Letter to the editor: Friendly alternatives to parking meters downtown

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Editor:

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.

Jenna Nand
Edmonds

43 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Friendly alternatives to parking meters downtown”

  1. All good ideas, but I wonder why the city can’t purchase a piece of land for a lot or even a parking structure. There is an old building on 5th Avenue (a construction business, I think) that has had a “for lease” sign on it for quite a while. We just simply need more parking spots as we continue to grow and become more desirable to visit.

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      1. No, because I don’t think everybody should have to pay what just some would chose to use. But I would pay a couple of bucks for it each time I used it.

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    1. Hi Maggie, I agree, Edmonds is becoming a tourist destination, which is a good thing for local business and the tax base. But we have to find a friendly option to deal with the influx of visitors that doesn’t alienate Edmonds residents. A remote parking garage is a great idea!

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  2. Free parking helps Edmonds businesses – I think the City should provide more free parking. It’ll help people come to Edmonds, enjoy the place, and do business.

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  3. Maybe the City Council should consider a Congestion Tax, just like NYC and Seattle are considering…

    …just sayin’

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    1. A congestion tax simply punishes those who have no alternative but to drive. It may work in a large city where adequate public transport is available – London, NYC – but in Seattle and Edmonds such a tax lies very heavy on the shoulder of the handicapped or people with no access to public transport. The same is true of metered parking in Edmonds.

      By the way, the congestion taxing in London has done nothing to reduce traffic: they keep raising the fee, but those who can afford it, pay it. Those who can’t have the Underground to fall back on. But the result has NOT been traffic reduction.

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      1. Not quite…

        Congestion tax
        The Stockholm congestion tax (Swedish: Trängselskatt i Stockholm), also referred to as the Stockholm congestion charge, is a congestion pricing system implemented as a tax levied on most vehicles entering and exiting central Stockholm, Sweden.
        Stockholm congestion tax – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_congestion_tax

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  4. There is no such thing as “free parking”. Either the taxpayers will pay for it, or the user will pay for use of a parking spot, or the business owner will provide parking to facilitate patronage of his/her business. Perhaps it’s time for the downtown merchants to look at some sort of cooperative agreement between themselves to provide “free” parking for their customers. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m getting tired of paying thousands in property taxes to have an Edmonds Kind of Day. That said, I think Jenna’s idea for a trolley to downtown has great merit. Perhaps a route from the 99 corridor to downtown and back would work. That is something the merchant’s co-op might be able to come up with on their own and give us property owners a break.

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  5. Oh, please don’t bring free-floating bikes to Edmonds! I live in Edmonds but work in Fremont, and those bikes are both an eyesore and a safety hazard there. They are not supposed to be in any sort of right-of-way but they often get dropped in the middle of the sidewalk, on corners (blocking wheelchair ramps) or on private property. Vans circulate every day, trying to redistribute them because they tend to end up in downhill areas when no one wants to rent one to go uphill (even the electric ones). I can just imagine them all around the fountain, and down at the ferry terminal piling up.

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    1. I heartily agree with you. A dockless bike share for Edmonds is a horrible idea. I don’t know anyone living in Seattle who favors these companies. Not only are the bikes an eyesore, they impede the sidewalks. That creates an accessibility issue under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws. Edmonds has few enough sidewalks without adding impediments to movement. I think the recent Seattle Times article about the bike shares noted that disability groups are suing San Diego over the issue of accessibility. These bikes get left where they cause access problems. Shared bikes need to be picked up and returned to designated sites. They must not be allowed to litter the landscape such that they cause problems for the disabled.

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  6. Brian and Ron are right. Neon colored bikes are an eyesore all over Seattle and not appropriate for many people’s needs. You want a bike, purchase one. People use small fold up bikes all over in Europe and Asia.

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  7. Are meters currently being discussed? Also, were you here for the brouhaha over signs on the sidewalks? Can we add stray bikes to that mix and keep things walkable?

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    1. Hi Tia,

      Parking meters are one option being discussed to deal with downtown parking congestion. I know that the 3 hour limit signs have been controversial, as well. The bikes are just one idea that I had; the trolley seems a lot more popular!

      Regards,

      Jenna

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  8. Maybe, the chamber of commerce with the downtown – or expanded – business community could copy Sun Valley, ID.

    The Mountain Rides Transportation Authority system provides free transportation in Ketchum and Sun Valley, including continuous round trips from the Village to both Dollar and Bald Mountains and to the town of Ketchum and Elkhorn Springs. – https://www.sunvalley.com/getting-here-around

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  9. The trolley is a great idea, would generate income to offset the cost and add to the charm of Edmonds. Please don’t clog our downtown sidewalks with bike shares.

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  10. If we add electric bikes we should make sure they have a port so our citizens could connect their defibrillator to the battery.

    Council has approved a downtown parking study for 2019. The process has already begun and the plan is to complete the study before the 2020 budget cycle so council can review and act on the findings of the study. During the study there will be a “public input” phase. All the suggestions here and elsewhere will be helpful to create solutions we can all enjoy.

    Reported early but with new data here are some facts: Residential Permits 890+, for a daily cost of less than 7 cents. Employee permits will be greater than 700 this year with average cost of less than 25 cents a day. Not all DT business have parking for employees and some of these same business do not buy permits either. There employees probably park somewhere we just do not know for certain how many and where.

    Some have said the value of a parking space for customers is more than $100,000 per year which would be about $300/day.

