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Seattle drivers spend 58 hours per year looking for parking, study says

That’s $1205 in time, fuel, and emissions

A Downtown Seattle parking garage.
Andrew Smith/Flickr

Just how much time do Seattle drivers spend circling the block? Software and data company Inrix released a study this week that attempts to quantify the parking search.

Inrix interviewed 18,000 drivers across 30 cities in three countries—including 555 Seattle drivers. Here, the study found, it takes around 9 minutes to find on-street parking or 8 minutes to find off-street parking, and that the typical Seattle driver tries to park around 9 times per week.

Altogether, the study says, that adds up to about 58 hours per week. That’s $1,205 in time, fuel, and emissions alone—aside from parking cost—or $490 million for the city as a whole.

Seattle ranked fifth in parking search time, behind New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

62 percent of Seattle drivers have avoided driving somewhere because of problems finding parking. It’s more than half, but comparably a little low—almost 10 percent behind Los Angeles.

Inrix suggests a few tech-based solutions: They mention that by the way, they have their own parking app. They make some basic city-planning suggestions—either expanding parking supply or addressing demand with variable pricing, alternate transportation methods, and real-time parking availability. (Seattle uses both variable pricing and publishes real-time downtown parking availability on signs and online.)

Inrix briefly mentioned that increased capacity and park-and-rides could prevent more people in the suburbs from driving in, and offhandly says that encouraging more people to ride transit, bike, or walk can be a city solution—but it makes few transit recommendations besides that.

We asked why this is the case, and Inrix director of public relations Mark Burfeind told us that “the study mainly focused on solutions for those who wish to park, and to help parking facilities improve operations, efficiencies and the driving experience.”

Regardless, the study found that knowing for sure that parking is at your destination would make United States drivers much more likely to drive there: More than 70 percent said they’d be more likely or much more likely to hop in their cars.

On the flipside, knowing there’s no parking wouldn’t be enough to get those same drivers out of their cars. Less than half of them said it would make a negative impact on their decision to drive.

Here’s where a missing piece of the puzzle comes in: It doesn’t cover what happens when someone decides not to drive. Do they carpool, cab, or take public transportation? Or do they avoid making the trip altogether?

This article has been updated.