Department of Transportation officials will argue Tuesday afternoon that the city shouldn’t move forward with a plan to create “parking benefit districts” across Seattle that would give neighborhoods a major slice of the revenue generated by pay meters on their streets.
In a briefing planned to be part of Tuesday’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee session at City Council, SDOT officials lay out their case that there are significant logistical and legal concerns about earmarking any of the more than $30 million in paid parking revenue annually collected in the city for neighborhood-specific budgets:
In 2015, Capitol Hill Housing’s EcoDistrict program was provided with a $20,000 grant to study the state of parking in the neighborhood. Later, the City Council asked SDOT to work with the organization to provide a report on a possible path to creating a district shared parking program that would more directly benefit the neighborhood. With that report in hand, SDOT says it believes that its “performance-based” management of neighborhood parking rates is already strongly established in the city and that a parking benefit district program would gum up good traffic management:
Parking benefit districts were also part of the recommendations from the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee. But parking districts would raise significant equity issues, SDOT says. For example, our own District 3 has a much larger opportunity for parking revenue than District 2:
The allocation of revenue by parking distribution could also run counter to actual transportation needs in the area. “A parking benefit district model would allocate transportation funding to various paid parking areas regardless of identified transportation needs in those areas,” the SDOT brief on the recommendation against the districts reads.
While it recommends against the city implementing a parking benefit district from the Capitol Hill Ecodistrict study, SDOT says it will continue working with the organization to pursue other parking solutions — including possible expansion of paid parking into late night hours:
SDOT is also moving forward with a community proposal to expand Restricted Parking Zone 15 across most of the area between Broadway and I-5 near Capitol Hill Station.
SDOT also says its Community Access and Parking Program is working with Pike/Pine businesses and organizations to revise “data-driven” and “performance-based parking policies.” Translation? Those kinds of revisions added about 700 paid spaces in various neighborhoods in 2015.
UPDATE: Sightline’s Alan Durning explains why the City Council should move forward with a parking benefit district on Capitol Hill:
That’s where PBDs come in. They are a brilliant work-around. They tap neighborhoods’ territorial impulses about curb parking and give it a constructive outlet. If neighbors stand to benefit from increased metering, or from charging for parking badges or stickers in neighborhoods, fewer of them will put pressure on local officials to defend or increase off-street parking quotas at new buildings. Some of them will even become a new political force in city politics: a force against parking quotas, in favor of charging curb spaces, and in favor of infill housing development—because it will fund community projects. Indeed, localizing a share of parking revenue can help to neutralize neighborhood opposition to new housing, even exclusion. When such a political force is mobilized, great leaps forward toward compact, walkable, affordable communities will be possible.
UPDATE: There was no vote attached to the afternoon briefing, just an opportunity to discuss the executive branch’s decision not to move forward with a parking benefit district. While chair Mike O’Brien seemed happy with the current rate of SDOT’s paid parking innovations and committee member Kshama Sawant said she agreed that the district concept appeared inequitable, committee member Rob Johnson said he felt the city was missing out on a “business opportunity” by not pursuing the districts. Still, Johnson quipped, “Only in Seattle would we have a 43 minute discussion about Don Shoup.” The UCLA professor is the author of The High Cost of Free Parking and an urbanist hero.
Meanwhile, the committee also approved legislation dropping speed limits across the city in an attempt to cut down on fatal collisions. The legislation will go to the full council for a final vote in coming weeks.