Othello TOD Rising by Oran
'Othello TOD Rising' by Oran

Back in October, on a Sound Transit 554 Express to Issaquah, I overheard a conversation between an elderly passenger and the bus driver.  The older gentleman praised our bus system (in comparison to MTA in Los Angeles) and lauded the ease of traveling between Issaquah and Seattle.  After a few minutes, the conversation shifted to Link Light Rail, where the passenger further expressed content with the region’s efforts to expand rail.  The driver had an interesting response: “You know what’s really dumb, though?  They didn’t build any park and rides along the line!  How are you gonna take the train if you can’t even get to the station?”

With the exception of Tukwila/Int’l Blvd. Station, the decision not to add park and rides along Central Link’s initial segment has touched off this fiery debate among transit proponents: should parking be added at rail stations?  This issue has been a bigger point of contention when it comes to low-density suburbs, like South Bellevue.   However, the absence of park and ride facilities in the case of the Rainier Valley segment was probably a wisely measured decision by Sound Transit.   Most importantly, we should remember that the benefits of disallowing parking at rail stations aren’t generally realized in the short-term.  Rail and real estate development, being long-term investments, yield tremendous return when done right in the present.

More below the jump.

Park and rides tend to make more sense in low-density suburbs because they target the primary commuting audience: drivers.  In single-family low-density neighborhoods like South Bellevue, single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) trips tend to dominate the mode shares.   But the need for attracting drivers diminishes when considering the higher transit availability and usage in the Rainier Valley.  With less existing demand for parking and more alternate mode choices, encouraging more car trips would not make much sense.  It’s plausible to assume that some who cried foul at the initial segment’s lack of park and rides were unlikely planning to take Link in the first place.

This forms a good basis for the generic argument against park and rides.  Ultimately, using transit funding to build parking subsidizes automobile use and subsequently cheapens the cost of driving.   It would be nefariously ironic if that happened on behalf of our efforts to diminish the marginal cost of transit.   Added parking to attract drivers also encourages more car trips that don’t really go in the way of decreasing the SOV share.   As long as those vehicle trips remain, the congestion will still be there, whether on highways, major arterials, or local surface streets.

In terms of real estate, park and rides tend to consume land that could otherwise be invested for TOD (transit-oriented development).   Having transit agencies fund parking lots now only to end up tearing them down later for development doesn’t make too much sense when political pressure mounts to retain options for drivers.  Ultimately, that could end up being a quagmire with the pressing question: “If you don’t develop this land now, then when?”  If you aren’t angering drivers by denying them parking now, you’ll be really angering them by taking it away later.  Luckily for Rainier Valley, the private pay lots that are available now will face far less pressure to be demolished when the time comes.

Again, while building park and rides is far more contentious with areas like South Bellevue, the Valley is an ideal place to disallow them because the long-term outlook is more favorable.  While ridership is sacrificed for the time being, Link will end up being a much more satisfying investment thanks to more accessible TOD potential, the jurisdiction of a more progressive planning agency, and a high existing transit share.

120 Replies to “Smartly Disallowing Park & Rides along Central Link”

  1. hope someone’s going to do something about that intersection to make it habitable by humans.

  2. My bus route ends less than a mile from a Link Station. It won’t be extended to it. Hills and safety make it impossible to walk it.

    Also- there are park and rides in Seattle already- e.g. Roosevelt, which is pretty high density neighborhood already.

    There needs to be *options*.

    1. The City of Seattle and Metro made an agreement years ago to not build any new park and rides in Seattle. I believe that applies to expanding existing park and rides as well with the exception of Northgate.

    2. I’d argue that Roosevelt is a great example of the kinds of park & rides that should be allowed in the city. Roosevelt has two park and rides: one under I-5, in land that cannot be used for anything useful* and one in underused private property (a church parking lot) that metro doesn’t have to pay for. Neither lot takes away from Metro resources, neither blocks development in the urban area (the land couldn’t be used for TOD anyway), neither is all that big. And for the I-5 lot, at least, nearby bus lines are already commute oriented (the 48 is all-day, but there are also a bunch of commute buses that go directly down I-5 from Roosevelt). It might be nice for Metro to charge for parking under the highway eventually, to cover the cost of lighting and security, but it’s not a big cost center now.

      That said, I’m not arguing for publicly subsidized park and rides in Rainier Valley — we’d want to watch out for is the BART effect, where almost every station has a huge parking lot between the station itself and any interesting destination nearby, making the station commute-oriented, putting a strain on the system’s finances by concentrating ridership at peak hours and failing to benefit nearby neighborhoods.

      So anyway, private lots in Rainier Valley = good. Public subsidies for new lots = bad.

      * = except maybe a trolley base if we ever get streetcars up to that area

      1. Re useful stuff under highways, lots of folks seem to think that Colonnade Park is “something useful”. And apparently there have been rumblings for years about a skate park & art in the Roosevelt colonnade, though not much has been done as far as I can see beyond some column-painting.

      2. It was once tennis courts, until tennis players didn’t like to use the courts anymore because it was sketchy and loud under a freeway.

    3. I believe the P&R at 65th St is actually on land under State control (it’s under I-5) and therefore not directly under the control of the City of Seattle.

      I.e., I don’t think you can draw any generalized conclusions about P&R’s in Seattle based on that particular P&R – it’s an anomaly.

