Nov 14

Jon Zimmerman

Give Drivers More Parking and Photo-Enforcement Tickets: Seattle Mayor Mike McGinns War On Drivers

by Jon Zimmerman

Mayor Mike McGinn wants to punish business districts and drivers in Seattle by raising hourly parking rates to the highest of any city in the U.S.  In addition, the Mayor is advocating the issuance of more tickets.  Plenty of people--residents and visitors alike--are upset about this move.  

But first a personal story, gentle reader.  A few days ago, I parked my car in Seattle's Eastlake neighborhood.  After I left an appointment and returned to my car, I noticed one of Seattle's finest-a parking enforcement officer (PEO) with an Interceptor motor vehicle-pulled up next to my vehicle.  As I was getting ready to hop in my car and drive away, the PEO yelled out to me and asked me: "Why are you parked in a bus lane"? 

I had to explain that I was not parked in a bus lane.  Our parking enforcement officer wanted to know how this could be, so I literally walked around my vehicle to the curb, pointed to the painted sidewalk demarcating the bus lane, pointed to my vehicle that was parked against uncolored concrete, and I explained to him that I was not in violation of any bus lane ordinance.  I also suggested-in my kindest and gentlest tone-that the PEO could write me a ticket, and I would subpoena him to court so that we could discuss the matter further, if he should like.  I wanted to give him options. 

The PEO was very pleasant (which is unusual) and asked me how the bus might get into the bus lane if a vehicle is parked next to it; however, this isn't my problem, and the lane is long enough for a bus to easily get in and out.  The parking space is legal, King County Metro has buses that drive on city streets where the buses stand and park in bus lanes, and drivers parked nearby but outside the bus lane are-shocking as though it may be to Seattle's parking enforcement community-legally parked.   

But Mayor McGinn supports zealous-overzealous-enforcement of parking laws, to the point where PEOs are actually issuing tickets to legally parked vehicles.  I know because I was about to get one such bogus ticket.  Forget the fact that parking tickets don't affect auto insurance premiums like tickets for speeding, HOV, negligent driving, or failing to signal a lane change.  Mayor McGinn wants to punish drivers not to increase public safety, but rather to increase more revenue for the City and punish drivers who choose to work, shop, dine, and do business in Seattle. 

Mayor McGinn's master plan, according to Chris Grygiel of  raise public parking rates to a high of $4/hour, spend $28,000 for red light photo enforcement, and issue more tickets.  It makes no difference to the Mayor that total tickets are up 23 percent in the last five years or that fines are projected to increase 17 percent for all of 2010. 

One of the biggest problems with Mayor McGinn's (some have called him Mayor McSchwinn) plan is that all drivers are asked to subsidize pedestrians and bicyclists.  Some may think this is a great idea, but the roads were not designed or paved for bicyclists, yet in Seattle we still allow bicyclists to use the parts of the roadway designed for motor vehicle travel (this may seem normal to most people, but there are locations where roadway use is much more restricted).  To be fair, I like helping pedestrians and bicyclists too, but I do not believe drivers should be treated as a third-class citizenry meant to pay for everyone else.  Charging drivers to throw down some paint to create bike lanes might make bicyclists safer, but narrower vehicular roadways, elimination of vehicular lanes, more Interceptor parking enforcement vehicles, and no decrease in the number of motor vehicles on the road do not ease congestion, traffic, or make riding a bike an easier mode of transportation.  Increasing parking rates in a bad economy also angers businesses and drivers alike.  This has the result of increasing traffic in neighborhoods such as Northgate and areas around the U-Village while also sending business outside Seattle, to places such as Bellevue and Redmond.  

And in case the Mayor didn't notice, as I mentioned in a previous blog post Mukilteo voters want to stop red-light camera tickets and photo enforcement.  I do not believe Seattle voters, given the opportunity, would react any differently. 

Mayor McGinn calls his critics "conservatives"-apparently anyone who criticizes the City for not acting enough like a business.  But higher parking fees for greater congestion (which will be increased when shoppers flock to downtown stores after 6:00 P.M. to avoid $4/hour downtown parking rates) or anyone who wants to avoid the overzealous issuance of a parking ticket.  

Mayor McGinn's message:  Welcome to Seattle, here's an (undeserved) parking ticket before you leave. 


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