Olympia community member to councilmembers: Take a bus to understand the impact of zero-parking proposal


Community member Walter Jorgensen challenged Olympia City councilmembers to take a bus and experience other alternative modes of transportation before deciding on the parking code amendments, particularly on the zero-parking requirements for new residential developments.

Walter Jorgensen
Walter Jorgensen

During the public comment segment at last night's city council meeting, Jorgensen said the experience would help the councilmembers better understand the impact of the proposed parking code amendments.

The amendments are heading to the city council for review on May 16. The Land Use and Environment Committee and the Olympia Planning Commission approved the recommendations.

"You should take practical steps of conducting your experiment before looking at multiple permit applications to build sizeable residential structures with no parking," said Jorgensen, who aired his comment virtually.

Last year, Jorgensen said, he participated in the "no driving for a week challenge." He walked and took the bus, which he said was a new experience.

"It took a long time, especially transferring. I regretted taking as much stuff with me," Jorgensen recounted. "It is hard to imagine this being a viable alternative for someone with kids and with their bags of groceries."

Jorgensen suggested asking residents of larger buildings to try not driving for a week, simulating not having a car, and see how it work for them.

He argued that testing a hypothesis is a standard scientific process that can provide facts and useful guidance.

Judy Bardin asked the city to design a realistic regulation. Nne of the Olympia City Council meeting virtual attendees on Tuesday, May 9,
Judy Bardin asked the city to design a realistic regulation. Nne of the Olympia City Council meeting virtual attendees on Tuesday, May 9,

Judy Bardin asked the city to design a realistic regulation.

Bardin complained that no research had been done on the proposed regulation, which she claimed was strongly opposed by two-thirds of more than a hundred people who submitted their comments to the Planning Commission.

"No research on the experience of other cities similar in size to Olympia with zero-parking requirements. It seems that Olympia is about to launch into an unresearched experiment in parking which effect will be cumulative and, probably, seriously affect the quality of life of many residents," Bardin said.

With the high cost of housing in Olympia, William Jernegan said many people need to work two jobs.

Jernegan informed the councilmembers that buses in the Olympia area stop running at 9 p.m., and it is a non-viable mode of transportation for many people who work the second or third shifts. "Taking away parking would take away the only mode of transportation for these people to get to their jobs."

Speaking in favor 

Rad Cunningham, who recently retired from the Planning Commission, said Washington has a constituency overserved by parking minimums.

Rad Cunningham
Rad Cunningham

"Parking minimums are attacks on our future, our affordable housing future, our desired transportation future, and the equitable and livable world," he said.

Cunningham, a climate epidemiologist, cited the Disability Rights Washington, which stated that BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color, poor people, seniors, and people with disabilities are less likely to have a driver's license or access to a car. They are more to be transit-reliant. He added that a quarter of Washingtonians do not drive.

Regarding affordability, he cited peer-reviewed research that says parking accounts for 17% of housing cost - a $200 a month additional rent.

"The space we allocate to cars is impacting the future that Olympians have decided that they want for themselves in the comprehensive plan," the former planning commissioner said.

Robert Vanderpool, who has supported the zero-parking proposal, said it would allow Olympia to reach some of the climate goals.

"Ultimately, it would allow us to have safer streets because we don't have to rely on cars as much. Ultimately, it becomes more walkable cities," said Vanderpool, one of the attendees at the council chambers.

On April 27, the Land Use and Environment Committee approved forwarding the zero-parking recommendation to the city council.

The committee instructed the staff to explore the feasibility of requiring at least one accessible space in multifamily units to align with the existing code.

Climate goals

Councilmember Jim Cooper commended the Planning Commission for bringing a proposal that would help meet the city's long-term climate goals. 

"I think to implement our climate goals and implement our Transportation Master Plan, this proposal from the Planning Commission is what we need," Cooper said.


