Photo by Sound Transit

KOMO reported last Thursday that Sound Transit is planning to lease an additional 103 parking spaces at Edmonds Station under a 5-year agreement with Salish Crossing, owners of the adjacent Edmonds Antique Mall.  This will increase P&R capacity by 66% (from 156 to 259 spaces).  The spaces will be free for riders.

Much critical attention, both here on STB and elsewhere, has been paid to Sounder North since the Citizens’ Oversight Panel publicly questioned its continued viability. In this critical context it will be interesting to see the effects of the new parking both on ridership and public sentiment.  Adding free parking is almost always a net political win for agencies, but in this case the price is very high.  Sound Transit has agreed to pay $150 per space per month for 5 years, for a total contract cost of approximately $927,000.  Assuming 100% utilization, 250 workdays per year, and 15 special event service days, the new parking will amount to an additional subsidy of $6.79 per car per day.  This will be in addition to the $32/boarding costs Adding roughly 10% to ridership will certainly decrease the $32 cost per boarding figure, but probably not enough to outweigh the cost of the added parking. In any case, Sounder North costs will remain sky-high.

But if there’s any place that it’s proper to invest along the line, it’s Edmonds.  Sounder is 46% faster to Edmonds (27 minutes) than CT 416 (50 minutes), 50% faster (42 minutes) to Mukilteo than CT 417 (83 minutes), but 31% slower to Everett (59 minutes) than ST 510 (45 minutes) and a reliable 59 minutes to Everett, while ST 510 runs 50-75 minutes, depending on time of day and traffic.  Relatively speaking, Sounder should be more attractive to Edmonds commuters than anyone else, and if constraints in parking supply have been a true drag on ridership, then it is reasonable to expect the agency to seek to lease existing but unused spaces.

The Sound Transit board is expected to vote on the issue on November 15th.   The new spaces are expected to become available  May 1, 2013.

[Update:  See clarifications above.  The original post erroneously used off-peak travel times on ST 510 from 4th/Union to Everett Station.  The post has been updated to show the full range of travel times between 4th/Jackson and Everett.

78 Replies to “Sound Transit to Lease More Parking for Sounder North”

  1. Great, an extra 103 riders per day at a cost of nearly $1M over 5 years.

    Even under an optimistic scenario assuming that every space were full, and even if we assumed that each car netted two riders (doubtful, I would venture tha almost all of these will be single drivers), I see this as throwing good money after bad.

  2. What schedule are you looking at where the peak-hour travel time on the 510 is 45 minutes between the south end of Seattle and Everett Station? On some trips, it’s 45 minutes between 9th/Howell and South Everett.

    1. Yes, evening peak trips take well over an hour to get from the Atlantic layover to Everett Station.

  3. Unfortunately $927,000, as expensive as it is, wouldn’t even make a dent in constructing the new stations that could also (to some degree) expand ridership…

      1. Ferry schedule coordination should have been done from the start. I can’t believe they can’t get that working, it’s such a no brainer.

      2. I’m actually not sure at all. I’d have to know the expected *arrival* times for the ferries as well as the boarding and unloading times for foot passengers. The Mulkiteo ferries come often enough that, if the travel time is unreliable, there may be no coordination to be done. The Edmonds ferries are another matter and it looks like there could be more coordination….

        The real problem is that the Sounder schedule features four trains chasing each others’ tails — viable for the stronger-demand South corridor, but practically redundant for the North corridor — none of them are reverse-peak, and the evening northbound trains *all* leave too early.

        Is there any possible way to renegotiate *when* the four slots are with BNSF? I assume this would only be possible after some amount of double-tracking is completed.

      3. They will never actually coordinate the schedules. Doesn’t seem like anyone in either of those organizations gives a shit about it happening. Fortunately some do mesh with the boat, barely…

        Also, this brings up my point I mde last week about paid parking, like they have with Metra. At only 1.50 per spot per day, hell that’s BEYOND reasonable. So, they don’t charge parking because it’s politically damaging, I take it?

