Tukwila Int'l Blvd Station (Wikimedia)
Tukwila Int’l Blvd Station (Wikimedia)

Back in 2013, Sound Transit introduced a modest pilot project to test permit parking at a few high demand Park & Rides, namely Mukilteo Station, Issaquah Transit Center, Sumner Station, and Tukwila International Boulevard Station. Riders could apply for a space and pay a nominal fee (just $5-$33 quarterly for HOV/SOV respectively, equivalent to 8¢-53¢/day), and in return would be guaranteed a parking space before 9:30am. After 9:30, the spaces reverted to general parking. There was no test of daily parking pricing.

The results of the pilot – which ended last summer – were encouraging enough that Sound Transit will soon ask the Board to proceed with an expanded program. 515 permits were issued (out of 1,427 applications), though just 56 of those (11%) were HOV permits, despite being basically free. Lots were still generally as full as before, though permit holders took advantage of the 9:30am guarantee and took the opportunity to arrive later. Whereas Sumner was usually full by 5:30 am, providing service for only the first two trains of the morning, permits allowed those riders to arrive 1.5-2 hours later. Tukwila Int’l Blvd (TIBS) saw a small decline in usage, indicating that many permit holders didn’t park there daily but were willing to cough up a few bucks for the right to do so a couple times per week. TIBS also saw its peak occupancy shift from 7:00am to 9:30am. So to a small extent, Sound Transit proved the ability to shift customers to later buses and trains, effectively reducing pressure at peak-of-peak. This is a good thing.

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 11.51.42 PM

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 11.51.10 PM

The new proposal would issue HOV permits  in mid-2016 at a nominal fee at an expanded list of Park & Rides, the four mentioned above plus Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, Mercer Island, Overlake, Puyallup, and Angle Lake (which would be unique in having permit parking from Day 1). With Board approval, in late 2016 or early 2017 ST would issue SOV permits at a yet to be determined fee. Whether the fee will continue to be purely administrative or tied to revenue and demand management goals is a policy question for the Board.  All permit applicants would have to prove possession of a valid ORCA card and to renew, prove that they rode transit an average of thrice per week during the previous quarter.

Sound Transit will host a series of info sessions in the coming weeks, and they are also taking input via a short survey. If you believe that managed parking is good policy, please let ST hear from you.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 12.06.32 AM

50 Replies to “Sound Transit Likely to Expand Permit Parking”

  1. Glad this appears to be a success. $33/quarter is still quite cheap even when you consider the cost of the ORCA pass.

    Parking in my building is over $2000/year (and per my leasing agent, it will be increasing ~25% for renewals). That is a lot of money.

    1. I agree. That is dirt cheap. I’m not sure why more people aren’t signing up. Maybe folks don’t know about it, or are just opposed to it on principle (I get that — I hate to pay for parking).

  2. Does this mean that spaces will be held open for Permit Parkers even if they don’t show up (day off, vacation, late for work)?

    If so, I’m completely against this. There could be a lot of Parking Hogs that can afford and will willfully buy these and in effect close it out from someone who needs the spot at that time.

    This, again, is part of the psychopathy of the transportation agencies. Offering something with one hand (free parking to get you to use transit) and then once you’re reeled in (hey, now I can afford to have my job in Seattle and work in Federal Way) slap it down with a tax, fee or fine.

    1. [permit holders] would be guaranteed a parking space before 9:30am. After 9:30, the spaces reverted to general parking.

      So, to answer your question: No. The spots are held until 9:30, and then it is open to anybody (whether you have a permit or not). This sounds like a good system to me. It sounds like these lots eventually fill up. I would imagine there are folks who arrive right around 9:30 and try and snag some of the permit parking spots (even though they don’t have a permit). But either way, the lots fill up by ten, I would imagine.

    2. Did you even bother to click the link John?

      Proposed program details

      Transit customers must have and use a valid ORCA card to apply for a permit.
      Permit parking would be reserved for permit holders until 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. On weekends and after 9:30 a.m. on weekdays, transit riders would be able to park in permit spaces without a permit.
      Permits would be offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
      Permits would be renewed quarterly or semi-annually. Renewal would require the permit holder’s ORCA records to show they rode transit at least three times per week during the previous permit term. Flexibility will be allowed for time away (such as vacation).
      Carpool permit holders must arrive with at least two transit riders in the permitted vehicle.
      At least 50% of parking spaces at each location would remain free and available for transit riders without parking permits.

    3. That’s part of the “psychopathy” of capitalism–or don’t you remember the days of banks charging you to see a teller so that we would all get used to using those free ATM-thingys? (I won’t even get into what the airlines do….)

