An Exceedingly Squeaky Wheel
Beginning in April 2012, the City of Everett and Sound Transit began to receive repeated complaints about parking issues surrounding the bus stop at 38th and Broadway. The vast majority of these complaints came from one man: Bob Dobler, manager of the LLC that owns the neighboring Gateway Center. During the six months from April 2012 to September 2012, records indicate at least fourteen complaints from Bob Dobler, and one complaint each from an unnamed tenant, someone at Mountain Pacific Bank, and a representative of Western Washington Medical Group (which is a co-owner of Gateway Center).
The Preferred (Commuter-Friendly) Solution
In early May 2012, three city officials (City Engineer Ryan Sass, Director of Transportation Services Tom Hingson, and Executive Director Pat McClain) agreed that the preferred solution to the parking issue would be four-hour time-restricted parking on neighboring streets. As late as June 15th, 2012, this was still the preferred solution. However, Bob Dobler was “adamant” that restricted parking not be implemented, but the stop be closed instead.
Inexplicably Abandoning the Best Option
Sometime between June 15th, 2012 and August 1st, 2012, the plan changed from restricted parking to stop closure. No documents were provided by the city between those dates, so there is no indication why the city changed course during this time. There are numerous mentions leading up to this period of Bob Dobler’s continued insistence that time-restricted parking not be implemented and the stop be closed. According to a June 15 email from Patrice Hardy, Bob Dobler was planning to meet privately “with the Mayor, and select city councilmembers re: parking at 38th and Broadway. He does not want parking enforcement.”
It is worth noting that according to the Washington State PDC, Mayor Ray Stephanson and council members Jeff Moore, Shannon Affholter, Paul Roberts, and Arlan Hatloe had all received previous campaign contributions from Bob Dobler, his wife, and his business Gamut360 Holdings, LLC (summary of PDC data).
On October 1st, 2012, the bus stop was closed to Sound Transit buses, forcing anyone who used to walk to this stop to travel up to twice the distance to Everett Station to catch a Sound Transit express bus to Seattle or Bellevue.
Wealthy Business Owner Gets Preferential Treatment
By allowing one persistent complainer to overrule the unanimous recommendation of the City Engineer, Director of Transportation, and the Executive Director to install time-restricted parking, city officials have abdicated their role to represent all of their constituents (i.e. city residents who commute daily) and effectively gifted a resource worth millions of dollars1 to Bob Dobler’s private business.
The City of Everett apparently cares more about one non-resident businessman than the people who actually live in Everett.
Inaccurate Claims by City Officials
CLAIM: The City of Everett received many complaints about nearby parking from local businesses.
REALITY: Records indicate a grand total of four individuals who contacted the city to complain about parking. Bob Dobler, owner of Gateway Center, complained fourteen times.
[see the complete timeline]
CLAIM: Posted rider alerts requesting that commuters not park on surrounding streets had no effect.
REALITY: Merely by posting a notice nicely asking commuters not to park in legal, free, unlimited street parking, vacant parking spaces on streets surrounding the stop increased fivefold from 3 to 17.
[view related document]
CLAIM: “The greater good is being served by our request to eliminate that stop” – Mayor Stephanson, Snohomish Tribune, 10/03/2012
REALITY: Numerous officials with the City of Everett and Sound Transit agreed that the best solution would be to install time-limited parking on surrounding streets, but instead the city decided to close the stop based entirely on the persistent demands from a single neighboring business owner.
[view emails from City Engineer Ryan Sass, Director of Transportation Tom Hingson, and Executive Director Pat McClain]
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As of September 29, 2013, a new stop has been opened to replace the stop that was removed at 38th and Broadway. The new stop at 34th and Broadway services all Sound Transit 510, 512, and 532 buses. While the valuable, no-strings-attached gift of free parking to Bob Dobler’s Gateway Center is still an issue that should be openly and publicly addressed by city officials, it is commendable that they listened and responded to the feedback of residents who rely on convenient transit options for their daily commutes.