    4. Mike, have you actually tried to find parking at your Link station? Which station and route are you referring to?

  3. i don’t understand why the only option for driving to the link means parking at a P&R. what about parking outside the metered zones?

    if you are willing to walk say 6-8 blocks away from the CC station, you can get all day parking on the street for free. if the street parking were full then a P&R might be worth discussing. but when the street parking is full it will mean that the density around the station is finally higher and a P&R would be worthless in the neighborhood.

    but that said, i totally agree about reducing the sov traffic/congestion.

    1. Or parking right next to the station on the weekend or at night. Go downtown on a Saturday night and park right next to any Link station!

  4. The issues with “low density” neighborhoods will be resolved over time as fuel costs increase. The trick is to allow for medium density intermixed with low density, ie quad plex’s, and tri-plex’s, and “mother-in-law” appts. With some small high density buildings for mini-service centers, ie iter mix retail and appts/condos.No one I know who currently lives in a low density neighborhood would prefer to move to a high density neighborhood. Otherwise they’d already be there!

    Anyway railing against the choice people make in housing is a waste of time. Better to let the full cost of the choice be borne by purchaser and then it will straighten out on it’s own.

    1. Very well put — the same conservatives who rail against “social engineering” if you try to change housing patterns through zoning and building codes also support using market forces to drive public policy.

      In this case, I think they may largely be correct — our suburban sprawl is an artificial creation of a very distorted transportation marketplace, with huge subsidies for fuel, highways, and utilities in low-density neighborhoods.

      Many people who today choose to live in far-flung suburbs would choose to live closer to work (or work closer to home) if they had to pay the real cost of their commutes, or would choose other commute methods. We saw that last year when gas prices were higher — a relatively modest increase in the cost of gas drove many people out of their cars and onto transit. (I say relatively modest because the market forces driving gas higher then are only on hold now thanks to the worst recession in generations. If we hadn’t already been falling into recession, how high would gas have gone? When the recession ends, is there any reason gas won’t go back up and then some?)

      The free market even offers a solution for those who want to maintain their low-density neighborhoods — pay for it yourself. Form a neighborhood association, buy the development rights of every parcel you can, and put them in a land trust. Instead of using the police power of the state to keep out duplexes, you pay people not to build them near you.

      1. our suburban sprawl is an artificial creation of a very distorted transportation marketplace, with huge subsidies for fuel, highways, and utilities in low-density neighborhoods.

        Many people who today choose to live in far-flung suburbs would choose to live closer to work (or work closer to home) if they had to pay the real cost of their commutes,

        You’re talking about bankers that ride the train out to their five acre estates in Sumner right?

      2. The Bankers of Sumner don’t ride transit, they use a car service! Or at least they did until the crash.

      3. The greatest social engineering experiment this country ever embarked on was the development of the Interstate Highway System. It has completely changed this country and society in general.

        But the conservatives that agitate for roads and against transit because transit is supposedly “social engineering” just don’t understand this.

      4. When discussing social engineering and sprawl the subsidization of home ownership via tax code (interest being tax deductible) should also be mentioned.

      5. And the fact that when you buy a home you start paying property taxes should also be mentioned. Interesting that you phrase taking less of somebodies money as being a public subsidy.

      6. Actually, the mortgage interest deduction IS a form of subsidy – there is really no other way to look at it.

        And I don’t understand your comment about property taxes. Everyone pays property taxes, even renters who pay them indirectly via higher rents. Renters don’t explicitly see the cost of property tax called out in their monthly rent bill, but it is still there.

      7. There’s no question taking less money is a form of subsidy. Making transit fares tax-deductible would obviously be a transit subsidy. (Also a crazily difficult to enforce policy, but that’s a different matter.)

      8. It’s an incentive, not a subsidy. Incentives usually go to consumers and subsidies go to producers. What’s the point anyway? It can’t really be argued that the mortgage interest tax deduction is subsidizing sprawl, because the incentive is available to anyone who purchases real estate. And in fact, people who purchase a house in the city are receiving a larger “subsidy” than those who purchase a cheaper house in the suburbs. A 40-story condo building has been “subsidized” to a far greater extent than a single family house in the burbs. Don’t get me wrong, I hate sprawl as much as anyone, but blaming mortgage interest deductions is barking up the wrong tree.

      9. Bernie, when you rent you also pay property tax, as it will included in the price of the rent. The landlord isn’t just going to eat it.

      10. Everyone pays property taxes, even renters who pay them indirectly via higher rents.

        Then renters also receive the benefit of the mortgage interest deduction via lower rents.

      11. It’s an interesting article Anc, but I still don’t think that the mortgage interest tax deduction is a big driver behind the type of new housing that’s being created, because the tax deduction is applicable to any type of housing in any location and is really quite small compared to the overall cost of buying a home. The real problem is getting the market to build the type of housing that is both socially responsible and desirable to own for families or new home buyers.