        Last, need more platforms on Sounder North. Dravus or Golden Gardens first!

      4. Nathanael,
        The crossing times are on the schedule. About 20 minutes for Clinton-Mukilteo and 30 minutes for Kingston-Edmonds.

  4. You can’t add a $32 subsidy to the cost of the parking. If more people are attracted to the train, the cost per boarding goes down. The 2012 Draft SIP shows the purchased transportation cost per boarding at $16.71 in 2Q2012, down from $19.56 in 1Q2011.

  5. The travel time for Sounder to Everett isn’t really 59 minutes. There’s a lot of padding in the schedule, so on a normal day, it might be take 10 fewer minutes. And if the 510 gets bogged down by traffic, which is way more variable, then the bus will take longer.

  6. I’m reminded of the old Jack in the Box ad about a cheap burger special, that went something like this: “99 cents for a burger? You’ll lose money on every burger you sell!”

    “Yes, but we’ll make it up in volume.”

  7. I may type something coherent later on when my blood pressure falls below 200.
    Is there any way we can find more ways to have the most expensive public transit in the US?
    Start adding some debt and depreciation to all these operating costs and you’ll faint.
    Last year Metro’s access buses cost more to operate than every trolley bus in the system. 58 million for only 5% of the riders. We’re now owners of ADA bus service costing $50 a ride. (I’m in favor of providing basic ADA service, but the rest of the country does it different and mostly way cheaper)

    1. Hopefully this is just a CYA for ST. The COP recommended that ST 1) work to improve ridership (including more parking) 2) Set benchmarks and targets 3) If targets aren’t met to cut service and transfer it to the express buses.

      As has been mentioned Sounder North is still politically popular. ST can’t just cut it on a whim. Looks to me they are following the COPs recommendation and if the costs per rider don’t come down they are then in a good position to reallocate service.

      1. Note that Sounder North is specifically voter approved. I’m not entirely sure it could be cut.

    2. Keep in mind the cost-per-ride paradox on paratransit: The more bare-bones the service gets, the higher the cost-per-rider, as there are fewer opportunities for efficiencies (groups riding in the same direction, for example). So, expect an inverse correlation between cost-per-rider and overall cost for paratransit.

      1. Don’t I remember from the Metro Audit that we go above and beyond the ADA requirements for paratransit? Basically doubling the service area?

      2. That may be the case. But the political solution would be to add mostly-empty fixed-route service going within a quarter mile of as much area as possible, in order to justify the paratransit service area.

      3. Why? A bit out of the box but why not cut the routes to nowhere along with the doubled paratransit service, making up for it with a one time ‘relocation voucher’ to those currently using paratransit as well as a grant to provide assistance with helping move those people to housing along trunk routes?

      4. Seattleite – because something like a “relocation voucher” probably wouldn’t meet ADA requirements.

      5. Ben, I’m not talking about it replacing ADA, we would still meet our obligations. I’m simply talking about how to deal with pulling back to the minimums required.

        Right now we over service. We need to stop that, but doing so will cause some people who currently rely on ACCESS to lose it. To help with the transition we should over relocation money and vouchers. Moving would of course be totally voluntary, but we simply can’t continue to give door to door service to everyone in the city at $50 a ride. That is simply not sustainable, ESPECIALLY as our population ages.

        We need to be thinking ‘out of the box’ at ways to serve our disabled citizens without breaking the bank.

  8. Yes, yes… I feel much better that my gas tax goes towards the 4.5 BIllion WSDOT has budgeted for highway ‘improvements’. (Not maintenance, which would be a legitimate operational use of the gas tax.)

    But Wait!, John Niles, CETA, Kemper, … They’re pointing at my midsection… What’s this? My GOD!!! I might have LINT in my TRANSIT NAVEL!!

    Must contemplate…

    “Enjoy my lunch, and thanks for point that out!”

  9. This year, Edmonds didn’t include the street overlay measure on the ballot. It failed the last 2 times. Maybe because it should be supported by gas tax revenues?

