On Monday I posted about the major players who have been pushing for a 600-900 stall shared use garage. Today I’ll post specifically about why King County likes the idea, and the fundmental policy discussion we should be having.
King County TOD
Northgate is slated to become the region’s premier transit-oriented development (TOD) center, and King County’s current P&R is at the center of the plan. Northgate TOD has been in the work for several years, but as I wrote on Monday, through the Growing Transit Communities partnership, the publicly funded part of TOD is in high gear. The City is anticipating 2,500 new households and 4,200 new jobs in Northgate, and King County wants to use its current surface parking lots to catalyze other development at Northgate and finance the reconstruction of the Transit Center.
King County sees an off-site structured parking garage, which would be achieved with the 600-900 stall shared use garage, as an important first step in giving the county flexibility in moving forward with TOD. Ron Posthuma said the 600-900 garage would allow the county to move forward with its first 414 units during station construction, allowing TOD to be on the ground when North Link opens. Following this King County could continue to move forward with redeveloping its remaining surface parking lots.
Past examples of King County P&R “TOD” has historically been a mix of affordable housing and market rate housing plopped on top of ugly structured parking, killing activity around the buildings and and leading to conflicts between bus movements and P&R or resident access to parking. Ron Posthuma said that King County see a shared use parking garage as a win for King County because this removed the need to accommodate replacement parking on County owned land, and relocation of P&R access away from transit center will give Metro more flexibility in building a high quality bus-rail transit center.
Access and P&R Replacement Policy
While most of the debate around parking at Northgate is about the number of stalls, it’s really is a proxy policy debate about how to prioritize access improvements to transit, how to best manage P&R supply, and whether or not P&R supply must be maintained when TOD is built on a agency’s property. All of these questions are, in my opinion, far from settled, with the status quo essentially lining up with what Sound Transit has thus far proposed at Northgate.
The Sound Transit Board has been grappling with the first policy question for the last few months, with relation to Sounder access. A study due out later this year, the Sounder Station Access Study, analyzes and ranks a host of capital station access improvements for all modes. While the tiff between Paula Hammond and Julia Patters was the most reported aspect of the recent ST Board retreat, a significant policy precedent was set, with Sound Transit funding the soon to be discontinued PT 497 shuttle service. This is the only situation in which Sound Transit has thus far funded non-capital station access improvements. Sound Transit has also studied implementing paid parking but has thus far put off implementation, instead opting for increased enforcement and management.
The last policy question, whether P&R capacity should be maintained when building TOD on agency land, is one that, with regards to Northgate, needs to be addressed by the King County Council and Sound Transit together. All of Ron Poshuma’s remarks assume that in the short term, parking should be maintained, and that essentially is the Council’s informal policy guidance. The Council and Sound Transit need a clearer policy on this issue.
In the medium-to-long term I think many, including those working on the 600-900 parking garage, believe that station parking capacity at Northgate should decrease. The question is how to transition to less parking in a way that is responsible, politically viable, allows funding of non-motorized projects and ensures that TOD is not delayed. Shared parking, especially in areas where increased TOD complement the parking demand patters of a P&R, such as Northgate, is one way to do that. Assuming King County does not exercise its ability to extend its current leases, parking capacity will be reduced from 1,219 in 2021 to 939 in 2016 and 589 in 2046. If Sound Transit signs a shorter term lease with Simon Properties for the 600-900 stall garage, all King County and Sound Transit owned P&R supply could be eliminated by 2046.
Overall, these are policy issues that needs to be addressed, not as a one off issue, but part of a intentional policy decision. This had not been done and this is why there is so much angst about it.
The author has been involved in the Sound Station Access Study as a employee of a sub-consultant on the project team.