Parking committee considers three-hour stalls in downtown Bremerton

Parking regulations in downtown Bremerton could soon be changed to allow six hours of free parking in hopes of a dual effect to deter serial parking offenders and encourage shoppers to stop downtown.

The Bremerton City Council Ad-Hoc Parking Committee met Tuesday to debate what options to recommend to city council, with the goal of having signs changed by the time construction on Fourth Avenue is complete in mid-May.

Municipal code currently allows vehicles to park on the same street for two hours at a time, except for the parking around the future Bremerton Cinema, which will accommodate movie-goers with three-hour spots.

Committee chair and councilman Roy Runyon said they’re considering adding “re-park once” option, which would only allow anyone parking on a downtown street to park for three hours and move their car once to any other spot. Currently that move is prohibited.

The parking committee’s efforts seek to prevent “shufflers,” the drivers who work all day downtown and move their cars every few hours rather than paying for space in a commercial or city lot.

Committee member Peggy Nord owns Simply Renewed Antiques at 301 Pacific Ave. “Businesses I’ve spoken to are mostly concerned about parking punishing the customer, rather than the ‘shuffle,’” she said.

Her impression of parking downtown is that the construction on Fourth Avenue is creating more problems than anything else, and she’s not convinced the “re-park once” will prevent people abusing parking.

“One of the issues is punishing the wrong people,” Nord said. “Any time you ask a customer to get in their car and move, there’s a chance they’re gonna drive off and not come back.”

During the initial meeting, committee members estimated about 20 drivers are habitual shufflers, most of whom are employees at the stores downtown.

It’s difficult to know exactly how big of a problem shufflers are, said Christine Coyne, ImPark office administrator. ImPark manages parking and ticketing downtown. Not every business knows they can write off parking garage passes as a tax-deductible expense and at least half of the cars downtown belong to business workers, she said.

“Patrolers just know cars we see all the time,” she said.

The committee also discussed whether to change to three-hour parking rules or give businesses the option to validate parking passes, but Runyon said most members seemed to prefer the “repark once” model.

Runyon said the cost of changing signs would have to be determined by the city, but he was told by the Public Works Department that installing one parking sign and post costs $800. Joyce Brown, assistant to the public works director, said the figure seemed high, but she couldn’t confirm it without more context. “There’s a lot of variations as to what costs what,” she said.

The next committee meeting is April 10.

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