The following are excerpts of what I wrote for Andrew’s Parking Reform policy:
In a city of roughly 750,000 people, Seattle has at least 1.6 million parking spaces. And they’re worth approximately $35.8 billion, with a B. The cost really adds up when we take into account all the carbon-intensive cement that goes into building parking structures—which, sidebar, raises rents for apartments with parking garages—on top of the cost these parking spaces occupy. It’s estimated that a spot built in a garage can cost anywhere between $25,000 and $50,000 per space.
At a time when we need to reduce the cost of housing, need more public space for our growing population, and need people to drive less and own fewer cars, we continue to require new buildings have parking while we hold onto as much on-street parking as possible.
It feels like a circus.
This is why we need parking reform.
Our response to the pandemic, and every PARK(ing) Day, has shown us what can happen when we take space for cars and give it over to people. We need to lean into that trend with a goal to remove spaces until we hit 1 parking space per resident. These spaces can be used for things like:
We can even use the City’s power of eminent domain to acquire a downtown parking structure and turn it into a school—finally treating downtown like an actual neighborhood.
In addition, we will eliminate parking requirements across the city (as part of our larger land-use reforms.)
…In addition, anyone who has a registered disability (the blue placard you may have seen on an ADA spot) can register with the city and will have access to any spots without having to pay any fees whatsoever.
…We can’t meet our climate goals without addressing the toll all this parking takes on our environment.
All that pavement is impervious surface—meaning water can’t go through it. When it rains, the water that accumulates can’t filter naturally down through the earth (where chemicals would otherwise be naturally filtered and removed) but instead goes directly into waterways, chemicals and all. Puget Sound has more than 350,000 acres of impervious surfaces (streets, roads, highways, parking lots, and more), according to the 2020 State of Our Watersheds Report. Specifically, a majority of Seattle’s land consists of 75-100% impervious surfaces, looking at the MLRC map.
By shifting away from impervious surfaces, we can reduce the chemicals in our marine Puget Sound and save salmon, which saves orcas.
Impervious surface runoff is the primary way pollutants like oil, metals, pesticides and herbicides get into our Puget Sound. In addition, because the water is neither filtered nor absorbed by the earth, our impervious surfaces cause a greater volume of runoff than natural conditions would. This leads to flooding and erosion.
So, by implementing parking reform and prioritizing people over cars, we not only create better neighborhoods but improve the natural environment so it can be enjoyed by generations to come.