a building and a surrounding neighborhood with limited parking. I’m confused, if you don’t like the parking situation, why do you persist in living on Capitol Hill? Perhaps the reason you were able to afford the 3br condo you live in is because the developer was not required to dig a huge hole in the ground to provide two parking spaces for each unit? Parking is a product for sale, not a constitutionally enshrined right. It cracks me up that people are upset about subsidizing healthacare but they’re OK with subsidizing parking on public property.

  10. @ W CapHill – you say that parking is a product for sale, but street spaces are something we have already paid for in taxes for building and maintaining the streets. Those sections of the road to park vehicles are not separate property from the street. With your comment about subsidizing parking on public property, then we should also have tolls on our roads for the usage.

  11. @Mike – Agreed, we have paid for them and they are not separate, per se. And maybe that’s all there should be to the story. But here’s what I’m wondering about. The roads are a public good, paid for by all us hard workin’ Seattle folk. Is below market rate parking the highest and best use of that public good? Why do folks in Seattle want to park on the street? Because it’s cheaper than parking in a free market rate garage? If we expect our governments to be run like a business, then we need to be OK with them charging what the market will bear for the services they provide. Anything less would be a subsidy that must be made up for somewhere else in the budget and ultimately in our wallets.

    What if we got rid of all the on street parking and created extra lanes of traffic? Am I correct in assuming that we’d have less traffic congestion problems? As for road tolls, I would argue that we already have them, they’re the gas tax and the motor vehicle excise tax (among others). Not outright tolls, but a fee nonetheless. We’re are so used to free road access that we forget that many other parts of the country already have road tolls and they haven’t slipped into socialism (not saying the road tolls work well, but they exist).

  12. @Mike “Do we really want everything to turn into Bellevue?”

    I’m confused. The reason Bellevue is the way it is is because Bellevue has endless acres of free parking. You make it sound like it’s my job as a fellow Seattle tax payer to support your driving and shopping habits. I applaud your efforts to support local business, but it sounds to me like maybe you need to adjust your definition of local or re-evaluate your transportation spending. I am curious about your socioeconomic/diversity point. Do higher on-street parking rates discourage mixing of economic classes? You may have a point (and probably one that the city council is more likely to listen to than your tale of woe about having to drive around town paying for parking).

  13. Businesses should have been outraged ages ago about Seattle’s parking policy. This City was built in the mechanical age, not the horse and buggy age. For that major reason many business areas like Broadway formed on TOP of hills. Cars quickly replaced the cable-trolleys, which were ripped out. Our current metro bus system is 2nd-world at best going on 3rd-world. The bus is totally not practical for 90% of our citizens’ local trips. Bus riders don’t buy stuff – and percentage of sales is the foundation of our City’s tax base. People in cars buy stuff-bigger ticket stuff at least. Car transport, like it or not, is a vital fact of our economic and social lifestyle here, and will be for many, many years forthcoming.

    Sales taxes are the financial fuel for our City NOT parking fees! The purpose of parking policies, like meters, was to PROMOTE business not kill it.

    The Gestapo Parking Department of the City however has other thoughts. For years they have been vastly restricting parking to create some kind of urban utopia. Either they are just stupid or Bellevue, Lynwood, Tukwila and the other suburbs must have paid them off because those areas have thrived and boomed while our City’s business areas have descended into a big dark economic and social abyss – most now barely hanging on. This report is one more bogus self-serving example.

    The right solution has been totally missed by the City of Seattle’s Gestapo Parking Department and most air-headed citizens. Using some of the City’s OWN parking policies (as outlined in their OWN white-paper), parking spaces in a two to four block bubble around our business centers should be vastly expanded – by 500 to 1,000% at least – minimum.

    Massive areas of parallel parking should be replaced with angle-in parking with the area between sidewalks and the curb ripped out to accommodate this where these areas are now not used. 50% of the ridiculous parking restrictions and hard-to-read signs should be immediately removed. The 30 feet in front of stop signs restriction eliminated.

    Pike and Pine, as an example, in “the bars” area, and all the cross streets should be angle in parking. (The City’s own parking policy states that angle in parking helps safety by reducing speeds). This alone would result in huge percentage increases for all those businesses.

    Our City should be a world-class trend setter in parking policy – not lost in the last century. But no, because of complacency, fraud, conspiracy, ignorance or arrogance the Gestapo Parking Department has totally missed the boat. An example of arrogance is comparing Seattle to Copenhagen, Paris, even Vancouver – Seattle is a po-dunck outpost compared to these cities.

    For example, long rows of angle in parking could be designated for car-pool parking (2+ in/2+ out). Easy. Other areas could be designated for high-efficiency car parking (30+ mpg vehicles only!). Some spots could have glass covered sheds for bikes, scooters and motorcycles (with a public web-cam so people could watch their stuff from thugs). Heck some areas could be for high-efficiency cars AND car-pools. I’ve seen a little Honda four-door pull up in front on the Broadway Grill with 5 big hunky guys getting out to drink and dine inside.

    Face it – cars are vastly efficient. If you live just outside the business area, say Montlake or Madrona in the case of Capitol Hill and you want to shop, dine or party on the Hill, driving is very efficient, especially if you take others with you. The bus is NOT on option, especially our current Metro. (which is pathetic compared to any 1st-world system). This is true even if you normally ride the bus for all your commuting or other reasons.

    A 1,000-5,000% increase in parking spaces would have no negative impact. It would VASTLY increase the economic activity around the business areas. Bigger ticket higher-level businesses would return to our business areas (which were replaced by large numbers of low-dollar, crummy walk-ups years ago, or now, empty storefronts!). People-traffic of all kinds would vastly increase. Sales tax revenue would enormously expand. Living areas would be in greater demand-hopefully resulting in higher quality buildings. Lifestyle in all ways would improve. And guess what – bus ridership to these areas would sky-rocket!

    If Trendy Wendy can start a trend in THIS direction there is hope for our Greater Capitol Hill business area not to mention all the other business areas in our City from Beacon Hill to Ballard.

    Otherwise, if the idiots at the City of Seattle’s Gestapo Parking and “Urban Planning” Department continue to win-out – it’s guaranteed that the long, slow decline in economy and lifestyle will continue for many more decades to come. Businesses getting smaller, lifestyle getting worse, Metro becoming 3rd-world going on 4th-world, buildings even more heinous than “Joule” constructed, etc.

    Everyone of you who reads this, and “gets-it” should right now send an email to the City Council and Mayors office. It takes less than 5-minutes and would help to stop this dumb, horrible and totally destructive parking policy and at a great level combat the acceleration of civic apathy which over the years has gotten us into this mess. It’s YOUR duty as a citizen! Write NOW! I’m copy/pasting this comment to them – you should send your OWN message too – even it it’s only one sentence!

  14. Where a city contracted report determined there was a pricing problem with the private parking lots — they were priced too high.

    Also, one of our goals for the transportation section of the Capitol Hill neighborhood plan was for long-term off-site parking, to allow residents to legally rent underused spaces in other properties. I don’t recall seeing any action towards helping residents who need to store their cars when they aren’t using them daily and their building and neighborhood doesn’t have adequate parking available.