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Seattle Performance-Based Parking Pricing Program

When you use this in your parking change-making efforts, please give credit to Parking Reform Atlas and/or its sources.


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Brief summary of this reform

Seattle adopted demand-based price setting for the on-street parking in its busiest areas. It is known as "Performance-Based Parking Pricing". Seattle has largish price zones. The system now includes time-of-day price variations, with three weekday pricing periods (morning, midday, evening).

Why should you care?

Seattle's demand-based parking price setting is noteworthy for starting in a relatively simple (but good enough) implementation but then making incremental improvements over time.


United States of America

Vehicle type




Key actor type

Local government


City of Seattle

Primary motivation

orderly parking (usually for wider benefits too)

Agencies involved

Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)

Is it a model or a warning?

useful model

Reform type

Main parking category

Main parking paradigm shift


On-street in mainly commercial streets

Towards park-once-and-walk AND more responsiveness to context/market

Adaptive Parking thrust

Implementation status

Year adopted

P: Price parking in the right ways and with the right rates for each place and time



Goals of the reform

The immediate goal is adequate parking vacancies so that new arrivals can find an open space and to prevent the negative side-effects of excessive parking occupancy. "SDOT sets on-street parking rates and hours of operation based on data to achieve a goal of 1 to 2 spaces available per block. This means that visitors and shoppers can find a parking spot more easily, with less time spent driving around circling in traffic."

Impetus (what problem, campaign, opportunity or event prompted action?)

I am not sure what the immediate impetus for this reform was in 2009 or so. I assume that advocacy for this approach by Donald Shoup and others must have been important, along with news that San Francisco and Los Angeles were about to try something similar.

Detailed description of the reform

Seattle's demand-based on-street parking price setting uses data on parking occupancy "to determine potential changes to rates, time limits, and paid parking hours by comparing results to our target range of 70% - 85% occupancy." It applies to about 11,500 parking spaces.

SDOT provides detailed reports to explain the price revision process each year.

The system began in 2010 relatively simply and has increased in sophistication in a step-by-step way.

Initially, the price in each zone was the same for all priced hours. Since 2015, the system includes time-of-day price variations, with three weekday pricing periods (morning, midday, evening). In certain areas there area also price differences according to the season of the year.

The demand-based price setting initially used annual parking occupancy surveys to determine parking conditions for its price reviews. Now SDOT also uses "a sophisticated model that predicts parking activity based on transactions and regularly collected counts throughout the city.

Like Calgary, Seattle uses largish price zones and prices get adjusted only once a year. This simplicity contrasts with San Francisco's prices that vary block-by-block.

The pricing zones have been refined over time, including adding new priced zones. Seattle’s areas with paid parking range in size between 50 spaces to over 1,000 spaces.

A prominent example was the splitting of the initial Chinatown-ID zone into two zones, Core and Periphery in 2013. This resulted in two zones with different occupancy patterns, and hence different prices. The split gave motorists the option of walking a little to get cheaper parking than in the Core area.

Some cities adopting demand-based price-setting extend or abolish on-street parking time-limits as part of the reform. However, Seattle appears to have retained time limits (mostly 2 hours) at least during busy times.

Results or impacts

According to SDOT: "For the most part, on average over the day, paid areas are in or near the target range of one to two available spaces on a blockface."

One example of a new paid parking area illustrates the results:
"SDOT installed new paid parking, load zones, disabled parking, unpaid time limits, and restricted parking zone spaces in Columbia City in late 2017 following a two-year data collection and outreach effort. Overall, data collected in 2018 and 2019 show that conversion to paid parking has led to improved parking availability. Prior to implementation, parking on commercial streets in Columbia City was completely full for much of the day. Following implementation of paid parking, parking is still well utilized, but drivers are much more likely to find a space."

Sources and acknowledgements

Painted Greek Island

Last updated: 

14 Mar 2021

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