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Changes Coming to Residential Parking Permits
Changes are coming to the way the City handles residential permit parking. This is probably a good thing, because for the last couple years the City really hasn't handled the permits at all.
The program is meant to preserve parking for residents in areas with a high level of demand from other nearby uses.
The previous system was a remnant of a time when demands on parking in the city's neighborhoods was significantly lower. Residents could request the creation of a residential parking zone, and for $2 purchase lifetime passes to park in front of their homes. The zones were of varying sizes, with some as small as just a couple property widths, and the $2 lifetime fee didn't come close to covering even the maintenance of the signs marking the zones. Additionally, while the City's Public Works Department managed the program, enforcement was done by Tacoma Police, leading to a disconnect.
Parking demands grew, and the program didn't keep up. The City stopped creating new zones, and considered its options. With input from the citizen Parking Technical Advisory Group, a new plan is being developed with the goal of maximizing the use of the right of way to give priority to residents during high occupancy times, while accommodating short-term users when possible.
The new plan specifically addresses permitted parking in residential neighborhoods, meaning that questions around commercial and mixed-use parking zones aren't a part of this conversation.
To be considered for a residential parking zone designation under the new program a zone must
- Be at least 4 contiguous block faces in size
- Experience 75% occupancy during hours to be permitted
- At least 35% of that occupancy must be from outside the zone (so this isn't going to help with those neighbors with half a dozen cars parked on the street)
Once the zone has been designated, residents can pay $60 per permit annually to park on the street in that zone. This increase from the existing $2 lifetime fee is meant to cover the cost of the program, including maintenance of the signs identifying the zone. Residents will also get a set number of guest parking permits for temporary visitors to their zone, with more available for purchase.
Enforcement will begin again, aided by new License Plate Recognition technology. That technology will streamline all parking enforcement in Tacoma, using a license plate reader that compares plates against a database - in this case the list of cars approved for parking in a zone.
The new program hasn't been finalized yet, but when it is, it will be phased in over a period of up to two years, allowing City staff to work with residents in the 65 existing zones to address their options under the new program. Zones that do qualify, and where residents want a zone, will be updated to the new system. Those that are too small will eventually be sunsetted. Both existing and new zones will require a parking use study to demonstrate that they meet the 75/35 occupancy level. The City will also need to consider a plan to deal with parking zones that fall within mixed-use areas.
At a recent presentation of the proposed changes by staff to the City Council Neighborhoods and Housing Committee several questions came up, not least of which was concern around equity for lower income residents for whom the $60 per vehicle annual fee might be a stretch. Staff will come back to council with a more finalized version in the next month or two.
With forecast population growth pushing increasing residential density in Tacoma, issues of parking in neighborhoods aren't going away any time soon. Does this sound like a workable solution?
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