Nearly two years after it was opened, the five-story Alapai parking garage on S. King Street remains largely unused.
Click here to watch Andrew Pereira's story.
The facility was built for $20 million, but since it was funded by Uncle Sam, the Federal Transit Administration must give its approval on how the garage can be used. Transportation Services Director Mike Formby said that approval came in mid-2013, followed by another accord with public worker unions.
"We met with all the unions (and) gave them an opportunity to comment," said Formby. "The policy was finalized and put out, and as far as I know today, we are allowing people to park in the facility."
The city said 189 permits have been issued for the garage, or about 46 percent of the 406 available stalls. Under the agreement with the FTA, any funds generated by the facility must be used for bus service or road repair. At $60 per stall, that could generate about $300,000 per year for the cash-strapped city. Currently, the council is debating whether to place ads on the outside of buses to raise funds for public transportation.
"That's why the public gets very frustrated," said Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi. "They see an empty building (and) they listen to the bureaucrats trying to decide how to use the spaces and it's still empty after two years."
Formby said demand for parking stalls at the Alapai garage by city workers has been subdued, but he expects demand to pick up.
"I know that when we started to put the list out, there were actually a lot of openings in the Civic Center garage and people obviously take that before they take Alapai," said Formby. "So, the goal is to fill it up if there's a demand."
However frustrated drivers looking for a parking stall shouldn't expect the Alapai garage to open to the public any time soon. Formby said allowing public parking would require another agreement with the FTA.
"It is an employee garage, so it would be employees first and then if we find that there's space available, we'll go to the FTA and see if they'll allow it," he said.
In October 2012, the council amended a city ordinance to include the Alapai garage as a designated parking area. The bill was signed into law by former Mayor Peter Carlisle.
CORRECTION:The city provided updated statistics on the number of permits issued one day after the story aired. Originally the city said 70 permits had been issued.