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Parking meter hike approved Wednesday will mean $4 million a year for local streets

Posted by on December 30th, 2015 at 2:27 pm

Costs and benefits.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

After a decade of struggling to pay for a street network that is in some parts dangerous and in other parts crumbling, Portland’s city council voted 4-0 Wednesday to do a small something about it.

The $4 million annually that’ll be raised by hiking downtown parking meter rates from $1.60 an hour to $2 is a far cry from the $53 million that might have been raised by last year’s original street fee proposal, and even further from the $100 million that the city would need each of the next 10 years to prevent any of its paved streets from gradually turning to gravel.

But the meter rate hike will mean that it’ll no longer be cheaper to spend three hours parked along a public curb than to take a three-hour bus trip or to spend three hours in one of the city’s off-street garages.

The rate will also push people to vacate valuable parking spots more quickly, making it easier for people to find a parking space downtown. At the midday peak, the city says, 90 percent of downtown parking spaces are full. The city’s target is 85 percent — about one space per block.

Crowded downtown parking midday. Click to enlarge.

“Today was about a long-overdue update to the rates for on-street parking,” city spokesman Dylan Rivera said. “The first update to our rates in six years.”

Rivera said that raising parking prices to meet the rising demand for downtown parking will “provide the turnover that businesses need and provide the access that residents and businesses expect.”

The Portland Business Alliance, downtown neighborhood association, local transportation advocates and a citizens’ advisory committee all endorsed the rate hike.

To mitigate any impact on the tiny minority of downtown employees who are low-income but drive downtown and park in paid curbside spots, the bureau will also create a new program offering low-income discounts for overnight parking passes in the city’s downtown garages. The passes currently cost $5 to $6 between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m.

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The changes take effect Jan. 29. It’ll affect all meters west of the Willamette River except in the Northwest District surrounding NW 21st and 23rd Avenues.

So, where will the money go? The city hasn’t decided. $4 million a year is a 14 percent jump in the city’s parking meter revenue but only a 1.2 percent increase for the transportation bureau’s annual budget. Though the recent rebound in driving is likely to boost transportation budgets in the next few years as gas taxes flow into the system, that’ll be softened as the state’s fleet of cars keeps getting more efficient.

It’s not the only new money that could go to local transportation. This month the city said its rapidly growing economy means at least $11 million to add to various budgets in the 2016-2017 year that will begin in July. Half of new one-time money is supposed to go to capital projects like road maintenance or construction.

The vote was approved unanimously by city council, with Commissioner Nick Fish absent.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation didn’t consider adjusting parking meter enforcement hours. City data shows that downtown parking spaces fill up rapidly right around 7 p.m., when curbside parking becomes free.

Rivera said PBOT felt that issue was among those that should be tackled in a separate conversation.

“Changing enforcement hours is something that came up in this discussion, but it’s not part of this package,” he said. “That’s something that PBOT would need to review on a separate occasion.”

This is the first of three parking reform proposals coming before the city council this winter. In the next few months it’ll consider changes to its parking requirements for downtown development and a new neighborhood parking permit system.

Correction 3:30 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that the council had already approved the new downtown development rules.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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  • soren December 30, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    While I’m happy to see this small increase we also need to expand metered parking in NW portland, the Pearl and Lloyd Center. Metered parking is also urgently needed in the Williams/Vancouver, Hawthorne, Alberta, Mississippi, Division, 28th, and Hollywood commercial areas.

    Extending enforcement hours to 9 (and even later on the weekends) is also a brainer. Demand-driven congestion pricing would also make sense and could potentially raise a significant amount of money.

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    • maccoinnich December 30, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      All of the Pearl has metered parking, and this rate increase includes the Pearl. Metered parking is coming to most of Northwest very soon.

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      • soren December 30, 2015 at 4:35 pm

        I was thinking about the area around Thurman but i guess that is outside of the Pearl district.

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        • Ted Timmons (Contributor) December 30, 2015 at 6:45 pm

          meters are supposed to be coming to 23rd (near Thurman). In fact, we were supposed to have them last year. The locations were marked, neighbors were informed, then concrete “pads” were put in place for the meters. But the clusterfork of our parking meter contract has caused delay.

          In fact, the “4 hours for guests” signs on side streets near 23rd look almost like tactical urbanism- they are lightweight plastic and are taped to poles.

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  • John Lascurettes December 30, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    I would have liked to have seen a more forward-thinking hike plan — like one that approved this modest hike today but also built in a planned schedule of hikes over a number of years. For example, it could track with inflation or made to meet an actual budget goal x-years down the road.

    As is, it will probably become an obsolete, too-cheap rate again within a couple of years (kind of already is, depending on your perspective).

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    • TonyJ December 30, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      Unfortunately that’s not legally possible yet. The rules about setting parking rates require a committee to be formed and to have them recommend an increase to council.

      It is very likely that by the spring, PBOT will have approval to develop a performance based policy (85% occupancy target) for citywide application. That policy would be developed over the summer/fall and hopefully ready for 2017.

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  • J_R December 30, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Beware of the adverse consequences.

    There will still be vast areas of Portland with “free” on-street parking. What this increase will do will be to put additional incentives to businesses to locate in the non-metered areas.

