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September 29, 2014 at 4:37 PM

New parking meters, time-of-day rates on the way

The Seattle City Council on Monday signed off on money to start replacing or refurbishing all 2,200 of the city’s parking pay stations, a project that will allow the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to begin setting rates that change based on time of day.


Seattle’s new parking meters will look like this. Photo courtesy of SDOT.

The council initially approved the project last year but held back $1.3 million in 2014 funds while SDOT worked out details.

SDOT will start on the project early next year and will begin by replacing and refurbishing pay stations in Pioneer Square, said Mike Estey, SDOT’s manager of parking operations.

Downtown, Chinatown International District, Capitol Hill and South Lake Union also will see work in 2015, and the project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016.

About 1,500 of the current pay stations are about 10 years old and the rest are about 6 years old, Estey said. The older stations will be replaced and the newer stations will be refurbished with new technology.

The older stations are slow and buggy. Because they use cellular technology, they’re “like a 10-year-old cellphone,” Estey said.

The new stations will process transactions faster and more reliably, he said. They’ll also have larger display screens and they won’t suck in and then spit out debit and credit cards like many of the current stations do.

“Hopefully these will improve the overall parking experience,” Estey said.

SDOT will be able to change the rates on the new machines remotely. That will make life easier for the agency, which adjusts the rates once a year.

Perhaps most significantly, SDOT will program the new stations to charge different rates throughout the day. For example, motorists in the heart of Pioneer Square might pay $3 an hour from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and $4 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In 2010, the council asked SDOT to use data to set its rates according to demand.

The occupancy rate for parking spaces in the Pioneer Square’s core, where motorists are currently charged $3 an hour all day long, is 53% in the morning and 96% in the afternoon, according to SDOT.

Los Angeles and San Francisco already use time-of-day rates. Those cities also have experimented in recent years with underground sensors that provide real-time information on parking space availability. But SDOT has no immediate plans to follow suit.

The council held onto the 2014 funds until Monday because it wanted to know whether SDOT would lease or buy the new machines and because it wanted to take a look at the agency’s 2014 parking rates, which are in the process of being implemented.

SDOT initially planned to lease the new stations, install and operate them at a cost of about $30 million spread over seven years. But the agency has decided to buy the machines instead, to save money, so the overall figure may change, Estey said.

The purchase price of the machines, not including installation and operation, will be about $10 million, he said.

Comments | More in General news, Government, Traffic & Transit | Topics: parking, Pioneer Square, Seattle Department of Transporation


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