The City of Seattle treats car ownership like a moral failing, and tries to make you feel as guilty as possible for driving a car into the city. But for many of us in the suburbs, cars are still a necessity of life. Rather than punishing people for driving cars into downtown Edmonds with parking meters, why don’t we encourage friendly alternatives to parking in the downtown core?
One idea would be to invite a bike sharing program to set up shop in Edmonds. While major cities have generally seen failure with docked bike sharing programs, in which the bicycle has to be checked out and returned to predestined docking stations, private companies like Lime and JUMP figured out how to make a free floating stable of bikes useful and profitable in urban cores. Rather than sticking their debit card into a meter, people just download an app onto their phones and use the app to unlock a bike wherever they find it. Once done with their ride, they leave the bike on the sidewalk for the next rider. For those needing a little extra boost, there are even electric assisted bikes.
The City of Edmonds could partner with a free floating bike sharing company, possibly even encouraging a franchising opportunity for a local entrepreneur, to set up a bike sharing stable in downtown Edmonds on a trial basis. This would minimize the city’s exposure, allowing us to test whether such an option would be successful in getting people out of their cars, and encourage exercise outdoors while further reducing our carbon footprint.
Another option to explore would be making the trolley a permanent feature of downtown Edmonds, rather than a holiday experience. The quintessential coastal town of San Francisco has tourists line up for hours for the chance to ride its cable cars at $7 a pop. It’s a charming way to hit the tourist highlights of SF without paying for a taxi ride. A trolley or cable car that operated between Brackett’s Landing to the Edmonds fountain, went down 5th Avenue, turned right into Dayton St., and completed its circuit on Railroad Ave. back to Brackett’s Landing could serve ferry foot traffic curious about exploring Edmonds. It could also be extended to a remote parking lot out of the bowl to aid commuters. A downtown trolly would be a boon to businesses in the bowl, all while providing a public transportation option in the downtown core that complements Edmonds’ small town charm.
As parking in downtown Edmonds becomes more of a headache during peak rush hour times, another alternative that the city could explore would be to designate a remote parking lot further away from the downtown core and contract a shuttle service to the city’s center and back at strategic times of the day.
Each of these alternatives to parking meters lets the City of Edmonds ease the parking congestion in downtown without penalizing car ownership. These options would add jobs to the area and support small business while protecting the environment. Edmonds residents could still enjoy our downtown and waterfront without paying extra to access popular hangouts. If I am elected to Edmonds City Council, I pledge to find ways to meet the challenges of growth and development without implementing new fees and restrictions that would fundamentally change our small town’s character.