Seattle’s old parking pay stations will be replaced with smarter kiosks that process cards faster, and can be set to charge multiple rates per day.
Seattle’s lucrative parking pay stations are being replaced with smarter dispensers that can spit out different-priced window stickers depending on time of day.
New machines also will add convenience by offering bigger display screens, and by processing card payments faster, the city staff promises.
The first new “smart parking” stations were being installed Monday on Occidental Avenue South, near CenturyLink Field, followed by others across historic Pioneer Square in the next two weeks.
For “smart parking” stations at First Avenue and Yesler Way:
$3 per hour
8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
$4 per hour
11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
$3.50 per hour
Rates in Pioneer Square’s retail core, centered at First Avenue and Yesler Way, will be $3 per hour from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., then $4 per hour from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Current rates are $3.50 per hour all day.
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At the neighborhood’s edge, the rates will be $2.50 an hour from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and $3.50 per hour from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., instead of $3 all day.
Motorists can expect similar two-price arrangements in nearly all neighborhoods as the machines spread, said Mike Estey, parking-programs manager for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).
Meters in nightlife areas will show a third price after 6 p.m.
New pay machines will be installed this year at Capitol Hill, the Chinatown International District, the downtown core and South Lake Union.
Next year they will spread to Ballard, Ballard Locks, Belltown, Cherry Hill, the Denny Triangle, First Hill, Fremont, Green Lake, Pike-Pine, Roosevelt, the University District, Uptown, Uptown Triangle, Westlake Avenue North along west Lake Union, and 12th Avenue near Seattle University.
All 2,200 pay stations will be replaced or updated by the end of 2016, by the IPS Group, under a seven-year, $20 million contract. The old pay stations and wireless networks were installed from 2004-10, using an old 2G wireless network.
“What we have out there is the equivalent of a 5- or 10-year old cellphone,” Estey said.
Parking-meter fees will bring in about $37 million this year.
Basic microeconomics suggest SDOT will collect more money using smart pay stations — if prices are reduced to attract more parkers in low-demand mornings and raised to squeeze more money from customers who park during high-demand afternoon times.
But the city hasn’t tried to predict those gains, Estey said, and they aren’t a major issue for him.
“Right now we just really are focusing on making the customers’ parking experience as quick and easy as possible,” he said.
The new machines also allow customers to swipe their credit or debit cards in and out, instead of having the machine grasp them for a few harrowing seconds. Old pay stations ate customers’ cards about 15 times a month, out of 1 million transactions, Estey said.
Seattle was among the first U.S. cities to adopt so-called “performance based parking” policies in 2010, based on demand.
Rates in some business districts have dropped but more have gone up, leading some drivers to hate the green pay stations.
The city has been raising many prices, especially downtown, closer to what private lots charge. The City Council and SDOT want prices high enough to create turnover, so that one or two spaces per block are open.
“Basically, we want to make the best use of the public right of way. We want the on-street parking to be well utilized. We want people to find parking near their destination, but we don’t want them circling the block in frustration, or emitting exhaust,” Estey said.