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‘Finding parking on busy Capitol Hill now even tougher’

“No Parking signs are popping up all over Seattle’s Capitol Hill leaving many frustrated drivers wondering what’s going on…”

Thanks to Lauren for being an excellent neighborhood spokesperson: “I don’t think we need to be accommodating cars necessarily…”

A separated cycle track that will accompany the First Hill streetcar route along the street, the Broadway bikeway between Madison and the Denny Way terminus is slated to be ready for its first riders “in weeks,” according to a SDOT representative. The southern portion is planned to open before the end of the year. No word, yet, on any opening ceremonies but CHS has already started riding the route just to warm it up.

The bikeway will eventually extend all the way up to north Broadway when the streetcar route is extended toward Volunteer Park. The route will be part of the city’s metered bike counter system. Meanwhile, drivers, bikers, walkers, bus riders, etc. will find some “traffic revisions” on the Hill this weekend as streetcar construction continues.

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72 thoughts on “‘Finding parking on busy Capitol Hill now even tougher’

  1. Happy for bike riders and Hill residents. Sad for business owners. Parking is so difficult, we already think twice (or three times), before heading for dinner out on Capitol Hill. We are certainly not going to ride our bikes there from West Seattle.

      • The only problem is for some of us, there isn’t enough better public transit to get to Capitol Hill in a timely fashion and provide business with more customers: If one lives in the east side, West Seattle, and some parts of North Seattle, the lack of timely bus connections (and timely buses in the evening) make getting to Capitol Hill very challenging unless you drive—and I say this as one who lived on Capito Hill for a long time.

    • You could spend 20 minutes commuting from WSea to the hill, only to spend another 20 minutes searching (and probably paying) for parking (because, come on, street parking at dinner time on the hill? nope) – OR – you could ride the bus to downtown and transfer up to the hill in about the same amount of time, while reducing your traffic footprint and environmental impact.

      • OR, you could go out to eat in West Seattle at either somewhere you can walk to there (if you live close enough); or easily find parking in West Seattle. It’s all well and good if there are plenty enough people either walkable to CapHill, or willing to pay for parking, to support all the businesses. But if you really think people with cars will take two busses including a transfer to Capitol Hill just to go to dinner, you’re crazy. They just find other options that don’t include parking hassles.

  2. I took a car2go home from the U District last night, and I had to do a couple laps around 12th/11th just to find a place to put it.

    I don’t have a car, and I live in Capitol Hill so that I don’t have to have a car – but I still feel sympathy when I look at 12th or Broadway and see how impossible it is. I want to live somewhere that’s not car-centric, but I don’t see the advantage of basically telling people with cars to stick it. There’s a difference between alienation and a lack of accommodation. The latter is part of the character of a neighborhood; the former just seems like the result of some weird choices with an agenda with no clear benefit.

    • Pros of less street parking:
      – Fewer vehicle collisions
      – Less traffic congestion for transit & commerce
      – More space for pedestrians, & bikers
      – Allows for more transit (light rail, streetcar, more buses)
      – Less pollution

      Cons of less street parking:
      – Drivers actually have to pay for parking instead of having non-drivers subsidize it through city government

  3. There’s lots of high-quality research in many US and Canadian cities demonstrating that the people who become the repeat customers & spend the most money in a neighborhood are the people who LIVE THERE, not the people who DRIVE THERE.

    In these studies, people who walk/bike also consistently spend more money than people who drive.So prioritizing for residents and people who live in Cap Hill sounds like a great deal.

    If only we made the arterial streets where our businesses were safe and comfortable to walk (esp. West of Broadway), I’d spend a lot more money, too.

    • Oh! Your comment posted while I was writing mine! Ha!

      Any chance you have any links or names of these studies? I’m really curious about this issue and would love to look at some of the data before I spout off about my non-fact-based gut reaction.

      • Sure. The problem is that there are so many different studies that replicate the same conclusion that I can’t remember them all. Here’s a summary of the most recent:

        And the actual study:

        And here’s an earlier Cap Hill Blog article on how this plays out in our own neighborhood:

      • In fairness, that one was an undergrad student project. I have not read it, but my third-party understanding is that it had major study validity issues.

