Parking in Bremerton

Wes Larson and Mike Brown of Sound West Group
Wes Larson and Mike Brown of Sound West Group

“Don’t waste your time reading this. I mean, put this down and walk away, and I am serious. This even wastes my own time. It’s more than you wanted to hear, and it’s more than I ever wanted to write, but I said I would.”

This was the beginning of a column I wrote almost 20 years ago about Bremerton’s downtown parking. It was one of many articles and columns I wrote on the subject.

For the past 25 years, I have filmed and written about downtown Bremerton, and was even an editorial cartoonist for the Mentors’ Kitsap Journal back in the late ’70a. Add that to having a retail biz in the heart of town for almost 30 years and a dad, George Allen, who was on a city parking committee before that.

I’m the elephant in the room — a real, live Bremerton parking expert, and here to say, “There is no parking problem.” A bit of an exaggeration, but let me continue by saying perception has taken over reality.

Parking in BremertonIn the past, I have spent many, many days on the streets counting available parking spaces, interviewing parkers and drawing conclusions. The city of Bremerton had an extensive parking study done a few years back. But this is today, and I wanted to hit the streets again although for a different reason.

Let’s say you have company coming to town, and they want to have lunch or explore downtown Bremerton, and they ask you where and when is the best time to find street parking. I asked employees, politicians, shoppers and even parking experts this question. Most all diverted from the question. They were only interested in sharing their own tomorrow-solutions for more parking, or the lack of, by putting everyone on bikes.

Parking in Bremerton“Survey” is Bremerton’s middle name, as I’ve seen many hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of studies and surveys pass through — concluding that you’ve got a lot to put in a small geographical area and get the employees off the street. I could have told them that, but no one came to me, the elephant in the room.

Parking in BremertonNow I’m interested in “today.”

Imagine Pacific Avenue from 6th Street south to Burwell. Now imagine two crosshairs, 4th Street and 5th Street from Park Avenue to Washington Avenue. In this small area are restaurants, breweries, museums, theaters, salons, shops and apartments. In April, May and June, I spent day after day counting available street parking spaces at particular times of the day. My main concentrations were early midday (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and end of work day (3 to 6 p.m.). Here is the deciding summary for street parking.

Street parking is time-limited, most two hours. Not enough time for a lunch shopping spree, but juggling, moving the car around the corner merits more time. This juggling of cars from one street to another is what many employee-movers do.

Parking in Bremerton“Busy, seems there’s more activity than usual,” I said to the parking-meter guy one day. He replied, “The economy is good; the Navy yard is hiring.”

So with a good economy and hundreds of new apartment/condo living units downtown, I take that in consideration. Also in consideration are current construction projects that affect parking availability. Sound West Group’s Marina Square is the biggest project currently underway, and I saw the plans that will include parking. I talked to Wes Larsen and Mike Brown, who shared the proposed parking plans.

Besides having a main office at 5th and Pacific, these fellows are longtime Bremerton residents. In fact, Larsen is a fourth-generation Bremertonian, as I am. I asked them, “Have you ever not found a place to park on Bremerton’s downtown streets?” and the answer was, “No.”

Parking in BremertonI asked several friends who grew up living in the downtown area the same question. Same answer, “No problem.” When I shared that with business owners, a few laughed out loud. “I couldn’t find parking just today,” one said.

Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler
Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler

“Where did you look?” I replied, and she said Pacific Avenue (in front of her biz).

“OK,” I said. “Now, let’s step outside.”

I had done that many times with parking complainers, having them go outside with me, and nine time out of 10 I’d immediately point to an empty parking space. A city fellow not wanting to be named said that today, people don’t want to walk a few steps. That was sarcastic, but he was right in a way.

Parking in BremertonLet’s get to it. You have company coming to town, and they want to explore downtown and ask you where and when is the best time to find street parking.

Tell your company that traffic flow is inconvenient at times — when the shipyard is letting out, ferries are coming in and big evening events are happening in town. Annoying, but even then I always found a parking spot.

Parking in BremertonPacific Avenue is a hit-or-miss, high-traffic parking area where cars are continually moving. Congrats if you find a spot on Pacific. It’s a matter of luck.

My study had nothing to do with neighborhoods. It was just my small, central downtown area, in which I always found more than 25 available street parking spaces, sometimes up to 50. Turn up 5th Street from Park Avenue (where the library is), and this is where I always saw the most empty spots.

While on 5th, cross Pacific and continue on 5th to Washington Avenue — lots of parking there, although some of those spaces are for the Norm Dicks Government Center.

Parking in BremertonThere are a lot of new attractions on 4th Street from Park to Washington, so less parking there. But on the average, I always saw 10 to 15 empty parking spots. Sometimes parking means having to walk a few extra steps.

I interviewed tons of folks, and almost all thought I was nuts to disrupt and dispute the downtown myth that gives us something to complain about. “Today,” I would ask, but insist as I may, all only wanted to tell me about their parking plan for the future.

Today? Street parking is available.