$20.5M Burien Transit Center, 505 parking spots

Over at the Stranger’s article about the end of the Ride Free Area, commenter antidamon makes a great point:

If we are going to take the Free Ride Zone away from the urban poor then I think it’s time to take Free Parking away from the Suburban Commuters. Why in the world are we giving away free parking spaces? It makes no sense to be shutting down lines and reducing services while at the same time people are parking for free! End Free Parking!!

In theory, the reason that we’ve spent millions of dollars on free parking at park-and-rides is to lure suburban commuters to take the bus. Yet Metro is willing to lose millions of rides per year by ending the Ride Free Area.

I’d argue that in addition to boosting ridership, free park-and-rides encourage people to live in sparse, sprawling locations. These locations are generally car-dependent, and add many miles of car trips to school, shopping, etc. Without free park-and-rides there’s a greater incentive to live in an area with good bus service within walking distance, and this fundamentally means a more dense environment. In contrast, the Ride Free Area encouraged people to travel around downtown Seattle which indirectly encouraged businesses to locate downtown. This tended to increase business and residential density as well as transit use.

I’d love to see Metro study the impacts of charging for parking in all of their park-and-ride lots. [UPDATE: Metro has, in fact, looked at this before. — Editor]

170 Replies to “End the Park Free Areas”

  1. I think it’s ridiculous to deter suburban riders out of some sort of spite over the ride free area — particularly because I’m happy the RFA is gone.

    That said, in cases where there’s actually no spare capacity, it makes a ton of sense to charge for parking as long as one can recover enforcement costs.

    1. Yes tit-for-tat is dumb but I would definitely look at charging at our more crowded P&Rs.

      Just make sure it is integrated into ORCA!

    2. I’m not suggesting we charge for parking out of spite. But if the reason for ending the RFA was to save money, surely there are other ways to save that would be less harmful. This could have been one option.

      Charging for capacity control is different than charging to generate revenue. Though if your goal is to maximize ridership, the two likely converge. It seems like an easy choice to charge overcrowded lots – we could end up losing very few riders.

      1. What does PAYSTTE mean? It’s not in the glossary. I assume it somehow means pay as you leave, or pay sometimes on entry and sometimes on exit?

      2. Who said ending the free ride zone was harmful? That is a completely biased opinion and lacks factual merit.

      3. Metro itself predicted that ending the RFA would increase travel times and decrease ridership. They don’t list the number of riders they predict to lose, but they predict saving 5 hours a day from these riders not boarding. The idea that this is a temporary slowdown is the one that lacks factual merit.

      4. The predicted slowdown is before implementing speed mitigations. There are plenty of mitigations left in Metro’s toolbox, such as ticket machines, more loaders, and a long list of ORCA-use incentives. Citing this report as a reason to bring back the RFA is taking it out of context.

      5. Losing free riders is a problem?

        Have you ever ridden a bus in another major city? Once people get used to the new boarding process, things will go smoother. And in all honestly, buses aren’t any slower now than they were before. The only difference now is that the slowdown occurs downtown instead of at one the bus’s destinations.

      6. Losing free riders can be a larger problem than losing riders where subsidies far exceed fares.

        The question was: “Who said ending the ride free zone was harmful?” And the answer is that Metro did. But they considered the cost savings worth the harm.

        It’s certainly possible that they’ll fix some of the harm that ending the RFA has caused, but the fact is there was harm, and it was predicted by their own report.

    3. The problem is not so much the availability of free parking for commuters in places where the P&R model is actually much more efficient than diffuse feeder service could ever be.

      The problem is the failure to charge truly premium fares for truly premium service.

      Someone who buses back and forth from Redmond every day is saving $6-8 in gas alone — never mind the accumulated costs of wear and maintenance, downtown parking, or tolls. They’re getting a fast a relatively comfortable ride.

      For this, they pay just a pittance more than someone who slogs an excruciating two miles on the bus to the Central District.

      That is where Metro’s fare structure proves disproportionate and punitive to urbanites. Not at the parking lot.

      There’s a reason that a local bus in Boston costs $1.50 (w/smartcard), and a commuter express costs $3.50-$5.00.

      1. Charging a mere dollar a day for parking would, if your numbers are correct, mean that the commuters would *still* be saving lots of money on gas alone. As a result there would be no loss of ridership. However, it would do a lot to defray Sound Transit’s costs!

        Now, obviously you can’t do this if there are a bazillion half-empty free parking lots next to Sound Transit’s lot, but if that’s the case maybe you shouldn’t have built a parking lot at all….

      2. Martin is right that the cost of enforcing (low) parking fees wouldn’t likely pencil out.

        Also, commuters from cities where they’re used to free parking are more incensed by the notion of paying what would be viewed as an additional fee, separate from the transit fare.

        So just raise the cost of the actual transit fare, so that it is commensurate with the cost and quality of the commuter service it provides (while remaining clearly lower than operating one’s own vehicle all the way into downtown).

      3. ‘course, enforcement would cost money, so if these are unmanned lots at unstaffed stations, then it might not be worth charging. Though even charging by the *honor system* generally raises money, as many private lot operators have discovered.

      4. That’s a good point. Express routes that give a disproportionate benefit to one residential neighborhood or out-of-the-way P&R to downtown should have premium fares, probably in the $4 or $5 range. Not the trunk routes that are the main way to get to a city (550, 554, 101, 510, 511), but the special routes that give extraordinary benefits to lucky locations (102, 114, 158, 159, 21x).

      5. The largest cost component of a bus route is not distance, but time, as drivers get paid by the hour, not by the mile. If you look at in terms of time, getting to the central district is almost as expensive as getting to Redmond, barring congestion on the freeway. Even the 594 spends almost as much time within downtowns Seattle and Tacoma as it does between them.

      6. You can’t actually be suggesting that those with the slowest, most exasperating rides should be penalized for the fact that their terrible service costs driver hours, can you?

        No one will ever thank you for giving them a stupidly slow ride!