      • To be fair to the study I think you would need to voice specifics abouts its validity so we can have a discussion. I think dismissing it out of hand is a) unfair and b) not constructive to this discussion.

      • Spoons: You might want to start by just reading the comments on the page you linked to. Here’s one by Michael Anderson, of the Green Lane Project:

        “I was excited to see this. Unfortunately, after interviewing two business owners in the two-block, eight-business district covered by this study on Monday and today, I’m all but certain there’s a flaw in this data.

        “I would be shocked if that was rooted in truth,” Patrick Wilson, the manager of the bar on this corner, told me on the phone just now. “The business across the street from us was a self-dog washing place and a drunk driver plowed into it. … A bakery/coffee shop went in there but
        that bakery coffee shop recently closed due to, you guessed it, lack of revenue. Mona’s, the bar next to us, has been steadily in decline since 2010.”

        Wilson, who seemed to be a youngish man himself, said he likes the bike lane but doesn’t think it draws much commerce by itself.

        His assessment was basically identical to that of Kate Hansen, who runs the antique shop across the street, except that she thinks the loss of auto parking just outside hurt her business slightly. (Grain of salt in both cases, I’d say.)

        This was an undergraduate senior project that was well-intentioned but never ground-truthed — the author never interviewed any of the local business owners to ask whether it seemed plausible that retail revenue o their block quadrupled without any substantial new development. It seems much more likely to me that this jump is due to a change in the way the retail data was being recorded, reported or coded by the state.

        I don’t think this is a safe study for bike advocates to be touting, especially with a high-profile separated lane proposal just down the street.”

      • Maybe because I’m a professional social researcher – I’m just not sure what your point is.

        Do you understand what ‘triangulated’ or ‘mixed-method’ research means, and why small sample quantitative research often needs to be validated with qualitative data for contextualizing it?

        You posted sloppy research claims written by a student (who is a great and talented guy, BTW), that you don’t appear to have even read or understand yourself. That’s weird to me, because there are countless rigorous, peer-reviewed studies that generate similar conclusions elsewhere.

        I’m sorry, but I have better things to do with my time than replying further to you.

      • So, from your response I feel like I might have come across as a bit of a troll and that wasn’t my intention. I am sorry about that. Hope you have a good weekend.

  4. I love our walkable/bikeable neighborhood, but as someone who is relocating for work, I also know I won’t be visiting the businesses on Capitol Hill anytime soon, because it’s such a pain to get to.

    I would really appreciate someone taking a hard look at who spends money on Capitol Hill. Maybe such a study is already out there that I haven’t seen. Personally speaking, I would like to see transportation/parking tailored to the people who keep our businesses open. If that’s people from other neighborhoods, we need more, not less parking. If it’s Hill residents, I’m all for more bike & pedestrian options. I FEEL like the residents can’t be doing the lion’s share of consumption, but I also know that I may be dead wrong.

  5. It does make it difficult to frequent some business now. I will miss the load zone in front of Perkins Glass. I can no longer park in front of Yogurtland and quickly pop in so I no longer go there (my waistline rejoices) and have noticed many buffers being created between parking spaces and intersections where there are no stop signs thus compressing parking.

    I live on the North end of the hill by Volunteer Park. It used to be easy to quickly drive down to lower Cap Hill to frequent business, street park and get what is needed with ease. Sometimes I don’t have the time or energy to spend 30 minutes on a bus, spend 45 minutes walking, spend the money on a cab (or desire to wait for it) and I’m not comfortable biking everywhere.

    I still love living on Capitol Hill though :)

    • Wow, you must be parking lucky. I’ve rarely seen parking spots available on Broadway for someone to just ‘park in front of Yogurtland and quickly pop in’ or ‘street park and quickly get what’s needed.’ I’ve spent many hours people watching from Panera, Yogurtland, and Zpizza. I’ve seen many motorist drive around looking for parking and once one is available, how many of them try to make an unlawful u-turn just to try and get that open parking spot. Kudos to you!