    I’ll have to keep an eye on the city council, though.

    They support the 5-corners roundabout project.

    Glad I voted Republican for mayor last time!

    1. “Maybe because it should be supported by gas tax revenues?”

      Cities get very little gas tax revenue. The tiny villige I live in (Beaux Arts, ~300 residents/117 households) spends about $30-$70k per year repaving and fixing potholes. For the past several years we have received about $6100-$6300 from gas taxes. The rest of that funding comes from either excise taxes on the sale of real estate or transfers from property taxes.

      If you want more gas taxes to go to local roads, you have to get the state to push more of that revenue down to the local level.

      1. So, you mean the gas tax I burn on my local roads goes to some other place, and is not being spent on those roads?


        I pay extra in taxes for something I don’t use?

        Hmmm, I sense a pattern here.

      2. “I pay extra in taxes for something I don’t use?”

        Yes, unless you drive more on freeways and state highways than the average driver… That’s where the lion’s share of gas tax goes.

  10. How will ST make sure only Sounder passengers use the parking spaces?

    And if it is all free, won’t it be politically impossible to ever start charging for the stalls, so long as someone from Edmonds is on the ST Board?

    How do we know this won’t just shift passengers who were taking the bus (CT 110, 116, 130, or 196, but primarily 196) to the station, knowing it was impossible to find parking, to driving to the station instead?

    I just don’t see this as adding 206 passengers per day.

    That said, $927,000 over five years wouldn’t pay for an additional bus line to the station. More trips, perhaps, but not a whole new line.

    The travel-time calculations suffer from the transfer-point-as-destination fallacy, as demonstrated by the supposition that the way to build ridership is to add parking stalls. Don’t forget that riders also have to get to King St Station, meaning it is a 3-seat ride for most (bus+train+SOV) and a 4-seat-ride for some (bus+train+bus+car) or (bus+train+ferry+car/bus).

    The CT 196 doesn’t deliver passengers to the first train, and has a scheduled 20-minute layover for each of the last three morning trains. It is scheduled to depart Edmonds Station 4 minutes before the train arrives. I assume it actually waits for the train.

    The 110 picks up passengers from all four morning trains, but only drops off passengers for the last two, which makes sense considering it is headed southeast to Mountlake Terrace.

    The 116 drops off passengers for the last three trains, and is scheduled to depart 4-5 minutes before the train, but I assume it waits.

    The 130 is scheduled to drop off passengers for the last three morning trains, and is scheduled to depart a few minutes after each of the four morning trains.

    If the stalls are filling up for the first train, the lack of any buses to get to the first train could be relevant.

    I hope CT is aware of the platform-space issues at King St Station, starting next fall when the new peak-of-peak trip is added on South Sounder. It is mentioned in the 2013 draft SIP. The timing of North Sounder may be affected.

    1. How will ST make sure only Sounder passengers use the parking spaces?

      I don’t suppose many people will show up at 6AM to shop at the antique mall. So who else do you have to worry about? Overnight parkers, bus riders and ferry passengers. If someone takes a Sounder spot to ride the bus or the ferry, they’re still taking public transit; is it worth worrying about? For overnighters, those can be controlled by towing after they’ve overstayed. Does anyone know if Amtrak has any spaces for long-term parking at Edmonds?

      1. Overnighters might be using transit, too. Driving from the station may be the only realistic option for some trying to get to their jobs.

      2. Yes, I had thought of that too. A ferry passenger coming into Edmonds might have a second car parked at the station. They could free up a space for a train passenger (or two).

      3. Amtrak passengers have to use the U-Park lot like everyone else who isn’t a Sounder passenger does… or should be doing.

        How do they police it? Hmmmm, well, security and the ST station agents try to keep a lookout for violators. I’ve heard that’s how they found out that local business employees were filling up the Mukilteo station lot.

        They just installed cameras at the Edmonds parking lot… so you never know…

        They could be watching.

