Diamond parking by smohundro
"Diamond parking" by smohundro

[UPDATE 10:25pm: A reader reports there’s a pay lot in front of the Safeway, one block west of Othello Station on Othello St.  The rate is $30/month, which is a good one.]

Two more Link parking opportunities we’ve identified:

  • Immediately west of Mt. Baker Station, there’s a $4/day Diamond lot.
  • The Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club, two blocks North of Columbia City, is offering monthly parking (24 hours, 5 days a week) for $175/month.  Call 206-436-1890 for more information.   That seems a bit steep, but it’s a good cause.

To review, the two we’d already found were:

  • Rainier Ave & S. Edmunds St. (3 blocks East of Columbia City) for $3/day, except Wednesdays.
  • Beacon Ave. & S. Forest St (a block south of Beacon Hill) for $1.50/hr, nights and weekends only.

And of course, outside business hours Residential Parking Zones are not in effect, so there’s plenty of free parking.

There are also rumors of a lot near Othello, as well as a $5 overflow lot near Tukwila, whose details we haven’t determined yet.  Feel free to provide those details (cost, hours, exact location)  in the comments.

The broader point I’d like to make is that this pay-to-park model is one that I’d like to see extended.  The Diamond Parking people are presumably going to find a market equilibrium price where the parking lots are nearly full.  People who can take a bus, walk, or bike are incentivized to do so, while those who really want to drive can do it also.  As a result, a maximum number of people have access to the station.  Meanwhile, there are far more likely to be a few spots available for people who show up in the middle of the day, resulting in less frustration.

Moreover, this all comes at no cost to the taxpayer, and when the time comes for the lot to be turned into TOD it will be more difficult for a determined group of people to stop the project.  If the city is wrong and there is massive demand for parking, there’s a private revenue stream ready to fund a garage.  It’s a win/win for almost all of us*.

* Not that we’ve been helped by the local media proclaiming that there’s “nowhere to park” near the stations.

45 Replies to “More Pay Parking”

  1. For those of us in further-out communities, where lack of Park & Ride space is a constant complaint at bus and rail stations, I wonder how much additional parking could be provided by either private paid parking or charging a modest fee for permit parking at public park & ride lots.

    Auburn is doing this already — after the parking garage at the Auburn Sounder station maxed out, the Auburn Downtown Association and later the City of Auburn started selling permit parking spaces. Free parking is still available further from the station, but many people are quite willing to pay $40/month for reliable parking a block or two away.

    1. I note BART charges a fee at most of their stations. I assume the amount charged based on demand.

      Monthly permits and a daily parking charge would be one solution to the issues with the local P&R lots that fill early and quickly like Mercer Island. Besides charging for parking would help recover some of the capital cost involved with building it in the first place.

      1. I saw this also, over this past weekend. Parking at BART in Walnut Creek is monthly-passes-only until 10am, then $1 for the day after that.

        All Park and Ride users should pay at least _something_ to park – would help pay for Metro service to the ‘burbs.

    2. Modest fee? Any shortage of park and ride space is a complete policy failure. Sound Transit should build park-and-ride spaces as long as they charge the full cost of construction, maintenance and enforcement for those spaces to the user. Subsidize the train, not the parking.

      So long as ST is charging the user the full cost, there is never any shortage of revenue and there would never be any shortage of spaces. So long as it is more expensive to park in downtown, it’s still a net gain for the user. Simply leaving the provision of true-cost park-and-rides to the market won’t work. Sound transit has access to a revenue stream that can be used to finance these kind of projects as well as the economies of scale, the interest, and the ability to use eminent domain if necessary. Public provision using market principles. Apparently, that concept is just not in the lexicon of our political leaders in this state.

      1. Having a public agency operate like a private company would call into question their right to use eminent domain for those purposes.

        And frankly, if you charged the full cost, you wouldn’t get enough people parking there to pay it back.

      2. Your plan makes a lot of sense, as long as (1) political pressure doesn’t force the parking rate below its equilibrium price, and (2) political pressure doesn’t prevent selling the lot when its value is higher as TOD.

        I’m very skeptical that those two things will happen with a publicly owned lot.

