By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Tim Louie, of the family-owned Tsue Chong Company, has battled parking problems in recent years. Sometimes, his customers pop into his noodle and fortune cookie factory for a quick 10-minute purchase and come back to their car to find a $40 dollar parking fine. What was once a loading zone is now a paid parking spot.<!–more–>
This year, Louie and his family experienced another hit in terms of parking. The City of Seattle decided to raise the parking rate from $2.50 an hour to as high as $4 an hour in certain areas. The Chinatown area’s rates were increased to $3.
In addition, the hours in which drivers need to pay for parking have been extended from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
With the new rates, the city aims to keep parking turnover high, while keeping a few empty spots available on each block, reducing congestion and promoting retail businesses. The idea is that drivers will spend less time and gas looking for parking.
Though many empathize with the city’s need for revenue, they wonder if higher parking rates are the way to go and if they are actually meeting the city’s objectives.
“The City of Seattle officials are trying to generate revenue and turn over parking spaces,” said Louie. “However, the opposite is happening. … Now, we have parking as a deterrent.”
Many who work and own businesses in the International District/Chinatown believe that the increasing expenses are scaring customers away — all the way to Bellevue’s Asian groceries and restaurants.
“Seattle is not a business-friendly environment,” said Louie.
Currently, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is collecting data through surveys to gauge whether the new rates are detrimental to certain areas of the city, or whether they are a boon.
In a public meeting that took place Tuesday, Aug. 24, SDOT representatives explained that there are two surveys going on right now to watch the parking vacancy rate and utilization in different neighborhoods. There are two separate surveys to determine how parking changes based on seasonality. From there, the data will be analyzed and decisions will be made. Mayor McGinn was also at the meeting.
When asked whether SDOT could potentially make a recommendation to revert the parking hours from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m., representatives said they could not say because they remain unsure.
According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, citing a survey from Colliers International, Seattle has the sixth most expensive parking rates in the country at $264 a month per person, beating out cities like Los Angeles and Chicago. (end)
Assunta Ng contributed to this report.
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.