    The effects will include lower densities in the downtown core; (We’re in favor of high densities, right?); more businesses developing in outlying commercial areas like Hawthorne, Belmont, Sellwood, etc (What are the livability trade-offs for residential areas adjacent to these?); and additional upward pressure on land prices in these non-metered areas (Gentrification is evil, right?). I’ve all but shifted my book purchases from Powell’s to Amazon because of the parking costs. (The last two times I’ve purchased from Powell’s I did use my bike.)

    When the parking prices are done on a piecemeal basis, rather than comprehensively, there will be winners and losers. Sorry, but I don’t think it will result in any measurable increase in funds to maintain the transportation system. Instead there will be more money for salaries of parking enforcement employees, but not much will be left over.

    Not much to celebrate here.

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    • Spiffy December 30, 2015 at 3:08 pm

      Powell’s parking is free for the first hour if you buy something…

      many of the free parking areas left in the city are either where nobody goes and there’s plenty of parking (urban sprawl), or where everybody goes and few people drive/park (those “outlying” areas you mentioned)…

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      • Mao December 30, 2015 at 6:15 pm

        Anyone who uses the Powell’s parking lot must be crazy or have some seriously impaired walking ability. That space is a nightmare.

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      • wsbob January 2, 2016 at 12:07 pm

        “…many of the free parking areas left in the city…” spiffy

        Relatively close to Downtown, the city still has some short term sign regulated street parking. 2hr parking, if I recall correctly. Payment not required. I figure a half hour over is reasonable, so figure two and half hours. Including the walk, it’s possible to get a lot done downtown, in that amount of time.

        I’m curious whether people really think a look at the numbers, will show that the forty cent increase at metered street parking, will persuade many people not to choose street parking, so as to create a greater availability of spaces to park on the street. People parking full time M-F, it may. People parking short term, not every day…I don’t think so. With a whole day parking on the street, the forty cent increase represents only and additional $3.20. To whom will it be worth parking in a lot, a structure, or taking public transit, to save that three bucks?

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    • maccoinnich December 30, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      “What this increase will do will be to put additional incentives to businesses to locate in the non-metered areas.”

      While downtown was struggling with a loss of businesses to the suburbs a few decades ago, this isn’t a problem right now, and I don’t think it’s likely to be any time soon.

      Right now almost all the office development for the whole metro area is happening in the Central City. Just this month alone the Design Commission has approved two large developments, each with hundreds of sq ft of office space, in the Pearl and NW Portland. Last week a 19 story office / hotel tower near PSU was submitted for Design Review. Construction is almost done on the Pearl West building, which will be the new North American Headquarters for Wacom, who are moving from suburban Vancouver, WA.

      Retail is also doing really well in downtown. Large national/international retailers such as Target, Apple and H&M have all made large investments in downtown in recent years. Powells just completed a major remodel of their main entry at 10th & Burnside. There also lots of small local businesses that have opened new retail locations, particularly in the West End of Downtown. The number of dining options in Downtown is much greater than what it was even just a few years ago.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) December 31, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      J_R, do you think the convenience of having an available parking space on every block is not worth anything, or just not worth $2 an hour? In any case, that’s something that’s unavailable in a lot of other business districts.

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  • Andrew N December 30, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Not nearly enough, which sums up just about everything this City Council touches.

    Also, count me as one retail shop owner on Mississippi very much in favor of parking meters and some sort of permit system for the surrounding neighborhood. We need to stop subsidizing “free” parking and start managing demand immediately.

    Will either of our two-sides-of-the-same-coin mayoral candidates take the lead on this issue if elected?

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    • TonyJ December 30, 2015 at 3:08 pm

      Hard to say if council can be blamed for this one… they need to hear more from people via official channels, that we need performance pricing.

      I advocated for a 60 cent raise, but ultimately that wasn’t happening. In some areas of town 40 might be too much… a performance pricing policy will be sought soon.

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      • soren December 30, 2015 at 4:37 pm

        Who pushed back against a 60 cent increase?

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        • TonyJ December 30, 2015 at 4:42 pm

          Business reps, labor rep, stadium district rep, South Waterfront rep, maybe Oldtown/Chinatown. I think pretty much everyone but me, Ben, and Reza.

          Now, granted, in many areas of the core, 2.20 is probably too high for right now, so I can’t blame them too much. I argued that a higher increase would provide more impetus to get the performance pricing ready so the rates could get lowered elsewhere.

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          • soren December 30, 2015 at 5:17 pm

            Thank you for your time and effort on this, Tony!

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      • Bill Stites December 30, 2015 at 5:18 pm


        Let’s take advantage of today’s technology to achieve performance pricing for parking everywhere it’s needed. It’s logical, fair, utilizes real-time feedback, and likely to be very effective [at maintaining <85% occupancy]. Administering such a system should not be very expensive – and indeed likely to yield positive cash flow.

