EVERETT, Wash. — The city of Everett is considering installing parking meters downtown after a consulting group advised city council members that the move would help small businesses.
Angela Mahlman supports the proposal because she said parking for customers at her Vault Hair Longe can be a "nightmare."
She said customers are often late or even have to cancel appointments because they're busy circling the block for a spot.
"They're parking a block away, two blocks away," Mahlman said. "They have to circle for 10 minutes which is kind of ridiculous."
The Public Works Department is examining the consultant's recommendations, which include parking fees of up to $1.75/hour, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Those hours could extend longer.
The idea is to discourage people from taking up parking spots all day and turn them over more frequently to make parking easier for shoppers.
But the city already has a 90-minute parking limit downtown and a fleet of enforcers writing $40 tickets.
Some see the proposal as just another way for the government to reach into their wallets.
"Let's be honest. It's a money grab," said driver Cody Van Ausdal. "You're hoping to get as many people to pay as you can. Then you ticket the people who don't and you make that extra money, as well."
The consultant's report shows, at a dollar an hour, the metered system would pay for itself within five years and net the city $400,000 a year after that.
Kern McGee, with the Downtown Everett Association, conceded that charging people for something they consider free would likely prove unpopular, but
he said it would pay off for the public.
"While revenue is generated from a parking fee, it is in service of making the parking resource operate more efficiently so that downtown businesses can do better economically and visitors to downtown can more easily find a parking spot," McGee said.
Paid parking would force many who work downtown to feed the meters all day or go to a garage which can cost up to $120 a month.
Opponents argue the notion of paying to park will drive people away from downtown Everett.
McGee, however, said the research shows the opposite is true.
"This has proven very successful in cities like Seattle, Tacoma and Portland. We believe it can be successful here, as well."