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Parking Rate Debate

Meghan Walker

Earlier this month Seattle's mayor announced parking rates downtown would be going up. The goal was to increase parking turnover and reduce traffic congestion. But some downtown business owners remain skeptical.

Rosenthal: "I have a huge concern that extending the parking hours from 6 p.m. till 8 p.m. will mean less people that want to come downtown to Seattle to eat or drink at my restaurant."

That's Travis Rosenthal. He owns the Tango Restaurant. He and other business owners were at a forum Wednesday to press the city to reconsider. KUOW's Meghan Walker has the story.


Travis Rosenthal says he's worried about what the new rates could do to his company.

Rosenthal: "They have not done any studies on the economic impact of raising the parking meters. They have no idea how it's going to affect business revenue in the city. They admit they don't know. It seems to me an incredible roll of the dice during such hard times for businesses."

The changes would implement metered street parking until 8 p.m. Rates would go up to as much as $4 an hour in areas with high parking demand like downtown. Parking experts say it will increase parking spot turnover. They also say it will reduce traffic congestion, because people won't have to circle the block as many times to find a spot.

Dennis Burns is with Kimley–Horn, a Phoenix engineering firm.

Burns: "We want to manage parking to contribute to what we're trying to do. So if we don't want to drive people away from downtown we want parking to be accessible, and convenient and affordable. If people come downtown and every on–street space is always full, the perception is there's no place to park and they just go away. So we need to do a better job of letting them know what the resources really are, what the options are, and give them a range of choices, but also put rates in perspective of the larger transportation system."

The new rates were supposed to be implemented February 1. But after hearing business owners' concerns, the city has decided to delay the plan. City Councilman Tom Rasmussen says it's important to find some common ground before carrying out the new fees.

Rasmussen: "The happy medium is setting a rate and raising revenue that meets our transportation needs that is, helping to pay for roads, helping to improve the community and pay for parking enforcement. Obviously it's very emotional, and it's also very, very complex and we need to be very thoughtful before we adopt these new rates."

The City Council now plans to review a study used by the Seattle Department of Transportation to adjust the new rates.

For KUOW news, I'm Meghan Walker.

© Copyright 2011, KUOW

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