        Americans like owning their home because it’s generally a good investment and there’s a certain sense of pride when you own your home, whether it’s a condo in the city or a single-family in the suburbs. The real problem is that the market is not building a lot of close-in housing that is attractive to families or affordable to first time home owners. I would love to live closer to the city, but I also want to own my own house (I rented for 15 years by the way). That means that I have 3 choices in the city: one; an existing single-family house; two, a condo; or three, a town house. Number one is simply unaffordable and number two is generally (until the crash) too small for a family for the price. Number three would work, however, the type of 4-pack townhouse that is being built in the city is really a horrendous design. If the city would revise the codes that govern townhouse construction to allow a better variety of designs, like row houses or town houses with alley access instead of the stupid central plaza, or townhouses without parking, I think you’d see a lot fewer young families and first time home buyers headed for the suburbs. The city really needs to work on increasing the housing stock within the city so that people can fulfill both their desire to own a home and their desire to do the right thing for the environment.

      12. Zed, it might not be a big driver, but it is yet another market distortion pushing sprawl. You add enough of them together and…

      13. I would agree with you if the deduction only applied to new houses in the suburbs, but it doesn’t. A person who buys a $500,000 condo in the city benefits the same as a person who buys a $500,000 house in the ‘burbs. You could even argue that people who buy houses in the city are actually receiving a bigger “subsidy” than those who buy houses in the ‘burbs, because housing in the city generally costs more and the more you spend on your mortgage the bigger the tax deduction you receive.

      14. Now that’s a little silly. What about $2,000,000 McMansions in the suburbs, or $300,000 condos in the city? I suppose they’re all distortions to a point.

      15. The real beneficiary of the mortgage deduction is the bank. It doesn’t hurt realtors either but the deduction allows people who couldn’t (sometimes shouldn’t) take on a mortgage do so and other people to borrow more than they would otherwise. To the home owner the mortgage is a liability (a debt). To banks loans are an asset. The primary reason for the housing bubble which in turn caused the Great Recession was the government policies which encouraged people to spend more than they could afford.

      16. I once had a converation with a co-worker concerning whether renters should be able to vote on ballot measures that raise property taxes. His argument was that only homeowners and landlords pay the tax, and since the renters don’t directly, they couldn’t be informed enough to make valid decisions on spending.

        The conversation pretty much ended when I suggested that landlords be required to provide renters with an itemized breakdown of where their rent money goes. How much goes towards property taxes, maintenance, and to pay off the mortgage.

        Renters pay property taxes.


      17. Rents aren’t determined by the owners costs. It would be nice if they were; I own a rental. I can’t raise rents if taxes go up any more than I can if I have to put on a new roof. Like anything in an open market rents are determined by supply and demand. Rents in the Seattle area have for years exceeded the cost (current market value) of owning the home. If someone has owned a home for years and has little or no mortgage payment they aren’t going to “pass along” those savings to the renter. Likewise, you can’t just raise rents when you’re costs go up or you end up with a vacancy and zero income.

        Property owners voting on taxes is called a LID. It’s a valid form of taxation when the revenue goes to improvements that directly benefit those owners. With general property taxes and levies that’s not the case. Letting property owners be the only ones to vote on property taxes makes no more sense than letting only smokers vote on cigarette taxes.

      18. Yep, that’s also why apartments make sense in Seattle; in urban centers and in transit-served neighborhoods the land is simply too valuable for single family. Unfortunately due to zoning we’ve been seeing things like car-court townhouses a few blocks from the future Brooklyn light rail station in the U-District.

      19. Zed, see the link to the study I posted for Bernie. The numbers show that the Mortgage Tax Credit is disproportionally utilized by homes in the suburbs over those in the city for a variety of reasons.

        Bernie, taxes are indeed passed on. If they are raised across the board, everyone is forced to raise prices to accommodate them. Someone could of course decide to eat the cost, but that would be very rare as it would mean that the good was mispriced to begin with.

      20. Jim, that is an awesome idea. The more informed people are they better decisions they will make. This is one of the reasons I am such an opponent of a VAT as a source of funding.

      21. You mean FULL DISCLOSURE by the landlord as to where ALL the rent money a tenant pays goes to, Anc?

        Okay, run it up the flagpole and see what the response would be!

        Another great idea for Tim Eyman’s next initiative!


      22. Of all things? No, that’s be invasion of privacy. Just those relevant to the voting public, ie, taxes.

      23. One inaccuracy or misdirection in the link Anc sited is that interest on home equity lines of credit are automatically deductible. They are only if they are used for home improvement. Deduct the interest on a home equity loan used to buy a new car and you’ll be charged with tax evasion if audited. The capital gains tax on home sales has also been radically altered. Gone are the days when you could flip a house and avoid capital gains on a million dollars profit.

        Pull up an online mortgage calculator. At today’s really low rates payment (including taxes) on even a 1/4 million dollar loan which would only buy you at best a $300,000 home (well below the median for King County) comes out at around $1,800/mo. Then search for rental listings and see what sort of home you can rent for $1,800 a month. It doesn’t matter how the vote goes on a school levy, rents are already below what it cost to own the home so you can’t bump them up if property taxes increase.

      24. It also appears you may in incorrect about the Capital Gains tax:

        When you sell your primary residence, you can make up to $250,000 in profit if you’re a single owner, twice that if you’re married, and not owe any capital gains taxes.

        “Most people are not going to have a tax obligation unless their gain is huge,” says Bob Trinz, a senior tax analyst at RIA, which provides tax information and software to tax professionals.