      Why shouldn’t people who use expensive infrastructure as part of their commute help to pay for it? The people taking the bus to the station have to pay something towards their form of infrastructure. Parking structures aren’t cheap and they serve one area while being paid for by the residents of the entire sub-area. If a community thinks it’s important to have one they shouldn’t have a problem paying something towards it.

  3. [Welcome to Zach in his new role with STB, and I hope the mail merge thing is working itself out.]
    Now, I’m left to wonder why charging for parking is a good thing after looking at Fig.5. Almost 20% (of something??) QUIT using transit, so I’m wondering why with fewer available spaces that access to the P&R didn’t increase. Or maybe it did, but that wasn’t one of the questions.
    If the goal is to generate revenue, then charges need to go Waaayyy higher just to break even. 8 cents a day won’t get you there.
    Increasing usable parking spaces through churning the same spots isn’t it either. They just fill up at a later time, and some go unused entirely.
    So, what is ST trying to accomplish here?

    1. I have to wonder if that is just temporary. A lot of folks said the same thing about the 520 bridge (“Hell, I’m not paying that. We already paid for that bridge, grumble, grumble, grumble …”) but six months later they had their Good to Go sticker and drove the bridge because it was just so much more convenient.

      It seems to me like this is pretty easy to monitor. Either the lots fill up or they don’t. Based on the graphs, the number of people who park is pretty much the same — the timing has simply shifted. So if people have given up on the parking lot, other people are willing to take their place.

    2. It’s a survey. Add up the numbers and they clearly don’t make sense. Particularly since the number of none reserved slots decreased.

      The harder data is in Fig. 8, which shows that the parking spots are still mainly filling up. Basically showing the same or higher overall ridership.

      This is a good thing. The program needs to be expanded.

      1. Really don’t understand the philosophical problem with people using these lots for self-organized carpooling. It’s achieving the same goals as transit, keeping more cars off the road.

        The practical problem is that we need more parking at some of these locations.

        The ideological problem is that transit advocates only grudgingly accept the need for any parking in the first place.

      2. I might be giving that view more credit than it deserves, but carpoolers who park in a park-and-ride lot are taking up some of a limited number of spaces close to good transit, when carpools could be formed just about anywhere else. I’d be against banning them altogether, but I’m all in favor of pushing them to less-packed lots. Charging more to park in popular lots looks like a near-perfect tool for that.

    3. The numbers on this chart don’t make sense unless you view each question in isolation, and view the red and blue as different sets of numbers divided between each answer.

      So… it looks to me that 20% of people who answered that they didn’t get a reserved spot said they stopped using transit. Unless we know what percentage of folks didn’t get permits, we won’t be able to see what percentage of respondents actually quit using transit.

      1. That question did allow multiple answers, so that’s why the percentages add up to well over 100. I’m baffled why someone taking transit would stop, just because someone else driving did or didn’t buy a permit.
        In any case, the number of parking spaces filled in the morning was consistently LESS, than before the test. The only significant change was that reserved spaces filled up at later times, meaning fewer empty non-reserved spaces for the early birds.
        Without trying to generate net revenue, I think all this does is reshuffle the chairs a bit of who gets to park and who doesn’t.

      2. People didn’t necessarily stop because of the permits. Maybe this is the normal level of churning. Park and rides sound really convenient, but these graphs show how difficult it really is: you have to show up at 5:30 to get a guaranteed spot. Maybe a lot of people only do it until they make other arrangements.

    4. I think that the point, emphatically, is not to generate revenue. The point is to improve the equity and efficiency of how the facilities operate. If HOV spaces are free or dramatically cheaper, you’re getting more transit riders for the same facility (in a way it’s like creating new spaces out of thin air) and if you don’t have a nice desk job downtown with flexible scheduling you *need* to be able to get to work on time at 8 AM. The permits allow people who need to know they have a space at these lots (which sometimes fill before 7 AM) to rely on transit.

      Essentially the revenue is in some ways a byproduct of managing the parking to make it work better – the HOV incentive doesn’t exist without fees.

  4. Permitting seems quite silly. If you want to provide people with a reliable place to park at certain times just price the spots accordingly. Permitting just leads to a lot of empty spaces, especially at these prices, where people won’t use the facility every day but retain the option to use it when it’s convenient for them.

    1. Un-used reserved spots become available to the general public after 9:30, so there is no issue with reserved spots going “wasted”.

      And the goal of the transit agencies isn’t to provide people a “reliable place to park,” the goal is to provide a reliable and cost effective alternative to driving. Historically that has meant that in certain locations parking has been available, but that is a secondary effect and not related to the main goal of the transit agencies.

