Spiraling parking rates worry Pioneer Square businesses

Spiraling parking rates worry Pioneer Square businesses »Play Video
Tom Hanrahan of Bellevue says the parking rates in Pioneer Square are "ridiculous."
SEATTLE - Business owners in Seattle's Pioneer Square say they're worried about the hit they'll take because of spiraling street parking rate hikes.

In the past few days, the price shot up another dollar an hour.

The change has been in the works for awhile now - with the city of Seattle eager to drum up new ways of raising much-needed revenue.

But some businesses have concerns that the rate hikes are going to kill them.

Street parking in most of Pioneer Square is now $3.50 an hour - a change that's throwing drivers for a loop.

Tom Hanrahan of Bellevue came to visit the galleries and shops on Saturday - and his jaw dropped when he saw the parking rates.

"Seven dollars for two hours - that's ridiculous," he says.

A lot of store owners in this oldest area of Seattle completely agree.

Ali Ghambari owns Cherry Street Coffee, and higher parking fees have him worried that nearby businesses could go under.

"With all the challenges, we shouldn't be doing anything in Pioneer Square, that's for sure," he says, concerned that new storefront vacancies could pop up as people steer clear of Pioneer Square.

"And I wonder why people want to come down to Pioneer Square when they can go to Bellevue Square and park for free and do their things, or whatever may be," he says.

At the Central Saloon, Brandi Pierce says, "I don't think they're taking into consideration the impact this is going to have on small business. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if small business is thriving, it's generating tax revenue for the city on every level."

But Seattle's Department of Transportation says there's a reason this area now has one of the highest rates in the city - insisting it's for the benefit of businesses.

"It made sense for us to raise the rates compared to the current rate to see if we could start to free up that one or two spaces so people can actually get to the businesses that they're trying to access," says Mike Estey, parking operation manager with Seattle's DOT.

Meaning people will pay what they need to pay to run into a store, then move on.

But for a neighborhood with a reputation of being rough around the edges that's coping with a recovering economy - not to mention the looming Alaskan Way Viaduct construction - there's a feeling that the city is punishing Pioneer Square.

"Non-stop challenges that's going to make lots of people got out of business," says Ghambari. "And just make doing business in Pioneer Square tougher and tougher."

The city says it will closely watch how things work out in Pioneer Square and other neighborhoods hit with higher parking rates - and re-adjustments are possible in late spring.

Also another big gripe: the possibility of extending the time to pay from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.