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Originally published January 27, 2011 at 9:19 PM | Page modified January 27, 2011 at 9:27 PM

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City of Seattle gives in on some parking rates, but not in downtown core

After hearing widespread complaints about its new parking rates, the city Thursday agreed to back off — a bit — but not in the downtown core where it will cost $4 an hour to park.

Seattle Times staff reporter

After hearing widespread complaints about its new parking rates, the city Thursday agreed to back off — a bit — but not in the downtown core where it will cost $4 an hour to park.

The new rates, to go into effect over the next two months, means Seattle will have one of the highest on-street parking rates in the country. Chicago is now $5 an hour, according to a national traffic consultant.

The city also plans to go ahead and make drivers feed the meter for an extra two hours — to 8 p.m. — in eight neighborhoods including downtown, Pioneer Square, Belltown, Capitol Hill, Chinatown/International District and the University District.

"Critics are not going to be happy, but we'll look at the data again in a few months," said Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw.

The city estimates that on-street parking will generate $35 million in 2011, up from $27 million last year.

In all, rates will decrease in 11 neighborhoods, including Belltown (from $2.50 to $2), and in the University District and Ballard (from $2 an hour to $1.50.)

And rates will rise in four neighborhoods (downtown, Pioneer Square, First Hill and Capitol Hill) and will stay the same in seven.

Pioneer Square got a small break. Instead of $4 an hour, the rate was reset to $3.50. But that may not satisfy some merchants who worry the neighborhood, already suffering from the sour economy, will lose customers.

"If they think raising parking is going to help business, they're crazy," said Ty Myers, owner of the Fenix Tattoo parlor in Pioneer Square.

Myers joined with others Wednesday to criticize the increase as well as the methodology used by the city in studying parking patterns. The department measured parking in November, and at peak hours of use, then adjusted the numbers.

The goal was to create one or two open spaces per block, but critics said not all blocks had an equal number of parking spaces. Earlier this week, the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) asked the City Council to delay implementing the new rates because of faulty numbers.

Thursday, after the readjustments were announced, the association hinted it may not be satisfied. "We're still reviewing the city's revised data," said Jon Scholes, DSA vice president. "We still believe there's more work to be done."

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Mayor Mike McGinn and the City Council agreed last fall during budget negotiations to move the city to a market-rate parking system. The goal was to increase the availability of on-street parking and to reduce auto emissions by decreasing the number of cars circling blocks in search of a space.

The city has said it will review the new rates within six months and see if they're working.

"This is new for Seattle and relatively new for the country. We're on the cutting edge of progressive parking management," Councilmember Tim Burgess told a forum on the parking issue Wednesday.

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com

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