auburn mapIt’s a common refrain, particularly in the South Sounder corridor, to complain to Sound Transit about parking availability in general, oppose any parking fees that might make more efficient use of those spaces, and sometimes demand special privileges for city residents at the regionally funded facility. Rather than complain, the City of Auburn is doing something about it: they’ve gained use of some downtown lots, are charging for permits, and limiting those permits to Auburn residents and downtown businesses.

At Lot #1, closest to the station, permits will cost $70 per month. The other three lots will cost between $30 and $45 per month, and customers at these three lots can earn lower-cost permits if they fall under one of several protected classes. At all four lots, full-rate payers are also eligible for 10% and 15% discounts for 6- and 12-month permit purchases, respectively.

Permits are only required until 6pm, Monday-Friday. They are only available to residents with a verified Auburn address and businesses that have a current Auburn license and fall in the “Downtown Urban Center” zone.

I applaud Auburn for taking the initiative to increase parking availability and allow more of their residents to access Sounder, one of the highest-quality transit lines in the region. There’s no reason Sound Transit has to shoulder the access burden itself. In places where ST is already subsidizing uneconomic service (hello, Edmonds and Mukilteo), the least the cities could do is fund access improvements to make the service a little more productive.

21 Replies to “Auburn Steps Up for Sounder Access”

  1. As an Auburn resident, I sure hope that this initiative is self-funding. While Sounder access is important, a more equitable approach would be to introduce more “shuttles” (translated, more city-funded bus routes, since Metro doesn’t supply efficient service out here) that serve the entire population. They are already doing it with PT497, which is funded in part by the City. What about the population segment that can’t afford a parking permit fee? Or somebody who does not drive a car? How about people who only occasionally need to use the Sounder? (A family member used to be a one-day-per-week Sounder rider, hardly worth the cost of a parking permit. I use it from time-to-time to commute to meetings.)

    The reason why I bring up the cost of this is because our streets are crumbling (including the streets used by buses), we have MAJOR gaps in our sidewalks, some of which present serious safety problems, and meanwhile, our city council is dumping millions of dollars into a brand new community center that a very small percentage of residents will ever step foot in, and a new “spray park” to serve the upper-middle class of Lakeland Hills in a climate that sees about three days of 90-degree weather per year. So, I have some concerns about how our city council handles our tax dollars, because they haven’t been exactly wise about this to-date. In our last election, we finally got rid of Mayor “Status Quo, Establishment, Pro-Business” Lewis, only to replace him with his buddy, former Deputy Mayor Backus. Ah, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  2. On a related note, Sound Transit also looks like it’s testing real-time parking info, which at the moment is only available at Auburn Station and Federal Way TC. According to its website:
    Right now Auburn Station parking is 99% full, while Fed Way TC is 91% full.

    I like this idea. I hope it gets deployed in more park and rides, although that could be tough because Sound Transit doesn’t own all of them.

  3. So, let me see now, working-class Auburn steps up to the plate and builds its own parking, while upper-class Mercer Island expects a regional governments to shower special amenities on it. Just goes to show where the real culture of entitlement lies.

    1. There are people on Mercer Island who would rather the city paid for parking. As a Mercer Island resident, if the city had $10 million+ to spend, I’d prefer to spend money on upgrading the water and sewer systems rather than for parking, but that’s just me. it also doesn’t change the fact that station access is a legitimate issue. It doesn’t help that Sound Transit initially offered to pay for more parking while trying to sort out mitigation for the South Bellevue P&R closure, creating an expectation. Mercer Island also has the I-90 MOA to fall back on.

      Mercer Island gives out permits to park on the street in the Town Center area all-day (it is 2-hour limited generally) to island residents. The cost is something like $5 or $10 per year, so they have actually done something about parking to a degree.

      I’m sure Auburn would take Sound Transit’s money if offered, and there might be money for parking in ST3. But Auburn has a problem *now*, so like Martin I applaud them for stepping up and doing something to address an immediate and ongoing issue.

      1. Jason,

        Just a niggle on history: didn’t MI reject the extra ST parking lot because of strong resistance from residents to using Luther Burbank park land? Not sure that ST should be faulted for creating an expectation if MI pulled the plug…

        Agreed that other infrastructure may be more important use of general-funds money – but would it be OK for the city to create parking and bond the construction to future parking fees? Or to use car-tab proceeds via the TBD?

        The expectation in this area of free parking (and toll-free driving) is a cultural heritage that is (give thanks!) starting to change. If ST is to be faulted, it is for furthering the overall expectation of free parking with the orgy of free P&R construction over the past 2 decades, and perhaps for going too slowly in its paid-permit experiments (which will include MI). Though properly tolling expensive / congested roads like I-90 is the really necessary step.