        And anyway, those deadheaders that run only a few trips each day before returning to base have been proven far more expensive by any metric you could possibly conjure.

  2. Transit doesn’t operate in a vacuum. The market determines when, where and how much a parking space is worth.
    Seattle CBD, about $20 +/-, and the farther you get from the tight supply in the CBD it goes to zero.
    If you have lots of freebies in the suburbs, then good luck building a structured garage, then expecting more than a handfull of choice parkers to use it
    It’s just the way things work.
    If you can’t charge more than it cost to collect the fees, then why bother?

    1. There are ways to recover the cost besides actually charging consumers directly. One is to sell the lot or end the lease.

      Not that I’d necessarily do that it most cases.

  3. I was on Link the other day. It was good to see the park-and-ride at Mount Baker Station about half to two-thirds full.

  4. The purpose of the ride free area was not to provide transit service to the poor. The purpose of the ride free area was not to provide transit service to the poor. The purpose of the ride free area was not to provide transit service to the poor. When will people understand this?!

    I think we should be charging for parking at the P&R lots, particularly at the busiest lots, as a way to manage capacity and encourage people to carpool or take transit to the P&R directly. I especially see this as a way to better manage the overcrowded lots along the Sounder Line and along I-90. But it needs to be done on its own merit, not as part of some “you screwed us, we will screw you” mentality. Especially given that the purpose of the ride free area was never to provide free urban transit to the poor.

    1. +1 The ride free area was not implemented for the poor! And Metro is not losing rides due to its absence.

      1. Yes, in my memorabilia pile of Metro stuff is the brochure on the ‘Magic Carpet Ride’, as an easy way get around town for shopping, eating and going to meetings. The Chamber and City sponsored the cost.
        It had zero to do with the poor, but they’re the ones tagged with it’s demise.
        BTW, I’m glad it’s gone.

      2. Metro’s probably losing some rides. Intra-downtown rides that used to be free aren’t free anymore, and people usually ride less when you raise their fares. And the main reason for dumping the RFA was to get some revenue from people who might pay a fare to ride for short intra-downtown trips.

        That was the idea, anyways. Forecasting revenue potential from a segment that used to pay nothing is difficult, and sticking downtown-only riders with a full one-zone fare is a high price for distances that are pretty walkable. Metro will certainly see more revenue from this change, but whether it’s worth the increased operating costs remains to be seen.

  5. During the debate over whether or not to replace the trolley buses with diesel buses, the cost of maintaining the overhead power distribution system for the trolleys was listed as one of the reasons that it might be cheaper to convert to an all diesel fleet. I asked if the cost of maintaining the suburban park & ride lots was charged as an expense to the suburban routes or if that cost was spread over the entire system–including the trolleys. I never heard a definite answer to my question.

    1. Surface park-and-rides are extremely cheap to maintain, and the upkeep on them isn’t enough beyond the upkeep at regular bus stops to be worth considering.

      For the garages, that’s a good question.

  6. We all love our outrage at sprawly suburbanites. But I think we should take a longer view here. Regardless of what John Bailo may say, there is a large population of suburbanites who are developing city-curiosity, as the city develops and gets more glamorous. Getting them comfortable with transit is a good step toward getting those folks comfortable with acting on their curiosity. Subsidized access to commuter transit is also good for keeping business in the city generally.

    My own employer is in the middle of downtown. A lot of the staff, particularly those at lower levels, lives in the suburbs and commutes by P&R bus. They can’t afford downtown parking. If the bus commute got significantly more expensive, we’d lose our ability to attract a lot of them — and our competitiveness with crappy suburban office parks.

    My view is that we shouldn’t indiscriminately spend tens of millions to build new P&R palaces, but we should only charge for the existing ones if there is a major capacity issue, and where there is unmet demand that can be cheaply met by buying a piece of land and sticking a surface P&R on it, we shouldn’t be too afraid to do that.

    1. There are also a lot of suburbs developing urban amenities…Kent Station for example. It is providing a diverse dining and entertainment experience but with ample free parking and transit access.

      I think what you’re describing is just the wrong-mindedness of building centralized structures in the most expensive part of the transit network, with the least opportunities for mixed private/public transit options.

      1. That’s not urban. There’s no housing. Tell me that when people are living there and there isn’t a sea of parking.

      2. Kent has plans for housing I believe. The problem is that Kent was late to realize the need for urban villages, and the real estate crash has slowed everything down.

      3. No housing? You can cross the street from the shopping center and there are homes right there…some even abut the Sounder tracks!

      4. The ones on the east side of the station are single family houses. Those should be upzoned. Otherwise only 20 people can walk to the station, when there should be housing for 20,000 people to walk to the station.

      5. Those single family homes are zoned as Downtown and have an Urban Center designation. At least last time I worked in the planning department. There are plans for mixed use on the Kent Station property for one area (to the west). It may never happen as there is no requirement for the developer to do so. The City did condition the parcel to the south of Kent Station for mixed use. But, that doesn’t make Kent Station itself urban. It’s not.

      6. Correction, I was thinking the houses in on the north. I think the blocks lining Central Ave were GC (General Commercial). Some were GC-MU (zoned for mixed-use), but those development regulations were quite inhibiting to actually mixed-use and spotty. The UC designation does apply to them however so property owners could easily apply for zoning changes through the annual Docket process–possibly even non-property owners could apply for said chanes as applicants.

      7. “That’s not urban. There’s no housing. Tell me that when people are living there and there isn’t a sea of parking.”

        So, neither is the vast majority of Seattle?

        (Cue d.p. or someone else yelling “YES!!!”)

        “The ones on the east side of the station are single family houses. Those should be upzoned. Otherwise only 20 people can walk to the station, when there should be housing for 20,000 people to walk to the station.”

        Yes, let’s build a dense, urban, transit-oriented environment around a peak-hour commuter rail station in a floodplain unlikely to get light rail for at least a decade and which might be needed to convert back to farmland by then!