      • I’ve actually always found TONS of parking on Broadway until recently too. It’s like people just assumed there would be nothing so there was always a lot. Those times are gone though. I too will miss (but benefit from the loss of) that sweet Yogurtland spot.

      • Ah. Yes, that makes sense, sorry. But it’s still an exaggerated burden. Roundtrip, your car ride under the same circumstances is still 15-20 minutes.

      • As a non-driver, this seems like a pretty reasonable travel time to me. By default, I’d walk anywhere I wanted to go on the Hill, and only catch a bus if I was feeling lazy and knew one was coming. I know that my car-owning friends have different ideas about short distances, though.

    • Timmy, do you think you’ll be more comfortable biking to Yogurtland on the new cycletrack? I know it will only exist south of Denny at first, but eventually it will stretch closer to Volunteer Park. I think/hope the cycletrack will impress and attract many people who are not comfortable riding in traffic.

  6. Interesting that KOMO is so fixated on parking on the most pedestrian-friendly neighborhood in the city! I look forward to the follow-up stories about neighborhoods that make it difficult for walkers and bicyclists.

  7. No worries about accommodating cars for all those new businesses in the area hungry for customers. No worries at all. Laughable to say the least.

    I live in the CD and love the Hill but it costs me a $30 roundtrip taxi ride every Friday or Saturday night I choose to spend my dollar there. Sometimes I just don’t feel up to riding two busses or walking the 5 mile roundtrip in the rain.

    The costs for parking in Seattle has me shopping and attending movies in Bellevue.

    I use public transit often but it’s not always convenient and often not possible.

    Bring me back to Seattle businesses. Make parking available and cheap.

    • $30 for a 5 mile round trip cab ride? Are you taking a stretch limo? I use UberX all the time to get from north Capitol Hill to my office by Pioneer Square, and its $9 each way.

      • That cost doesn’t suprise me. The cab meters tick away sitting at the light. There was quite a few times in the past I had to get a cab to downtown and then back up the hill. $5-7 down the hill, but $12-14 back. Traffic and one-way streets. Pike to 7th then left to Pine and on up the hill, got it back down to $5-7 even in rush hour.

  8. Capitol Hill is not worth 3 bus transfers and 1.5 hours to get to for me, it’s fairly selfish and insular to be so one sided and to think that transit and cycles are the only option. Parking lots are gone, there is no option for drivers from far away, the folks with disabilities , or those that aren’t as mobile, none of the commenters here mention that. The car is not the never ending evil. Is there a city in the US that has outlawed driving and parking yet? Time to get over yourself a tad Cap Hill and think of mixed use solutions instead of squeezing out the evil bad cars.

    • No. Not a single person thinks “transit and cycles are the only option.” There is plenty of parking on Capitol Hill in mixed-use buildings and surface lots. But you have to pay for it. That shouldn’t be a problem though, because when you budgeted for ownership of your car you included things like insurance, parking, and maintenance, right?

      As for the 3 bus transfers and 1.5 hours to get here: well, maybe you shouldn’t live in Tacoma if you want to hang out on Capitol Hill all the time.

    • What entitles you to below market-price parking on the Hill whenever you want it? Do you expect free parking when you go to downtown Seattle too? Ballard? I’ve been a resident of the Hill for a long time, and I don’t expect free street parking. And I pay Seattle taxes, so I’m a heck of a lot more deserving of that free parking that you are. I don’t expect special treatment when I go to Tacoma, so why should you expect it here? The choice is simple. Go to a pay parking lot and pay the going rate, don’t bring your car or don’t come to the Hill. I’m here a lot more than you are, and I can confidently say that there are PLENTY of paid parking spaces available, even during weekend nights.

      Sorry to tell you, but people driving in from afar aren’t what makes the Hill a great place to be. Those who live, work and go to school here are. The Hill will continue to be a great place to live, work, eat, see a show, etc. regardless of whether people who drive hours to get here can find free parking. The City Council, rightfully so, has put in place policies that benefit Seattle and neighborhood residents to make the neighborhood a better place for those of us who spend large amounts of time here.

      And your disabilities comment is BS. They City of Seattle has the same policies for handicap/disabled parking throughout the city, so singling out one neighborhood doesn’t really work. Want to throw stones at Ballard on that one too?

