OLYMPIA – A bill sponsored by Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, that will mitigate impacts to parking in Seattle neighborhoods due to light rail installations, passed the Washington State Senate on Wednesday (SB 5343).

“I see this as a social justice issue,” Hasegawa said following the vote. “Many neighborhoods in South Seattle are low-income and communities of color who can’t afford to be burdened with the new parking fees. Sixty-five dollars per vehicle doesn’t sound like much to a lot of people, but added to rising rents, rising food costs and the need for multiple generations of families to live under one roof to make ends meet, people are getting forced out of Seattle. We’re going to start seeing lost cultural and economic diversity in our city.”

Since the completion of light rail through South Seattle, a situation arose where commuters were taking advantage of free parking in neighborhoods near new light rail stations and staying all day, making it difficult for residents. To deter commuters from parking in residential areas, new Restricted Parking Zones (RPZ) were instituted in many impacted neighborhoods.

The city already offers RPZ passes at a discounted rate for residents who meet a low-income threshold. This bill puts in statute the discounted pass should be no more than $5 per year, and requests must be granted. It also allows for non-profits in impacted areas to qualify for the discounted pass.

“The intent of the RPZ is good, that is trying to make sure residents have spaces to park in their own neighborhoods,” Hasegawa added. “But the result was insensitive to the needs of the people it impacted. I am a huge supporter of public transit, but the reality is many people who live in South Seattle need their cars to get to work. They might work in places that aren’t served by light rail, or they might work night shifts and come home after trains stop running. Allowing residents to receive an affordable permit while keeping the RPZ in place is a win-win. The residents have parking, and commuters have the train.”