      8. Morgan, that’s absurd. Kent Station has regional all-day, everyday service. It’s not as sexy as say Redmond, but you know what? It can support dense, walkable development. The area has plenty of employers and all the local services (both public and private) necessary to enhance and support mixed-use development and succeed. The question is a matter of civic commitment and zoning. Having worked for Kent, I know that zoning could be vastly improved and that the City could do a lot more to tame the area for pedestrian priority.

        Additionally, I’ve seen the plans for the river enhancement projects. Needless to say, there is zero threat. In fact, there never was. FEMA has redefined all floodplain maps and standards post-Katrina. With that rational, Redmond would be under water, too. But that’s not going to happen. A) Because of no serious threat, B)Facilities have been brought up to nuclear apocopalypse standards.

    2. “there is a large population of suburbanites who are developing city-curiosity”

      I propose we start calling this population “metro-curious”. It has a nice ring to it.

    3. Building any new P&R facilities means then having to have buses to serve them.

      The best place to build any new parking garage is next to a train station. But then, that gets into the circular arena argument of whether that was the best thing to build on that plot of land.

      1. In some places you may be able to connect an existing route at very low cost.

        Other places… if you can fill buses up, I believe you should run them, to the extent possible. In recent years, Metro started the 216 and 218 to meet surging P&R demand, and restructured Federal Way service around a lot of new P&R spaces. There are other areas where they could do the same.

      2. The Issaquah and Sammamish bus networks appear to have been rather haphazardly designed. This is especially the case when you consider what buses do serve the Highlands P&R (all two Metro-branded routes) and which ones don’t. It’s also the case when you consider the fact that the 927 doesn’t serve the Highlands (despite having two discontinuous service areas on either side of it, designed before the Highlands existed, or the complete lack of any transit service outside Highlands Drive) as well as the hideous milk run of a route known as the 200.

      3. Actually, is Bruce still getting that stop-level ridership data he used to make all those fancy charts with, and was he ever getting them for the area outside Seattle proper? I’d like to see data for the Issaquah routes, especially the 200, 269, and 271 (the latter specifically within the Issaquah city limits). I might want to make a guest post, or have someone here make a post, trying to rationalize the Issaquah bus system.

    4. “we should only charge for the existing ones if there is a major capacity issue,”

      It sounds like you’re basically advocating “congestion pricing” for parking, which a lot of people including IIRC Donald Shoup have advocated — charge just about enough to keep 10% of the spaces empty and the rest full. (Or whatever percentage seems most appropriate so that people feel like “they can always find a spot”.) If there’s a vast oversupply of parking in the area, then you don’t charge; if the P&Rs are filling up, then you charge.

  7. If Metro were concerned about losing rides, they would have maintained bus capacity between Ballard and West Seattle. There are two transit markets out there. The market for riders who must use transit who are poor, living on disability, young students, elderly, and others who have no other transportation access. The other market are the people who can afford to own and operate a vehicle, but for whom transit offers some benefit, whether in the form of shorter trip times, less expense, saving the planet, whatever. Metro has been degrading their product for all users, but it is the user who can afford to operate their own vehicle that they are pushing away. Metro transit is no longer a beneficial service for discretionary transit users.

    1. … and yet, the discretionary transit users keep coming in droves. Some people may be choosing to give up on transit and drive but those buses are still full of passengers, many of whom probably already own a car.

      1. When you reduce the number, frequency, and actual size of buses, those remaining buses available for customers to use will indeed be full to overflowing. What a success!

      2. When you say the size is reduced, I take it you are referring to the increased standing room and thinner (but not narrower) seats. In other words, seats were reduced, and people on that route are not used to standing like people on, say, the 120.

      3. No. He’s referring to the net drop in service on the RapidRide corridor, plus the replacement of the always-articulated 18 (plus the 17) with the usually-shorter 40 buses.

        Or to similar conditions in West Seattle where even more aggressive consolidation failed to match resultant frequency or capacity to that which was replaced.

        And there isn’t “increased standing room” on anything Metro buys. I wish there were increased standing room.

      4. And Velo, I personally know a number of people who have finally given up on Metro after this disastrous restructure implementation, trading their employer-subsidized ORCAs for employer-subsidized parking.

        I myself have even borrowed cars and driven more regularly than ever before — especially in the evening.

        When I start preferring to drive, you can be pretty sure you’ve fucked up big time.

    2. Really? I’m a discretionary rider, I guess. My service has improved. Partially because I moved to a well covered area, partially because of the service changes. Of course, stop consolidation would improve my experience further. I don’t know what you’re talking about at all. Axe to grind much?

  8. All of the popular park and rides (not that there are many) in Metro Vancouver are pay parking. Last time I used the Scott Road park and ride it was $2 for the day. Paying for parking encourages bus connections instead of driving, raises some revenue and at $2 per day should not greatly deter those that have no viable choices.

    1. Indeed — it should be clear that so far everyone suggesting charging for parking, at least everyone I’ve heard so far, is suggesting a *small* daily charge.

  9. Why not encourage employers to relocate out of the crowded overly dense Seattle into more sparse environments? For instance, Lakewood.

    With speedy transit, it’s just as easy to take a Sounder (given sufficient scheduling) from Kent to Sumner as it is to the ID.

    That was the (missed) point of your vid about transit maps.

    Transit is an abstraction on top of a 2D surface. Once you enter the transit network, space becomes irrelevant. When I enter the network, I am prepared to spend between 15 and 40 minutes there. So the idea of building a network, and also cramming everything into one single node becomes ever more absurd!

    1. Why not encourage employers to relocate out of the crowded overly dense Seattle into more sparse environments? For instance, Lakewood.

      Because then all of the best employees would quit.

      And beyond that, having a lot of intellectual capital in one place really does lead to business advantages. There’s a reason my employer (along with so many others) pays high Seattle rents. They are perfectly aware that rent would be several times lower in Lakewood.

      1. By that logic, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Google have the worst employees in the world!

      2. Lakewood is not exactly Silicon Valley, or even Kent. Have you been there?

        And Silicon Valley itself is having to go to outlandish measures (like running enormous private transit networks) because all its employees want to live in San Francisco. As you know, Microsoft is having the same issue, and is building up a presence in downtown Bellevue that may eventually outweigh its HQ.

      3. You say these things…about people “wanting” so badly to go to these cities, but does it have any basis in fact?

        If one designs things by cramming all the amenities into one node on the network, as I said, then it becomes self-fulfilling logic.

        What I see is more and more right-sized cities and towns bringing some of the flavor of “The City” closer to the residential areas.

        That is what I am encouraging…with good transportation, it is not wise or cost effective to put all the eggs in one basket.

      4. If people who work in Silicon Valley live in San Francisco, it’s because they want to live there. Housing is just as expensive in San Francisco as it is in the Valley, and the commute is painful (if much less so with privately run shuttles). And yet overwhelming numbers of them make that choice. “All” is hyperbole, as I think you know, but it’s a major movement.

        Yes, a lot of suburbs and smaller cities are urbanizing. And that’s terrific. But it hasn’t slowed down the revitalization of the big cities at all. There’s enough growth for both to share.

        And revitalizing smaller city centers has nothing to do with building more sprawling office parks like those tech company campuses. Those are doomed, and rightfully so. If Microsoft were formed today, it would have located in downtown Bellevue or downtown Redmond, not on a bunch of empty land between the two. It wouldn’t have built in downtown Lakewood because there is no downtown Lakewood. Places like Lakewood are not on a good trajectory, at least until they invest in somewhat urban central areas.

      5. Pierce and South King have much higher office vacancy rates than Seattle and the Eastside, per the latest CBRE report. This is despite much lower rents.

        As a contractor I see why all the time. A continuous flow of companies move into greater Downtown, or from Redmond to Downtown Bellevue. Between the RFPs and press releases, they often say specifically that they want to be in urban neighborhoods to help recruitment and retainage. Sometimes it’s also about making things easier for visitors, i.e. being around hotels etc. I’ve lost count of the examples.

      6. I remember refusing a Google recruitment attempt because the jobs were in Mountain View. (I later refused a NYC recruitment attempt but that was because the job duties weren’t suitable for me; Mountain View had suitable jobs, but I’m not going to Mountain View.)

      7. “Housing is just as expensive in San Francisco as it is in the Valley,”

        More expensive, and smaller as well. Yet far more popular. Because of the old real estate agent’s adage:

        Location, location, location

      8. As for Lakewood, it’s becoming a commuter suburb of JBLM. The military is one of the few major industries which actually has a legitimate reason for locating out in the boonies (along with mining, agriculture, and probably a few I’ve forgotten).

  10. I think we need to get rid of free handicap placard parking. Just because someone is disabled doesn’t mean they should get free parking … and it is WAY over abused by those who manage to get the placards … just look at Yesler … it is amazing how many able-bodied “disabled people” there are who trek up and down the hill that is Yesler way during the work week.

    Now I am not against allowing the disabled to park all day … but there has to be some better way than the oft-abused placard system that we currently employ.

    1. I have been railing against this rampant abuse for years. The city is well aware of this issue. At one point there was talk of putting time limits on free parking by placarded cars, but nothing ever came of it. So the scam continues. My take is simply that if a disabled individual can drive downtown, park, and go to work or shop, why assume they are “poor” and can’t pay for parking? Entire streets are lined with such cars parked early and kept there all day, both costing parking revenue for the city and preventing others from parking. Of course it’s a STATE law, so I suppose that, in the end, there is little that can be done short of repeal.

    2. I think we should pointy spikes on all the seats of Metro buses, because this would encourage them to take LINK. The bastards.

    3. “My take is simply that if a disabled individual can drive downtown, park, and go to work or shop, why assume they are “poor” and can’t pay for parking?”

      Why assume they have plenty of money, which is guaranteed to cause people to fall through the cracks. Many disabled people have a lot more expenses than other people do, both unreimbursed medical expenses and other things. Plus, some of them used to be enthusiastic bus riders but now it’s hard to get on and off the buses or walk to the stops. So they’re driving more than they want to, and driving is expensive, and disabilities are expensive, so the free parking helps them make ends meet.

      Perhaps there needs to be two levels of placard, one for disabled poor who have difficulty riding a bus, and one for disabled people with more money and more walking ability.

    4. Your system is in fact unusual; where I live a handicapped placard allows you to park in marked handicapped-only spaces (of which there is roughly one per block in commercial areas, plus a section at the base of each garage) — but you still have to feed the parking meter.

      1. The issue of disabled people being poor should be addressed at other levels. For instance, universal single-payer health care…. guaranteed minimum income…. etc.

  11. It is cheaper to subsidize park and ride lots and direct a few buses to them, as opposed to running buses all over suburbia. Many years ago Metro cut a lot suburban bus service because the agency couldn’t fund buses tooling all over suburbia to provide door to door transit service. So park and ride lots are the mitigation for suburban residents who fund transit yet don’t have buses running within walking distance from their home. Note that people all over King County pay for Metro Transit service through their sales taxes (transit is funded at least 70% through these general taxes that everyone pays). The free park and ride lots also encourage suburban residents to ride transit, which is good not just for suburbanites, but also for everyone (reduces congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.) I’d argue that the tit for tat argument in this post that park and riders should be charged looks good on the surface, but doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    1. Right on.

      Remember when every number in the 250s and 260s was taken by separate peak-hour 520 buses that all served some tiny Eastside neighborhood and ran 1/3 full?

      Remaining from that group, we have only the 250, 252, 257, 265, and 268. And yet service is much better for pretty much all riders.

    2. I’d argue p&r lots aren’t great for carbon emissions. Any time you make it easier to commute to the exurbs, you induce demand for cheap, distant housing.

      1. I think the better strategy for carbon emissions is the long play. Build the city up economically, build housing like crazy, and make it attractive to residents and commuters alike. The more the city outcompetes the suburbs, the better in the long run for the environment.

      2. P&Rs follow growth, they don’t create it. P&Rs are an incentive to take transit. Otherwise they’d be driving 100% of the time, and that’s worse for carbon emissions.