      4. A ferry passenger coming into Edmonds might have a second car parked at the station. They could free up a space for a train passenger…

        With yet a third car. Oy vay! A ferry and heavy rail to collect people in cars from the middle of nowhere at the edge of nowhere. Sprawl Aboard!!!

      5. A number of Sounder passengers at Edmonds are walk-on ferry passengers. I don’t know if ST has surveyed the riders officially, and when someone can’t find a space, well… you can’t survey them.

        It’s the same as the Lost-Sales problem in retail. How do you know what to stock if you don’t know why people walked out of your store?

        Nordstrom did (and presumably still does) have that figured out, though.

    2. What i think would really help sounder (both north and south) would be an improved transfer between ID tunnel station and King street station. The current transfer is bad, and time consuming.

  11. While there are reasons why the Sounder North route does not make sense compared to the I-5 LINK route, at the same time, there is some sense to in effect, drawing customers to the West as opposed to making them all travel east jamming up the central corridor.

    I am still surprised they have not considered building more stations along the North Sounder route like at Ballard. I mean, all that distance covered and only two stations way in the North? Look at all the prime commuting territory Sounder goes through:

    1. Where would you put new stations? Access to the tracks is not good. Im not convinced a stop in ballard would help much, since Sounder goes past downtown. Though, given the problems with the D line, it could improve travel times.

      The only other places i could see a station would be Richmond beach (point wells has been discussed before), and Golden Gardens, and access at Golden Gardens is bad.

      1. I think a stop just before the train bridge by Shilshole bay marina would be interesting to look at. You could extend a bus route say the 44 to meet it.

        Otherwise, an Interbay stop might make sense.

      2. I think an Interbay stop would work best. Taking a bus to downtown and other lines would probably be faster than King St. Station and backtracking, and you could cross the street and bus to Ballard.

        I’m thinking at Prospect St. would be the best place for it. There’s already a bridge, access to the waterfront, and a large employer.

        Add a funicular to the #1 on upper Queen Anne…

      3. Yeah, I’m with Matt. Not too great for housing access, but it’s commuter transit and unlikely to turn into Caltrain any time soon.

        Though unlike more city businesses I don’t think Amgen’s starved for parking.

      4. No kidding. That garage looks like it has the same square footage as the offices do. I assume all of the land to the west is planned for future expansion, and they sized that garage so that everyone would have a parking space.

      5. I met with a group of Ballard people before Sounder even started to flesh out ideas as there was a “provisional” station originally planned for Ballard. It of course never happened because there was no funding AND because there was much opposition to a proposed location around NW 58th or 59th Street (can’t remember the exact location)by neighborhood residents who feared outsiders would park all day long in front of their houses. I thought Golden Gardens might be a good station site because there is plenty of unused parking, no neighbors to complain and is somewhat convenient to NW 85th Street. The city said absolutely not, since the station would be built on park property.

      6. Golden Garden’s parking lot is packed any sunny day. The commuters would all get there in the morning and store their cars, leaving the park visitors out of luck. I don’t blame the city for rejecting that.

      7. “The city said absolutely not, since the station would be built on park property.”

        Federal 4(f) rules need to be relaxed. Substitute parkland should be allowed when the park is not a unique natural or historical site.

      8. Quote: plenty of unused parking

        I should have clarified. I’m talking about the parking lot on the east side of the tracks. Monday through Friday, it is largely empty. On summer weekends it may see some park visitor parking but not during the week.

      9. Murradus, lots off places where they can put a platform or two in. I am going to keep repeating myself, build a station at Dravus or Golden Gardens, and the freakin’ train will be filled to the gills with people trying to get downtown. A stop on Ballard will go a long way in helping the Northline.

        I have seen it happen with the number 2 when I lived on top of the hill. As soon as people find an easier way to get downtown, they jump on it like a winning lottery ticket.

        Plus, just last night I took the “D” line for the first time since I had to stay overnight for work. NOT IMPRESSED, I miss the 15 and 18 combo. Add to the fact that even though I got to Westlake early enough(or so I thought), the light rail filled up immediately at the Westalke. We had hardly any room for more passengers after that. Of course it may be somewhat inconvenient for me, I do like the fact that the Link is having such a high turnout now.