        With the conversation moving citywide, it will be very interesting to see how many neighborhoods elect – actively vote for – a local parking district. I suspect many will reject the idea initially – either they won't need the system in their immediate neighborhood, or perhaps based on mis-information.
        Having yay-or-nay voting power for your own neighborhood does seem like a good stepping stone to get a few areas in place and see how they work.
        However, I wouldn't be surprised if neighborhood control was phased out over a few years.
        This may be a golden era when some can still cling to free parking for a while … but the writing is on the wall.

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    • Middle of the Road guy January 2, 2016 at 3:43 pm

      I agree. Enough with this free parking for bicycles. They are using a very valuable public resource…the sidewalk.

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  • bjcefola December 30, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    This is good news, and I thank those who made it happen.

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  • wsbob December 30, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    “…The Portland Bureau of Transportation didn’t consider adjusting parking meter enforcement hours. …” bikeportland

    I expect the phrase, ‘meter enforcement hours’, the city is using, is meant to be sincere, but what the hours obliging payment for street parking really amount to, is ‘meter revenue hours’. I don’t expect the city to pass up for a very long period of time, the opportunity to bring in more revenue by extending the current parking meter revenue hours. The city may as well draw as much money from street parking, as the market will bear.

    Very nice that the city thought to give low income people a break on overnight parking passes between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m in city parking structures. Unfortunate the break didn’t include business hours, and parking on the street. Wonder what rate they’ll be given.

    It will be interesting if this meter rate increase really does persuade more people to either not drive, or to park in garages or lots, rather than the street. And also whether the increase does result in fewer people using street parking, which some people seem to think will result in more street parking spaces being available.

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  • Eric Leifsdad December 30, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    I wonder what’s the relationship between the price/demand of parking and gas?

    I’m thinking we’re doing something wrong for as long as we have to worry about the impact of the cost of driving to low income workers. Express bus/rail, on-call shuttle, or something. Of course, we can’t fund enhanced transit because nobody rides the bus because it stops too often. But it stops too often because it’s trying to provide a service to people who can’t afford to drive downtown and park, which we’re trying to make more affordable?

    And obviously, nobody can ride a bike 11 miles down Powell. I mean, that’s an ODOT stroad, so everyone knows it’s not safe, or I mean 11 miles is a long way, or bikes are slow, or someone stole my bike, or I’m tired. Yet, the bus only moves down it at an average 15mph, maybe except at rush hour. And you need to go several miles out of the way to hit the gym after work too, so it’s easier to drive.

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  • Todd Boulanger December 31, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    And where is the long discussed programme element of establishing a PBA (Parking Benefit District)? It was “outlandish” new concept 10 years ago but now an accepted practice nationally.

    When will it see the light of day here in Portland? It would be a great “carrot” for the proposed new meter zones.

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  • Edward Dickinson Baker January 1, 2016 at 11:18 am

    The headline misses the point. The point is to make parking spaces available consistently. The money raised is not the goal. If free parking generates occupancy of less than 85%, parking should be free. If parking at $x an hour results in occupancy of more than 85%, it should be raised.

    Use whatever money is raised to enhance non car ways of getting to downtown.

    As far as I can tell, the city makes no effort to differentiate parking costs for different parts of downtown or times of the day. Technology can help solve this problem but the city needs to focus on the occupancy goal on a block by block and hour by hour basis.

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    • Dead Salmon January 2, 2016 at 10:21 pm

      The money raised is the ONLY goal of the city. Cyclists and others may have other goals but the city only wants more money. It’ll be pi$$ed away and there will likely be no discernible difference to cyclists/peds/etc. This is what government does.

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      • TonyJ January 3, 2016 at 10:18 pm

        Nope! But thanks for playing! I think you mistyped your url here… o-r-e-g-o-n-l-i-v-e is what you were looking for.

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  • Dead Salmon January 1, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    Parking fee increase intended only to raise money. Will have no other effect of any kind.

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    • Edward Dickinson Baker January 4, 2016 at 7:27 pm

      Do you believe that the demand for street parking is not affected by price? I don’t think you’re thinking this through.

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  • RH January 2, 2016 at 11:14 am

    I predict car2go rates will also increase shortly after this hike.

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    • Middle of the Road guy January 4, 2016 at 12:20 pm

      I predict I’ll be cancelling the $20 I send to a certain environmental organization in order to offset the increase of my parking downtown at the gym.

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      • Alan 1.0 January 4, 2016 at 2:21 pm

        Bike parking is still free.

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      • TonyJ January 4, 2016 at 6:42 pm

        Is that a yearly or monthly contribution?

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      • TonyJ January 4, 2016 at 10:14 pm

        So if this is a yearly $20 contribution, it means Middle of the Road Guy is spending 1 hour at the gym a week, between 8am-7pm. (.40 X 50 = 20), hardly seems worth it to drive downtown to your “gym” for a one hour a week workout.

        Then again, maybe it’s a monthly contribution and you’re spending 50 hours a week between 8am and 7pm at your gym downtown. In that case, maybe parking in the smart park, or finding a new gym, or moving downtown would be a better option.

        Since neither case really pencils out, I’m gonna guess that you probably made up the example and don’t go to the gym OR donate to any environmental causes.

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        • TonyJ January 4, 2016 at 10:15 pm

          Whoops! I should have said 50 hours a MONTH in my second paragraph.

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