  2. Doesn’t Renton TC charge for parking? You know who really got screwed by local media and the no-parking stories? The owners of the pay lots.

  3. I still think ST or Seattle needs to buy the post office car park near Sodo station. Perfect park-and-ride for West Seattlites.

    1. I’m not sure why you think that would only be used by West Seattleites.

      1. With Link the Post Office garage is a great remote parking facility for all sorts of people and locations.

        However I think a private company should buy the garage since if the demand is there and the asking price from the Postal Service is reasonable it should be fairly easy money. Why should public capital be tied up in such a venture?

      2. Because the public could do it profitably. So long as we are generating revenue from the park-and-ride to cover the full cost, it ties up zero capital. The real advantage of the public agency doing it that we make sure it gets done and then we can promote the park-and-ride as part of a complete integrated system. I’ve never understood why the public imagines that it is clearly the public’s role to provide all of the infrastructure for transportation, from roads, to rails to bridges, to ports, to sidewalks, to bike paths, to bike racks, but somehow parking is the responsibility of the private sector. Parking is as necessary a part of transportation infrastructure as any other physical structure the public builds, but unlike roads which are very difficult (technically) to charge for, the cost of parking can very easily be passed onto the user.

      3. I didn’t say it would “only” be used by west seattleites. I just said it was “perfect” for west seattleites.

    2. Park-and-ride for West Seattlites? With its vicinity to downtown it’d be more like a drive-and-park-and-ride-just-enough-so-you-can-feel-good-about-using-public-transit-and-not-have-to-pay-for-parking-downtown lot…

      1. Dang, you beat me to it. Also, from an economic standpoint, this makes no sense for people to park and ride from West Seattle – wasting gas to drive, paying for parking spots, and then paying to ride the Link.

      2. I agree with you as well, but would be a nice option on those days when you want to go to Costco right after work or the Home Depot, etc.

      3. It would depend on the price the lot owners charge vs. the lots in the downtown core. The lots up in Belltown or around the Seattle Center are generally cheaper than garages in the Financial district.

  4. I think a church 1 block to the East of Othello station is also selling parking. Sorry I don’t know the exact details but perhaps someone could look into it?

  5. Slightly OT – But someone should become the “Seattle Parking Garage/Lot Blogger” Your audience would be huge! :-)

  6. $175 monthly is what i was quoted for a garage on 2nd between stewart & virgina in 1997 (as a resident at 2nd & pine) – but no guaranteed space. they just knew i was a (night+weekend) resident not a (day) worker. (iirc similar pricing over on 3rd above bed bath & beyond.

    So if auburn is pricing parking at $40 a month I think they are leaving a lot of money on the table. is that lot really not filling up?

    1. Monthly Parking downtown is around $300 nowadays. Many employers still pickup the entire cost.

      1. I think the city needs to tax the heck out of employee parking subsidies. There are only a few jobs where I can imagine a parking subsidy being justified for downtown employees.

      2. ^^ +1

        My wife used to work for a non-profit human services agency that refused to pay for bus passes for downtown workers. This, despite the fact that ALL of their suburban offices had free parking. Management actually argued that it wouldn’t be fair to subsidize the transportation expenses for downtown workers. Never mind that they already subsidize suburban workers by building and maintaining all of that “free” parking. Stupid… Just stupid…

        I would suggest the city could waive the “free” parking tax if they provide all employees with a FlexPass.

    2. The lot isn’t anywhere close to full in Auburn. They charged more originally, but didn’t get enough customers. But you have to remember, downtown Auburn has lots of free on-street parking available relatively close to the station; permit parking saves a few minutes a day of looking for spaces and walking.

  7. And of course, outside business hours Residential Parking Zones are not in effect, so there’s plenty of free parking.

    I doubt the people who get their parking poached would agree. Aren’t the Residential Parking Zones put in place because parking is already extremely scares?

    While I support the idea of payed parking for some P&R lots there are a couple of issues. First is parking poaching. People will attempt to hijack parking provided by businesses for customers.”Customer only parking” is hard to enforce for places like big box stores and adds additional cost to the business. Second is you lose marginal customers. This is less of an issue with close in P&R lots. In fact it would probably be a good thing for example to encourage drivers to parked farther from the center of the city.