      25. The 1/4 million cap was a change from unlimited gains if you held the home for 7 or more years. And they also did away with the one time lifetime exemption. The also did away with the law that allowed you to shelter gains by reinvesting the money in another home. Being married doesn’t bump up the deduction to a 1/2 million. If both a husband and a wife own separate homes they can both take the 1/4 million. If you jointly own the home it’s just one deduction. The married couple would also have to have been living separately in the homes (no deduction any more for vacation homes) sometime in the last five years. So if a couple gets married and own two homes they basically have five years to sell one of the homes and take the deduction. If someone has retired and owns there home outright it’s all but certain they are going to realize more than $250,000 in capital gains. A lot of homes in King County appreciated more than $250,000 between 1990 and 1996.

      26. Yes, but how many times do people actually make PROFITS of over 250K when they sell a house?

        You are looking at sell price instead of profit which is what Capital Gains Tax actually taxes.

        And the only reason they got rid of the one time exemption was b/c with the new law you can do it as many times as you like, as long as you don’t have more than 250K PROFITS you won’t pay a dime.

        And where do you get the idea that it’s not 500K PROFITS for a married couple. The Tax Law Professor quoted in the article I linked to seemed to be pretty confident.

      27. Apologies, Appears I misread your post (Florida’s performance in the SEC championship game has caused me to drink heavily :D)

        I posit that the overwhelmingly vast majority of homes in King County do not appreciate more than 250K. For most families they are not only getting their interest subsidized but when they sell they get another subsidy in taking a rather large chunk of money home.

      28. Yes, married filing jointly you can get $500,000 (not always, depends on when/how it was bought). You also only have 3 years not five to sell as it has to have been a primary residence two out of the last five years. A 1/4 million in capital gains isn’t that hard to come by if you’re talking homes that are above the median. Even a median priced home will appreciate that much if you stay in it for 15-20 years. Most people won’t pay it which was the point of the change; it did away with ability of wealthy people to “flip” expensive vacation properties. It does tend to bite retired people or estates though. If someone dies and has paid off the mortgage pretty good chance that the estate is going to pay the tax. It also directly affects rentals because you have no way to shelter any capital gains if it’s not a primary residence. Well, you could move back into the house for two years before you sell it but that’s not usually practical.

      29. I would guess that over 90% of home owners benefit from this subsidy, when you take into account how often people move, that most are married and that most homes won’t appreciate over 250/500K.

        That there will be a few people that don’t benefit from the subsidy doesn’t alter the fact that it is yet another market distortion in favor of sprawl.

    2. “No one I know who currently lives in a low density neighborhood would prefer to move to a high density neighborhood. Otherwise they’d already be there!”

      Maybe no one you know. But plenty of people live in less dense and less walkable neighborhoods than they would like, and it often has to do with finances. When we started looking for a house or condo to buy, we would have loved to buy on Capitol Hill, where I had lived for a few years. I loved living there. But we didn’t find anything affordable at the time, and ended up on Beacon Hill instead (which turned out to be a nice thing when Link came along). I would love to see some more density on Beacon Hill, and eventually, it will come.

      And I’d live in London, if I could. Much more dense, and I loved it when I was there. But it’s not feasible.

      In a perfect world, where people live would reflect their housing preferences perfectly. But this is not a perfect world and we don’t all get to live where we want to.

      1. Yeah, Leinberger argues this: “About 50 percent of Americans actually do want that [low density] configuration. But if we’ve built 80 percent of our housing that way, that’s the definition of oversupply. The other 50 percent of Americans want walkable urban arrangements and yet that’s just 20 percent of the housing stock. That’s called pent-up demand. So the market is just responding.”


        I will say that I’ve been somewhat pleasantly surprised that rents in Seattle are not (yet?) unaffordable for middle-income people like me. Hopping from an apartment in the the U-District to one in SLU was easy.

  5. Also, just because there is no publicly subsidized parking next to LINK stations, doesn’t mean that a private parking lot can’t be built and operated. Who says everything about transit has to be publicly funded?

    1. Actually, that’s not true. The station-area planning efforts specifically zoned against this. That’s why the Diamond lot at Mt. Baker is no longer.

      But there are plenty of other ways to hide and ride if you must – at CC, you can often find parking just east of Rainier for the day. It’s about a three block walk from there. And don’t forget that the parking rules are only during weekdays. Nights and weekends are open season.

      1. Gerard,
        Do you have a reference or a link to the policy?

        I went by the Mount Baker station last weekend, and it looked like there was still a diamond lot to me.
        Only a few cars though.

      2. “Actually, that’s not true. The station-area planning efforts specifically zoned against this. That’s why the Diamond lot at Mt. Baker is no longer.”

        Wait, what? Last time I went by, the lot was still operating, but it was a couple of weeks ago.

      3. Oh no! I have totally used that parking lot! One time my wife was flying out of town while I was at work, and her baggage was too much to walk to Link, so she parked there and I got the car with the other key on my way home. Super convenient – but I don’t think ST should spend our money filling that void, either.

    2. Personally I don’t have anything against P&R’s in a general sense. However, I think that at least publically funded P&R’s shouldn’t be funded from transit funds but instead should be funded from gas taxes and/or road related fees.

      I.e., P&R’s should be considered as part of the road system and funded accordingly – with funding from roads.

