It’s unfortunate you all got used to your free parking

Because that should not have happened. It sucks when you get used to a perk, and then it starts to go away. But all that free and cheap parking was just that: a perk. Because the city was paying for it, and the users were not. I think we can all agree that the city should not be spending money buying cars parking spaces in high-demand areas while other city departments go woefully under-funded (the library’s going to close for a whole week, people!)

Well, the Seattle Times these past few weeks has decided to become the official newspaper of the Seattle-area car driver for some reason. It started with some editorials. The first should have been fact-checked before going to print (and the author even took some of it back and apologized). How that column got past her editors, I have no idea (their paper had just run a story days earlier that refuted much of what she wrote). Then came a second editorial, this one with fewer factual errors and just a poor opinion and disturbing world-view (which is acceptable).

Then, Thursday, they ran a front-page story about parking that is, as Erica at Publicola put it, “a thinly disguised front-page editorial against paid parking.” The article (presented as news, not an editorial) only makes sense if you came to it with the assumption that paid parking is a bad thing. It’s like a logical trick, where you center a debate around a faulty premise. Here, there is this cancer of parking enforcement that is growing, and it’s headed for your neighborhood. It eats money, and with each ticket, it grows stronger, feeding the evil queen ant at City Hall whose only desire is to take your car away from you.

But you know how to defeat this cancer? Obey the damn parking rules! Or don’t drive your car. If you live somewhere that truly does not have adequate transit service (and you cannot bike), then you have to bite the bullet and pay for the space your car takes up. Don’t expect the city to front your parking bill while it can’t even keep the library doors open. If you park in two-hour parking and stay for longer than that, you should get a ticket. This is not a diabolical city conspiracy against car drivers.

This article was so off-base, even Jon Scholes of the Downtown Seattle Association (which is typically wrong about everything) came to the city’s defense:

The characterization that the “goal” of the City’s parking enforcement program is to “discourage driving” is entirely inaccurate as is the implication that parking Downtown would be easier to find and more plentiful if the City didn’t enforce parking rules (or were less effective in enforcing the rules).

It is very important to the vibrancy of the Downtown neighborhood that metered on-street parking is managed in a way so that those spaces are available to serve people in need of short-term parking.  There is a limited supply of on-street parking Downtown and we aren’t making any more of it.

You know you got something wrong when you write a pro-car article that the DSA disagrees with.

Anyway, read Erica’s piece for more refuting of this article.

My main concern is with the Times’ editing staff. You would think that after one poorly researched transportation column less than two weeks ago required an apology, they would be a little more careful about something they were going to run on the front page and call “news.” It’s as though the paper’s rabid, consistently offensive nutjob online commenters have finally gnawed their way into the newsroom. I know the Times can do better than this, but it might be time to call a meeting and figure out how this stuff keeps getting through.

I should say one positive thing about the parking article, though: I love the depiction of parking-enforcement officer Linda James. She comes off as heroic, feared and fair. I don’t understand how the rest of the article got so of base with such an entertaining and strong character sketch at the center. Here was her response to being called the Gestapo:

“I’m sorry, but I don’t consider myself a Nazi,” she said. “We’re just here to serve the public … so why are you arbitrarily deciding the rules don’t apply to you?”

Another man once snarled, “You must really enjoy doing this to people.”

She kept her cool. But inside, she said, she was thinking, “Yes, I like my job and I want to do a good job. If you complied with the rules, you’d never meet me.”

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