Smart Park Garage Low Income Discounts
Reduced Rate Swing Shift Pass
On February 1, 2016 the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation increased the on-street hourly parking rate in Downtown from $1.60 to $2.00 per hour. A concern raised during the discussion of this increase is the impact on downtown employees earning low wages, working swing shift or evening shift schedules who are not served well by available transit options.
To mitigate this impact the SmartPark Program has developed a new Reduced Rate Swing Shift monthly pass that is available based on qualifications and availability. This new program is intended to provide a reasonable option to lower income workers while leaving readily accessible on-street parking spaces available for evening customers and visitors.
The new reduced rate program was started on April 1, 2016. The swing shift monthly pass is valid from 3 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily at all SmartPark Garages except for the O’Bryant Square Garage. The new rate is available to individuals not exceeding an annual income of $35,000 per year. The applicant’s employer must verify that the applicant meets the income threshold and that they work for the company on a swing shift or evening shift schedule.
Staff developed the $35,000 threshold by talking with stakeholders including the Multnomah County Human Services Housing and Anti-Poverty Program, Portland Housing Bureau, Portland Business Alliance and a number of large downtown employers. The threshold number is roughly based on 300% of the federal poverty guidelines and can be updated annually by PBOT staff.
The $35 monthly rate was developed by trying to make it more affordable for low income workers in downtown who do not have good access to transit and are currently paying the on-street parking rates. The rate is intended to be an incentive to park in an off-street garage leaving the readily accessible on-street parking spaces available for evening customers and visitors. A $35 per month rate could save a full-time qualifying employee parking on-street and working twenty 8-hour days approximately 65% or $65 per month and could save a part-time employee working ten 8-hour days approximately 30% or $15 per month. The $35 per month rate would be a reduction of more than 60% over the existing swing shift rates.
While working with stakeholders, it became apparent that to be able to reach the intended market we needed to make the process both convenient and more accessible. We created a process where the applicant’s employer can easily verify the applicant’s income and employment status. Once the application is submitted, staff verifies the employer’s signature and processes the application. We translated the application form and the Frequently Asked Questions form to Spanish, Vietnamese and Russian based on input from stakeholders. PBOT issued a press release on March 10 in an effort to announce the new program. Staff uploaded the application materials to the SmartPark website and sent applications and the FAQ document to all of the stakeholder groups.
Right away after the launch we have received 10 applications in various languages. We anticipate this program will build slowly. Some employers have informed us that it will take them time to disseminate the information to and work with their employees who might qualify. Staff and the Garage Operator will monitor the program over the next six to twelve months in an effort to determine demand and market saturation.