1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204
Transportation equity has been a top priority of mine since I was assigned the Bureau of Transportation in 2013. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), in conjunction with several stakeholders, developed a new monthly “Reduced Rate Swing Shift” SmartPark pass. This pass will be made available to workers earning low wages and working swing and evening shifts downtown. This program is a small but meaningful step towards improving access to affordable transportation options for all Portlanders.
When the Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat and I launched a committee to develop a citywide parking strategy in January 2015, we focused on updating our long term-strategy for parking. We charged the committee with recommending changes to the Central City 2035 Plan, zoning code, Title 16, and existing parking policies and practices. But when the committee, comprised of representatives from businesses, neighborhoods, institutions, and community advocacy organizations, told me that on-street parking occupancy in the central city had reached 95% in some areas, I agreed that something needed to be done while we continued to work on our long-term strategy.
In February 2016, PBOT increased the on-street hourly parking rate in downtown from $1.60 to $2.00 per hour based on the subcommittee recommendation. This increase allows on-street parking rates to catch up to local transit fares and SmartPark garage rates, which have increased several times since on-street parking rates were last raised in 2009. While raising rates is never popular, the data showed that pricing on-street parking to meet demand would give Portlanders better access to businesses, shopping, and the other amenities Downtown has to offer.
In a testament to the importance of a well-selected committee, members of the subcommittee asked PBOT to consider the potential impact of the rate increase on employees earning low wages and working swing and evening shifts. First, because swing and evening shift workers are not adequately served by public transit and must rely more heavily on personal transit methods than day shift workers and, second, because the on-street parking system is not equipped to support the high volume of long-term parking that swing shift workers demand.
PBOT collaborated with the Portland Housing Bureau and Multnomah County Human Service’s Housing and Anti-Poverty Programs on eligibility requirements for a new “Reduced Rate Swing Shift” SmartPark pass. The old swing shift pass ranged between $90 and $100 a month, depending on the SmartPark location, and the new reduced rate swing shift pass will be only $35 per month. The new rate will be available to individuals meeting an annual income threshold of $35,000 per year, which is roughly 300% of the federal poverty guidelines, and will save a full-time worker approximately 65% over parking on-street.
This program takes advantage of the low SmartPark occupancy in the evenings and will free up on-street parking for short-term evening parking in the city’s center.
As development brings more density and places more demand on our existing on-street parking, we need to better manage on and off-street parking and integrate more robust walking, biking, and transit facilities. We also need to develop innovative and context sensitive tools to address parking impacts throughout our city—something I’m hopeful the Central City Parking and Centers and Corridors Stakeholder Advisory Committees will be able to address through their recommendations.
For more information about the “Reduced Rate Swing Shift” SmartPark pass program, visit http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/113934.