      1. The data seems to contradict your statement. Figure 8 seems to indicate that for each of the facilities the number of occupied spots has decreased since implementation of the permits.

      2. Not really, with the exception of Issaquah the data indicates that all the lots are still operating essentially full — so no real difference.

        Issaquah’s slow fill rate in the baseline would indicate to me that it is not as dominated by daily commute type demand and has a higher percentage of discretionary demand. As such, the fact that the data ends at 10:00 (shortly after the reserved spots become available) is somewhat problematic. I’d bet that if you looked at lot usage later in the day there wouldn’t be as much difference, or if you looked at total boardings it wouldn’t be different at all…

  5. Looks like those who “took a connecting bus” increased by 5% in figure 5. Would be good to see this figure disaggregated. I would expect TIBS saw a significant increase and Mukilteo, or Sumner, the least.

  6. I think this is a good idea. I grew up in suburban New Jersey and my Dad commuted by train to NYC. The station had a large parking lot (>1000 spots) and a large majority of them require permits. The general spots fill up before sunrise, and there’s a 6 month waitlist to get a permit. So clearly the permit program is popular. It has the same feature as ST that all spots are general use after rush hour and on weekends.

    Though I will say that a big difference is that suburban NJ has effectively no “local” bus service. That is, if you’re not trying to get to NYC, or maybe Philly, there’s basically no public transportation. So taking a bus to the train station isn’t an option for most commuters, which will make the parking lots more popular..

  7. I don’t object to a system like this, its a good way to make a better use of the resource… however we should be spending a lot more resources on improving the connecting bus system.

    Frequent connecting buses to the train stations will support more riders (both ways) than these garages ever will.

    1. +1: When you run the numbers on the costs of parking spaces (>$40k for structured parking) you can enhance a lot of connecting bus service for the same or lower costs than parking.

      1. Yep! A lot of (generally) more suburban cities, however, have a pretty substantial last mile problem and the number one priority they think ST/Metro should pursue is expanding the supply of spaces. Generally these agencies don’t want to expand parking facilities for anumber of reasons, and thus this program.

        The primary goal is to get the same number of spots serving more people. If you think about it, asking for ‘more transit parking spaces’ is really saying ‘give us better access to transit’ SO if the P&R spaces serve more riders, you have essentially expanded the facility.

  8. Imagine how ridership would be impacted if apartment buildings were permitted, and built by private developers, in the same footprint proposed for parking garages, and with the same floor area and number of floors, and throw in ground floor retail to improve the waiting experience, complete with clean restrooms.

    Then save up that money for other things like connecting buses.

    In particular, don’t build a parking garage to cover a pledge to mitigate parking during Northgate Station construction. Instead, lease off-lite sites, totaling the parking stall commitment, and run shuttles to Northgate TC. Even if those off-site stalls are free, I bet that would be a lot cheaper than building a parking garage and selling permits.

    (Though I certainly do support the program to charge for parking at ST-owned parking facilities that we’re already stuck with.)

    1. Agreed. We should be building train stations where people already live, and failing that build places to live near transit stations. Building transit stations for cars is a tremendous waste of our limited transit resources.

      1. @chuck

        Plenty of people like living near train stations. Its only “living a the park and ride” if nothing else exists nearby. If the station is near the old town center (as some of these are) additional apartments might be very well placed here. If its a station in the middle of nowhere, its less desirable for sure.

        One could attempt (as a city) to try and have a new town center around the train station, but its certainly a lot more difficult than building a train station where people already live.

        The point is that building a train station and having people live and/or work nearby or building a train station where people already live is much more effectively than putting a parking garage next to one.

    1. Link is designed to capture commuters along the spine for a reliable trip to downtown Seattle or the U-district in the AM and get them home at night. Most of their customers start their commute by backing out of the driveway. The decision to drive all the way to Seattle depends mostly on time to get there and cost to park the car all day, all things being equal, ST could charge almost what Seattle charges and probably get away with it.
      Now, that’s a lot of generalizing, omitting smaller destinations, and reverse commutes, etc, etc,, but the point is that huge parking garages built to fill the trains isn’t the answer. The best outcome is to keep the car in the driveway, promoting more buses, bikes and peds arriving to each station.
      Unfortunately, Link isn’t designed to do that very well with too few lines and stations miles apart, so here we are competing with Diamond Parking in Seattle.