    Metro or ST run lots could provide a special rate for transit users. At places like the old Post Office Charge $6 for parking and fare or $5 for parking only (numbers are a SWAG). The new downtown Redmond P&R garage seems like a good place to implement this.

    For lots that are consistently over 100% utilization (South Bellevue, M.I.) I suspect users would like to see a fee structure that assures ~90% utilization so that you at least have a pretty good idea that there will be a place to park. A cell phone based lot availability would help too. If someone can be assured that a drive to say Eastgate will allow them to hop a bus to downtown they’re more likely to use transit than risk driving there only to find out they have to turn around and drive to work anyway.

    Finally, close in lots like the old Post Office garage may not do a tremendous amount in terms of reducing VMT or greenhouse gas emissions but they do help reduce conjestion downtown and move us toward some sort of “Green Zone” restrictions on traffic in the city center. I think that’s a win win situation.

    1. Something like the Post Office lot matters a lot more long-term. You can imagine that a West Seattle-Bellevue commuter would benefit quite a bit from that addition. However, I do think it can be handled by the private sector with some cooperation from ST.

    2. “hide and ride” is rampant all over the area. I know it occurs near pretty much any N or NE Seattle stop with a fast express bus to downtown. For example the last couple of stops on the 77 or 312 before they get on the freeway. It isn’t too much of a problem yet as the hide & riders and local residents mostly need the on-street parking at different times of the day.

      1. I’ve hidden and ridden on Link. The edges of the RPZs are really quite close to the stations. I really didn’t feel like I was hiding; in fact, I did it quite openly! I’ve also walked and biked.

  8. In Newport, RI, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) charges $2 to park at the Newport Gateway Center if you ride the bus and bring back proof of ride (a transfer is good enough)

    1. We could do something like that – make it $5 at Tacoma Dome, but your ORCA lets you transfer for the cost of your trip. So Sounder users would only pay $1.50-ish.

      1. Thats a fantastic idea. Fold the cost of parking into the cost of your transit trip. If you charged $1.50 for parking though it would work out to make the Sounder ride $6.25: the fare from Tacoma Dome to Seattle is $4.75.

        However, the real issue is lack of good local service. In the most recent tables, the PT 1 was adjusted so that ALL of the trips during the Sounder parade connect at Tacoma Dome. Before, select trips that “connected” with the train went to Tacoma Dome Station. Problem there was, its nigh impossible to get from the bus area up to the platform in time. Its quite a hike up the hill to try to do it in a minute.

        I think the real issue is to try to get people out of their cars and onto transit ENTIRELY. Even though the 1 connects in, its a HORRIBLE bus to ride. Just about every trip, its PACKED. PT should get some of those New Flyer bendy buses from MT to try on that route. Even better would be an Express service that starts at Parkland TC, heads straight up to 72nd St TC, then beelines for TDS. That would cover the Last Mile problem for a lot of folks that ride the Sounder, as most routes in the south end of what PT serves hit one of those two TC’s. Having a decent system of feeder buses to the main trunks of Sounder and Link is the key.

      2. PT used to have artic buses but gave them up

        As for Gateway Center:
        If you just park, the cost is higher than $2
        If you park, then ride a bus (and bring back proof of your ride), they discount the parking to $2

        Tacoma Dome: Do what I do. From the bus bay, enter the garage (don’t use the little bridge from the bus bays, stay on street level) and take the elevator to the 3rd level. You’re at street level for the Freighthouse side :)

      3. As for getting from 10th & Commerce to the Dome, I always take the Link (granted: It’s far easier in either of my wheelchairs to board the train then have a bus bring me over)

      4. (sorry about the triple-posting, but my Add Comment finger works faster than my brain sometimes)

        PT used to have an express from Parkland to 10th & Commerce, the #47. It was one of those 2 trips in the morning / 2 trips in the evening or something like that

        That does seem like a lllooonggg ride from say Parkland or the Roy Y into the Dome

      5. Problem is there is very limited parking capasity at Parkland TC, let alone any sane person would leave their car there for an extended period of time. 72nd is somewhat better and IIRC has around 65 spaces compared to like 20 at parkland. A better use of the service, would be to take the 593 trips that go to S. Tacoma once the Lakewood sounder leg opens and re-divert them to somewhere in the tacoma area, such as TCC or 72nd street where there is parking capasity and room for growth.

