by Kirby Lindsay
On May 19, 2010, Peter Hahn, Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), attended the Fremont Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting at the Lake Washington Rowing Club. Also in attendance were Mike Estey and Mary Catherine Snyder, also of SDOT, and Seattle Police Department Parking Enforcement Section Director William Edwards and Supervisor George Murphy. They took questions and comments from a large number of Fremonsters, most of whom own businesses here but may also have other ties – as residents, artists, employers and land owners.
The topic of the day? Parking.
At The Table
In early 2009 SDOT installed pay parking stations (meters) in the Fremont business district. According to Snyder, the original SDOT plan proposed 500 pay parking spaces but only 73 were actually installed. A Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) also came at that time to several residential block faces.
These steps were taken under the previous director of SDOT. Hahn has recently stepped into this job, and he introduced himself to this audience with a few comments. “I don’t do philosophy,” he pointed out, “I work for a Mayor who has very strong opinions on transportation.”
“We have certain kinds of parking management systems,” Hahn admitted, “some are not popular.” He went on to say that SDOT will be open-minded about problems and solutions. Just because they did something one way previously, it will not be set in stone as the only way to deal with that problem from now on.
Snyder took a moment to share information gathered from a survey done in 2008, yet several members of the audience questioned the methods used and results achieved, as well as relevance. She went on to another study that shows Fremont in third place after Downtown and Broadway in pay station parking space occupancy (way ahead of the University District and Ballard.) According to this study, Fremont has 47% occupancy. Estey pointed out that this number can only be used as a comparison. To calculate actual occupancy of the paid parking in Fremont 20-30% must be added. Several audience members criticized this data for being either deceptive or confusing.
Edwards had already visited several community members, to address reports on attitude. He mentioned, several times, that the job of parking enforcement is “about compliance.” Yet, officers are encouraged to give some leeway on time and space, with one officer known to give up to half-an-hour before writing an infraction. He strongly encouraged those with comments or complaints on officers, or any enforcement issue, send him an e-mail. “If you put it in writing, that makes it exciting,” he said.
Edwards had taken a serious look at the 700 block of 35th Street, and violations issued there. In the first four months of 2010, 40 violations have been issued. The block has one pay station that covers five spaces (he acknowledged complaints about unclear/confusing signage on this block, and elsewhere.) Very few violations concerned non-compliance with the pay station restrictions. Most vehicles violated rules on the free 2-hour limit, parking too close (less than 15 feet) to a fire hydrant, and using a disabled space without a placard.
In The Audience
The audience of approximately 40 people made too many comments to capture here. Jessica Vets, Executive Director of the Chamber, did mention the problem of commuters who park in the neighborhood (at unrestricted curbside spaces) and take a bus Downtown. These were described as ‘Hide-n-Ride’ parkers.
Marko Tubic, President of the Fremont Chamber, stated the organization’s position – more enforcement, more restrictions (conversion of currently unmarked on-street parking to 2, 4, 6 or 10-hour limits) and removal of all pay stations. Eugene Wasserman, President of the North Seattle Industrial Association, said his organization can fully supports this position. Several disparaging comments were made by meeting attendees on the RPZ - especially about confusing and discouraging signage – but no formal position was taken.
Jean Withers, President of the Rotary Club of Fremont, asked Hahn what is going to happen. He said he will see, but he doesn’t know the time line. They will examine the underlying purpose of the current parking management system. (Many attendees suggested pay stations are a revenue source. No one with the City agreed, although Estey mentioned $150-200,000 being raised in Fremont in eight months.) The criteria for the initial pay station installation, Hahn allowed, are not clear. It remains to be seen if the criteria, once determined, have been met.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.