      10. How many people from west Ballard are trying to get to/from the King Street station area, though? Judging by the loads on the 40 in Pioneer Square I see, not many…

    2. This has been covered extensively. Much of Sounder’s route is along the water, with cliff faces between the tracks and people it could plausibly serve. The terrain drastically limits walkshed, which makes other transit service to these areas ineffective, so there’s really not much connecting transit — you could add it, but it would run empty whenever it’s not feeding a train, and it would have to wind up and down really steep hills to get to the train. And you can’t reorganize the transit system to feed a train that only runs a few times a day, and can only run a few times a day because of the contract with the track owner.

      Our trunk lines west of I-5 are RR D, the 358, and Swift. Swift and the 358 aren’t fast enough for trips between Snohomish County and downtown Seattle, but they serve enough other kinds of trips that they’re still useful.

      1. But this is precisely why it would be a good place to build stations…because there is ample land for parking. And the buses that run along the East-West arterials could just as well head West all the way to the coast to meet up with a station.

        For example, you mentioned Golden Gardens. I bet most days of the week the existing parking lot is pretty much empty during rush hour in the morning. That would be a perfect place to build a station and siphon off the Ballard crowd. Even those who take the 520, might want to grab a Sounder into the Seattle tunnel and then a fast express to Bellevue.

      2. Actually along most of the tracks there isn’t much space for parking — the tracks are literally jammed in between a cliff face and water. Access to any parking would be really poor, as the roads down the steep hill aren’t ones you really want to send much traffic down. You see lots of trees along there and might think, “You could just cut them down and build a parking lot,” but there’s a reason someone hasn’t already cut them down to build houses or roads, which is that it’s steep. The flat areas are actually pretty scarce, and used for stuff more useful than parking.

        Richmond Beach might work if space and access work out. Golden Gardens does have some parking… maybe it would be a somewhat plausible P&R location. It would serve, what, people in North Beach and Blue Ridge that work in the southern end of downtown (or points south that have good transit connections from there… but I doubt many people P&R just to transfer)? For just about everyone else, after driving out-of-direction, crawling through a long parking lot, then walking back through it to the platform, it would be faster to catch a frequent bus heading straight downtown.

    3. I could potentially see a stop along Elliott, either near the Amgen bridge for D access or around F5. The tracks and the bus transit corridor run very close together there.

    4. Stops at Ballard and/or Belltown would probably make sense ridership wise, but would add time to the trip. Between the actual dwell at the stop and the accel/decel times, it could add up to several minutes. The delay probably wouldn’t be a big deal for riders (who are already used to getting, at best, a bus-quality travel time), but if our trips start taking up more and more track time BNSF might have an issue with it. Especially when they have to make room for the coal trains.

      The fact that it’s an alternative to the unreliable and overwhelmed buses running down I-5 is the main reason I’m not in the streets with a torch and a pitchfork over it. We need N/S capacity across the ship canal anywhere we can get it. But if we will never be able to expand the service beyond 1-way peak-only commuter trips, it’s not worth developing long-term. We should euthanize it once Link reaches Lynnwood. Encouraging TOD around something with such low frequency and with such sparse alternate service would set us up for failure.

  12. What are the odds of densifying downtown Edmonds? It has the potential to be a nice transit hub, with the ferry and train right there. It’s very walkable, and the single family homes near the downtown itself are on small plots of land. Just South, there’s plenty of poorly used retail and commercial space with vast parking lots that are easily walkable from the station. I could imagine converting this land to multifamily or even midrise. And it’s tough enough to get to by car that maybe the train could be a major transit mode. It wouldn’t be a car-free lifestyle, but it could certainly be car-light.

  13. [ot] Obviously, ST could have written the lease in such a way that would have allowed them to charge anyone who parked in the lot they leased. Why didn’t they?

