Apparently parking in downtown Kirkland has reached a crisis. I wouldn’t really know – I don’t park a car there all that often, and even more rarely park at peak times. But I’ve seen complaining online, and even filled out a survey for the city.
It’s hard for Kirkland – this is a suburb, so it’s built around the car, and people here expect easy, congestion-free driving and easy, free parking. But Kirkland is an inner suburb, which means it is rapidly densifying, but there aren’t yet good alternatives to driving for most people in the city. The city council has recognized what many other cities are also realizing: that there simply is not room for every person to move around with a personal car, so they have set goals to increase the share of other modes. This is wonderful news! I am encouraged that the city is at least talking about making mobility easier for me. I hope that they are encouraged that I am not driving much.
I’ve seen complaints about “social engineering” and “war on cars” and I hope that people realize that it’s really not personal. The best way to keep your easy driving is to keep me on my bike. The best way to keep your easy parking is to pay for it. And this isn’t social engineering any more than the car-centric planning was social engineering.
Most of the parking in downtown Kirkland is free but time limited to force turnover. I’ve run into similar problems in Redmond, where the street parking has a two hour limit. That’s not enough time to (for example) go to an event at the library and then go out to lunch. So we just go the library and then home, which, I assume, is not what the businesses there would prefer. I’d be happy to pay for another hour or two if I could.
There’s an argument that if we charge for parking in Kirkland, that people will just go to Redmond or Bellevue where the parking is free. Kirkland has the waterfront, many art galleries, unique restaurants, consignment clothing boutiques, and the only tea shop around. Redmond and Bellevue have mostly chain stores and restaurants. So if I want tea, I’m going to Kirkland, not Redmond or Bellevue. If I’m going to the Gap or Macy’s or Red Robin, I’m not going to Kirkland anyway. If I want to go to Trellis or Ristorante Paradiso, I’m going to Kirkland. If I need a new pan, I’m going to Sur la Table, and I have my knives sharpened at Epicurean Edge, both in Kirkland and not Redmond or Bellevue. If I want to go to the lake, I’m going to go to Kirkland, and then buy my pastries at the French Bakery, which exists in a few places, but only the Kirkland location is near the lake.
Access to downtown is currently difficult for all modes. The streets into downtown backup at peak times. This also backs up the bus, but few people in Kirkland are near a bus stop anyway. There are more and more people within walking distance, but not enough to support a downtown. And biking, well, I know all about that. I am willing to ride to the library, although there are parts of the trip where I don’t feel safe, but not much farther than that. If I want to go to the lake, I’d need to walk from there. I have two who are not useful walkers yet, so this is a big barrier.
At least if you’re driving, you can get to Kirkland. I can’t even get there on my bike.
Updated: Other people are talking about parking today, too. At the Seattle Bike Blog, there’s a nice article about the excess parking in Seattle, and why that’s not a good thing.
Kirkland Greenways posted on Facebook about parking in Kirkland.
For more information about how excess parking costs us all money, see the series from Sightline. It’s well worth reading through the whole thing.