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October 24, 2010 12:00 AM

Tips for finding cheap and easy parking in downtown Seattle this holiday season


New signs at major downtown parking garages tell drivers how many spots are available. (Karen Gaudette)


For quick trips, valet prices can be less than an hour in a garage. (Karen Gaudette)

There are probably oodles of things you'd rather do during the holidays than circle the block in search of an elusive downtown Seattle parking spot. Buy yourself some time (and save money) by heading out with a plan. Interactive maps, new electronic signs and other improvements make it easier than ever.

Map it
Before you start your engine, consult the Seattle Department of Transportation's interactive parking map for a bird's-eye view of garage and street-parking options. Check out the DOT's construction map for current and future projects that could prompt a detour.

Parking tips
  • Always keep small bills handy to avoid running for an ATM if a parking-payment machine stops working.
  • When paying in advance, round up. It's almost always cheaper to buy an extra hour of parking than to pay an overtime fine or parking ticket.
  • Read signs closely before choosing a garage or lot. Checking the fine print can save you from thinking the giant number on the sandwich board is the daily rate; often, it's per hour.
  • Consider using valet parking if you just need to step in for a quick return or exchange. A service that charges by 15- or 30-minute increments often beats the hourly flat rate at a garage or lot -- even with a tip.

Look up
The city recently posted signs on six major downtown parking garages and structures that answer the all-important question: How many parking spots remain?

Garages with signs include:

• Stewart Street at Third Avenue
• Washington State Convention Center, off Eighth Avenue
• Pike Place Market, off Western Avenue
• Puget Sound Plaza, 315 Union St.
• Pacific Place, 600 Pine St.
• Washington Athletic Club, 1409 Sixth Ave.

If your favorite garage happens to be full, don't fret; additional signs scattered throughout downtown point the way to other options. The program is set to expand to Pioneer Square in 2011 and along the waterfront in 2012.

How to save
Look for lots with early-bird specials, low weekend rates or evening specials. Some local parking companies post maps, hourly/daily/monthly pricing and deals on their websites.


Republic Parking Northwest (rpnw.com/seattle/locations) offers parking all day on weekends for $6 at its U.S. Bank Centre lot (also known as City Centre), and charges $5 on weekdays from 5 p.m. to close. Standard Parking's website (standardparkingnw.com/locations) shows that the Rainier Square Garage offers all-day weekend parking for $7.

Look for lots that validate. A dollar or two off full price may not seem like much, but it adds up over time. Look for merchants and parking companies that participate in the Seattle Downtown Association's parking validation City Park program.

Member merchants include Nordstrom, Ben Bridge Jeweler, Mario's and more. Participating garages and lots include Pacific Place, Century Square and the West Edge Garage. Visit the association's website for the entire list.