City Council votes to raise parking rates at two downtown garages

City Council votes to raise parking rates at two downtown garages »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. – Monthly parking will soon cost more in downtown Portland after the City Council voted to raise rates at two SmartPark garages and turn a third into short-term only.

The change comes after downtown businesses complained last summer about the lack of short-term parking. Then last month parking garage statistics confirmed the garages are too crowded.

Right now, drivers pay $165 by the month to park in SmartPark garages. Starting in June, the price is going up $30 at the city-managed SmartPark garages at 4th and Yamhill and $35 extra at 10th and Yamhill.

The Council wants those SmartPark garages to charge more than the average rate at private parking garages.

Rates won’t change for short-term parking. The change only affects monthly parking, impacting more than 360 downtown drivers. The goal is to free up more short-term spaces.

Cheryl Kuck, with the Portland Bureau of Transportation, said the city is prioritizing people who park for an hour or two over those who work downtown and need monthly parking because "it's debatable whether people who work downtown actually need to park downtown."

She said it's as simple as supply and demand. When the economy soured shoppers' appetite for spending, the city sought to fill garages by the month. Now that the retail outlook is improving, it would rather sell spaces by the hour.

The city and many downtown businesses want employees to take public transit to get to work instead of tying up a parking spot.

"I don't think everybody who works downtown needs to be parking downtown," said David Margulis, owner of Margulis Jewelers.

He said half of his employees already take public transit to work. He wants to increase that so shoppers know they can find a spot.

"Parking is always an issue and this helps short-term parkers," he said.

A few downtown workers said Wednesday they’re not thrilled prices are going up, but at this point they're used to paying a premium to park downtown.

Hourly parking rates will not change. But with monthly rates increasing, the city expects to collect more than $100,000 in extra parking revenue each year.

The parking garages were built in the 1970s with short-term parking in mind. The idea was to improve air quality in downtown by reducing the need for shoppers to circle the block trying to find a parking space.