Seattle's Parking Situation

The Stranger the other day published a story that explains one of the reasons Envy Exotics was formed, parking. To start with the article's title is a bit misleading. The title makes the reader assume the article will be about the rising cost of home ownership and rent in Seattle, Wa, but really it's about parking and getting rid of it.

The article goes in depth to state that parking is the real reason rent and the cost of owning a home in Washington's booming city is going up. Further, it leads the reader to believe that the parking is really not needed; that most of Seattle's parking lots are empty. While that may be true, I believe there's more to it than that and here's why in my own opinion.

When I first moved to Seattle about 4 years ago I had a small collect of motorcycles and cars. To be exact I had 2 motorcycles and 3 cars. That may sound like a lot, but it was perfectly normally for a young male living in a rural area where parking was never a problem. Really it's a small number of vehicles for someone who's an auto-enthusiasts (or motor-head, gear-head, etc., pick one); just look at Jay Leno's garage.

The company that employed and moved me out to the Pacific Northwest would only pay to move 2 of my cars so I left one of them, a 1970 Chevrolet Corvette, back in my home state at my parent's. It's still sitting there today because I have nowhere to park it. When I got to the city I was glad of my choice as parking was a pain. My apartment complex only gave me one parking spot and they were small. The parking was designed for compact cars, not wide sports cars. I couldn't fit a motorcycle and a car into the same spot like I could do back home. I could barely fit my wide-bodied C6 Corvette into the spot without risk of dinging a door each time I entered or exited the vehicle. As a car lover I was appalled. It was mortifying to worry my car would be damaged each time my neighbor entered or exited their vehicle. So each time I went to park my vehicle I looked for a spot next to a wall, post, or some other object that would give me a bit more standoff from the vehicle next to me to protect the pride and joy that my savings went into (literally an entire military deployment's worth of savings went into that car).

To add insult to injury, that parking space was also $100 a month. Yep, I'm not sure where the author for The Strange found free parking, but mine was added into my monthly rent. Granted it probably cost more to build that space than what they charged me, but considering I was coming from a rural area with "free" parking it was expensive. Plus I had to pay for 3 of them.

To make matters worse parking wasn't even free at work. In downtown Westlake at my employer parking came to about $25.62 each day. Even with the cost of parking at work, it was still hard to find a parking spot. Finding a spot meant coming in early as there were more employees than there were parking spots. Now to be fair, you could get a guaranteed parking spot, but the wait list for that was 6 months to a year depending on your building and was still $160 a month after being subsidized by my employer.

Even just going out, parking was a pain. Everywhere you went it was hard to find parking. Even when parking was available, it wasn't free. Most city dwellers might be used to this, but coming from the countryside I wasn't. I was used to large open parking space where I could park way in the back to protect the beautiful paint job of my car from dings and dents.

Since my employer gave every employee a free Orca pass, I started taking the bus and walking everywhere. That meant my cars and motorcycles sat all week long and on most weekends. My Corvette with 600+ supercharged horses under the hood, became a grocery getter; only occasionally getting to gallop when I went outside the city. I put less than 1,000 miles on the car in my first year living in Seattle.

Eventually, being the realistic young man that I am, reason took over and I sold my Corvette. I didn't sell the car because I hated it. I didn't sell the car because it was was a maintenance hog. I sold it because the expenses (parking, insurance, etc.) didn't justify it's ownership. Simply put I didn't drive the car. Although I kept my actual grocery getter, that was because occasionally a car was useful. I sometimes needed to travel outside the city, haul items that were too big to transport on a bus, and go on dates (sorry I don't think "I'll meet you at bus stop x" leaves a good first date impression). I still had to pay for a parking spot, but my insurance was lower, RTA taxes were less, and I didn't worry so much about compact car parking spots that seem to be everywhere.

Still I missed my C6 Corvette. I could have brought my 1970 Corvette out here, but I'd have more fees to pay and another parking spot to reserve. Besides the windshield wipers also seemed to get stuck in the vacuum lifted door and that doesn't seem to be a good combination for Seattle's misty weather. Without a performance oriented car though, something in my life just seemed missing.

That's actually why Envy Exotics was formed, to provide performance oriented vehicles to similar individuals in the greater Seattle, Washington area. To prevent this from sounding like a marketing pitch let's return to the point of the story: parking. Maybe the reason the author doesn't see many parking spaces filled is because parking itself is the problem. Seattle considers itself to have a highly educated workforce. When one does the math, the cost of owning a vehicle here in Seattle is a luxury and like most luxury goods it will rarely be used except for a special occasion. When you're on a tight budget because of high living costs (cough cough rent), why purchase a car that you'll have to pay to park and go anywhere with? A vehicle is a huge capital expense that depreciates. Even when you're not going somewhere it's costing you money sitting in that parking space, quite literally with the increase cost of your rent and ever decreasing vehicle value. You might as well get rid of your car and rely on Zipcar, Car2Go, RelayRides, Uber, and the other services that exist in the area. Let someone else worry about parking.

From the opinion of a motor-head, it's not that there's too much parking, it's that parking is too expensive. Parking, and as a result car ownership, has reached a point in Seattle where it has become a luxury. Native Seattle residents may have realized this for a while, but us transplants are gradually adapting to the change. Urban Seattle development companies just haven't caught up yet. In the future, either the number of parking spaces with decrease or the cost of parking will decrease because that's the laws of supply and demand.


See The Stranger's article here and comment below if you agree or disagree with the story: