To the editor:
A recent letter to the editor described all the reasons we need more parking downtown and concluded, “And there you have it.”
Except there you don’t, for there were some significant factual errors in the letter. First, while it is true that the island population has grown significantly since 1971, there are now about 24,000 people living here, not the 28,000 stated in the letter. Second, the reconstruction of Winslow Way did reduce the number of on-street parking spaces, but more on the order of 10 spaces, not the 90 cited in the letter. Third, not all islanders are “wedded” to their car. Dozens or even hundreds bike to the ferry every day, and with better mid-day bus service, we could get more people using public transit, especially youth who want to be more independent in their movements.
It is true that downtown is weaker than it was five years ago, but most of those problems can be traced to too much competition. A number of anchor users that might otherwise be downtown are now at Coppertop; the Visconsi development, which with its new drugstore arguably put Vern’s out of business, will soon take Virginia Mason.
Parking is a problem, but there are good solutions for that short of building a garage that would require ongoing public subsidies. Those parking solutions include merchants pooling the parking behind their buildings; forming a local improvement district to acquire and reopen Madrona Lane, which would provide better access to that additional parking; and leasing employee parking at remote locations.
Merchants complain about losing local business, but the comp plan envisions residents shopping and eating at various commercial centers on the island, and there are now more choices to do this at Lynwood Center, Rolling Bay and Coppertop, the latter near the virtual center of the island.
In the age of Internet banking and Amazon deliveries, downtown needs to redefine what it means to be downtown.
Meanwhile, there are simply too many other demands for public debt (including schools, pools and parks) for the rest of us to subsidize what is essentially a for-profit place.