18 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • TheVirtualOne

    Taking the bus will open anyone’s eyes to the truth about how poor our public transportation infrastructure is in Olympia. While I agree in principle with the idea of more people using public transportation, the current system is absolutely below what any reasonable person would expect to rely on for several reasons. I speak from the experience of having worked at one time with a regional transit director by conducting a detailed study of their current system and trying to determine how to improve it.

    Long wait times and too infrequent connections and transfers are a big factor now. People do not want to stand in the cold, wet weather that is normal throughout most of the year here. Those wait times have to be cut or people will refuse to use the system. Drop off and pick up points are often far from the ultimate start and destination points for many commuters. This means they have to walk in the bad weather, with cars spraying waves of water all over them as they speed by. Who wants that?

    I take the bus about 6-8 times a year and usually end up walking most of the route to save time rather than standing in wait for a bus. The exercise is great, but from a commuting perspective, it doesn’t cut it. For one trip I go on, I have to leave about two hours before I need to arrive at my destination. In a car, this same trip takes about 15 minutes. Talk about inefficient use of my time. Why would I do that every day? I also have to walk about a half mile after the bus drops me off.

    There is also the issue of safety that needs to be addressed. The truth is there are many shady people who hang out at the bus stops and on the buses, especially at the transit station in downtown Olympia. Some bus stops have been taken over by the homeless. The homeless population in Olympia continues to be a major issue that is not being resolved to the satisfaction of our community. I have observed criminal behavior many times in my commutes on the bus. The police are not around and I have not felt safe. Why would anyone choose to take the bus and put themselves in danger? I feel sorry for those who must rely on our bus system as their sole source of transportation.

    So, if you want to take parking away from the housing system, fix the transit system and the associated problems first. There are examples all around the world where it works, but we are far from it here.

    Thursday, May 11, 2023 Report this

  • OlympiaResident

    In reference to the above quote: "Regarding affordability, he cited peer-reviewed research that says parking accounts for 17% of housing cost - a $200 a month additional rent."

    If zero-parking housing costs less to build, there's no reason to assume that savings will be passed on to renters. That's not how the market works. In other words, it's a false premise to assume that zero-parking development will result in lower rent prices.

    Thursday, May 11, 2023 Report this

  • BobJacobs

    Planning Commission members appear to be confused. They seem to think we live in Manhattan, not Olympia.

    It is utterly absurd to think that we can all get along with just our existing transit system. It is rudimentary at best.

    See the numerous examples above and in planning commission testimony.

    We need a city government that is pragmatic, not doctrinaire.

    Bob Jacobs

    Friday, May 12, 2023 Report this

  • Deskandchairs

    Good for Jernegan. Speaking with reason and perspective

    Friday, May 12, 2023 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    Same old old folks attempting to block progress. Removing minimum parking requirements has been successful at making a dent in the cost of housing all across the country. It's only one step, but one in the right direction. Local builders are even being priced out by the high cost of development and pretty soon only the national corporations who can afford it will be building. They are disconnected from this community and could care less about what you think. If you want housing costs to come down, make it feasible for our local builders to stay in business.

    Friday, May 12, 2023 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    Also, the concerns around transit aren't consistent with how transit has been developed anywhere in this country. The transit is built where it is needed. Development has always come first. It is the need that draws transit to the area not the other way around.

    Friday, May 12, 2023 Report this

  • JkovOly

    The city council are a bunch of virtue-signaling morons. How many of them drove thier car to the meeting? Making room for parking often times includes additional greenspace for trees. If they are really concerned about the environment make greenspace mandatory for new parking areas. Have they been to the bus stop transfer area downtown and seen all the homeless living there? They don't care bc they enable the homeless too. Some big developers are paying them on the side for this guaranteed.

    Friday, May 12, 2023 Report this

  • Elaine

    I completely agree that the bus system needs to be more user friendly, however I also think reducing the parking regulation would be harmful to our community. I believe it would prevent seniors and other people who are not so able to walk to shop at all the little stores downtown and around our community. It also seems to be a means to take away some of our freedom. We should be free to move around freely as we choose, whether it is by car or public transportation. It is not right to force people to take public transportation.

