THE lowering of parking-meter rates in Seattle’s Chinatown International District is welcome. The city is adjusting meter rates to the willingness to pay, which is what the city’s policy is supposed to do.
Not many years ago, Seattle’s parking meters were all coin-operated, mechanical and uniform.
The modern pay stations are software-controlled and flexible. In this decade, the city’s policy has been to set rates to have two empty parking spaces per block. If the empty spaces are consistently fewer, the rate goes up. If there are consistently more than two per block, and rate comes down.
The adjustment does not happen by the minute, or even the month, nor by the block. But the city does adjust rates and time limits in different neighborhoods, and in both directions.
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Last year rates went down in three areas: Capitol Hill south, Pioneer Square edge and the northwest part of South Lake Union.
Rates went up in some or all the meters in five areas: Ballard core, Belltown south, South Lake Union, University District core and Pike-Pine.
The city also changed the time limits and off hours in some areas.
Seattle’s market-price parking is a headache for drivers who pay with coins, but people have adjusted: 90 percent of meter revenue is now from bank cards.
The municipal government is acting like a commercial landlord in pricing supply to meet the demand. It doesn’t feel kindly sometimes, but it does make sense in a 21st-century city that also offers subsidized transit.
And in a few places, the rates do come down.