Monday, June 8, 2009

Welcome to Seattle, May we Take your Car?

The headlines in The Seattle Times this morning read, "Hey, Seattle: Where's my car?" A few years ago the city put in automated parking meters. These are pretty great as you can pay with a debit or credit card. However, around the Pike Place Market area the city has installed signs that read obscurely indicating that there is to be no parking at said meters from 6:00-9:00 am and again from 3:00-6:00pm. But there is a catch, the meter will gladly accept your money through 6:00pm. So, not only are the signs written in such a way that they are difficult to understand, the meter doesn't cut off at 3:00pm even though one is not really supposed to be parked there after that time.

According to several merchants in the area, interviewed by The Times for this article, the city parking patrol is on their scooters and the tow trucks line up by 2:50pm, ready to swoop in on the dot of 3:00pm. First, the scooters whizz around issuing $35.00 tickets, then the tow trucks come in and start hauling away cars. They want to start right at 3:00pm so that they have time to come around and do a second sweep before traffic gets too heavy. It has gotten so bad, that some merchants actually leave their stores to go out and warn people verbally, but it is too time consuming to warn everyone. The estimate is towing of approximately 10 cars per block (I don't know how many blocks this includes). The city is making approximately $400.00 per block per day if they are only towing once, more if the trucks can get back in time for round number two. I wonder what they will do with all of the extra money? Fix the Alaskan Way Viaduct...No, that would be too practical.

What a great welcome to Seattle. According to those interviewed for the article this "towing round-up" is quite predatory and it is bad for business. Quite possibly the parking violators would have the basis for a lawsuit (the meter after all let's you park until 6:00pm), but these signs aren't posted in areas where locals tend to park. These signs are placed strategically in the Pike Place Market area, a haven for tourists. It is hard to get together a lawsuit, let alone a class action lawsuit, amongst tourists. In the end, they probably don't really care, angry to be sure, but angry enough to pursue legal action outside of their home towns, probably not.

I see this as a downside to governing by initiative. Our state has been riddled in recent years with initiatives to "cut taxes" and it is a real problem, cut somewhere and the government will find a way to fill in the gaps. Never mind that we are in a recession and everyone else has to cut back, trimming the fat (and there is plenty of fat to be trimmed in the city of Seattle's governing body) is not a government specialty. Meanwhile, it makes me feel like I have to apologize for being from here, a city that supposedly welcomes tourists, but makes it challenging for them to enjoy their visit. It is also expensive. In addition to the $35.00 ticket, there is a $15.00 cab ride to the impound lot, the towing feel is $101.00, after tax the grand total is estimated to be around $176.00. Welcome to Seattle!

No comments: