A tweet and a Seattle Department of Transportation spokesperson announced an extra day of free parking for Friday. But — oops — that was a mistake.

Share story

Friday is observed as a national and local holiday for many people, because Veterans Day falls on Saturday. Does that mean free parking in Seattle’s 12,300 paid spaces?

On Thursday the Seattle Department of Transportation’s communication team insisted in e-mail messages and its own Twitter account that both days were free. That’s also what we published in a routine holiday update.

But on Friday morning, city parking manager Mike Estey tweeted it’s all wrong, and repeated in a phone interview that only Saturday parking is unpaid, by city code and shown on a city website. (Normally, only Sundays and holidays are free.) In addition, SDOT’s kiosks are dispensing fare stickers to parkers who pay. Parking fees are a major source of general fund income, projected at $42 million gross revenue this year.

It turns out, SDOT spokeswoman Mafara Hobson based her announcement of two free days on checking with the Seattle Police Department — for whom Friday is a holiday — and police parking enforcers weren’t planning to issue citations for non-payment.

Here’s the most critical point:

Regardless of fee confusion, those who park must obey the 2-hour limits where they exist, and must clear their vehicles out of peak-time bus lanes and other curbsides that usually clear out for rush hours, Hobson said.

She summed things up like this about 10 a.m. Friday: “According to the law, today you ARE supposed to pay, but enforcement is going to be lax today.”  In other words, an honor system.

Chances are, hundreds of people will be unaware of this confusion, or extra cautious about avoiding hassles, so they can wind up paying up to $4 per hour along the busiest streets. Among unsolved questions, can people get any rebate who paid Friday, or who find a citation on their cars for nonpayment?

Maybe not. The SDOT went on to apologize and send this update at 10:20 a.m. on Twitter. “Apologies! Paid parking today. Free parking tomorrow.”

But by early afternoon, Hobson said she confirmed again with police, that “I am 100 percent sure no one’s going to get a ticket” for nonpayment of a parking meter Friday. But get out of those bus lanes before the afternoon commute.