      1. The existence of P&Rs is an admission that the surrounding neighborhoods are too low-density to support a frequent bus to the station. That’s partly the person’s fault for living there, but we want them on the train or express bus for societal reasons (environment, etc), so it’s up to us to entice them. The enticement can either be a P&R or a frequent shuttle bus. We already determined a frequent shuttle is not cost-effective, so we built a P&R. Most P&Rs were built in the late 1970s so we can ask whether the situation has changed, but for the most part it hasn’t (some new frequent bus routes exist, and some TOD is in suburban downtowns, but most people do not live near these). Back to that “partly the person’s fault”. The other part is the county’s and cities’ land-use policies that created the sprawl. So it’s the public’s problem to mitigate or reverse those policies, and not just leave the people in the housing stranded. One family can choose to live closer in, but maybe they can’t due to housing costs or the limited types of in-city housing available, etc. But on aggregate it doesn’t matter if that family moves closer in, because another family will take their place, and our job is to extend transit access to that neighborhood no matter who’s living there. If you don’t like P&Rs, then the other choices are a frequent bus or cutting them off from transit. We’ve already said a frequent bus is not cost-effective. DP may be willing to cut the neighborhood off from transit but most people aren’t. So then we come back to the P&R and why it’s there.

      2. ” Most P&Rs were built in the late 1970s…”

        No. There have been plenty of P&Rs built in recent decades. E.g, Overlake TC and Issaquah Highlands P&R are newly develpoed P&Rs. Most or all of the transit related parking at Sounder stations is new. There is or will be new P&R lots at many Link stations. ST has built structured parking at Issaquah TC and Mercer Island P&R. Metro has built structured parking at Overlake P&R, Redmond TC, Renton TC and S. Kirkland P&R. I’d guess that the number of P&R spaces in East King has more than doubled in the past two decades.

    2. Why? What harm comes from first come, first serve? Besides, we’ve already paid (and are continuing to pay) for it. I’ve noticed that before Sounders games there’s more demand than supply of sidewalk space in Pioneer Square. Should we charge to walk on sidewalks?

      1. If we charged for walking on sidewalks, people would stand instead, thus failing to clear out the sidewalk space.

      2. To get the facility to serve more people, and there’s an equity aspect of being able to rely on a space without changing your work schedule. Free HOV permits incentivize HOVs and therefore you as a taxpayer get more bang for your buck (from the investment in the garage and the transit service).

  9. The big problem with the 9:30 am free for all at Mukilteo and Sumner is that Sounder stops before then.

    1. Sounder will soon have a non-peak round trip. The parking could also be used for access to local businesses. At least at some Sounder stations, the P&R parking is shared.

  10. A lot of people want to know my thoughts on this pay for parking subject. I have a philosophical reply, best summed up by Tarik, the black prisoner in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, who said, “In the end, the universe tends to unfold as it should.”

    Wise words.

  11. Only being able to fill about 1/3 of the requests is disappointing. I hate creating winners and losers based purely on luck. Hopefully the expansion of this program will have expanded supply, or other ways of mitigating demand (e.g. price) so that the permits are more readily accessible.

  12. Personally most, if not ALL P&R parking should require you to pay a modest fee for its use. I have seen systems were you enter your parking stall number, or now even license plate number and it requires no modification of the facility’s. Of course, I personally think a gated system is better (more secure) as it better prevents (or at least discourages) people from driving through looking for opportunity.

    1. Having grown up in (and still living in) the Northeast, I think of free parking as the exception, not the rule. Free parking is for unpopular places.

  13. I don’t get why this is an improvement on first-come, first served. It introduces a layer of guessing and game-playing to the experience. If lots are getting full, just charge for their use until you find the price that just barely fills the lot.

  14. I don’t drive hut I’m curious. If two or more people share rides, and they don’t use the same car (in other words a rotation system) then are the permits transferable between riders in the carpool? I hope so.

  15. Here’s a crazy idea. Put a parking meter at the head of each space and charge for parking using a two tier system.
    1. ORCA users get charged a nominal fee for hours used or all day (maybe $2/day)
    2. All other parkers would pay market rates for the area to park there (generating revenue for ST and helping to pay off the P&R costs)
    This may spur a shift in how people arrive at the station using bus, kiss, bike, or feet.

  16. The requirement for 3 trips a week excludes occasional transit users or even people who bike to work frequently. I like the program in general (though I’d prefer $1-$3 daily fees except for verified carpools) but would like to see it enhanced with an option for infrequent transit users. A relatively low cost way to implement this might be an SDOT style parking app.

  17. Why not just charge for P&R parking? Set the rate high enough to assure a few open slots during most hours of the day, just like Seattle does for on-street parking. This would open the lot to a broader range of users, not just a few special people.

Comments are closed.