Have you found it any easier to park after 6 p.m. lately? The city says that you should have.
According to the Seattle Department of Transportation, evening occupancy of on-street paid parking spaces dropped from over 100 percent to between 70 and 85 percent in most neighborhoods since 2011. Where should you direct your hand-written, perfumed letters of gratitude, you ask? Praise be unto the city’s evening paid parking program, which extended paid parking hours from 6 to 8 p.m. in business districts of eight neighborhoods including Capitol Hill in 2011.
SDOT released a report Monday that analyzed data collected since 2010 and summed up the changes to available spaces during peak parking hours. On the whole, it really does appear that you’ve got a better chance of finding a space now than you did before the paid hours were extended. Capitol Hill, where the busiest areas experienced the city’s highest occupancy – over 120 percent of spaces taken at 6 and 7 p.m. – is now down to under 100 percent at 7 p.m. and around 85 percent at 6 p.m. The Pike/Pine corridor, whose data SDOT handled separately from the rest of Capitol Hill, also saw a decline. Still, most of the Hill has managed to elude SDOT’s target range of 70 to 85 percent of spaces available during the evening peak.
The department’s associate transportation planner, Ruth Harper, previously told The Capitol Hill Times that SDOT was directed to collect data and make decisions with the goal of preserving one or two free spaces on every block. Paid parking hours were then extended until 8 p.m., with a three hour limit after 5 p.m., in an attempt to encourage overnight parkers to move away from the business cores.
Of course it’s easier to find a parking spot now, some businesses argue, because fewer people are coming to the areas where the changes went into effect.
“I can show you email after email of people asking where to park,” Century Ballroom owner Hallie Kuperman told The Capitol Hill Times. “If you’re having to pay on top of doing these actives, you’re probably going to make another choice. We’re hearing it from people.”
Kuperman cites the city’s decision to extend the hours of paid parking as the “number one killer” of her business between 2011 and 2013. Century, which gains most of its income from its dance classes typically held between 6 and 9 p.m., saw a drop in income of $161,000 in 2012. “We started seeing losses immediately after the [parking] change,” she said.
“It’s an additional tax on taking class with us or dining with us,” Century’s Gavin MacDougall said in 2012, soon after the changes went into effect. Losses have increased since that time, Kuperman reported.
What to do? “I want to see [the paid parking cut-off] go back to 6 p.m.” Kuperman said. That would avoid dissuading people from taking evening classes or driving to the Hill for dinner. The city argues that its changes have made it possible for customers to slip in spaces that were previously occupied by those parking overnight, and plans to present more changes to parking rates, hours and limits in May.
For SDOT’s study, Capitol Hill was broken up into north and south subareas, divided by East John Street, and a Pike-Pine district. The neighborhood north of East John Street saw the largest reduction in occupied parking spaces, especially during peak hours. There was a little drop south, and Pike-Pine saw a nearly 10 percent reduction with the number of occupied spaces plateauing after 7 p.m.