PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Kristina Gore got lucky. She drove downtown, “came around the corner and there was a spot.”
But not everyone can find a spot to park on a downtown Portland street, and the City Council will vote on a proposal to raise the parking meter rate to $2. A subcommittee recommended the change.
It’s currently $1.60, something Gore didn’t know.
“When I come downtown I usually come because I’m going shopping or going to lunch or doing something, so I’m going to pay for however much time I’m here,” she told KOIN 6 News. The higher rate “probably wouldn’t make me leave sooner but i’d be intentional about knowing how much I’m paying if it goes up. But I’d still be here as long as I was going to be.”
Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesperson Dylan Rivera told KOIN 6 News the hope with raising the rates would be to create more of a parking spot turnover in the downtown parking meter district: Old Town, the Pearl, downtown, near Providence Park, and the South Waterfront.
Officials would like to see at least one vacant spot on every block.
“The goal here is that if you’re going downtown you should be able to find a vacant parking spot close to where you’re going, maybe on every block one vacant space,” he said.
At peak times, say around 1 p.m., parking meters in the downtown parking meter district are about 90% full, he said.
“That’s really bad for businesses, bad for residents, it’s bad for the environment because people are going to circle the block,” Rivera said. “It adds to congestion.”
Drivers Chelsea Benedict and Christian Cooper each told KOIN 6 News that’s what they do.
“I just drive around and probably block traffic trying, waiting for somebody to pull out of their spot,” Benedict said.
Cooper said he circles the block “trying not to hit a biker” and spends “about 8 to 10 minutes looking for” a parking meter spot.
PBOT’s Rivera said many major cities have a similar problem and they have dealt with it by “pricing parking correctly.”
He explained Portland has only one parking meter rate set by the City Council and an advisory committee. This plan to raise rates in the downtown parking meter district would help manage it better, he said.
The time allotments could be adjusted, he said, “so we’re giving out fewer tickets for the short term parkers.”
Chelsea Benedict and Justine Hanrahan don’t seem fazed by the proposed increase.
“I mean $1.60 is already really expensive. I don’t know what’s another 40 cents,” Hanrahan said.
Benedict added, “If they’re going to do that they at least they need to let you stay for longer.”
“In general we’re trying to keep onstreet parking focused on short term — one hour, 2-hour, 3-hour duration of stay,” he told KOIN 6 News. Others who planned to stay longer should use a parking garage.
The city, which hasn’t raised rated in 6 years, expects the rate hike will bring in $4 million. That money will pay for the meter system. The rest will go toward general transportation issues — maintaining streets, signals, signs — “basic transporation functions,” Rivera said.
Public hearings are planned in December, prior to a vote. If it is passed, the new rates will go into effect in 2016.
The Portland Business Alliance has no official position on this issue at this time.