      3. Note that we aren’t talking about P&Rs and train stations in North Bend or Maple Valley. Or at least, nobody except John Bailo is. We’re talking about central P&Rs and stations in suburban areas that have been established for decades. The people were there long before the P&Rs.

      4. “Note that we aren’t talking about P&Rs and train stations in North Bend or Maple Valley.” No, but we are talking about commuters in North Bend or Maple Valley. They drive to a P&R, park for free, and pay a low price to be ferried past slow traffic in the bus lane.

        “Otherwise they’d be driving 100% of the time” No they won’t. Our freeways are at capacity during rush hour. It’s simply not possible to push many more cars through the routes that most P&R’s serve. If more people drive, freeways will slow down (further), and other people will choose to take the bus.

      5. So we should put a gate at the Issaquah P&R, “Issaquah and Sammamish residents only, no exurban moochers from further east”? Some people from North Bend may use the P&R, but it’s not primarily for them, and we shouldn’t close it simply because a few of them use it.

        The freeway is not at capacity between North Bend and Bellevue. Which is in fact where several of our moocher’s neighbors doubtless commute to, in their cars.

      6. “it’s not primarily for them” I’m not concerned with the intent of park and rides, but only their impact. P&R’s make it easier and cheaper to live in the far suburbs and exurbs, and therefore encourage that lifestyle. They also represent a large subsidy for both the exurban commuters and the suburban commuters. I don’t see a problem with charging a few dollars to reduce this subsidy, especially if Metro is trying to solve budget problems.

      7. Trunk routes make it possible for urbanites and those stuck in the suburbs to get to jobs, appointments, and family in the suburbs. P&Rs go hand in hand with trunk routes due to the nature of the suburbs. I can’t accept that we simply cut off transit to the suburbs and leave them to die, or pretend that useless milk runs are adequate, especially because it harms urbanites as well as suburbanites.

      8. I’d much prefer TOD with high capacity transit, and leave the rest of the suburbs to bike or take a local bus to these trunks (or suffer an ever increasing traffic problem of their own making). But I’m willing to compromise on P&R’s as long as we reduce the subsidy, such as by charging for parking.

      9. I’m pretty much with Matt. But TOD is a crock. Don’t provide transit until development occurs. Build transit in response to demand instead of trying to push it out to loser places like Overlake Village. I mean it’s not like transit in the Seattle Metro area is constrained by a lack of road capacity. In fact, a lack of road capacity is what drives demand for transit. So “planned” development like Bel-Red is counter productive to urban concentration.

      10. “I think the better strategy for carbon emissions is the long play.”

        What’s the short-term solution for the climate change we’re already seeing?

  12. Wow. Just wow. If you want to cripple metro even further, then yes. End the park and ride lots so people just get back into their cars and drive downtown.

    Also, this might be the most ridiculous paragraph written in recent memory: “In theory, the reason that we’ve spent millions of dollars on free parking at park-and-rides is to lure suburban commuters to take the bus. Yet Metro is willing to lose millions of rides per year by ending the Ride Free Area.”

    You do realize the difference here is that people who ride the bus in from the burbs pay for that service, right? They buy Orca cards or pay as they go (or their employers do). And the “millions” of rides metro is willing to “lose” were not actually fares, just riders in the RFA where they weren’t paying at the fare box. You basically have one group willing to pay about $7 a day in fares, vs many people paying $0.

    I mean holy *bleep* that’s some stupid logic.

    1. In one case you’re providing expensive service to the far suburbs, and adding a further subsidy of parking lots or structures. In the other, you’re using existing capacity that costs Metro little or nothing.

      I disagree that a few dollars in parking would make a large amount of people drive. Freeways are already at capacity at commute hours. But that’s what the study is for.

    2. You seem not to have read the article. It calls for keeping all the park-and-ride lots! But actually charging a small amount (a dollar or two a day) to park in them.

      “You do realize the difference here is that people who ride the bus in from the burbs pay for that service, right?”

      They don’t pay for the parking, though. They get that for FREE!!!!! They pay the same amount as someone who walks to the station, and yet they get the free use big car storage garages. That’s not fair, is it?

  13. There’s only one good reason to charge to park in P&R lots, and that’s to raise revenue. That said, I don’t think they should do it. Anything that discourages people from using transit is bad. “Sam, how do you know it would discourage people from using transit?” Well, Strawman, if I were to suggest to you that the King County Library System should charge people to park in all their library’s parking lots, what would you say? “I’d say that’s an awful idea! It would discourage people from using the library!” Exactly.

  14. I was gathering figures for a rant on Burien Park & Ride but you beat me to it so I’ll just sum it up here:

    505 parking stalls
    164 new parking stalls
    $20.5 Million
    $40k per parking spot or…
    $125,000 per *added* parking spot
    At 4% interest amortized over 30 years that equates to almost $600 per month to build *EACH STALL*

    All that said, Burien Park & Ride opened up some land for TOD which hasn’t happened yet. That TOD has the potential to add some value to this particular P&R but I haven’t been able to quantify that.

    Moderate parking fees should be the first line of attack when a Park & Ride reaches capacity. The goal should be demand management, not punitive retribution for a policy pushed by suburban council-members. Those of us close enough to bike and/or walk will do so, those who have access to cheap parking my choose to drive again, and those with high cost parking will fill in those spaces and cough up the $2 or $3.

    1. Don’t get me started on Burien P&R. It has created an illusion that downtown Burien is a destination to rival the airport.

      If that facility had been built at, say, the airport, then most of those commuters would be driving to the airport, and filling empty seats on Link, instead of creating demand for a platoon of commuter express buses. Burien and the airport are on neighboring hills. And yet, Burien TC creates a huge barrier for bus riders trying to get to the airport.

      Well, we do have a parking garage at the airport — the largest in the state — and it is in public hands, controlled by an elected governing body (The Port of Seattle Board) that answers to the same set of voters that Metro does. Why not set aside a corner of the airport parking garage for train commuters, for free?

