Puyallup Station
Puyallup Station, photo by Beaster725

This should make Martin happy. Sound Transit is soliciting bids for a study to determine whether park and rides on the Sounder South line could be pay parking. Many of the lots are full, and instituting a charge may encourage people to carpool, take the bus, or ride their bikes to the stations rather than drive. Via the DJC. H/T to Ryan.

34 Replies to “Pay Parking for Sounder?”

  1. Hooray! Parking should almost never be free. Charging is the way to ensure enough supply and encourage people to make more efficient and less polluting decisions. It’s good if the parking revenue can be used to add feeder bus service to the stations though, as well as improve bike and pedestrian access.

  2. Parking is a commodity, just like a seat on a train or a bus is. When lots are full, a small fee is a good way to manage demand. Also, it provides a revenue stream for parking lot improvements or additions.

  3. Regardless of whether you value it or not, Sounder is absolutely the most subsidized form of public transportation in the region (about $2 billion in capitol costs to attract less than 20,000 daily riders). Those that drive to Sounder stations are already quite privileged and very subsidized and I think that parking fees are very much appropriate. For the fun of it, research what the per-stall cost of park and ride is to both build & maintain….

    1. Rough Estimates, about $14,000-$34,000 per stall to build, and up to $800 per year to maintain(vtpi.org)
      Add in external costs, lost property tax revenue, etc, and $5,000 per year Total Annualized Costs are not ‘out of the ballpark’.
      It’s a hell of a subsidy no matter how you gage it — On the order of $20 bucks a day for a commuter (5000/250).

      1. That cost is for a parking garage, most of these spaces are surface lots so more like $3,000 to $4,000 per stall.

    2. I wouldn’t be so sure about Sounder being more subsidized than some bus services. Capital costs get lower with every trip they’re spread out over, ridership is steadily increasing, and those capital costs can serve a lot more trains than they’re serving now. The amount of money per passenger is a fairly complex calculation.

    3. Pleeeassee…..First, this thread is about pay parking and not about Sounder subsidies – your post is off topic. However, since you brought it up I feel compelled to respond.

      Second, I believe you are just plain wrong. This system is relatively new and required a large capital outlay up front. ANY capital intensive infrastructure improvement when evaluated over such a short timeframe will appear heavily subsidized. If you had evaluated the subsidy for I-5 five years after it opened and before traffic had built you would come to the same conclusion – but it is basically a meaningless conclusion because you are evaluating a long term investment over a very short term. Totally meaningless.

      Also, the cost effectiveness of Sounder gets better with every boarding and every increase in ridership. This is the most successful new system of its kind in the country, and that popularity is not going to go away anytime soon.

      Third, the voters just approved a 65% increase in Sounder service. This increase in service won’t cost nearly as much as the first phase because it comes mainly through increased train lengths and frequencies. Effectively our investment in phase I allows us to increase service at much lower cost in future phases.

      Forth, although not the mandate of ST, the investment made in Sounder has also resulted in substantial improvements in freight mobility in the region. Yes, I would rather have had BNSF or UP pay for this, but the fact is that ST paid for it in-order to run Sounder and the secondary effect is that freight mobility is improved. You ignore this in your argument.

      I have no doubt that 20 years from now when we look back at the decision to build Sounder we will consider it to be one of the better decisions we have every made – right up there with the decision to build Link.

      1. How can “Pay Parking for Sounder” be only about parking and not about Sounder?
        That’s the whole point of the piece. Before you can decide how much to charge for parking, if at all, you must decide what value it has. Then you can establish price points to moderate demand.
        Charging a small nominal fee seems counter productive. About half the revenue generated for parking goes to the collection system. Charging too little could end up costing more overall.
        I think charging a reasonable fee for parking would not only mitigate the need for a lot more spaces, but enhance local feeder bus performance.
        It’s the spine and spoke network everyone has been working towards since Forward Thrust.

      2. Another consideration is that both Kent and Auburn negotiated with ST for additional spaces, and I think Auburn came up with some funding for some of theirs.
        Maybe enough time has elapsed since those agreements were hashed out with past administrations, but cities have long memories over these issues, and may not be agreeable to letting Sounder charge a fee.

  4. @Andrew Smith: “There should be plenty of parking (really, lots) and a small fee for using it.”

    Why plenty of parking? Providing parking is really expensive, and park-and-ride lots facilitate sprawl. A home buyer who works in downtown Seattle will happily buy a new house in Black Diamond or Maple Valley, because he or she can commute to work by driving to a Sounder station, parking, and then taking the train. To avoid this type of scenario, why not encourage only TOD around stations?

    1. Well if you don’t have enough parking, the system doesn’t get used enough. I don’t imagine huge mega-church style multi-acre parking lots, but a few hundred spots is a good idea.