    1. So you know everyone’s background, especially the train fanboys, right? That’s great for discussion puprposes, Sam.

      ST isn’t charging for parking because they still believe that have to entice drivers with free parking.

      If we worried about what things actually cost, the road system would be a privately run for-profit system, with tolls.

      But let us NEVER, NEVER ever question our roads.

      Besides, car drivers should be punished with even higher gas taxes.

    2. Do we know that the lease prohibits charging for parking? I’d be surprised if the antique mall would care, unless perhaps it deems the ticket machines too much of an intrusion on the space.

  14. Spending $6.79 to get, at best, $9 in fare revenue doesn’t you very far in bringing down Sounder’s per boarding cost. That said, I suppose it isn’t the most colossal waste of money I’ve seen unless it tweaks Sounder North’s numbers *just enough* to make the service look viable, thus cementing 5 more years of throwing money down a rat hole. Whatever… If the folks up there want it, it’s their tax revenue. Who am I to gripe about Edmond’s toys?

    1. Isn’t it actually $7 in fare revenue from Edmonds? At any rate, that’s actually sort of an interesting way of putting it… paying $6.79 to get $7 of fare revenue would be revenue-positive. Obviously $6.79 is a pretty optimistic projection… but the parking lease (in the context of an existing under-capacity service) could be close to revenue-neutral.

      Even so, we should be charging for the parking, largely because of the context of that under-capacity service.

      1. “Isn’t it actually $7 in fare revenue from Edmonds?”

        Good catch.

        “paying $6.79 to get $7 of fare revenue would be revenue-positive”

        Yes, but how far is $.21, in a best case scenario, going to get you in chipping away at Sounder North’s per-boarding costs.

        “Even so, we should be charging for the parking”

        Yes, although I doubt you could charge enough to do much for SN’s financial picture. Charging for parking in this context should be about utilizing existing parking more efficiently, not generating significant revenue.

        Sound Transit would have been wise to see what could have been done to encourage the lot owner to charge for all day parking at that lot instead. Commuters willing to pitch in an extra $3-5 would have a place to store their car, and tax revenue (depending on Edmonds’ tax rates) would flow in instead of out.

        Can anybody say “Public/Private partnership”?

  15. Zach, I hate to nitpick your correction, but “reliable?” What about all those mud slides?

    1. Touche, but we’re both right. Travel time, when it runs, is pretty reliable. Sounder North is like an employee who doesn’t show up sometimes, but when s/he does, they’re very reliable. ST 510, by contrast, shows up for work every day but you never know what you’re going to get.

    2. @Jon Morrison Winters. The “mudlside” analogy isn’t an issue. Those are vrare events that when happen, get major coverage from the news outlets. The train is reliable, and getting better and better at beating the bus downtown since I-5 is getting more congested everyday.

  16. Obama Wins. Free Parking for everyone. Hooray. This is a major win for Edmonds and, who can now crawl out from the fist of private parking barons. I hope WSDOT is paying attention. Here’s an excerpt from their website on Edmonds Ferry Terminal.
    There are 3 parking lots all within a few blocks of the terminal. The first is to the right of the terminal. It has 25 spots and is operated by Diamond parking. Prices range from $4.00-$10.00. You can contact Diamond parking at: 1-800-828-4197.
    The next two are U-Park lots ranging from $5.00-$12.00. One lot has 135 spots and the other has 60 spots. You can contact U-Park at: 206-284-9797.”

    1. I wonder when that web page was last updated? It sounds like they’re describing the Sound Transit lot before the reconstruction, when it was a U-Park lot.

  17. If we’re willing to spend an additional subsidy of $150 per month per passenger, instead of spending on parking, maybe it would be better spent to simply reduce the fares than on parking. If the train charged the same fare as the bus does, it would be more attractive – maybe enough so we’d need one or two fewer 510 trips during the peak, thereby saving a little bit of money.

    Those that want to drive to the station would still have plenty of pay lots available.

    1. One way or another, the top Sounder fare should be less than the top inter-county ST Express fare, unless the marginal-cost-per-rider is actually less on ST Express.

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