Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How to fix parking problems in Seattle

Currently, permit street parking can be had for $65 for two years. This should be raised to $1000 for one year. This would still be much cheaper than garage parking (which typically runs a few hundred dollars per month.) People that absolutely need long term street parking could still obtain it. However, many would seek other areas for parking. This may be other areas with abundant street parking. Or, they may decide the car is just not worth it. This will free up additional short term parking in areas where it is really needed. In conjunction with the higher permits, parking meters should be required in all areas with the permits. This would further encourage higher-value parking use. Having pay parking everywhere can reduce the need for circling and save people time (and money!)

In addition to parking, we need to better manage the traffic passing through areas. One simple solution is to add tolls to bridges. The 520 bridge already has a toll. The I-5, Aurora and West Seattle bridges should also get tolls. This provides a nice equitable solution. All toll bridges have a parallel non-toll bridge. People can easily avoid the toll by using the free bridge. The tolls on the bridges can vary based on congestion. Since there will likely be some spillover from the toll bridges to the nearby "free" bridges, the toll money will also be used to improve transit and pedestrian and bike experience. This will help limit excess traffic as well as improve the flow for everyone.
A toll should also be added to enter the downtown region. Initially it will be charged at Stewart and Mercer. The toll will eventually expand to other entry points. The rate will vary based on downtown congestion. (Will be free for lowest congestion periods.)

Downtown, cars should be completely banned from 3rd Ave during AM and PM peaks. Currently it is primarily a bus road. However, cars can legally go a block before turning. Restricting all car traffic can improve the flow of transit. Furthermore, crossings of 3rd should be significantly limited. Vehicle crossings would only be allowed on certain streets. Traffic control officers can be stationed on these streets to prevent blocking the intersection. This will improve the flow of buses (no longer will one car block a series of buses). It will also help make traffic more predictable.
Car use should also be limited generally downtown. Cars should be prohibited altogether from areas that impact bus service. If a new building Prohibit use in areas that impact bus service. If a new building is going up on a major bus route, it may not have a parking entrance on that street.

Parking construction must also be addressed. There should be no parking requirements for any new construction. If parking is added, an impact fee will be charged for each parking space. This fee will be much higher in congested zones. The current structure has been fairly backward, with the fees being charged for new units, while not being charged for new parking. Without parking, there would not be demand for so much car travel and thus not so much congestion. (People that want to live without a car should not have to pay for the parking space and pay for the privilege of living in a walkable area.)

An additional parking tax should be charged on a per-space basis. The charge will vary based on the area. This tax will be paid regardless of the utilization of the parking space. Thus any owners of parking space will have an incentive to make the space usable or convert it to something else. Wide open parking areas will be a very expensive option. Well priced, usable and accessible parking will be ideal. This tax will be in addition to the current parking tax paid by parkers.

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