  5. I remember the last time someone brought up pay parking, the comments were NOT like this. :)

  6. I’ve been watching South Bellevue Park & Ride for years wishing they would do this. It’s full by 8am or so and has 519 spaces. It’s a no-brainer to apply a small parking fee during peak times for any P&R that is overcrowded. The fees could be reserved for improving capacity, either through bike racks, motorcycle parking, improved feeder bus lines, or even a larger parking structure.

  7. This is common in Europe. Most of Munich’s parking garages charge one Euro a day. The D.C. metro also charges for parking at their lots, but I can’t remember how much.

    Asking for $1 to park for the day is a nominal fee, but would encourage people to take the bus, bike or walk to the station or park-and-ride. It would also make mixed use next to stations much more desirable. Those that still pay to park can help to cover the cost of the parking infrastructure.

    On a side note, I’d also like to see some long-term parking near the Tacoma Amtrak station. My wife and I recently took the Coast Starlight to the Bay Area and parked at a hotel because I wasn’t confidant We’d see our car again if we parked at the Amtrak station. Maybe the top floor of the ST parking garage can be secured, long-term parking.

    1. BART also charges a small fee at many of their lots and is looking at adding parking fees at more lots. They also offer monthly permits. YOu can also pay for your parking using the electronic fare card. It’s “attached” to the permit you hang from your rearview mirror.

  8. Many of the lots are full, and instituting a charge may encourage people to carpool, take the bus, or ride their bikes to the stations rather than drive.

    It may also just encourage them to drive all the way to work instead.

    1. I don’t think there’s a ‘may’ – it’s quite deterministic. You have a full parking garage. If you can increase the price of using it and it stays full, you’re just changing *which* people drive to work – the same number of people use transit, but you have an income stream as well.

      1. Exactly! In reality I think ridership would go up (assuming there’s even room on the bus) because some number are going to start carpooling and increase the average occupancy.

    2. Unless the total cost of transit fare plus parking cost more than parking in downtown Seattle I doubt that will be the case.

      Besides the issue with charging for parking in P&R lots is to provide some demand management. A P&R lot is actually less useful if it fills up early in the morning.

      I’m sure there are people who after encountering a regularly full P&R lot just decide that driving to work is easier.

      1. A lot of people drive from Bellevue or Newcastle to Mercer Island, check to see if the park-and-ride is full, and if so, drive the rest of the way to work.

      2. Exactly. This is a major complaint of the City of Mercer Island BTW. The new garage filled the moment it was opened and there still is no parking for Mercer Island residents (South Bellevue, Eastgate, and Issaquah have the same problem).

        Even with the expansion of S. Bellevue planned for East Link I suspect there will be a problem with both S. Bellevue and Mercer Island filling early in the morning.

        I think ST and partner agencies (Metro, CT, PT) need to consider a parking charge at all P&R lots that are more than 95% full before 9 AM. The great thing is this might help fill some of the underutilized lots as they would still be free.

      3. Yeah, I think that was quite a bad decision by ST to only expand the Mercer Island Park & Ride to 2 floors. It’s better to make a long-term investment, and expand it to at least three floors.

      4. The problem with the Mercer Island garage is it is sized for the needs of Mercer Island residents. Unfortunately many people who live NE, E, and SE of Mercer Island park there. In addition to the cost issues I suspect Mercer Island really doesn’t want as large a parking structure as would be needed to keep it from filling up once Link opens. I suspect on the order of a 1500 space garage would be required.

      5. As far as the MI park and ride goes the city had an opportunity to help fund a larger garage but turned down the opportunity.

  9. Charging for parking to manage demand is a good idea, but it’s also really important to use the revenue for something that the people parking in the lot can see. If it’s clear that the money is going to cleaning the station, fixing lighting for the lot, improving the bus drop-off point, adding bike racks, maybe even hiring security to patrol the lot, etc., the charge will feel more like a maintenence fee (which it is) and less like a money grab from the transit agency.

    I’d recommend Don Shoup’s “The High Cost of Free Parking” to anyone interesting in the policy and politics of parking.

    1. Parking structures are extremely expensive, tens of thousands of dollars per space, plus maintenance costs. Paying for parking would help offset the capital cost of the parking structure.

  10. Edmonds has parking lot issues as well. Thats one of the many reasons why I walk the 1/2 mile each way, rain or shine! More people should walk or bike in the relatively flat valley region.

  11. I’m sure that anyone that takes the bus via one of the lots that generally serves the Sounder would then have an increased motive to drive. If one lot, such as Kent Station, was excluded, riders of the other lot might not be happy that they have to pay to park but the Kenties don’t.

    1. But how many people are driving now because they get to the station and find the lot full?

  12. The airport makes 1/3 of it’s revenue from parking..Sounder should charge if the lot is full. It’s not the cost as much as once we charge people stop thinking of it as “free” and then will make adjustments to not need it….like driving!..ok maybe bicycling. But covered bicycle lockers should be an option. Also for a few, and as a social engineer, less than an auto space even though they cost more.

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