City to update parking management system

Improvements on the way

December 13, 2018 - by Amy Cloud, Communications and Outreach

The City of Bellingham will be seeking public feedback on parking systems in the months to come, as downtown transitions to more pay-by-phone parking.

As businesses and residential development in downtown Bellingham and Fairhaven continue to thrive and grow, the City of Bellingham is doing its part by managing the limited resource of on-street parking utilizing proven parking management strategies.

City of Bellingham staff are working to implement the strategies and goals for parking management outlined in the Fairhaven Parking Plan (2015).  This includes strategies to encourage use of the Commercial Street Parking Garage as well as technology already in place to pay for on-street parking.

A core goal of the Downtown Bellingham Plan is to continue to manage the City’s parking inventory to help ensure access to local businesses and amenities.

In recent years, several operational and behind-the-scenes improvements have been implemented to facilitate the adoption of technology providing greater options and conveniences for customers and business.

Moving forward, the City’s 2019-2020 budget includes funds to replace coin-operated meters with electronic pay stations.  Use of the pay stations will create opportunities to consider changes to how the system is managed.

Concepts for consideration, comment and review by the community and City Council over the next biennium will include:

  • Free parking for the first 15 minutes;
  • Adjusting the days and times for paid parking ;
  • Changes in the types and cost of parking infractions;
  • Paid parking in Fairhaven and expansion of paid parking areas in downtown;
  • Revisions to management of residential parking zones to allow for expansion to new areas;
  • Continuing to seek opportunities to support private development of publicly available parking in downtown and Fairhaven.

Parking revenue helps support Bellingham’s Holiday Tree, the Commercial Street Night Market, Downtown Sounds, the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, landscaping maintenance, litter pickup, graffiti control and other activities important to downtown Bellingham.  All parking revenue is used to support operations and activities and organizations in the area of the paid parking.

For more on the City’s parking study, pending plan and current parking information, please contact:

Eric Johnston, assistant director
Public Works – Operations
City of Bellingham
(360) 778-7710


Q:  I thought I read that this parking plan is a “done deal” – is that accurate?
No.  Goals and strategies for parking management were identified in plans adopted by the City in 2014 and 2015.   City staff have been implementing some changes in the past several years, but in 2019 and 2020 there will be a significant community discussion on next steps, many of which will require City Council action and changes to the Bellingham Municipal Code.

Q:  It feels like it’s hard to find a parking spot downtown sometimes. Does the City have enough spaces?
Yes, there are 1,300 parking stalls downtown plus 100 more on the ground floor of the Commercial Street Parking Garage and numerous park-for-free stalls outside of the downtown core. The four-story parking garage has more than 400 spaces that are contracted for downtown residents and workers during the weekday that are otherwise available.

Q:  Is the parking garage a safe place to leave my car?
Yes, the City has added lighting and security at the garage, and the alleyway and courtyard have been updated.

Q: How much will the cost to park change? How about the fees for overtime parking?
The price for parking will be under review in the next two years. Currently all Bellingham meters cost 75 cents per hour.  In some areas, the cost per hour increases after two hours.

Q: What does parking meter money pay for?
In addition to operational expenses, parking revenues helps to support holiday lighting and seasonal flowers, Downtown Bellingham Partnership operations, Downtown Sounds, the Commercial Street Night Market, rent subsidies in City-owned tenant spaces, litter control, trash services and landscaping maintenance.  All parking revenue is used downtown.

Q:  How does paid parking help downtown businesses, customers and visitors?
Paid parking helps manage demand.  Metered parking  helps ensure turn-over, which means there should always be parking spaces come available as people conclude their business. Metered parking also discourages employees and business owners from parking in front of other businesses, taking up parking that customers could use.

Media Contact

Eric Johnston, assistant director
Public Works – Operations
City of Bellingham
(360) 778-7710

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