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‘Pay by plate’ will mean no more parking stickers in Seattle (and you probably still won’t be able to find a spot to park at night on Capitol Hill)

The end of the stickies

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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19 thoughts on “‘Pay by plate’ will mean no more parking stickers in Seattle (and you probably still won’t be able to find a spot to park at night on Capitol Hill)

  1. Any word on a privacy impact assessment for this potential new database, likely held by a third-party commercial entity, of whose vehicle was seen where and when it was seen there?

    I want to anonymously drop some coins in a slot and immediately receive proof of payment that I can stick on whatever vehicle I wish to park, indicating to parking enforcement staff that the vehicle need not be further investigated. That’s convenience.

    • Or, better yet, to drop some coins in a meter immediately adjacent to me vehicle and walk away. Remember those days, maybe ten short years ago? Ultimate convenience. Worked fine for decades.

      • Other than the fact that you always had to remember to replenish the coins in your car, but not put in too many at a time so it wasn’t a break-in threat, and then when you forgot them you had no way to pay for parking, so you’d run in a store and buy a pack of gum and hope they didn’t come ticket you in the meanwhile, and you didn’t really need the gum, etc. In other words, not convenient at all.

      • Steve, this has never been a problem for me, and if someone breaks into my car, loss of the $10 – 20 that is out of sight in the coin drawer will be the least of my concerns.

    • Phil I’m sure you don’t have a Facebook account, a cell phone, use the interne, or for that matter just walk the street?

      If “they” want to know what your doing they wont need to know where you parked.

    • The now-ancient parking meters at every spot added to the clutter on our streetscapes. The parking stations are a big improvement as far as aesthetics are concerned.

  2. Oooooooh they’re gonna know where you parked!

    The good news is that when you need to get more tinfoil for your hat at Safeway, they have their own parking lot, so the guvmint won’t know you were there (unless you use a credit card).

    • I’m not so concerned about recording of my location, individually. I’m not particularly at-risk or interesting. Unfortunately, unspecified parties, along with anyone to whom the parking meter service provider knowingly or unknowingly provides this information, are going to know where everyone parked–including those who parked near a mosque, women’s health clinic, hourly motel, political demonstration, etc.

      • They already do this. Seattle parking enforcement has patrol cars that automatically scan plates to identify violators of 2hr or 72hr parking rules.


      • I agree with you Phil. Not everyone is in denial about the erosion of privacy or that certain groups are being targeted in this country. It’s not tinfoil hat, it’s the nightly news.

      • Phil, how dare you accuse me of not using hourly motels, attending political demonstrations, or visiting women’s health clinics!! Knocked out two of those three actives four times in the last six months!!!

        **end of faux outrage**

        Just because I’m not fretting over my parking data being leaked or *gasp* sold, doesn’t make me I’m privileged… it just makes me not paranoid.

    • Both you and the city’s ALPR scanners can easily find the license plate number for rented or borrowed cars. Citations for parking violations will presumably be issued to registered vehicle owners just as they are with the traditional metered parking systems.

      • So, if i am a visitor to the city and go to park i need to go thru the process of creating an account, registering my vehicle therein, and providing credit card info before i can park? And that is more convenient than simply swiping my card or entering coins and putting a sticker on the window? I am not so sure about that. Maybe I am missing something about that process, but that doesn’t seem convenient.

      • Or pay for a friend’s parking as a thank you for the ride? There’s a lot of missing info in the article and maybe in the whole process.

    • I had the same question. Not sure if anyone will see this comment now that the thread is a few days old, but it seems like there might be a concern for stalking. If you can look up a plate number and see where the car is or has parked then that would be a major concern. I also wonder if this would be really inconvenient for people who are visiting and don’t want to or know to download an app/whatever system they have.

  3. Just add a few cameras and it can automatically issue parking tickets as well once it has your license and knows roughly where and how much you paid. Or it could just summon the ticket guy…