      • React much? I am not from Tacoma another poster bestowed me with that town on me, but it’s cute that you narrowed in on it so much. I am actually from a Seattle zip that is not bus friendly for transfers from the hill that you protect so with your uniformed response. And I never mentioned free parking anywhere in my post, or even cost of parking at all, so i am very curious where you go that or why you jumped on it.. I said parking in general just a parking spot, and I do disagree with you there is not ample parking. the pay lots are disappearing at warp speed, trust me, I would gladly pay – at premium if I could just find one, that was my point.

      • By “market rate parking” I assume you mean the private lots…they are ridiculously priced, so it is no surprise that drivers look for less expensive options. And, by the way, I think that very few people expect to find free parking….although it is available just off Broadway…but they would like to have paid street parking which is reasonably available, and it is the responsibility of city government to provide this.

  9. When I lived on Belmont & Pine for 10 years, I purchased a monthly parking pass at the QFC underground lot. Even though the ‘hood was permitted for parking, there was never anything remotely near my building and I only needed my car on the weekends. I live in car-centric LA now and I definitely miss being able to walk everywhere, and the convenience of Metro.

  10. There are a ton of underutilized pay parking lots on Capitol Hill, I think this is really a non-problem. Joule has plenty of pay parking, first hour is only $3. There is also the parking garage at SCCC and a number of pay lots on harvard, boylston, etc. The problem isn’t a lack of parking, the “problem” is a lack of free or government subsidised parking. If you can’t afford to pay to park, then don’t drive. No sympathy here.

    • I noticed years ago that seemed most people around here drove around the block twenty times looking for a free spot to open up rather then just pay for parking in the mostly empty lot. I personaly hated trying to squeeze into whatever was left on the street and always just paid for the lot. We got rid of our cars about six years ago but kept our building parking for when one of the kids comes to visit or we needed a rental car for some reason. That worked for us, but I understand it doesn’t work for everybody.

  11. Right now it’s totally confusing. Streetcar tracks going all over the street and no idea what it’s ultimately going to look like when it’s done.

    • Yes, lanes changing every block; turn lane one block, none the next; parking on the right side one block, parking on the left the next, no parking at all on the following; two lanes to one lane; etc. What will be fun to watch is the first snow storm when people won’t be able to see all the crazy lane markings…

  12. This antagonism toward car drivers is ridiculous. I’m not particularly pro business, but that is what we have on the hill. Residences and stores and restaurants. Get over it.

    • I don’t antagonize car drivers, but I will happily antagonize the loud cages they ride in, which take up precious space, spew fumes, are a danger to people outside, etc. etc.

  13. Mayor McGinn has had the right idea to displace expensive government subsidized parking (AKA ‘Free Parking or street parking’). Have a look at Amazon reviews and summary of a book (a study really) called “The High Cost of Free Parking” by Donald Shoup.
    We expect free parking, has ben compared to a fertility drug for cars. Why not demand free gasoline too? Parking spaces on the street cost about $12K annually to provide, spaces in a parking garage typically cpst $30-$40K to provide.
    Check out this review:
    “Donald Shoup systematically dissects the enormous hidden subsidy provided primarily by local government to automobile transportation and convincingly upends the notion that there just isn’t enough parking. The problem, he argues, isn’t that there aren’t enough spaces, but that so much space is covered in parking, and so much of that parking is free. Shoup’s treatment of unprincipled local off-street parking requirements is particularly convincing and ought to be required reading for any urban or suburban zoning board. The reader will be surprised to learn the true cost of parking, both monetary and cultural.”

  14. All kinds of people live in this city and neighborhood – it’s incredibly effete thought process that there’s a character value assessed for those who drive a car, if even occasionally. We walk, we take the bus or ride the bike, and we also take the car as appropriate, and to blast people who take the car for their own reasons, is a very holier-than-thou attitude. There are older people who live on this hill who are unable to walk easily. They’re not the Great Satan because they drive their cars (paying taxes) to the businesses they need to go to.

