Parking Accessibility vs. People Accessibility

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KING 5 TV’s news staff long ago established themselves as the whiniest whiners who ever whined about having to pay a few bucks to park their cars on publicly owned streets. But it’s hard not to notice the fever pitch that coverage has reached in the past few months, even as KING management confirmed rumors that it will move the station’s headquarters to SoDo—where on-street parking is more expensive than at KING’s current digs on Dexter, and much harder to come by during baseball season.

But it’s not just personal for the station whose employees will soon have to endure the indignity of driving around for parking, paying market rate at one of the many private lots near their new location, or taking the bus. (Just kidding about that last one.) Based on KING’s relentless coverage, you might reasonably conclude that the network sees parking almost as a moral issue—a human right that exists beyond the free market. If you believe the city has a duty to donate street space for you to store your car, it’s a short leap to  trashing those who want to use the streets for bike lanes, parks, or faster transit as greedy, out-of-touch, bike-hugging ivory tower types who don’t understand how Real Seattleites live.

See, for example, a few representative recent stories, all from this February and March: “Seattle Making More Money on Parking.” “For Seattle, Parking Revenue Adds Up“; “Seattle’s Building Boom Often Comes Without Parking.” “Growing Pains: Parking in Seattle Getting Harder, More Expensive.” And finally, “Seattle’s Disappearing Parking“; Seattle’s Disappearing Parking“; and, of course, “Seattle’s Disappearing Parking.”

The most recent example of KING’s breathless coverage of Seattle’s supposed “War on Parking” (stage left, ominous voice: “Some have called it… a war on parking”)  is a piece titled “Housing Boom Prompts Parking Shortage” about the “seismic shift” in Seattle’s parking burden. Reporter Chris Daniels’ target? City policies that give some developers the option—and it is only an option—to cater to car-free or car-lite residents by devoting less of their building budget to parking storage.

To hear Daniels tell it, on-street parking has “evaporate[d]” as new residents move in, zooming up and down the street like maniacs when they aren’t stealing the parking that rightly belongs to the people who got there first. No statistics are cited on how many new units have been built with reduced or no parking, nor are of those speed-demon new neighbors given a say in the piece (three white homeowners serve as a barometer of West Seattle sentiment). No information is provided that might demonstrate any “parking shortage” in West Seattle or elsewhere, nor any evidence that only “select developers” are given special dispensation to build without parking. And even the image KING uses of this supposed scourge of brand-new housing appears to be a somewhat older three-story building—with a parking garage.

There’s a whole debate over how to define the “frequent transit service” that allows developers to build housing with less or no parking (they don’t have to build without parking; the new standards merely allow developers to respond to market demand for parking spaces), but you won’t hear about it by watching KING 5.

Instead, you’ll hear reporters like Daniels handing the mic freely, and without any pretense of evenhandedness, to longtime homeowners who bemoan their lack of “parking accessibility.”

How chained are we to our cars that “parking accessibility”—subsidized car storage in our publicly owned rights-of-way—has become more valuable than accessibility for human beings?

3 thoughts on “Parking Accessibility vs. People Accessibility

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