Parking woes need change of habits

"Islanders have many different visions for this community, and we wouldn't presume to articulate all of them. We feel comfortable, though, asserting that not one of us envisions the island as a parking lot.Yet without action on the city's part, that is what is likely to occur at and around the ferry terminal, where the demand for parking far exceeds the limited supply.When drivers can't find a place to park at the terminal, they find places as close as they can. Too often, that means a commuter parking for the day on Winslow Way or in one of the Winslow store lots instead of a patron.Part of the problem is enforcement. With only one officer working one shift on meter maid duty, folks inclined to take their chances for the day in a two-hour zone know that the odds are in their favor. Then there's the relatively minimal consequences of getting caught - a $20 ticket, which is far less than the cost of a round-trip auto fare, plus Seattle parking. A fine low enough to be called a bargain isn't going to change anyone's habits.The city council ought to take a look at both issues - raising enforcement and fines - as budgeting gets underway for next year.Perhaps the real need is to alter expectations. Right now, folks bound for Seattle drive to the terminal, expecting to find a parking place. But why should we? We don't assume we'll find parking places at Benaroya Hall, the airport or next to Safeco Field, so we ditch the car long before we get there. There's no reason the ferry terminal should be the point at which we change from private to public transportation - just habit.To its credit, Kitsap Transit has done its part to reduce parking demand, pegging fares well below the price of terminal parking. As of Aug. 1, round-trip fares will drop to only about one-quarter of the parking charge, making bus-to-boat the best deal going. (A Kingston-to-Colman Dock ferry would help at some point, too, but we're not holding out hope.)Finally - and we can count on some opposition to this - the city might consider hiking the parking tax again. If that doesn't reduce demand, the city will have a revenue stream to pay for at least part of a downtown parking structure. That structure can give our merchants some relief from the parking congestion spawned by the terminal.And suppose demand does drop - where does that leave the owners of private lots? Sitting pretty, we think. The land around the ferry terminal, is some of the best-located, most desirable on the island, if not in the whole region.The Winslow Master Plan envisions the terminal district, including the present Diamond lot, being redeveloped with underground parking and a mixed-use area above ground.That redevelopment hasn't happened yet, apparently because the parking business is just too darned good.The ferry district and much of the rest of downtown are parking lots because of habit and convenience. But those habits are becoming increasingly difficult to justify. Let's think about doing things differently. "

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