Is there a war on cars in Seattle?



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Posted on October 19, 2010 at 6:40 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 19 at 6:56 PM

SEATTLE - It already seems nearly impossible to find street parking in downtown Seattle.

"Yeah, you just go round and round,” said Sandra Keeler from Sequim, who drove into Seattle on business.

"It's very tough on the streets already, very tough," said another motorist.

Private lots are boosting rates. One lot near the King County Courthouse advertises $20 for three hours. Another charges $8 for half an hour.

And Mayor Mike McGinn’s new budget proposes hiking street parking to $4 an hour downtown.  He also wants to extend paid parking into the evening and charge on Sundays.

"Wow.  That's terrible, because I work on Sundays," said William Hoffman, who lives in West Seattle, but drives downtown to work.

Hoffman says he’s considering selling his car because it’s become too expensive to park in Seattle.

"It’s really difficult to park now,” said John Samuelson of Bothell. “And I think it would be harmful to do anything that would make it more difficult to park downtown."

Some critics say Seattle has been quietly but consistently waging a war on cars for years.

In 2008, Mayor Greg Nickels is launched car free days in some neighborhoods. In 2009 when Link Light Rail opened, the city banned parking nearby - to force people to walk, bus or bike to the trains.

And this summer, Mayor Mike McGinn put six Seattle neighborhoods on what he called  "road diets" getting rid of lanes to make way for bikes.

So we asked the mayor what we thought was a logical question:  "Are you anti-car?"

He responded:  “I'm sorry that is just a silly question."

But not everyone thinks so. 

Commuter John Samuelson thinks it’s a valid question. 

“I think some of the policies they’re putting in place, clearly the costs in parking, but also removal of lanes for bike lanes, and restricting lanes, definitely makes it a valid question,” he said.

“I think he (the mayor) is hurting people who need their cars for legitimate business,” said Gina McMann who lives in Seattle, but says she needs her car to drive her daughter to day care on Queen Anne and then to drive herself to work downtown.

Of course there's a flip side to this too.  Some businesses are pushing for more parking enforcement   and for extending paid parking into the evening--just to keep cars circulating.

And Seattle Parking Enforcement has always said that their goal is not to hand out more tickets but to create parking turnover so that more people get a shot at the limited spaces that are available.