    2. Let’s see. $600 / month / 30 days per month = $20 a day.

      So any charge less than $20 a day is still a large subsidy to people driving to the lot. Surely a $2/day charge seems reasonable now?

  15. Proof-of-Payment as you Exit the garage.

    Position fare inspectors at the garage exit, who check whether a rider has used an ORCA card that day, or has a transfer slip appropriate to that day. Fare inspections can be random.

    No proof, issue a warning. Second offense, issue a fine, with the amount reducible with proof of having purchased a monthly pass. Third offense, issue a larger fine. After that, tow the car if it is caught inside an ST or Metro lot. The car is trespassing.

    There are cheap ways to ensure the park-&-rides are for riders only. I suspect Metro and ST have only looked at the expensive options. We do have allies, at least on the ST Board, to make this happen.

    1. park-&-rides are for riders only

      In general that’s not true. There are P&R lots which have no transit service and are designed solely for carpooling. P&R lots are paid for by everyone’s taxes not from transit fares. The problem is that it’s a public service (the parking) that’s provided for free. The problem goes away if you charge market rate which is what would leave ~5% of the spaces open at peak. It’s easy to have the printed ticket be a bus transfer. Orca implementation would be more expensive because the machines are so flippin’ expensive. Hover, they are a lot less expensive than building parking garages and a market rate fare structure would encourage people to shift to under utilized lots like Houghton which would in turn justify better bus service to these locations.

      If you have to pay to park at a State Park isn’t it about time you had to pony up to park at a P&R lot?

      1. I agree that we ought to charge at park&ride lots, but the realpolitik right now is to at least charge non-riders, since that’s the direction some of the politicians are going.

    2. “Position fare inspectors at the garage exit, who check whether a rider has used an ORCA card that day, or has a transfer slip appropriate to that day….”

      Why the heavy hand? As long as you’ve committed to running a parking facility, wouldn’t it be far simpler to just charge me a few bucks for parking and let me decide what I want to do next?

    1. From the news story, it sounds like the problem is that people are not doing anything at all with the offer of the free bus tickets. It’s been a while since I’ve done it, but if I recall correctly, when you register your car, you get a coupon which you can send in to either request the free bus tickets for yourself or donate the tickets.

      In my case, I renewed by mail, so I got the renewal notice in the mail, sent it in and when the registration documents were sent to me, I got the coupon. So at that point, someone has to invest the time and another 45 cents to get the tickets or to donate them. It sounds like most people don’t bother, they just toss the coupon.

      1. The story also talks about the tickets already being available, but not getting into the hands of those who need them. The implication is that a middleman is stealing them.

      2. The car tab bus tickets have a very limited expiration date. By the time you send in the request and wait for them to mail back the tickets you’ve got about six weeks to use eight tickets. Since we’ve had zero rain since I got mine I’ve been riding my bike and they all expire at the end of October. Another scam just like the limited time to use your Go2Go pass on 520 to get the “free” rebate and then they didn’t extend it when tolling started almost a year late. Or charging an “inactivity” fee to encourage Orca use. I’m left feeling that anyone that can scam the system, more power too them.

      3. Wow, I went and looked at the Metro tickets I received due to the Car Tabs coupon. I assumed they had no expiration date. They are valid through the end of November.

      4. I figured they’d be valid for at least a year; like the car tabs the congestion reduction Metro bailout is subsidizing. I bet a lot of people aren’t going to read the fine print and be really pissed when they are told to pay up or get off the bus.

      5. At least we won’t have to wait a year for the free tickets to phase out so we can eliminate paper transfers.

      6. There isn’t any plan to phase out paper transfers. If there ever is it will meet the same social injustice argument crap we’re seeing with the end of the free ride area. I’ve had it. Next time our tabs are up for renewal the address is changing to our Lakewood address.

      7. Brent, since the tickets expire some time after the vehicle is registered and vehicles are registered throughout the year, tickets for the first year’s CRC will expire somewhere around Sep. 2013. Then there are the tickets for the second year of the CRC…

  16. Why are there John Bailo comments on nearly every website I visit? And they’re the most outlandish, alternative-reality comments in every thread. Is he for real?

    I mean, Kent? Come on.

    1. The lowlight of the entire Internet Epoch thus far, for me, was when I recognized John Bailo’s unmistakable authorship in a Netflix review.

    2. You know what? Even though I think his hyper-sparse HSR-linked utopia is both undesirable and impractical, I’m glad JB is here. He uses mass transit and bikes in Kent, actually wants those things to improve, and provides a perspective on how that works for him that we wouldn’t otherwise get. He loves the place he lives in and wants to see it grow more mixed-use. And he believes in a transit network with great cross-town lines. He believes in this stuff on a rather sprawled-out scale for many of our tastes, but… you know.

    3. John Bailo is one proof that the weirdness of people’s mental states has more variety than most people can imagine. I can show you more extreme proofs, however….

    4. The guy is not stupid at all, but his vision is strange. And he seems to have a *lot* of spare time to promote it, given the number of websites on which he comments. I waste way too much time commenting on websites and I only have three or four!

    5. Seattle is a diverse, multicultural environment, full of tolerance…for people who all think and act the same way.

    6. The Bailoman seems to have a complex philosophy, which I only partly understand. Some of it makes sense, some of it doesn’t, some of it contradicts the other, and some of it could only happen in a parallel universe.

      1. Some of the Bailo “philosophy” is a parody of the alternate universe that exists in New Urbana. Oxymorons like “sustainable city”.

      2. Cities are the most efficient, and therefore the most sustainable, forms of human organization ever developed.

  17. Well lets see.

    Free parking lots brings more people onto the buses and brings in more fares.

    The Ride Free Area brought more people onto the buses… and brought in NO new fares.

    1. Yup, I’m glad they got rid of RFA. Too many bums ride it and I’ve seen too many get on it for free in downtown, then when the bus gets out of downtown, so many cheats quickly get off the bus w/o paying or one time had a kid pretend-asking for “anyone got a change for $20,” and no one replied, so he just skipped off the bus before the driver had much time to re-act or do anything.

