Cheap county employees hog free downtown parking

Well, this won’t do much to foster city-county goodwill.

The Vancouver City Council had a workshop Monday on its Government Parking District Management Plan in advance of an April 15 public hearing. The council has been discussing downtown street parking since August 2011, focused on an area roughly bounded by Mill Plain Boulevard to the north, rail tracks to the west, Evergreen Boulevard/Eighth Street to the south and Columbia Street to the east.

Of 783 parking stalls — and this is all public parking, not private lots owned by businesses — 40 percent are metered and 60 percent are free.

There are nine different types of stalls, including 30 minute, 1 hour, 2 hour, 3 hour and 10 hour metered spaces, but half of all spaces are free, with no time limits. Those spaces are along Harney Street and west of Harney Street, which runs west of the Clark County Courthouse. One thing the city council wants to¬†accomplish is making more parking available for¬†the courthouse, and not just short-term metered parking that, let’s face it, is never enough time if you have to be in court.

If you read the headline, you know where I’m going with this. A big problem, the city council heard, was that there’s so much free parking west of the courthouse and the Public Service Center that county employees take it all up rather than pay $20 a month to park in a county parking garage. The county has garages at both the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office and the Public Service Center, and has lots, including the one south of the courthouse where judges and court administrators park.

Mark McCauley, the county’s director of general services, said approximately 1,300 county employees work in downtown Vancouver. Of those, 558 pay to park in a county lot or garage. (Of course, some take alternative forms of transportation to get to work, so I’m not suggesting that 742 employees are parking on the street.)

A parking consultant, who has been working with a nine-member parking task force, recommended to the council simplifying the types of metered parking down to two types: 3 hours and 10 hours.

So here’s the bottom line: The Vancouver City Council might change some of those street spots, which are currently free, to metered spots. If you are one of those county employees who currently parks on the street, the city will make it so it will be cheaper for you to have $20 deducted from your paycheck every month so you can park in a county lot.

And if that happens, hey, it could be worse. You could work for the city, which charges its employees $45 a month for parking.

Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at stephanie.rice@columbian.com or 360-735-4508.

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