No day of rest for Portland's cheapskate motorist

Stop kvetching about Seattle's tough parking rules and take a Sunday drive to "easygoing" Portland.
Crosscut archive image.

Don't forget to read the fine print.

Stop kvetching about Seattle's tough parking rules and take a Sunday drive to "easygoing" Portland.

Civic face-offs, interurban smackdowns — comparing Seattle to Portland is an armchair sport and journalistic fallback as old as the towns themselves. These days, the comparisons tend to be drawn in Portland’s favor: It’s friendlier, mellower, quirkier, more authentic, more Northwest and of course cheaper — more like Seattle twenty or thirty years ago, when people drew the same comparisons between it and San Francisco.

Seattle is too big, too rich, too fast, too stressed, too expensive, too urban. It’s Microsoft, Amazon, Sonny Liston, the New York Yankees — the big bully everyone loves to hate. Pugetopolis vs. Portlandia. Starbucks vs. Stumptown. Where young people don’t go to retire.

This little sign, in Portland’s Pearl District, upends those prevailing paradigms.

Crosscut archive image.

It looks like thousands of parking signs on Seattle’s streets, with a couple exceptions. Note the tiny tacked-on lettering below the circle-P, so inscrutable it makes Seattle’s parking signage seem the acme of disclosure and customer service. Squint and read what it says: Pay for parking, 8am to 7pm Monday to Saturday and 1 to 7pm on Sunday.

Sunday! The last refuge of the cheapskate motorist, a day of rest from anxious meter-feeding and horizon-watching. So much for laid-back Portland. Pay-to-park Sundays, which Portland instituted in 2009, may make perfect sense from a retail-efficiency or transportation-planning point of view. But isn’t that a more hardheaded Seattle than easygoing Portland way of looking at things?

To be sure, the hourly bite on Portland’s downtown parking spaces is just $1.60 versus Seattle’s $4. But if you overstay your meter, it’ll cost you more there: $60, versus $44 for overtime parking in Seattle.

Did I pay it? Heck no. What, me drive to Portland? When I go to the big city, I take the bus.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

Eric Scigliano

Eric Scigliano

Eric Scigliano's reporting on social and environmental issues for The Weekly (later Seattle Weekly) won Livingston, Kennedy, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other honors. He has also written for Harper's, New Scientist, and many other publications. One of his books, Michelangelo's Mountain, was a finalist for the Washington Book Award. His other books include Puget SoundLove, War, and Circuses (aka Seeing the Elephant); and, with Curtis E. Ebbesmeyer, Flotsametrics.