Paid on-street parking coming to Tacoma’s County-City Building

Tacoma’s paid parking system will expand next month to include two-and-a-half busy blocks of downtown: The stretch of Tacoma Avenue in front of the County-City Building and the public library.

Starting Sept. 22, people who want to park on Tacoma Avenue between South Ninth and South 14th streets will have to pay $1 an hour, with a two-hour limit, using the same pay stations in effect in other parts of downtown since 2010. Those take coins and credit cards, but not bills.

The roll-out of metered on-street parking near the County-City Building means the eventual end of a parking practice that began as a temporary solution in the 1990s during jail construction.

The Pierce County court system will be phasing out the free-parking pass issued to jurors, Kurtis Kingsolver, the public works director for the City of Tacoma, said Tuesday.

The loss of free on-street parking for jurors could cause more people not to report for jury duty, said Ronald Culpepper, the presiding judge for the Pierce County Superior Court. The county has about 115 off-street parking spaces just for jurors, he said, and often that’s not enough.

“Some Mondays we’ll have well over 100 more jurors than we have parking for,” Culpepper said. “Juror pay is $10 a day plus mileage. We don’t even pay for the toll if you live across the Narrows Bridge. If you add parking tickets on top of that, we’re worried about people not showing up.”

Kingsolver acknowledged that early in the week there often are more jurors than spaces in off-street lots. But as the week goes on, jurors continue to park for free on the street, taking up valuable spaces, while the lot reserved for juror parking sits empty. Meanwhile, parking along Tacoma Avenue is in such high demand that people are parking in the McDonald’s lot across South Ninth Street, where the restaurant owner issues 12-15 tickets a day for parking by non-customers.

The city’s goal is to make on-street parking work for customers, clients and visitors. “Jurors are more like employees,” Kingsolver said, an approach other counties take as well. It’s up to the county to manage its parking garages and lots if it would like to find more parking for jurors, he said.

Culpepper said the court system has done all it can to keep jurors from parking on the street.

“We encourage carpooling. We give bus passes. Unfortunately people like to drive. Jurors don’t come down to the County-City Building often, so they’re not familiar with the area, and when you don’t know an area it’s easiest to drive,” he said.

Kingsolver said the juror-pass phase out probably will take through the end of the year. Culpepper said he wants the Tacoma City Council to intervene.

The decision to move the paid parking zone up the hill was made by Tacoma City Manager T.C. Broadnax on the recommendation of the Parking Technical Advisory Group, a volunteer group of citizens and business owners created by ordinance in 2010. The group reviews parking policy and recommends changes.