EVERETT — More enforcement, a manager and paid parking are some of the possible solutions being presented to address the capacity crunch for on-street spots downtown.
If Everett started charging for its spaces around Colby and Hewitt avenues and beyond, it could reap $1 million in net revenue annually, according to a study presented to the Everett City Council last month. The analysis cost the City $164,180.
For years Everett sought answers to persistent complaints about a shortage of stalls. A similar study in 2016 identified the problem as people exceeding the time limits or moving to another on-street spot to avoid a ticket.
In the 2019 update, Portland-based Barney & Worth and Rick Williams Consulting tallied more than 9,400 spaces in downtown Everett’s inventory for parked vehicles along the roads and in garages and lots. Many blocks had on-street occupancy rates over 70%. During peak use hours, several along Colby Avenue routinely exceeded 85%.
“What we need to remind ourselves is parking problems in the downtown are a sign of success,” said Clark Worth, a consultant with Barney & Worth.
There are 2,057 on-street stalls downtown, and another 7,345 off-street spaces.
The number of unique vehicles parked in the central business core increased by more than 300 since the last parking survey in 2015. In the updated survey, consultants also counted cars on a Saturday for the first time since the City started gathering this data in 2007.
“That’s good news, there are more people coming downtown,” Rick Williams said.
But the old problem of cars relocating persisted. In the 2015 study, there were 360 vehicles over the course of a day that moved to dodge a ticket for being over the time limit. During last year’s weekday count, 409 vehicles moved stalls. Those were probably workers downtown “gaming the system,” Williams said.
The total violation rate dropped from 14.2% in 2015 to 10.7% last year, Williams said. Part of that is due to changes Everett made, but some of that decline is from consultants not counting relocated vehicles in that violation rate.
“I know they have a lot of other assignments, a lot of other parts of the city, but the downtown is not being enforced,” Worth said.
Everett parking enforcement is split into areas. Two parking enforcement officers patrol downtown, another two are responsible for other parts of north Everett, and one officer manages everything south of 41st Street within the city limits. Two of those positions were unfilled in February.
The Everett Police Department issued 2,933 tickets or warnings for time limit infractions in 2019, according to City data.
Since its first parking study in 2007, Everett standardized time limits to either 30 or 90 minutes, upgraded enforcement technology and tried to target employees using on-street spaces.
Only a couple of those seem to have helped.
The longest on-street stay downtown is 90 minutes. Williams said his firm’s data shows people mostly use them for the entire duration and Everett should consider making the limit 2 hours.
The Everett Police Department tracks parking with hand-held digital devices now, instead of simply marking tires with chalk. But the new method requires more time, as officers now have to photograph each license plate, as well as a tire valve stem to keep track of whether the vehicle has moved.
“That portion of the enforcement has become less efficient,” Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman said, adding that it takes about 40% to 50% longer than the old way of chalk and paper.
Parking enforcement officers also coordinate with the Community Outreach and Enforcement Team to connect people who may not have safe, stable housing with support services. That’s “extremely complicated work,” Templeman told the City Council on Feb. 12. “It is very time intensive.”
Another change was a city council ordinance that tasked the Everett Police Department to ticket workers relocating their cars from one on-street stall to another, and not shoppers or others using services in town. Templeman said those rules created murky decision-making.
“We’d had a lot of complaints from actual visitors to the downtown, actual shoppers and those procuring services in the downtown,” he said. “It’s an extremely challenging ordinance for our parking enforcement officers to enforce, to know the difference between an employee that’s moving their car and a shopper.”
People can contest parking tickets and get the $40 fee waived if they prove they were conducting business, but it requires a visit to Everett Municipal Court.
“It’s just a cumbersome, backward process,” Everett Public Works director Ryan Sass said.
Another possible solution is for the city, through a parking manager, to create a shared use program with private lots downtown. Williams said the city could copy what Downtown Seattle does: manage a website and get private lot owners to install uniform signage about private lot space availability. Occupancy would rise there and Everett would receive a small percentage of the revenue, Williams said.