Changes coming next Friday to the parking near University of Washington Tacoma could help more drivers find a spot — but also could leave shoppers and students in a bigger rush to avoid $25 parking tickets.
Following a recommendation from the city’s parking task force, Tacoma City Manager T.C. Broadnax asked staff to reduce the parking time limits near UWT from two hours to 90 minutes.
Business owners contacted Friday said they approve of the change, which they hope will encourage more people to visit area shops and restaurants.
Tom Vigue, owner of Savor Tacoma Creperie on Pacific Avenue, said he sees cars circling the block several times looking for any open spot.
“From a business perspective, (parking changes) will help keep the flow of traffic moving,” Vigue said.
Russel Brunton, co-owner of Indochine, agreed.
“Over the past three years, more cars have come into downtown,” he said, adding that more cars mean fewer available spaces for customers.
The changes taking effect also include extending paid parking in the area to 8 p.m., two hours later than the current 6 p.m. cutoff. And drivers on Saturday will have to pay the hourly rate of 75 cents all day, rather than the all-day rate of $1.50 that applies in other areas of downtown.
The changes will be in effect on Pacific and Jefferson avenues, and on a couple of side streets, from South 17th through South 21st streets. Starting early next week, the city will distribute information to businesses and post signs near current parking meters advertising the metered time changes.
Parking meters were first installed in the area in 2010. During peak times, 95 percent to 100 percent of parking spots in the UWT area are taken, said Eric Huseby, parking manager for the city of Tacoma. Reducing parking times means spaces should be available more often. The city wants to see 15 percent of parking spots free at any one time, he said.
There could also be a cost to lowering parking times, he said.
“Our biggest concern is that they decide not to frequent those storefronts,” Huseby said. “Conversely it’s going to truncate that visit.”
The parking changes will happen just a few days before UWT’s fall quarter begins. Peter Pentescu, president of the Associated Students of UWT, said students accustomed to parking near the school for evening activities might have a harder time finding spaces that will allow them to stay long enough.
Ben Mauk, with UWT’s facilities department, said more students started using on-campus parking since the city started charging for street parking. The campus lots cost $45 to $150 per quarter. More students are also using U-Pass, a pass for mass transit available to students for $30 per month, he said.
More than the parking changes, students are concerned about proposed fees to use Tacoma Link light rail, Pentescu said. Many students park at the Tacoma Dome transit garage and use Link to get to campus. Right now, the ride is free. Sound Transit is considering a $1 to $2 fare, with lower rates for children, seniors and disabled riders.
“It’s helped reduce parking demand around the UWT campus,” Pentescu said. A fee for Link “would really hurt the ability of students to get to school.”
Customers shopping near the UWT on Friday were not happy to hear about the coming parking changes.
When Carol Saynisch of Steilacoom makes the half-hour trip to downtown Tacoma, she wants to make it worth her while. She feels rushed even with the current two-hour parking limit. A 90-minute limit, while good for in-and-out trips, will be worse for shoppers like her who want to stay awhile, she said.
“It doesn’t really allow you to have dinner, for one thing,” she said. while in line at the bakery Hello, Cupcake. “You’d have to gobble it down.”
Huseby said that if people plan to stay longer, they can take public transit or park in other areas without parking restrictions.
Kate Martin: 253-597-8542