      2. Hi Jim,

        What I was trying to say is that ST offered free parking (at Luther Burbank), which the city rejected… but ST’s apparent (at the time) willingness to consider other parking options on the Island, combined with our society’s general expectations regarding free parking, generated the idea that ST was offering $7.5m or $10m or however much money for free parking on the Island, which wasn’t really the case. I don’t think ST ever intended to offer parking money to MI with no strings attached.

        I’m fine with bonding against future parking fees to construct parking. In an ideal world I’d use that revenue stream for something else, but money doesn’t grow on trees and you would have to construct the thing in the first place to get the revenue stream anyway. Not sure how I feel about the TBD funds; in general I prefer they be used for something like the 630, but I can see the argument for using them for something else.

        I agree that tolling is necessary!

    2. NO, this is a story headline searching for hook that isn’t there.
      These are existing parking spaces within the city which can now be reserved by business and residents for $45-$70 per month, totaling 80 spaces. This does little to nothing to relieve the fact the Sounder Station fills up early each weekday.
      Sound Transit is charging $11 per month ($33/quarter) for their ‘Pilot Project’ spaces, which are like .. next to the train, not halfway across town.
      I suppose adding a parking space east of Auburn Wy, trickles down to one more at the station, but it’s a very long walk and trickle.
      All local bus service is currently oriented to the Sounder Stn, so I don’t’ see this as a headline grabbing story for ST make any claims to.
      Now, Hourly and better in the peaks for Sounder going both directions with the same fare as the buses it was supposed to replace? I’ll write that one!

    3. I admit that I grow weary at Mercer Island’s “victim” mantra. Mercer Island is centrally located, which gives residents maximum access to Belluevue and Seattle, and that’s a factor why people chose to reside there. What happens with such good access? It creates a place for transit transfers. What happens when you create an almost completely single-family city? Transit riders demand parking. Another consequence is higher home values because of its great access.

      Mercer Island has a choice: Either ask ST to not stop Eastlink there, or accommodate the impacts using the increased tax revenue from higher property values that the ST station is creating for them in the first place! It’s not fair to places like Auburn who invest municipal resources to make transit a better asset for the city.

      1. The sniping at Mercer Island as if it is a single entity whose 22,000 residents share the same opinion is tiresome as well. As the election results show, it is entirely possible for some people to make a bunch of noise and yet not represent the views of the majority.

        Higher property values don’t translate to higher revenue in this state due to I-747 and a gutless legislature – the annual increase in overall property tax collections is limited to 1%, plus new construction. So a station in and of itself does absolutely nothing for a city’s property tax revenue beyond possibly shifting who pays around a little bit. This is true for Auburn, Mercer Island, Seattle, or Tukwila. The true effect comes from redevelopment and hopefully upzones in station areas to take advantage of the enhanced mobility the station offers.

  4. I’m curious about bus service to the station. Based on the census maps, Auburn is very dispersed. Kent has bigger pockets of density. But what passes for density in Auburn is south of there (south of 18). The Metro 180 seems to serve it fairly well. It also seems to be synchronized to the train. It picks up a decent number of people (5,000) which is very good for this area. Obviously it picks up plenty of people along the rest of the route, but that is still pretty good. Looking at the route, a few things pop out at me. First, it goes back and forth quite a bit. Maybe this is inevitable for that area. But could that be improved? Second, it serves almost every train trip — the exception being the morning 7:26 departure. That seems weird, as I would see that as being a popular train (arriving in Seattle around 8:00). Any other thoughts about connecting bus service in the area, or is it futile and should we continue to improve the park and ride situation?

    1. When I did my walk through Pacific I ended at the 180’s terminus and experienced the zigzag. I also also wondered if this routing made sense but since I don’t know the prevailing trip patterns I couldn’t answer it. I did notice the route goes by a few large apartment buildings and institutions that wouldn’t have service if the route were straightened out, so that may be the reason. I wonder if it’s trying to do the job of two routes to stretch resources.

      1. This is a legacy of when the 150 used to keep going at Kent all the way to layover in South Auburn. Residents used to love hearing the loud, Breda’s coming from a block away, belching their black exhaust every time it rounded one of the many turns. Ah, those were the days.
        The tradeoff was creating the 180 bus to go to Seatac airport, using a smaller Gilligs. That was a good redeployment of resources when I represented Auburn on the Sounding Board.

