Tech Talk Tuesday: New Dataset Helps Fuel Parking Choices for Seattle Drivers

Photo of Seattle parking pay station

One of the most comprehensive parking datasets ever released by a major U.S. city is now available to Seattle residents and visitors to help cut down on time spent searching for a parking spot. This paid parking occupancy data dates back to 2012 and will help drivers make data-driven parking decisions and manage difficult parking situations.  

Whether planning a weekend shopping trip to downtown, attending a performance at a popular theater, or sporting event, drivers in Seattle can now figure out the best spots near their destination. All they need to do is search for Paid Parking on the City of Seattle’s Open Data Portal

This metadata is being made available thanks to a partnership with Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Tyler Technologies.  

“Our team is proud to support Seattle’s initiative to publish machine-readable parking transaction data for researchers, developers, and the public to use to run analysis, build apps, and find a smarter way for people to park,” said Franklin Williams, president of the Data & Insights Division of Tyler Technologies. “Sharing 1.5 billion rows of data is no small feat. Not only is this the largest dataset on the Seattle open data portal, it’s one of the largest datasets Socrata powers.” 

With the adoption of a new parking policy in 2010, a goal was set to have one to two spaces available throughout the day. This plan is monitored with an Annual Paid Parking Study that implements changes to parking rates, hours of operations, and time limits based on information received. This information automatically generates several datasets: 

  • Paid Parking (Last 48 Hours) 
  • Paid Parking (Last 30 days) 
  • Paid Parking (Year to date) 
  • Historical archives by year going back to 2012 

Seattle Information Technology’s Open Data and Business Intelligence teams worked through technical and organizational hurdles to make this data available to the public. 

“To help realize the power of this valuable dataset, SDOT and Seattle IT have partnered with a graduate research team from the University of Washington’s iSchool to develop a predictive model of parking availability. Leveraging recent developments in big data analytics and modern cloud tooling, this graduate team aims to discover statistically significant signals that can affect parking availability, and ultimately help the City improve public policy and infrastructure that makes parking easier for Seattle drivers,” said Open Data Manager Paul Alley.  

Key factors of Seattle’s paid parking system include: 

  • Roughly 11 million parking transactions occur with 12,000 paid spaces on 1,500 block-faces (one side of a street between intersections) 
  • Most areas operate Monday through Saturday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Some paid areas end at 6 p.m. (about 25%), 10 p.m. (10%), or 4 p.m. There is no paid parking on Sundays 
  • Maximum time limits are 2-hour (65%), 10-hour (8%), 30 minutes (~2%), or 4-hour (25%) 
  • Hourly rates set by paid parking area or sub area and by time of day vary between $.50 per hour and $5.00 per hour 
  • Spaces are not marked so parking is allowed anywhere along a block-face which can create full occupancy when cars have squeezed into spaces or many small cars park on one block 
  • Overnight parking is allowed when parkers purchase time for the following morning 

This data set has been reviewed with the City’s Privacy Program. It does not contain any personally identifiable information. There is no vehicle license plates or vehicle registration data. The data set refreshes overnight but there is a 7-day delay in the information. The City is working to make datasets on parking transactions and paid spaces available this year.