    2. Free parking lots brings more people onto the buses and brings in more fares.

      There’s no such thing as a free parking lot. It costs Metro and ST more to provide the parking for someone than the bus service. It would be a better business model to charge for the parking and make all suburban P&R lots a RFA.

      1. I would have *thought* the cost to provide free parking for bus riders was already included in a portion of the bus fare…

        So, to fully pay for the “free” parking, what would be the difference for Metro/ST/CT to increase the fare say by 25/50/whatever cents vs charging to park in their park and ride lot?

      2. Would people that are riding less than a mile downtown that didn’t park be charged this fee as well? If you’re only charging the park and riders, I’m all for it.

      3. Express buses, on highway HOV lanes, to expansive park-and-rides in the suburbs, should cost $3.50-$5.00 minimum.

      4. “I would have *thought* the cost to provide free parking for bus riders was already included in a portion of the bus fare…”

        It’s not. The bus fare for the routes which go to newly built garages would have to be increased by something like $10 per ride. See above.

      5. Does it cost Metro? In Kent Station for example, I thought the parking garage was built by and managed by the City of Kent.

  18. I commute to work and park at Park & Rides in Snoh county most of the time!

    I dont know what I’d do if they charged to park there! So I am inclined to not want that. Unless it was free if I part of my bus pass (ORCA) , etc…

    As for parking at some parks now, that’s why I dont go to parks much .. if I do I park nearby where it’s free and walk.

    So basically if using a park has a tax cost to me and to charge people to park would reduce my tax towards the park ,then I would agree with that.

    In that case, I rarely use the library, so I wish they would charge for people using the library and reduce my (property) tax towards that as well.

    1. If they charged a dollar a day to park there…. you’d just keep using the P&R. You’d run the numbers and conclude that it was still cheaper than driving all the way.

      In fact, you’d still have subsidized parking, it would just be *less* subsidized. So.

      1. Ah…. but wait, perhaps I’m wrong. You say “bus pass”. Are you in one of those situations where your employer gives you the option of a bus pass or free parking? In *that* case, the *employer-issued* bus pass should perhaps include the parking.

      2. Yup, that’d be me… employer-provided bus pass.

        As for charging “extra” $1 or so , on principle that just bugs me the wrong way. I’d rather that charge be “included” in the bus pass.

        Otherwise on principle, I’d be inclined to park off-street for free and walk a little to the park & ride.

  19. Ending free parking at park and rides might be a good idea. Let’s weigh the economic impact. The Ride free zone was costing King County millions. It was no longer cost effective. (It also got rid of deadbeats.) It stoped being cost effective years if not decades ago. Not paying for parking might cause some people to stop taking the bus and just drive. This will happen if it cheaper to drive. I am for paying for parking. Just make sure it does not cost to much.

    1. Are drivers enforcing the pay as you enter? Is there law enforcement activity going on? Does Metro have any idea of how many people are riding for free despite the end of the RFA?

      I ask b/c on my routes to/from the CD [2/3/4] I still see plenty of folks getting on with no fare. Saw it happen today on the 11 at Broadway as well.

  20. All evidence actually points to increased ridership without the RFA than with it. Metro has already seen a massive boost in ridership. What are you talking about? Who would have thought people didn’t want to ride buses with indigent folks circulating the system all day long with no actual purpose to ride except not be on the street?!

    I agree that most Park & Riders (particularly the closer-in ones with structures and/or located at stations) should be charged. Metro has looked at this extensively. In many cases, they are redeveloping the sites as TOD.

  21. P&Rs are a response to the nature of the suburbs. Their layout was decided decades ago, and they now contain over a million people (in King County), including those who want to take transit more and drive less, and often can’t afford to move to the city. For these three reasons, we have a responsibility to extend transit to those areas. The only effective way is to have trunk routes to suburban downtowns and P&Rs, and local feeders and crosstown routes from there. Even if we someday achieve excellent feeder coverage, there will still be areas outside walking distance to a feeder stop. And the feeder system is not excellent, it’s abysmal. A few half-hourly or hourly buses here and there, nothing comprehensive.

    But the P&Rs don’t have to be free. Yet the rate must be low enough to avoid deterring people from taking transit. I’d guess somewhere between 50c and $3 is a good balance. We can start charging at the full lots, and either keep the emptier lots free or phase them out. It should be payable by ORCA e-purse or a separate ORCA “parking pass”. A small (50c or $1) transfer credit between parking and transit may be justified, to reward those who really park and ride rather than just park.

    We also need to look at strategic P&R locations. P&Rs should be at major transfer points, not in the middle of nowhere. That way the stop does triple duty as a parking stop, transfer point, and walking destination. Although it may be worthwhile moving garages out of city centers (Renton, Burien) and putting them a short distance away (South Bellevue). But we need to take a hard look at the siller locations (South Kirkland, Redondo, Star Lake) and maybe close some of those.

    1. More than that, expanding the feeder network seriously is not the best use of our resources, for the most part. It makes no sense to have empty 221/226/236/238/241/etc. buses cruising around the suburbs when we have RRC/RRD/3/4/358 buses here in the city that are too full to pick up passengers on a regular basis.

      Let people drive on the neighborhood streets which aren’t that crowded, and then funnel them into a well-used frequent-service network at a P&R/transfer point when they want to avoid driving or parking in a truly crowded place.

      1. Kill off the feeder buses and anyone who lives in the city and needs to visit the suburbs has to drive the entire way.

      2. Car-sharing in the suburban centers can help with that.

        I just don’t think we should be running a utopian network in the suburbs with marginal ridership when we have so many riders being badly underserved in the city (and, for that matter, in other, less affluent suburbs).

      3. Car-sharing in suburban centers doesn’t really help with that because the expense is still way to high. Zipcars got at about $10 per hour, but that includes the hours you’re parked, not just the hours you’re moving. For instance, you’d be looking at a $30 transportation bill to see a 2 1/2 hour movie. That’s too much.