  9. I can confirm the presence of pay parking at Othello – right across from the station in the Safeway lot is a sign advertising $30 monthly parking. Seems like quite a bargain compared to $175 one stop to the north.

    Also, Links were stopping at every single signal between Othello and Rainier Beach stations when I drove by this afternoon, and multiple traffic cycles happened at MLK and Othello before one northbound train proceeded. Southbound, one train got stuck at every signal and the one behind it caught up – it literally had to stop like 200 yards behind the other one and wait. Also, an out of service Link ran northbound without stopping through Rainier Beach station. Weird things – anyone know what they were? Heat-related? Is the room with the signal system’s servers not air conditioned?

    Tri-Met posted a rider alert about MAX slowdowns due to heat – the catenary wires sag and the tracks warp, they said.

    1. Interesting! I’ve never seen U.T.A. post an advisory like that to it’s Salt Lake Valley passengers. Then again, UTA is pretty poor about listening to its riders/advising them – however, I do think it’s a strong system overall.

  10. I can just imagine what would’ve happened had ST tried to buy/condemn even MORE property, just to add parking facilities next to its Link stations. How many more homes and businesses would we have had to demolish for this purpose? As I recall the discussion at the time, the community thought we were already taking too much property just for the track and stations.

    For folks outside of walking distance to a station, the notion that one has to DRIVE to the station is fundamentally a suburban perspective. If your worldview is limited to the windshield of your automobile, then, yes, by all means demand parking facilities at the stations so you can use them. Never mind the resulting destruction to surrounding neighborhoods (and goodbye TOD). And oh yes, have taxpayers pick up the tab, so you can park all day for free or only a buck or two.

  11. Paid parking is common. D.C., does it, Munich does, it…it is worldwide.

    This also shows the demand to be close to Link. There is little housing near Link, so people are driving to catch it. What are all these developers waiting for, an invitation?! The demand for housing near Link is there! Maybe this will be an ah-ha! moment for the region’s housing market. Ths coul be that paradime-shifting moment when builders realize the demand for urban apartments is more lucrative then ex-urban McMansions.

    1. The old apartment building at Othello station had a 1 BR for $750 last month. That’s higher than the neighborhood average so they’re clearly hoping to cash in on a light rail fan. I almost took it anyway but I just couldn’t give up my so-walkable Capitol Hill. Although I think the building will be demolished when the second condo project goes up.

      The trend recently has been condo construction, not apartments. Empty condos have been converted but I’m not sure that signals a shift back to apartments in new construction. I just wish some new condos would go up on MLK that were less than $300K (glaring at you, NewHolly!) so ordinary people could afford them. Just last month my friend looked at a house in Columbia City that’s asking $600K — even in the recession. It will truly suck if we finally have a rail system that only the rich will be able to live near enough to use.

      But Othello station certainly has the empty space, the two-story strip mall, and the hundreds of NewHolly homes around it to become a lively residential/retail center in ten years. And with luck maybe the non-rich will be able to live there.

      1. The “Columbia City Condos” people are selling some for about $200K. Not on MLK, but only about a 5 minute walk from the station.

    2. “What are all these developers waiting for, an invitation?! The demand for housing near Link is there! Maybe this will be an ah-ha! moment for the region’s housing market. Ths coul be that paradime-shifting moment when builders realize the demand for urban apartments is more lucrative then ex-urban McMansions.”

      There are a great many people in SE Seattle that are wanting to kill any developement along the rail lines, and have been working at that for many years. I don’t know if it’s because they want to make money themselves, or if they’re going to lose power as others move in.
      But I hope it will happen eventually, because that’s the only thing that will make light rail meaningful at all. We need some density along MLK.

      Thanks for all the comments here. Love it.

  12. When we went on Opening Day in Tukwila, the garage behind the casino (formerly Funsters) was offering parking for $5/day as long as we were out by 8. I don’t know if that was a temporary thing or not.

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