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Spokane ends free parking but will be lax about enforcement until June

Notices tucked under wiper blades on Tuesday tell drivers that full parking enforcement at meters has returned and will be fully enforced beginning June 1. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Notices tucked under wiper blades on Tuesday tell drivers that full parking enforcement at meters has returned and will be fully enforced beginning June 1. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

It’s time to make change.

Shake out those quarters – or better yet, open up a mobile app – because parking in downtown Spokane is no longer free as of Tuesday.

The city of Spokane started charging regular price for parking spots downtown as it settles into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start Washington reopening plan, a step toward normalcy after parking fees had been suspended during the stay-home order.

Until June 1, parking regulations will not be enforced with a heavy hand. Instead, the city will issue courtesy notices and have parking enforcement officers chat with motorists to educate them on the recent change.

The goal, at least to start, is to get people accustomed to paying for parking again, as well as open up spaces downtown as businesses are allowed to reopen.

“We have a lot of employees that are parking downtown all day, so we’re not getting that turnover of parking that we need,” city staffer Jacque West told the Spokane City Council’s Public Infrastructure, Environment and Sustainability committee last week.

Although parking meters will continue to accept coins and credit cards, people parking downtown are encouraged to use the Passport parking app to limit their need to touch the meter. The app is free to download and allows users to pay for parking without ever coming face to face with the meter.

The impetus behind the free parking period, after all, was to reduce the need for downtown visitors and city employees to touch the meter, according to Kirstin Davis, a city spokeswoman.

In conjunction with its #OrderUpSpokane campaign to encourage residents to order pickup at local restaurants, the city also created in mid-March a number of 10-minute parking spaces downtown to simplify newly vital curbside pickup service.

There are now more than 100 curbside pickup zones throughout the city, with requests for more on the way, according to Davis.

A number of those spaces will likely remain as the city makes its way through Inslee’s Safe Start Washington reopening process, but the city will look to create a standardized approach to the designation of 10-minute parking spaces.

Many retailers, as they are allowed to reopen, will continue to emphasize curbside pickup options.

“Apple is one that has really been talking to us about getting a lot of spaces because they have such a big draw,” West said, adding that a solution could include designating 10-minute spaces on Wall Street.

Residential parking pass holders are currently allowed to park at any meter downtown, but on June 8 will likely be asked to return to parking only at all-day meters.

Paid parking hours are on Mondays through Saturdays, from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Sundays are free.

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