Downtown drivers closer to paying for parking

Drivers beware.

The days of free parking in downtown Tacoma are numbered. The first phase of a three-phase process to install electronic pay stations to cover 150 parking spots from South Seventh Street, Market Street, South 21st Street, and Dock Street is expected to begin in August near the University of Washington Tacoma (the final two phases will be completed in September).

Last year, Tacoma City Council authorized the implementation of a paid on-street parking program. The goal was to reduce the number of spots being used by “chain-parking” downtown employees and free those spaces up for customers who visit retailers and businesses on a short-term basis, thereby increasing the turnover of available parking.

A 12-member advisory task force was created to come up with a plan for collecting feedback from downtown stakeholders, communicating those comments back to City Hall, and rolling out the plan. A series of public meetings have been held over the past 12 months. The parking advisory task force includes Steph Farber, LeRoy Jewelers; Chelsea Levy, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce; Rollie Herman, Westpac Marine; Cliff Barnes, Vinum Coffee & Wine Lounge; Judee Encinas, DaVita; Gabriel Garcia, Broadway Center of the Performing Arts; Tilinda Grote, neighborhood resident; Judi Hyman, Two Koi; Blaine Johnson, Theater District Association; Natalie McNair-Huff, True Blue; Thomas O’Connor, O’Connor & Associates; and Jan Rutledge, University of Washington Tacoma.

On April 14, Kurtis Kingsolver, engineering division manager for the City’s public works department, updated Tacoma City Council’s environment and public works committee on the process. According to Kingsolver, drivers will pay for one- to two-hour parking between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the designated area Monday through Saturday. The fee will begin at 75 cents per hour, but will likely be adjusted as a target market rate is reached. Kingsolver said the pay stations have been ordered and the City is finalizing a contract with its vendor, Affiliated Computer Services, Inc.

“I think everybody who has paid attention to this knows it has been a generation since we’ve had paid parking downtown,” said Steph Farber, a member of the task force and owner of LeRoy Jewelers on Broadway (the store has been downtown since 1941). Farber said the public meetings have drawn criticism from a handful of business owners who oppose the plan. They argue their businesses will suffer once paid parking is introduced. But Farber told committee members that free on-street parking in downtown Tacoma is claimed by employees. “Basically, we’re going through a big process because we can’t get employees off the street.”

He is encouraged by the task force’s guiding principles: customers, clients and visitors are the first priority for paid on-street parking; the parking system should be easy to use and simple to understand; and the pricing encourages that 15 per cent of paid on-street parking will always be available for downtown visitors.

If you would like to comment on the plan, the next public meeting to discuss the issue will be held on Thurs., May 6 at 5 p.m. in the lobby of the Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway. For more information, visit .

EDITOR’S NOTE: Earlier Index coverage inaccurately reported 1,500 pay stations would be installed. We regret the error.

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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage of this issue, click here:

City Council committee gets early glimpse of downtown parking recommendations —

Public parking strategy meetings will help shape the future of downtown parking —

City Council considers consultant for downtown parking program —