    Friday, May 12, 2023 Report this

  • Deanima

    All y'all naysayers are acting like the City is going to require people to live in housing that has no parking whether they want to or not. And y'all are also acting like it's the end of parking. It's not. It's the end of over-parking, based on parking requirements that were never based on reality to begin with. Show me the research that determined how to calculate required parking for, say, a bed and breakfast. It doesn't exist. Yet many of you want a scientific study for why the standards should be reduced. Oddly, many of the voices in protest are the same tired voices who oppose nearly everything the City proposes.

    Friday, May 12, 2023 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    Some of you please read up and understand why this is important: https://parkingreform.org/

    Friday, May 12, 2023 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    And please read this: https://parkingreform.org/2023/03/10/parking-mandates-equity-accessibility/

    Friday, May 12, 2023 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    To address the person in the article that made the claims about 2/3 of the comments to the planning commission being against and there being no research on the matter. 1. I did a count and removed all duplicate comments and those that did not directly address the issue. The comments to the planning commission came out even. 2. There is an entire Parking Reform Network group with tons of ideas, examples, and evidence of the positive impacts of removing minimum parking requirements in over 200 American cities that have done it. Find that here: https://parkingreform.org/

    Anti growth folks shouldn't just get to make arbitrary and unfounded claims without being held accountable. In fact, nobody should. Just because you didn't look for the research, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

    Friday, May 12, 2023 Report this

  • WilliamPorter

    I was going to post a comment... and then Yeti1981 said everything I was going to say.

    Friday, May 12, 2023 Report this

  • JamesS

    To understand the state of transit in Olympia take a look at the new IT facility on Martin Way. The City required a parking demand study and then allowed them to build individual parking spaces for every potential visitor and employee, even the ones who work from home. Apparently even bus drivers don't take the bus to work.

    Friday, May 12, 2023 Report this

  • Claire

    Yet one more attempt at social engineering by the liberal social engineering Olympia Shitty Council. Take the bus, they say. Have they? All season bus riding, not just when we have nice weather. Try schlepping all your stuff.in the wind and blowing rain. It's NOT pleasant.

    Friday, May 12, 2023 Report this

  • zingZap33x

    To the person who said the comments pro and against were even, they were not. I only counted people who commented once, even if they had commented several times. I also counted written and oral comments. There were 107 comments (oral and written) up until the comment period after the hearing and 2/3rds were opposed to the proposed parking regulations.

    Also Leonard Bauer the head of Community Planning and Development, said that no parking (no parking minimums) had not been tried that he knew of in a City the size of Olympia. In bigger cities, with buses, subways, or light rail no parking can work. I lived for years in NYC without a car (I almost forgot how to drive). I was also able to do shopping very close to my apartment. Olympia's buses on many routes stop at 8 pm and are on restricted schedules on weekends. Last Thanksgiving there was no bus service at all. Additionally, for most people food stores are not near to where they live. To do without parking, you need frequent reliable transportation, and food stores and services close by. Olympia has neither.

    Something that I have observed and I find disturbing, is the pro-density advocates who are also pushing no parking are the first to throw insults towards people who have concerns about proposed regulations. It is a familiar cancel culture tactic.

    Saturday, May 13, 2023 Report this

  • bobesan

    Great article that Oly. gov't people should take the bus to learn just how much trouble it is to get around in a timely manner during the pandemic. Indeed, good gov't workers need to have empathy to do a good job for the citizens, who pay their salaries.

    But I'd like to take Walt's argument a step further. Since Oly.'s powers-that-be seem to hate us homeowners, esp. if we have cars that allow us to get out into nature (where buses don't typically run), perhaps they need to better commune w/ nature by trying out being homeless for awhile, i.e., w/o houses or cars.

    Monday, May 15, 2023 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    @ZingZap33x. They do not appear even because of the multiple different names folks comment under, but I happen to know who they are. The comments were absolutely closer to even than not.

    Monday, May 15, 2023 Report this