      1. I think it’s okay for them to be paid for by transit funds, but ST should charge a little bit to park there, as users should at least bear part of the burden of the cost. It’s unfair that people should pay the same fare to just ride a bus as they do to park their car in a very expensive (to build and maintain) parking lot/garage.

    3. Doesn’t the end of the line (the Airport station) have the biggest park-and-ride in probably the entire State of Washington? :-) Albeit a rather expensive one?

  6. Sherwin, what prompted you to write this untimely post? This is an old topic that’s been debated and settled.

  7. Just rode the Phoenix system.

    Shame on Seattle for having Light Rail AFTER Phoenix, BTW.

    The map is here:


    Notice how few Park and Rides there are, and this is in the land of parking structures.

    I did see some non-Valley Metro built/operated facilities encouraging riders to use their parking for light rail. Let the market decide and stop using public funds for building parking facilities at LINK stations!!

    1. And I rode the new MAX Green Line out to Clackamas and back yesterday – – many nearly empty car parks along the “free”way making TOD doubly difficult at those stations: a P&R on one side of the tracks and a “free”way on the other.

      1. Lloyd,

        Give the poor Green Line a break. It was designed in 1970-something when I-205 was built, poor thing. By highway engineers. It’s congenitally differently abled.

        That cool swooshing tunnel underpass has been there since that day, just like the one used by the Red Line.

      2. Oh, it was a fun ride, and the trains were 1/2 to 2/3 full for a mid-day cold Thursday… but it’ll be decades before ridership and frequency will match other MAX routes

  8. One thing that many light rail systems world-wide do have is non-car commuter parking. If it’s a bit too far to walk in a reasonable time, but car parking is inconvenient, many people who would never think of bicycling all the way to work will be willing to bike half a mile or a mile to the train station *if* they have a safe, dry, secure place to leave their bikes.

    If you’re catering to the dedicated cyclist, bike lockers like many P&R stations have are good enough — not terribly convenient, the rider isn’t out of the weather while parking, etc., but they’re secure enough that they’ll draw folks like me who want to be cycling anyway and just need a place to park.

    For non-cyclists who just want to get to work, dry and safe are bigger issues, while bike security is a lower priority. The big indoor bike parking facilities in Japan or the Netherlands aren’t full of high-end racing bikes that need individual lockers. They don’t provide that level of bike protection. But they provide safe, lighted places for passengers who are parking their inexpensive commuter bikes on the way to the train.

    This has implications beyond just commuting. Many commuters run to the store after getting off the train. If they’ve parked cars at the train station, that shopping trip could take them 10-15 miles out of their way. If they’re on bikes from the train station, their errand radius is significantly smaller, though still larger than pedestrians, especially if they have shopping baskets on their bikes.

    Many people who can’t find their daily needs within walking distance of home could find most daily needs within cycling distance of home, and that could increase the number of people who don’t see cars as a daily necessity.

    1. Good comment [josh]. Considering Seattle’s transportation plan includes being the most bike-friendly city in the country (and tripling bike ridership between 2007 and 2017) I’m surprised Link doesn’t have bicycle parking garages*. Yes, you can bring your bike onboard, but then you have to find a place downtown to store your bike (good luck with that).

      * Or do they? I never really noticed bike parking at stations, but I certainly could be mistaken. I don’t even remember seeing bike racks.

      1. In downtown Seattle, BikeStation provides 24-hour secured bike parking in a heated indoor space, right near King Street Station.

        It’s the only facility like that in the area that I know of. Most other bike parking is either lockers or outdoor racks exposed to the elements.

        Lockers are fine for dedicated cyclists who want security for an expensive bike and don’t mind standing in the rain and wind while parking.

        Outdoor racks are OK for low-value bikes that aren’t much of a theft risk, but being exposed to the weather they won’t be used by most middle-class commuters. Sitting on a wet bike seat for ten seconds can leave your office clothes wet for an hour or more.

      2. A further clarification on bike parking: broadly speaking, most of today’s commuter cycling facilities cater to people who are going to change clothes when they get to work. If I’m already wearing cycling gear for riding in the rain, I don’t mind standing in the rain to park my bike.

        If we want to come anywhere close to the level of bike usage in Europe or Asia, we need facilities that cater to people who are [i]not[/i] going to change clothes when they get to work. They might take off a coat and hat or change shoes, like many bus commuters do already, but they aren’t going to strip off their commuting clothes and put on different work clothes.

      3. As a bike commuter who doesn’t change clothes, I totally agree, Seattle has a real dearth of covered lock up areas. It really isn’t a problem finding a place to park during the summer months, at least in the core, there are enough bike racks (or signs if it comes to it) to lock up the bike. But in the winter, in the rain, there just aren’t many if at all. I don’t even ride an expensive bike, but leaving bikes in the rain all day is a great way to have them rust to bits in no time.

        My question is how do cities solve this after the fact? I think most new buildings going up are being more sensitive about this, putting bicycle parking in underground garages for one (not ideal, since it takes longer, but better than nothing).. but what are we to do with existing buildings?

      4. Bikestation is just a new use of an existing building — retrofitting bike parking is a lot simpler than car parking, bikes are small, light, and dont carry explosive fuel. You can park a bike in just about any existing building.