        Ultimately, I believe the long-term replacement for feeder buses is a fleet of driver-less, computer-controlled taxicabs that would pass the savings on labor costs to the customer in the form of lower rates. Without labor, even a usage rate as low as 50-75 cents per mile would still allow the owner of the vehicle to make plenty of profit. And for low-income people that can’t afford that, the government can offer them subsidies.

        In the meantime, though, I don’t see a good alternative to feeder buses. Like it or not, one of the mandates of every transit agency is to maintain coverage of the area. I don’t have a problem with this, even in areas where I don’t live because the more areas have coverage, especially all-day coverage, the more areas you can get to, and the more freedom of mobility you have. So, even if a coverage route is in a different neighborhood than mine, I still get some benefit from it via the potential to use it if I ever need to travel to the area.

        By contrast, the routes I have more of a problem with are routes that are not only low-ridership, but are also redundant with other routes. In other words, routes that exist to serve some particular pair of destinations that some planner thought absolutely had to be connected with door-to-door service or service that was slightly faster than the regular route. In particular, routes that I consider redundant and unproductive including things like 25, 42, 205, 211, 157, 158, 159, and north Sounder. In 2016, the 586 and 197 will join that list too, assuming they still survive.

    2. I still dont get why you should get charged “extra” for parking at a P&R!

      I always thought part of your bus pass fare goes to the park and ride lot!

      If , not then just make it so.. instead of having to pay a “Separate” fee to park.

      1. I always thought part of your bus pass fare goes to the park and ride lot!
        Part of “your” fare and part of everybody else’s fare who doesn’t use the parking. The entire bus fare wouldn’t cover the cost of providing parking so in effect we are handing out free bus passes to drivers.

      2. In that case, I dont see any difference between raising the fare a bit to pay “more” for the P&R, vs having a separate fee to use the P&R.

        If the current situation is that the bus fare is already subsidized and doesnt cover the cost of the bus and the p&r, then I’d rather leave it that way, which encourages me to continue to take the bus.

        I’m sure at some point once you raise the raise the fares too much or change for parking at P&Rs, people will drive and that won’t be good for anyone.

      3. There are P&R lots in King County that are at greater than 100% capacity (i.e. people parking illegally). By charging you can smooth out that demand. For example you charge $2 to park at S. Bellevue and all of a sudden a certain segment switches and makes use of the excess capacity at Eastgate. If you price it so that there is virtually always a space available then you pick up a number of choice riders who would be glad to pay as it’s a lot cheaper than driving DT but they don’t want the hassel of having to leave for work an hour early just to make sure they get a spot in the P&R. The main reason to charge additional for parking instead of raising the bus fare on everyone is that the parking is a premium service. Raising bus fare would be like Seatac telling the airlines they have to raise ticket prices and give the money back to the Port so that they can make airport parking free.

  22. “This gives a road map for the legislature to raise revenue for transit improvements that wouldn’t run afoul of the 18th Amendment.”

    Seems like this ruling has some promise. Vote was 9 to 0 as well.

  23. How about free parking for 24 hours, yet charge a premium for more time? Considering transit’s access to intercity transportation (ie: Amtrak, Greyhound, Sea-Tac Airport), why not charge a premium for people who want to park long-term and take transit to the next mode up?

    1. Parking is already limited to 72 hours. I don’t think there’s a significant number of people using P&Rs for out of town trips. If there is, it’s only near the airport. At other P&Rs, you can see them empty or almost empty at night.

      1. 72 hours? Must be King County, then. Pierce County (most esp. Dome Station) is only 24 hours. That disappointed a lot of people when I worked at the Greyhound station at the Dome; people wanted to park their cars before going on trips, but I had to tell them that the parking managers tow away after 24 hours. As I said in another thread, this would be a trade-off for people wanting to park at the proposed Amtrak station at Freighthouse Square; parking’s restricted to 24 hours, but at least it’s secure.

      2. Maybe Tacomans have a different mindset. In downtown Seattle if you say you want long-term parking for an Amtrak or Greyhound trip (especially free parking), people would think you’re crazy.

      3. Maybe Tacomans have a different mindset.

        I’m sure you’re familiar with the area around King Street Station. You’re obviously not familiar with the area around Freight House Square. Hint, there’s a Campers World just up the street.

      4. Hm… I think Snohomish County P&Rs are 72-hours as well. Not if it’s for CT only or CT & ST park and rides.

      5. I didn’t realize how un-urban Tacoma was, that people expect to park at the station for multi-day Amtrak/Greyhound trips.

      6. When ST builds the Tukwila permanent station, there will be some spaces set aside for Amtrak and presumably longer-term. I expect that there are also Amtrak spaces at Edmonds and Everett stations. When Amtrak moves into Freighthouse Square, there will probably be some provision for parking for train passengers.

      7. I’d say it has less to do with the character of Tacoma and more the character of Amtrak or Greyhound.

        If you think Amtrak or Greyhound are for getting somewhere, you’d wonder why anyone would want to park for it, since it’d be natural to take transit to the transit. If you think they’re a fun activity to do in and of themselves, you’d probably want to park somewhere for it.

  24. Calgary Transit had a interesting way of creating revenue, Pay for a reserved spot. There are a limited amount of spots, most convenient/closest etc, “Premium” spots if you will. The monthly charge is $70, your guaranteed a spot in the “Reserved Parking” section. You must renew it each month, current users get first dibs on renewing. You have to be in the spot by 10a weekdays. After that its all open for free parking. All other spots at the Park & ride are free, although I see one they have converted completely to Reserved Parking. http://www.calgarytransit.com/html/park_n_ride_contact.html

    BART charges daily parking, $1 and up, and has $5 daily parking for long-term use (for airport users), they also offer premium parking like Calgary. http://bart.gov/guide/parking/index.aspx

    1. I wonder what happens when someone parks in your spot, like what happens to people who drive to their cubicle farm workplaces?

  25. I completely agree. Its amazing how subsidized parking is in the United States compared to other countries I’ve lived (Japan and Finland).

Comments are closed.