New proposal would raise parking rates in Seattle

SEATTLE -- Parking is a never-ending battle in Seattle, and big changes in the works could soon make things even more challenging -- and expensive -- for drivers and business owners.

As part of a new parking proposal, the city's meters will be replaced with so-called "smart meters" that will base parking fees on the time of day.

The City Council will hear what those new rate proposals will be during its Tuesday session, but council members are already getting plenty of opinions from frustrated drivers.

Seattle parking is a topic that no matter what you ask, you'll likely get an emotionally-driven answer.

"As someone who's lived here all my life, that's insane for parking," said Dorothy Biro.

What Biro thinks is insane is the proposal to increase afternoon parking rates in Pioneer Square to $4 an hour, which equates to a $.50 cent jump.

"The longer people stay, the more they're going to shop, the more it's going to benefit people," Biro said.

But Biro and the owner of FX McRory's don't think they will stay longer if the rate goes up. With new businesses just opening and others on the way, there is worry the rate will keep customers away.

"I mean we're a building neighborhood," said Mick McHugh of FX McRory's. "We're not as mature as Pike-Pine, as Ballard, as Broadway. You know, I don't understand why they're picking on us."

More Seattle neighborhoods are seeing a proposed decrease rather than increase, which is welcome news to many drivers.

According to the Seattle Department of Transportation, it's all based on how many cars are parked in any given area on an hourly basis. The idea is to get cars in and out. The higher the rate, the less likely they'll stick around.

"We want to make sure people are turning over in those spaces so we can use that space for the next visitor," said SDOT's Mike Estey.

But some argue that idea isn't ideal for every neighborhood, merchant or customer.

"If they feel rushed, they're not going to enjoy themselves, they're not going to come back," Biro said.

Some small-business owners say the proposal feels like yet another challenge, following quick on the heels of the recent minimum wage increase and health care requirements.

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