  15. First we got priced off the Hill, now it’s hard for me to even visit. The bus that took me without transfers no longer services both neighborhoods. My disability precludes riding a bike and a parking placard is useless in a private paid lot.

    Do people just expect that everyone will stay fit and healthy all their lives or go politely die somewhere out of the way?

  16. We live in an old building that’s not far from the ever-increasing nightlife of 12th Ave (most of which we can’t afford to go to ourselves). We have an RPZ pass, but there have been nights that I’ve had to park at least a 15-minute walk from home, and had to get up the next morning – early – to move my car back into the right RPZ. It’s gotten noticeably worse over the last couple of years; it used to be that parking was only hard to find Thursday-Saturday nights, but now it moves even earlier into the week. I am glad the neighborhood bars are doing well, but changes in traffic should necessitate some changes in parking solutions.

    The debate over parking in this thread is way too concentrated on the residents vs. the visitors. Many residents DO have a car (we can’t all work at Amazon – if I commuted by bus it would take me four hours each day total), and we pay for our RPZ passes. I’m not even asking to park my own car for free, but I would like to be able to park it in the zone I PAY for at the end of the day. I’d be more than happy if the city created more parking restrictions that forced visitors into pay lots and off the free streets, but the assumption that anyone who worries about parking on the Hill is a visitor is just ignorant and needlessly narrow. As (thankfully) mentioned above, some people need cars – like families. This isn’t and shouldn’t be a neighborhood of young singles/couples only.

    So, I’m entirely with those suggesting that visitors should be ready and willing to pay for parking. But let’s not forget that many of us who live here also pay for it, and some of us need to drive, and that doesn’t make us evil.

    • All excellent points. Metro is set up to take people into the city in the morning and out in the afternoon, leaving those of us that work in the suburbs without an option that doesn’t take almost two hours each way. Microsoft worked their way around this issue by setting up the own bus system!

      Parking has become impossible. I’ve lived on the hill for almost 20 years, and paid for a RPZ pass until I gave up and bought a monthly pass in a pay lot. I’d be perfectly happy if the city extended the restricted parking and metering times to 11PM and forced the off-hill crowd into the pay lots, but the businesses would never stand for that as their model is based on bringing outside people in.

  17. I’ve lived on the Hill since I was 23, minus a year spent in Philly. Now I live in the CD, about a 20-minute walk south of 12th and Pine, after huge rent increases pushed me off of Capitol Hill. I was carless, until I didn’t feel safe on the street after dark. I rode a bike, until I had a bad wreck. Now I’m 60 and have physical challenges. I regret that Capitol Hill is becoming a ghetto for only the young, flush and athletic, hurried along in that direction by building codes that don’t require sufficient parking for residents. The new streetcar will be a nice addition, but the route could not be more convoluted and stupid, selected for politics over true usefulness. It should have been routed up 12th.

  18. Won’t parking on the zpizza/yogurtland side of Broadway be replaced once construction is done? Otherwise, what’s going to happen with the empty lane of traffic between the cycle track and the northbound lane, seen here:

  19. ??? The most clearly visible text in the photo accompanying this article is a “Parking $7 ->” sign. You could’ve been parked in less time than it would take to read the article.

    What you apparently *really* meant was that cheap-to-free parking was going to be a bit harder to come by.

    • A surprising amount of Seattle-area drivers seem to have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that it’s 2013 in Capitol Hill, not 1994 (or whatever idealized time period they remember). Everyone wants to be in Capitol Hill now, and it’s taking its toll. People who live here (like me) are being hit by skyrocketing rent, people who drive here are getting it when they want to park. It’s just the nature of the beast. Any economically healthy big city is like this!

      At least we’re going to finally get a light rail station soon-ish–I imagine the last train of the night is going to be the post-party express on weekends.

  20. You can quote undergrad studies and generic studies allow day long,but this is the slow death of Capital Hill until we have real transit. When I go out to the bars on the hill most of the folks I talk to and run into a r e NOT from the immediate neighborhood. The gay bars up their are the bars for the metro area,not just the surrounding 4 blocks. There will be a lot of closed businesses if you cont I nice to kick out the cars. This isn’t New York yet, it’s very difficult to get from Magnolia to Capital Hill. Sure you CAN theoretically get their by bus,but at 1am it’ll take vastly too long if possible at all. Goodbye Captial Hill as it turns into Kirkland, say hello to the NEXT cool area, Georgetown.

