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Originally published Monday, January 11, 2010 at 7:51 PM

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Seattle to allow all-day parking lots near light-rail stations, after all

Light-rail commuters can park all day in pay lots in Rainier Valley after all, under a policy change announced in a news release Monday by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. McGinn said the city will suspend enforcement of an ordinance that prevents all-day parking in lots near Link stations.

Seattle Times transportation reporter

Light-rail commuters can park all day in pay lots in Rainier Valley after all, under a policy change announced in a news release Monday by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

McGinn said the city will suspend enforcement of an ordinance that prevents all-day parking in lots near Link stations.

The parking limits were put in place to encourage mixed-use, densely populated development near the stations so people would walk to them, a long-term goal the mayor still supports, said spokesman Mark Matassa. A second reason was that when the stations were being planned, city officials promised neighborhoods the stations would not result in a flood of new traffic. Restricting parking, the reasoning went, would achieve that goal.

But until the economy rebounds, and the new development arrives, McGinn said, "It's good for local businesses and commuters to be flexible now" so the city should allow paid all-day parking in existing lots.

Over the weekend, Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat challenged the city's parking limits, pointing out that Link ridership "isn't exactly blowing the doors off" at under 15,000 average weekday boardings.

Seattle Transit Blog, Rainier Valley Post, PubliCola, City Councilmember Bruce Harrell's homepage, and television stations have all weighed in with stories about the parking limits.

But McGinn said Monday's move was in response to suggestions last year from businesspeople near Othello Station, where he kept an election-campaign office.

All-day parking for $30 a month was offered starting in August at an existing parking lot outside the Othello Safeway store. Since the city ordered the operator to limit parking to no more than four hours at a stretch, the lot has been mostly empty.

Another 73-stall private lot next to Mount Baker Station was also told to limit parking times.

Yet another pay lot, next to the Columbia City Station at the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club has a half dozen parking customers who started paying $50 a month in December. The club has not been told to limit parking, according to operations manager Rick DuPree.

The only Sound Transit-owned park-and-ride lot on the Seattle-to-Sea-Tac airport route is a 600-space site at Tukwila International Boulevard Station, where transit users can park free for 24 hours. That lot is mostly full most of the time.

Within a month, McGinn will propose a new parking policy for areas around light-rail stations, Matassa said.

Councilman Tom Rasmussen, the City Council's transportation committee chairman, said easing the restrictions does make sense. Among other issues, the council needs to discuss whether developers may create new parking spaces for light rail, or strictly to serve their own buildings, he said.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

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