WSB EXCLUSIVE: The city Transportation Department invited reporters to a briefing downtown this morning announcing a new program to evaluate and potentially revise parking in several Seattle neighborhoods, including The Junction — and those revisions could even include a return to paid street parking. Other media invitees were no-shows, so your editor here got an exclusive briefing and a chance to ask SDOT all the questions we could think of. Most important thing you need to know: SDOT says the process of assessing the Junction parking situation, coming up with recommendations, and implementing them, will take a full year, and the clock on that doesn’t start ticking till later this year — but you can start having a say NOW. (Other West Seattle neighborhoods will get the same sort of review within the next few years; more on that ahead too.)
It’s officially called the Community Parking Program. The official SDOT news release says it “will engage neighborhood organizations to develop specific parking improvements that balance the competing on-street needs of customers, businesses, residents, and employees.” The Junction is one of six Seattle neighborhoods that the program will target in its first year (the others are Denny Triangle, Fremont, Upper Queen Anne, Uptown Triangle, Pike-Pine); three other West Seattle neighborhoods are scheduled for the more-distant future — Morgan Junction in 2010, Admiral in 2011, Alki in 2012.
If you’re wondering “why The Junction first?” — SDOT’s Mary Catherine Snyder says the agency “hasn’t worked in the West Seattle Junction for a while” — at least not as far as parking is concerned — “and haven’t studied it comprehensively, especially with all the development.” (Certainly, the parking picture has changed in the years since meters were removed; while the Junction Association has maintained free lots behind major business blocks — which Snyder described as “a great asset” — some parking clusters in and around the area have turned into paid parking managed by companies such as Diamond.)
The SDOT managers who briefed WSB this morning stress that there are no decisions yet – they insist that your opinion will factor heavily into the eventual decisions SDOT makes – but they also say all options are on the table for dealing with parking in neighborhoods like The Junction – paid parking, loading-zone changes, time-limit changes, residential parking zones.
They also have yet to decide the boundaries of the area that will be reviewed in The Junction, and say that also will result from community discussions that will begin when the program officially kicks off sometime between July and September. The reason they’re talking about it now, they say, even without any specifics of what exactly will be done and where, is because they want you to “be thinking about parking” — what do you think works, what doesn’t work, what would you change or improve.
They’re honest about the fact that the city is trying to encourage more people to get out of single-occupant cars, and the fact that this is a tough transition time — with transit still not convenient enough to truly sway many people to take that big lifestyle step. Though Metro’s RapidRide route in West Seattle is still 3 years away, SDOT says a separate package of bus improvements — more service, more often — is being presented to the King County Council today, and they say they are working closely with their counterparts at the county to be sure that the “big picture” is being looked at as transit and parking changes come in together (one big question mark that could intertwine with Junction parking changes is whether RapidRide will follow the existing 54 route or possibly travel along California between Alaska and Edmunds, which would take away some existing street parking; that Metro decision is to be made soon).
Next steps: As soon as SDOT decides exactly when the Junction leg of the Community Parking Program will begin, they’ll announce it (you’ll hear it here as soon as that announcement happens) and will get the word out with mailings to affected neighborhoods, too. They expect that to be this July, August, or September. The first month will be designated for “kickoff”; months 2-3 for studying the existing parking situation and possible changes — Snyder says the studying will involve a “parking consultant” that SDOT is hiring right now, with specific assessments focused on counting how many cars are parked where at certain times of day, and how fast they turn over. They also plan “walking tours” with business owners and residents when it’s time to evaluate the parking situation, and community meetings.
After the study period is over, months 4-7 will be used to draft and propose initial recommendations; months 8-9 for decisionmaking; months 10-12 for putting changes into place. So whatever turns out to be the result of this process, you won’t see it in action before summer-fall of next year.
If you’re looking at past history for what might be ahead here — the official SDOT brochure for this program touts changes in other neighborhoods, such as added paid parking in Uptown/Lower Queen Anne, added paid parking and “parking directional signs” in Ballard, a pedestrian walking map in Beacon Hill, and expansion of Residential Parking Zones in Pike-Pine. Some Junction residents have been inquiring about RPZs because of so-called “park-and-hiders” — people who drive to The Junction and leave their car on the street in neighborhoods all day after catching buses to worksites outside WS. Snyder says they won’t know if that’ll be part of this process until they lay out the boundaries for the area that will be included in the review and changes.
Again, SDOT says they welcome questions and/or comments about Junction parking now, even in the very early stage of planning, and Snyder says the best thing to do is to contact her:
You can also talk with her in person at the Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting she is slated to attend March 11 (more info on the JuNO website) as part of early outreach on the future parking changes. And the Community Parking Program has its own section of the SDOT website; check it out here (you can sign up for e-mail alerts too).