    2. Ross, your points are very well-taken.

      You are correct in your assessment of the lack of density in Auburn. We need to see improved density and, quite frankly, this should be a pretty easy task to accomplish. A lot of the area south of SR 18 and north of the White River (also in adjacent Pacific) is trailer parks. Low-quality slum housing reserved for the low income. Converting even a few of these “parks” to multi-family housing with a portion of the units reserved for income-qualifying individuals would simultaneously boost density in the area, remove some of the blight from half-century-old manufactured homes that have outlived their useful life, and improve quality of life for the low income (although arguable if rents increase, unless rent can be somehow subsidized).

      Moreover, the 180 routing is ridiculous ( It takes 17 minutes for the 180 to get from the Albertson’s to Auburn Station, assuming it is actually running on-schedule. It takes only 7 minutes by car, about 40% of the travel time. The rest of the routing is equally ridiculous, zig-zagging around the north half of Auburn to Kent Station, then through the Kent industrial parks all the way up to SeaTac. Just as several routes in Seattle have benefitted from being split into multiple routes to improve reliability, this route could also be split, and portions really should be simplified and re-routed into more direct routes cutting straight through on arterial city streets. A possible solution to the zig zag route may be to create two bus routes, one to run north-south to serve the west half of Auburn, and one to run north-south serving the east half of Auburn, both stopping at Auburn Station.

      1. Seems to me that it’s fine north of Kent Station, where Google Maps gives car directions essentially following the route the bus takes. I totally agree about the route south of Kent, though.

      2. Route 180-A: Albertsons to Auburn Station via A Street. Install sidewalk on west side of A Street, along with crosswalks at signaled intersections, (currently crosswalks and west side sidewalk do not exist) to provide bus stop access for southbound buses.
        Route 180-B: Albertsons to Auburn Station via: 41st St to D St to 37th St to M St to Auburn Way.
        These two routes would provide a walkshed similar to the current routing, but with half the travel time. You could almost run it as a loop and provide the same level of service as the zig-zag route, even if the loop only operated in one direction. (I would NOT advocate for a single direction loop, but am demonstrating how bad the existing routing is.)
        North of 18, you could get away with a single route, just need to drop the 9th St/D St/15th St loop. You’d lose walkshed to the Lowe’s and a low-density surface lot park-and-ride and gain walkshed closer to a residential neighborhood, potentially gaining more walk-to-the-bus commuters and losing only a few park-and-ride commuters who are more likely served by other routes, such as the ST 56X series.

    3. A few thoughts, with the caveat that I don’t live there and have never ridden transit in Auburn ever.
      1) The street grid isn’t very good south of 21st, so between 21st and 29th you’re stuck with either M, F, or R St, and south of 29th it is M or R. It would be ideal if H, I, or K went through (or existed in the first place).
      2) Because of the street grid, some zig-zagging may be necessary to ensure adequate coverage. The only good single straight corridor (M St) is probably too far east.
      3) You want to stay away from Auburn Way; it would kill reliability due to general traffic and concerts. Using A St also gives you better access to Auburn Station.

      The route alignment may not be absolutely ideal, but it appears to be the best possible under the circumstances.

  5. Here’s a better idea, ST and local bus companies timetabling department(s) actually get together on a regular basis and find ways to get buses servicing the local trips to/from Sounder trains around the trains schedule and allowing for trains that are a few minutes late.

    I find it redonkulous that Sounder has been running now for ~15 years, yet you’re left standing around waiting 30 minute to an hour for a bus because the previous bus left 5 minutes before the train got there. Nearly 50% of my travel time is waiting for a bus to take me the last 2 miles home. If I miss my preferred bus its faster for me to walk 2 miles than wait around for the next one.

    Fix that and you remove the need for some people at least to drive to the station and park, which leaves more spaces for those people need them and gets a few more cars off clogged up roads.

    1. Is it reasonable to extend RapidRide A eastward through Auburn, passing by the Sounder Station and running further east, to begin to have a day-long frequent transit trunk from which to build redevelopment around?

    2. Yes, this is one thing Kitsap Transit gets right with respect to the ferries. Many of their buses simply wait for the ferry to arrive. If the ferry is ten minutes late the bus leaves ten minutes late. You always know when you get off the ferry that the bus will be sitting there waiting for you. They seem to coordinate with drops offs as well, possibly holding the ferry a moment if the bus is pulling in a few minutes late.

      I believe the Metro 116 operates similarly during commuter hours from Fauntleroy, but the RapidRide service is frequent enough that it isn’t as big a deal to wait for the next bus at Fauntleroy most of the time now.

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