Council to discuss paid parking at Lighthouse Park

Jun 13, 2012

Visitors to Lighthouse Park may have to pay for parking next summer, maybe sooner.

More than 1,000 vehicles go through the waterfront park each day on the weekends during spring and summer. Anyone who has visited knows that there isn’t enough parking to meet the demand on a sunny Saturday.

The park has 337 parking spots, plus 32 boat-trailer spaces for those using the boat launch.

Ever since Mukilteo took over the park from the state and renovated it – adding a playground, picnic shelters, restrooms and other amenities – it has become even more popular.

“Lighthouse Park is very, very popular, and it has a lot of community demands for it that’s greater than the parking capacity there,” City Administrator Joe Hannan said. “It’s too popular.”

On a sunny weekend, it’s not uncommon for someone to spend an hour in the car just trying to get through the parking lot.

The city has doubled parking fines, has an employee to monitor the parking lot, and sends a police officer to direct traffic on busy days. It helps with the problem, but it all costs money.

Yearly maintenance and operation of the park costs $175,000.

The city has been reviewing its paid parking options, which would relieve congestion and make money for the city. With one option, revenues over the next year are estimated at nearly $110,000.

That option uses three automated parking machines. Visitors would pay $1.50 an hour to park. Visitors could pay with credit or debit card, print out a parking slip and put it on the dash of their car window. A contracted parking company would manage the meters.

Residents could buy an annual $30 parking pass that gives them four hours of free parking per day. Parking would also be free on Wednesdays, for the weekly Farmers Market.

It is likely that the City Council will review the proposal this month, Hannan said.

Council President Richard Emery is in favor of free parking on Wednesdays and a resident parking pass, though he has yet to support any particular hourly parking or pass fees.

“I don’t think it’s equitable that residents can’t access a park in their own city,” Emery said. “ So hopefully this will free up the parking lot for our residents.”

Hannan said the proposed system is similar to those used in Seattle, Everett and Bremerton.

Other options include installing a pay box system with slots for each space or using an annual pass like the state parks do.

“This is for traffic control,” he said. “We think that’s going to happen by the fact that people are paying where they haven’t before. That’s going to eliminate some people coming down to the park.”

The hope is that visitors will start using public transit, shuttles and carpools or walk to the park, Hannan said.

“It’s changing people’s mind sets,” he said. “We’ve got this beautiful resource, we’ve made it even more gorgeous by improving it, and now we have too many people wanting to come here.”

Emery said he’d like to discuss whether the meters would be used year-round and whether to charge for parking downtown, such as on Front and Park streets.

“A lot of Americans think that parking should be free all of the time, everywhere they go. When they have to pay, some people are going to go to a place they don’t have to pay,” he said.

“Parking in those places is already pretty competitive, so that’s going to make it worse.”

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