      5. Hmm…. well, that didn’t work out as planned. And now I have to have another post explaining it, which pretty much completely ruins an already shaky joke. Actually, not even going to bother, but I would appreciate if someone could explain how to quote.

      6. There are also covered bike parking spaces at the Bainbridge Ferry terminal, though since most are rented by the month there really isn’t much for anyone who just wants to try biking to the terminal one day.

        I don’t really object to parking my bike outdoors much of the time. I find security is mostly a matter of “eyes on the street”. A seat cover can fix the problems of a wet seat. Still I’d hesitate to leave my bike locked to the racks all-day at most of the Link stations. Mt. Baker would be the one possible exception as the racks are covered, on-camera and right in the sightline of anyone using the station.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see more covered parking with an attendant, but I’m not sure if that could be justified at any of the current Link stations. Though Columbia City seems to have enough bike riders for something like Bikestation to make sense.

      7. Secure commuter parking doesn’t require an attendant — a combination of security cameras and card-key access allows reasonably secure 24-hour indoor bike parking with relatively low operating costs.

        If you get enough bikes to warrant it, there have been some very clever automated bicycle parking systems developed that require even less space per bike.

        These are very industrial-scale for use at stations:


        In the Netherlands, if I remember correctly, they’ve also come out with automated bicycle parking hoist systems that look like a big umbrella planted on the sidewalk. To park your bike you roll it up and engage the front wheel on a hook, the system takes over and hoists the bike up in the air, out of reach, where it’s stored until you need it back. That makes it more space-efficient for pedestrian-oriented areas, since the ground beneath the bike storage remains walkable.

      8. My thought about the attendant was it allows for casual use of the bike facilities. The problem with a card key type parking facility is someone has to know ahead of time they want to use a particular spot, then they have to find out how to get access, then typically they have to pay a fee. It is essentially the same situation as we have with the bike lockers currently.

      9. Most bike-friendly city in the US? Seattle will never get that distinction unless we go dig some grand canyons in Minneapolis. Go there in a Minnesota winter when it’s 5 below and watch people bike around Uptown – not only are they inspirationally tough, there’s lots of them!

      10. Agreed. I go on eighty mile rides in winter for fun, but I still think riding around Seattle for errands can be a pain in the ass because of all those damned hills everywhere.

      11. Columbia City has two long bike racks under a shelter, I walk past them every day to the station, they are on the NW corner of the station, or the SW corner of Alaska & MLK, in a little plaza with benches. I think I may have seen a similar structure at Rainier Beach, but wouldn’t swear to it.

  9. Out of curiosity, how many stops on TriMet’s MAX line have Park & Ride lots, and how many don’t?

    1. Throughout the system quite a few MAX stations do have P&Rs – see the little P symbols here.

      But in areas most comparable to the Rainier Valley (in terms of density, transit service, etc), they are rare. As a former Portlander, the neighborhoods along the Red/Blue/Green line between Hollywood and 82nd, and along the Yellow Line between Albina and Kenton, are most comparable to the Rainier Valley; and there aren’t and P&Rs there. Beaverton and Gresham have plenty of P&Rs, but they’re much more suburban; comparable to Bellevue outside of its downtown.

      1. Also, aren’t a lot of the Portland P&Rs rented from churches and other organizations/businesses that don’t use their lots much on weekdays? From a TOD perspective, renting an existing lot is different than purchasing and paving land that could be developed as a tax-generating and community-building property.

    2. Looks like about 23-25/75 or so stations have Park & Rides. Looks like once ST2 is built out, 13/35 Link stations will have park and rides. So about the same ratio.

  10. I agree, Sam, it’s a settled issue…well, mostly. Social costs of buying up even more land to build park-and-ride facilities at Link stations in SE Seattle would have been, well, horrific. ST took a lot of flack as it was for the dozens of homes and businesses displaced just to build trackway and stations. Imagine the community outcry if they had taken (condemned) dozens more just to provide free parking for riders who can’t/won’t be bothered to walk, bus, or bike to a station.

    That said, there was a comment on this blog some weeks ago about the potential for low-impact parking facilities on the Seattle City Light right-of-way adjacent to the Rainier Beach Station. SCL won’t allow anything to be built under high-voltage wires except parking lots (and P-Patches, and a bike/ped trail). A couple hundred parking spots there couldn’t displace any future TOD.

    It’s worth a look.

    1. “Imagine the community outcry if they had taken (condemned) dozens more just to provide free parking for riders who can’t/won’t be bothered to walk, bus, or bike to a station.”

      And think of it this way — most of these stations are sited in neighborhoods that want improvements. They want more retail, more services, more “good stuff” to walk to in the neighborhood. I live in one of these neighborhoods, and when people start talking about “link should’ve had park and rides, it’s so stupid, blah blah blah” what I hear is “we want to put a big ugly block of asphalt in your neighborhood. Screw you and the other people who live there. We don’t care that you want your neighborhood to be nice. It only exists as a place for me to park my car anyway.”

      Most of the people who say that there should be a P&R in my neighborhood would scream bloody murder if we tried to put one next to their house.

      Now, having said that, I don’t deny that for some people walking/biking/busing to Link is not feasible. But I don’t think that P&Rs are the answer.