    Another set of information to generate thinking is to review the 2003 Parking Study at the link below:
    http://www.edmondswa.gov/images/COE/Government/Departments/Development_Services/Planning_Division/Data/DowntownParkingStudy_2003.pdf

    Employee parking permits is 2003 were 350 so we have more than doubles that number today. The study also says we had 900+ on street parking spaces in the DT area. The competition for these 900 space is large: 900 local residential permits, 700 employee permits, Edmonds residents who want to come downtown and shop or eat, visitors from other cities and ferry and sounder commuters who store their cars by day or night.

    So if you have ideas lets get them ready to be part of the new parking study. We can make a difference if we just work together to first understand the problem we are trying to solve, offer and evaluate ideas from a cost and value basis and then choose ways to mover forward in a way that the results can be measured, evaluated and adjusted for better results.

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  11. The trolley and shuttle ideas make sense. We have buses that not many people use possibly because they are not convenient for a quick pickup/drop-off for downtown shopping. The festival shuttles are helpful though, getting attendees downtown easily, running on a regular schedule with no wasted stops. If the riders were to pay a fee and had the option of a couple pickup/drop-off spots it seems like a great idea. We already have the festival shuttle set up. A trial of this kind shouldn’t cost the city much (especially with rider fee collected) to determine if it is a good option. As mentioned, it would provide additional jobs to provide shuttle and/or trolley service as well.
    The service could be exploited as a quaint, unique service for the Edmonds Kind of Day experience.

    I can’t imagine the bike trend will last as I’ve heard too many stories of damaged bikes being found. Plus, uphill in Edmonds is not a fun ride and we definitely don’t have the sidewalk space or traffic flow to ride safely.

    As to the idea of business owners providing free parking for their customers downtown, I don’t know how they would do that. I had an office downtown at one time and we had no control over parking. The city turned a free municipal parking area into numbered slots that the business owners paid for if they wanted use of them. They also required parking permits to park on the street for any length of time, for business owners/employees primarily. I purchased a parking permit and still had to park 2-3 blocks away from my office due to availability. My customers still couldn’t find anywhere to park either. The spots available for purchase were too few for the number of businesses that surrounded it so they were snatched up quickly.

    I’m curious what ever happened to the proposal of designated, lined parking spots. If there were specific slots for people rather than estimated parking there could be a little more room.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Linn, I know that employees of businesses can get permits for downtown parking under the present system. Is that the proposal you’re thinking of?

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  12. “Bike Shares” fail because it’s a non-profitable business model. The charge per ride doesn’t cover the cost of an e-bike. Bikes are damaged, stolen, lost, destroyed, etc. needing major repair or replacement long before business recoup their initial cost – let alone turn a profit. That’s just a fact experienced in every City that has attempted to roll them out.
    if you up the cost to make it profitable, people won’t use them.
    So, unless you’re willing to setup a “bike share program” as an going Citizen cost (aka, more taxes), “bike share” is a non-starter.

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    1. I’ve always viewed the bike and scooter sharing businesses as loss leader to collect the data about where people are going. I had sent the City an article on the various styles of how other cities are regulating these businesses – I hope they are looking at this issue that needs attention sooner rather than later. And our geography makes at least on direction very difficult.

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  13. The attractions of downtown Edmonds are manifold: small city atmosphere, easy access, down home businesses with few national franchise stores, and the absence OF PARKING METERS. I urge the city to pursue all other parking remedies before installing meters. Working in partnership with downtown businesses to provide off-street parking for employees and preventing ferry/train commuters from monopolizing parking spaces would be two important steps. Let us not spoil the charm of “an Edmonds kind of day.”

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  14. You have to be a really fit person to ride a bike out of downtown Edmonds. When I was a youngster, I used to ride my bike to downtown Edmonds and Yost Pool in the summer from near St Thomas More. Riding in was fine until you got to 9th and Main but riding home was awful! Downtown Edmonds is in a bowl and everything from here is uphill! I wouldn’t be fit enough or have enough energy to do that these days. I don’t think a lot of people would be fit enough and how would you transport your kids?

    Regarding the trolley, here is a bit of anecdotal history: the trolley used to run daily and year round in about 1988-1992. I don’t have the exact dates of when it started or stopped. It used to run from Olson’s (bonus points if you can tell me where Olson’s was) to the Edmonds Library. During my freshman and sophomore years, we lived in Casper Street and I’d take the bus from Olson’s to the library and walk home from there. I believe they stopped running it due to lack of interest and cost.

    Perhaps this is an expectation problem. When I go to Seattle, I have to pay $20 to park and walk 2 blocks or more to my destination. Is the expectation in Edmonds that you can park directly in front of the store?

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        1. We’ve been here 40 years and that mall was already there. A travel agency was on the corner where the fish restaurant now is.

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        1. Yes, it was. Both operated from current Goodwill building. Olson’s relocated closer to the intersection in their new building. In 1994 QFC purchased the family owned grocery store.

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  15. Gig Harbor is a good example of trolley tourism.
    The trolley runs every 30 minutes for 50 cents one way or $1 for an all day pass from June 1 through September 2.
    I think Edmonds could benefit not only for our “guests” but for our citizens too.

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    1. I don’t think that people mind walking when they get to downtown. I think the issue is how to get downtown.

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      1. The Edmonds age demographic results in a number of residents who have difficulty walking. The lack of handicap parking downtown makes it difficult for them to shop in their city.

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        1. Very good point, Kathleen Sears. My mom has limited mobility at age 70 and can’t enjoy much of downtown Edmonds for that reason.

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  16. I like that no one has added the fact the the bikes DO NOT come with a helmet. Terrible idea with legitimate safety issues. I am blown away that the lime bikes and others like bikes are not required to provide a helmet or some sort of protection…i have crashed my bike many times as an adult and each time my head has hit the pavement. Each time i was thankful that i was wearing my helmet. SAY NO TO BIKES since they are a hazard to public safety and ugly scattered everywhere!!

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