    • Man, are you kidding? Getting to Georgetown by bus takes *way* too long. You end up on a street called Airport Way, for pete’s sake.

  21. Pingback: Capitol Hill’s cycle track goes green — Are your Broadway bikeway wheels ready to roll? | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  22. Here is my question. Why is the city allowing lots of new construction (I favor high rise apartments/condos, urban density, etc.) with way fewer parking spots than units built? This short sighted formula will only put more cars on the streets competing for fewer spaces decreasing the quality of life here for residents and visitors alike.

    I walk most of the time. Our bus system is abysmal for getting anyplace other than downtown or to the University. Busses are slow and unpleasant at most hours. I am all for creating neighborhoods where car ownership is not necessary, but we are not there yet. And decreasing parking spaces in new construction is not a way to improve our neighborhoods.

    • I agree, and think that all new apartments/condos should have SOME parking (mandated by law), including the god-awful apodments which have zero parking. But I’m not sure we need a 1:1 ratio of units:parking spots as some residents will not have cars. Perhaps a ratio of 1:0.5 would be about right for most new buildings, but it must be tricky for a developer to determine in the design phase how many residents will want a parking space when their building is opened.

      Another part of this issue is that putting parking in a building costs a lot of money, and that theoretically increases rents. I think in fairness someone who doesn’t have a car should be given the option of not getting a parking space in return for less rent…..don’t know if this is already the case.

  23. Boo-friggin-hoo! I want to drive my car in from the suburbs (side note, who do you think makes Seattle streets a nightmare), and I am going to whine whine WHINE because I can’t find free or cheap parking in what is rapidly becoming an extension of downtown.

    Our businesses often have lines out the door already. Can’t stand the 10 min walk or 5 min bus/bike ride to your favorite yogurt place? Try menchies or someplace else, or stay home. Desperate to spend 20 minutes on the road to the hill to spend 40 minutes driving around for a free/cheap spot? No sympathy. Ride the bus. Bus takes too long? Fund transit. There is a point where the me, me ,me mentality needs to look up and recognize the context of what’s going on. There is just too much density now on the hill for personal vehicle entitlement. I hope it forces people to think twice about coming here, but it sure doesn’t seem to. I am sad to hear about elderly/disabled difficulties, but it seems clear that they are not alone in spending much more time navigating the streets of the hill, along with the increasing hordes of everyone else, including me, and I live here.

    All I can hear with this article and these comments is: I want density, I want yogurt, and I want it all on my terms rather than dealing with the reality of the situation. Its not McGinn’s fault, Murray can’t fix it. It’s the reality of development and increasing density. You have non-car options, and if someone out there is honestly spending 2 hours going 1 way to the hill, that person is doing it wrong or is driving from far away. Cap hill is not the be-all end-all of jobs, yogurt, alcohol or food. I know there is something of comparable quality (and likely more comfort) much closer to that driver’s home.

    Someone please chime in with a story about Hajj, or the daily commute in Shanghai, Tokyo, or even New York. Its a story of density, and if you don’t like the water, stay out of the pool.

    • Your comment is so spot on! The sense of entitlement here. Capitol Hill rent and real estate prices are some of the highest in the city because the demand is there. Removing 40 parking spaces on Broadway is not going to change that in the least. What happened to 12th ave, 14th ave, or every other N-S street you can take instead? We are talking about just giving the cyclists one safe street to ride on, which will most likely remove them from parallel streets and make driving more easy.

      As someone who grew up in Philly and Chicago, Seattle is still 1000x more car friendly. Hearing people complain about the “progressive” policies of Seattle is like hearing someone complain about there not being enough churches to choose from in Israel. You are living in one of the most liberal cities in the country. You have so many other places to move to that are car centric and lacking in alternative transit.

      If anything these policies are removing healthy people like myself from the car creating more parking spaces and less congestion for those unable or unwilling to use alternative transit.

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