  11. Alright, I’m back to the area, so I’m going to start weighing in more again.

    Parking: It’s a hotly debated topic, as we can see in this thread. However, it is a necessary thing. Who are we trying to target with the Link line? Commuters? People who ride along the route out to about a 4 block radius of the stations? People who were already commuting along MLK anyway? Daytrippers to Seattle? People who are just trying to avoid parking in Seattle?

    I suppose we could go even deeper: What was the point of building Link anyway? Was it for the people who lived along MLK? Are we just replacing a bus route?

    So I’ll get to my point: If we want to have Diamond lots along the route that are privately operated, I’d say that was okay. However, if ST wants to put in lots, I’m going to have to put an adamant No on that one, it is tax dollars that could be spent on other projects more effectively. There *are* people who don’t need parking facilities. I ride a bicycle to fill in the end bits of my trips, and thankfully our system has been designed to allow for bicycles onboard. If the point of having Link in the first place is to reduce our dependency on cars, isn’t this like making someone quit smoking and then load them up on nicotine patches, just to keep the underlying addiction alive?

  12. I do not have the time right now to adequately refute the multiple layers of ignorant and fallacious banality expressed in this article. What blows my mind is you actually link to an article Ben already wrote back in March (We Do Need Park and Rides (For Now) that already refutes the points you made here. For some strange reason, both you and Ben imagine that the well reasoned argument for park-and-rides in the suburbs somehow does not apply to Southeast Seattle. Have you ever even been to Southeast Seattle? It is completely suburban. The vast majority of Seattle does not look like Capitol Hill.

    I will return later and post a detailed reasoned refutation, but for now I will assert, as a teaser, that everything you say is wrong. Seattle’s ban-park-and-rides policy is one of the most unthinking, environmentally destructive, economically wasteful, and counter productive policies I have ever reviewed. It is based on many of the same gross misunderstandings of reality that are evident in this article. The policy increases greenhouse gas emissions, increases congestion, increases VMT, burns money, undermines political support for transit, undermines effective Transit Oriented Development, and ultimately results in the construction of more parking and more implicit parking subsidy in the long run.

    The policy achieves exactly the opposite of what it intends and is the primary stumbling block preventing Seattle from becoming a truly transit-friendly city.

    1. I look forward to your comments. I see Link as being the perfect sprawl creating system if you include parking (especially if it’s free).

      1. Any P&R-type parking built in the future should never be “free” – all P&R lots should eventually be tolled.

      2. But tolled to the extent that parking is downtown? If not, then you’re making it easier and cheaper to life further and further from your workplace. Link does remove some pollution and fuel use caused by this, but not all of the other environmental and social damage that sprawl creates.

      3. At $30K – $60K per stall, there really is no justification for not charging for their use, and yes only a small charge now, increasing as rail and bus transit service expands.

    2. If you look at most other rail systems around the country the park and ride lots start around 5 miles from the CBD. If this rule of thumb was followed for Link then there would possibly be P&R lots at Othello and Rainier Beach. Given the development already planned for the Othello area it is probably a good thing some of the TOD space wasn’t taken by a P&R lot. As for Rainier Beach a case could be made for a P&R lot but there is the question of where to put it. I’d hate to see the pea patch and bike trail taken out in favor of a surface parking lot.

      For North Link there are exsisting P&R lots at Roosevelt, Northgate, and 145th the lots at Northgate and 145th will be expanded as part of link construction.

      I’m not really sure where else adding P&R lots in the city would make sense. Do you have any suggestions?

      1. The Roosevelt P&R is under the freeway so it’s not taking up any development space, and the Northgate TC Park & Ride is planned as a future location for TOD (and the old Northgate P&R at Northgate North is being turned into a park). So the only real TOD-stifling park and ride in Seattle will be at 145th, which is at the very northern border of the city and wouldn’t be developed at anyways. So basically, I agree, for the most part park and rides have no place in our city unless they are completely out of the way (Roosevelt) or temporary (Northgate).

    3. Wow you make a TON of unsubstantiated claims. Lets see the facts based on peer reviewed articles, models, etc.

    4. There’s a difference between the SE Seattle that you see now and the SE Seattle that was envisioned when P&Rs were nixed.

    5. Tony,

      Did you read every word in the article? I’m not convinced you did. Ben’s earlier post about the necessity of park and rides was in regards to ST2 expansions to outlying suburbs (you should also read that one too). That specifically includes South Bellevue (which I addressed). He was not referring to the initial segment. And for the record, Ben is a big opponent of subsidized parking.

      And I have been to Southeast Seattle. Multiple times. In fact, I was there just an hour ago. If you notice, I was careful not to make the claim that driving is nonexistent in the Valley, but that transit service (while still shoddy in some areas) is much more adequate than many of the areas that will be served by ST2 extensions.

    6. Tony, my points were from March 2008, not this March – and only apply to suburban park and rides in ST2. There is no reason to build a park and ride in a city that’s willing to change its zoning rules around stations. That simply wasn’t on the table at the time, so they were necessary to pass.

      The vast majority of Link station areas will eventually look like Capitol Hill. We simply prevent that from happening with park and rides.

    7. South Seattle is not “completely suburban.” Most of it is single-family, yes (although a lot of low- or mid-rise apartments are sprinkled in among the single family homes), but it is wayyy higher density single family than in the suburbs.

