This Week in the Mercury


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Try-storming?" Debate on Parking Meters During Timbers Games Turns Weird

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Mar 16, 2011 at 2:14 PM

portland-timbers-mls-primaryjpg-2df08600557487de.jpg
So Portland City Council just finished discussing—but not voting on, like Mayor Sam Adams really, really wanted—a proposal to extend meter hours and raise parking rates, only when the Timbers play, for several hundred metered parking spaces near Jeld-Wen Stadium, the soccer arena formerly known as PGE Park.

The changes amount to something all smart big cities with sports teams do, and Adams is right to push forward. But some neighbors, who apparently don't realize they get special permits that exempt them from metersmean they won't have to move their cars during the longer meter hours, are concerned. And now, it'll come back for a vote next week—after Amanda Fritz and Dan Saltzman refused to immediately say yes, owing to those residents' vague concerns.

But that only happened after a surreal discussion that saw city staffers offering their own amendments, commissioners jabbing one other over details and vote-counting, and pop culture references to, of all things, the Rubik's Cube and Elvis Presley. What also followed was something of a loss for Adams, who seemed frustrated that he couldn't manage to corral his commissioners on an issue—transportation—that's dear to his heart.

Adams was already looking tired and cranky during a long city council meeting. He aimed for bombast early on—interrupting several questions and saying several times he was trying to send "a very clear message" to Timbers fans who might otherwise get in their cars and choke streets downtown. Later he chalked up concerns to "heartburn" and "freaking out" and said the city was out to do some "try-storming." Finally, he was just plaintive.

"This is very unfortunate," he said. "Sometimes we have to be stewards instead of popular."

How would parking around the arena change? Hit the jump.

For a slice of meter spaces—just more than 400—roughly bound by SW 18th Street, West Burnside, Interstate 405 and Salmon, meter hours on Timbers game days would extend three hours, to 10 pm. Rates would rise, starting 90 minutes before games, from $1.60 an hour to $3.50. The city began pushing the change after too few Timbers season ticket holders took the team up on Smart Park passes.

"For goodness sakes," Adams said, one of several times he uttered something similar, "do not drive to the game thinking you'll find a parking spot on the street. You're not."

The Bureau of Transportation studied several other cities with stadiums and found that all had a similar plan in place, with many actually charging far more for meters, as much as five times over the normal rates. The goal in all those cities, like in Portland, was to encourage fans to park farther away, or walk, bike, or take public transportation. It's what the city already does in the Rose Quarter for Blazers games, except that there's more parking in play.

But neighbors and some businesses are in a tizzy. They're worried that, somehow, people who like driving up to Goose Hollow to park their cars and walk around would balk at having to pay the higher rate the handful of times a year when their plans might happen to coincide with a Timbers game.

Some want the changes put off until May so they can talk more about it—even though transportation officials say they need to start installing signs and getting the word out almost immediately.

That backlash is one reason why officials say they didn't seek higher rates—although they're asking for the right to do so when they feel it's needed. (Thanks to Saltzman, who argued for it, they'll need to get council approval for whatever they demand.) Only Randy Leonard argued immediately that the special rate should be raised. If the goal is to keep Timbers fans out of the spots, he said $3.50 was "unreasonably low."

Fritz first raised the notion of pushing back the vote, in part because of her concerns on the "public process." That effort got some wings when Saltzman chimed in with his own concerns, winning another amendment that would bring warnings, not fines, for any violations of the new rules during the first Timbers home game.

Adams had wanted the vote to proceed on an "emergency" basis, meaning it needed five votes, so transportation officials could get started on their work right away. Normal ordinances need three votes, but take effect after 30 days.

But while Saltzman was on board with the details, Adams still found himself delaying a vote on the amended ordinance until next week. That's a tricky proposition, because Nick Fish, one of the other "yes" votes, will be out next week. That means Fritz will need to change her mind—which she indicated she might do, with another week to assuage concerned neighbors.

Lamented Adams, a few minutes before the gavel dropped: "It looks like Commissioner Fritz is in the command seat here."

Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-8 of 8

Comments are closed.

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC

115 SW Ash St. Suite 600
Portland, OR 97204

Contact Info | Privacy Policy | Production Guidelines | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy