Like all levels of government, Seattle city coffers are taking a beating in this 'post-recession' economy. While we understand that ways must be found to raise needed operational revenues, we think the Mayor of Seattle is making a stupid mistake with his new plan to raise money from parking:
- raise taxes on parking garages
- raise the per-hour rates for on-street parking
- extend the hours one must pay to park from 6pm to 8pm
- eliminate free parking on Sundays
We think all of these will hurt business so we've sent the following message to him this afternoon:
Mr. Mayor –
Your recently announced plans to change the way parking works in downtown Seattle may very well raise the amount of money gathered from individual parkers but it will undoubtedly cost more in lost sales tax. Let me explain.
It has been well-noted for the 20 years this shop has been in business that parking is a nightmare in Pioneer Square. There isn’t enough and it is too expensive. We hear this constantly from regulars; they will say “I tried to find a spot and drove around the block a couple of times but finally gave up.” It was cited by the owner of Elliot Bay Bookstore as a reason to abandon the Square and move up to Capitol Hill where they’d have their own parking garage. Who can blame them on this front?
Even without your plans to alter parking rates and times, parking down here was inevitably going to get far worse. At some point the viaduct is going to be torn down and the Square will lose all of that parking. As far as I know, there has been no plan put forth by the city to replace them. At one point, the city was trying to convince shoppers to use the north lot of the stadiums. That too is to be developed and will, at some point, be lost to shoppers.
Now you plan to charge people more to park, make them pay later into the evening and take away free parking on Sundays. So, besides parking places being tough to find, you are going to make it even more expensive and less attractive to come to Pioneer Square. This will either convince people to cease making an effort to continue to shop with us, along with any of the other businesses here, or you’ll force them to become mail-order customers. We can and will mail them books but that will cut down on their browsing; instead of coming in for one or two specific books and walking out with two or three more that caught their eye, they’ll be asking us to mail only the one or two.
Or they just stop being customers. Either way, we all lose.
For nearly two decades, we’ve used the ability to park free on Sundays as an inducement to those who rightfully complain about how hard it is to park in Pioneer Square. It has been a practical lure to keep those folks making the time and effort to come in. And you now want to kill that off. Over the years, due to the economy or staffing challenges, we’ve regretfully toyed with the idea of giving that inducement up and closing the shop on Sundays. But that was always out-weighed by the sales attracted by free parking.
Without free parking on Sundays, I can guarantee you of the following: we will have lower sales if we have any at all. That means less sales tax at a time when the city needs it. You think you need to take these actions because the city is taking in less revenue? Making these changes to the parking terms will guarantee the city takes in less. We’ll make fewer sales, we’ll cut employee hours, we’ll send in less sales tax (and, if it does result in customers having us mail books to them, we’ll be sending that sales tax to their districts, unlike sales taxes from in-shop sales). If you do eliminate free parking on Sundays, I can say now that we might as well plan on no longer being open seven days a week. Sundays will cease to pay for themselves.
First the city screws us with the crack-down on sandwich boards, eliminating our most cost-effective method of attracting the attention of tourists and shoppers. Then the DOT comes in to tear up the street yet again at the tail end of tourist season, rendering our block inhospitable, and taking much longer than the originally estimated time. Now the city will make the already scarce parking more expensive and nearly eliminate off-hour free parking. Why not just put up barricades across all downtown streets to guarantee people avoid downtown and go to the malls where parking is generous, easy to come by and free?
If we all are busier, with less time and disposable income to spend shopping, then the city should be doing what it can to encourage folks to come downtown.
But it isn’t.
It feels as if the city is doing everything in its power to discourage commerce downtown, and that makes no sense. Fewer shoppers equals fewer sales and that inevitably means lower sales taxes. Your plans to raise parking rates and eliminate most free parking will be counter-productive if not out-right self-destructive. It may be an admirable goal to get people out of their cars, but bikers are not shoppers, Schwinns don’t have trunks and you are guiding the city of Seattle into a black hole of empty storefronts that bike-commuters won’t notice because they’re too busy dodging pot-holes and trucks delivering goods to businesses that have no customers. At Northgate or Southcenter, they can drop their bags in the car and go back for more. People on the bus or light rail will head home when their arms are full. There aren’t enough residents down here to support our businesses, so we need people to come in by choice. And what are you doing to make that choice to travel to downtown to shop attractive?
If we do continue to survive as a small, independent business, it will be despite the actions of the city, not due to it.