  13. Maybe, if the ridership numbers to justify the immense capital investment of a rail line can’t be met without the additional investment of building free parking structures it’s a sign that the investment in that rail line is also misplaced? Perhaps a P&R lot which generates only peak hour demand is a sign that bus transit is the more intelligent solution.

    1. Actually, the ridership estimates for Link without P&R’s HAVE justified the cost of the line. Now it is just a matter of waiting to see if the ridership estimates were correct, but the early indications look promising.

      I don’t think the decision to build Link is under debate anymore.

    2. Your last sentence is funny.

      “Perhaps a P&R lot which generates only peak hour demand is a sign that bus transit is the more intelligent solution.”

      I think you have it backwards. The fact that you can only get people on a bus after spending 30 to 60 thousand dollars per parking stall shows to me the exact opposite. It shows that the P&R model is structurally flawed and that creating transit oriented communities either around high quality bus service or rail is the only sustainable transit planning model.

      1. I think building multistory parking structures with money earmarked for transit is also misguided. I don’t think any of the structures built in this area could even come close to break even on the investment by charging market rate. If an area is really so dense as to warrant a multi story garage then it should be capable of supporting bus routes that eliminate the need for most of that driving all together.

  14. Hey Tony the Economist (what type of economics DO you practice?), scroll up to my earlier post this morning where I refute your supposition that park-and-ride lots would’ve been a good thing in SE Seattle.

    Columbia City may look like a suburb to you, but not to the people who live there. I can assure beyond all doubt that the people who live and own property there would have risen up against efforts to tear down more homes and businesses in order to build commuter parking lots at Link stations. Few things are more destructive to growing urban neighborhood centers than commuter parking lots.

      1. Eh, there are plenty of empty lots around each station that could be used for parking for now. What I DON’T want is significant investment to make that a parking lot, nor any obstruction when it’s time to develop on those lots.

      2. I don’t object to an existing parking lot being used for parking. It’s already ugly. I object to new investment and construction of a p&r, because that is essentially dooming the neighborhoods to having an ugly parking lot for a long time.

        OTOH, if they could build an underground or aboveground one with street level retail, etc., and actually nice architecture, I wouldn’t object.

      3. Some of us would object even if it was under/above ground and pretty. “Tough Love” time for the automobile commuter is here; it can be gradual, it can be soft around the edges. But as a society we simply cannot afford to have people tooling around alone in 2+ tonne vehicles and providing unlimited asphalt and concrete for them without steep (eventually) user charges. We’ve supported this habit/addiciton in the US for a century now – time to change course.

      4. I don’t disagree, but at the same time I know this cannot be an instant change, and people do still have legitimate reasons to drive, sometimes.

  15. There’s no need for Park and Ride lots. Commuters, and sports fans on weekends, and clever airport users, will use the streets surrounding the stations as their parking lots. They will also use the people who live on those streets as their waiters, to pick up the garbage taht tehy leave, and their cigarette butts. This has been happening in Minneapolis along the LRT for more than five years, and will happen in St. Paul as soon as the LRT is built there. And, the city will do nothiong to stop it.

    1. That can happen with fans, but not the others. There are residential parking zones around all the stations, so if you’re there for more than a couple of hours without a permit on a work day you’re going to be towed.

      I suppose if you want to walk more than a half mile you could get away with this, but I don’t think those people will overwhelm the community.

      1. The edge of the RPZs is not that far, is it? I do the hide and ride trick every now and then in Columbia City, and it seems super close.

  16. Beenthere, there is a residential parking zone around the stations. On weekdays, you can’t park there for more than 2 hours without a permit. So commuters, at least, aren’t doing this. Right outside the RPZ, maybe, but I don’t know if that has been an issue or not. Now, sports fans at night or on weekends can park for free because the zones don’t operate them. I know I saw a bunch of Sounders fans doing this on Beacon Hill. Not that terrible a deal, though, and it possibly brings some extra business to our neighborhood restaurants and stores.

  17. Actually there is now parking at the Othello Station, though it’s not dedicated park-n-ride. The Citadel front parking a lot was striped for parking stalls over the last couple of weeks and there is a Diamond pay station ($2 for under 2 hours, $5 for 24 hours). Also, just east on Othello, the Holly Park Community church has striped its newly paved parking lot and put up some signs up but there is no pay station as yet.

  18. If you’re Pizza Hut, you don’t get people to eat healthy by eliminating pizza, you get there by making the pizza healthier, and by offering salads.

    Right now, we do not have a non-car culture and we do not have transit-oriented development. Good TOD, once built, would include a nice parking garage. A nice, safe, revenue producing parking garage. That’s part of an attractive building. Of course, that means slightly higher density (because you’d want to put shops on the first floor and apartments on the fourth and fifth floors with parking on part of the first floor and all of the second and third – some for transit and some for the shops and residential, all pay parking. (Maybe even some reserved for ZipCar or Hertz to help reinforce the idea that you could live here without owning a car.) A good TOD will be a destination. Whether you’re riding the rails, or arriving by car, it’s a place you’ll want to go. And for some, it’s a place where they’ll want to stay.

    The anti-car bias makes no sense. I get it. Cars are evil. Yes, fine. But right now, they are just as much a mode of transit as the bus or the bicycle and I don’t see anyone suggesting that we shouldn’t offer bike lockers or convenient bus stations near transit stops.

Comments are closed.