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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

parking pass

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.

midday peak parking

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.


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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Captain KarmaTonyJEdward Dickinson BakerTonyJAlan 1.0 Recent comment authors
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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.


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.

Andrew N
Andrew N

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?

Tony Jordan (Contributor)

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.


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


“…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.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad

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.

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger

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.

Edward Dickinson Baker
Edward Dickinson Baker

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.

Dead Salmon
Dead Salmon

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


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