parking pieThe Sound Transit 3 Draft Plan includes a lot of parking. Just how much? The agency plans to build 9,700 new stalls (8,300 net) in 16 new parking garages and two new surface lots. The total cost is $661m in 2014 dollars, or a staggering $80,000 per space. Taken in aggregate, each commuter using these new stalls could park every day for 50 years, and Sound Transit would pay them $4.38 for the privilege (and that’s on top of the capital costs of their bus or train ride, of course). If 2041 ridership attains its expected 500,000 per day and each of those 8,300 new stalls were filled daily, that’s just 1.6% of the system’s users.

We’ve been fairly hostile to Park & Rides on these pages over the years, and mostly with good reason. Parking adjacent to transit directly reduces all other means of access, reduces affordable housing potential, necessitates hostile adjacent land uses, increases transit operating costs, reinforces residential auto dependency, and (when unpriced) represents an exorbitant subsidy that the relatively wealthy enjoy at the expense of others’ access.

To my mind, there are two good rebuttals in favor of Park & Rides. The first is on social justice grounds, namely that the suburbanization of poverty displaces persons to locations with anemic local transit, forcing vehicle ownership upon them and necessitating that they access high capacity transit by car. Pricing parking can help lessen the subsidy for wealthy parkers –and it’s reassuring that the ST Board and CEO Rogoff seem comfortable with the idea – but it also competitively prices out those who have no other options. The second argument stipulates that as a transitional land use easily torn down later, Park & Rides facilitate lifestyle change while car-dependent locales await the retrofits necessary to make them succeed without cars. Whether you think that’s true largely depends on your time horizon, and on the relative value you place on access for a few today versus access for far more people later.

But not all Park & Rides are alike. Some of Sound Transit’s ST3 parking plans are reasonable investments in overcrowded facilities, others seem like pure political pork, and most are somewhere in between. Let’s break them down one by one. 

Snohomish County

By now most observers recognize Snohomish County’s central dilemma: they are short on funds and long on projects. Building their preference (Everett via Paine Field) in the near-term just isn’t possible without massive subarea transfers, and I suspect that deep down they know it. So every dollar spent on parking is a dollar lost to actual transit, and Snohomish needs to be looking to cut costs if it has any hope of expediting its projects. Snohomish County’s ST3 parking tab would be $127m, including:

  • Link: 1,000 stall garage at Everett Station and 550 stall garage at Mariner ($90m total)
  • Sounder: 300 stall garage at Edmonds and 240 stall garage at Mukilteo ($37m total)

$127m may not sound like much, but it’s one-third to one-half the difference between SR 99 alignment and a Paine Field alignment. And while there may be good arguments for terminus station parking at places like Everett Station, the proposed additions to Sounder North parking are much less defensible. Both Mukilteo and Edmonds are roughly 80% of capacity today – Mukilteo fills just 50 of its 65 spaces daily – yet ST3 proposes to quintuple Mukilteo’s total parking to 300 stalls despite no plans to add more trains. Unless you think parking provision is the limiting factor to Sounder North’s growth – hah! – the parking proposed at Edmonds and Mukilteo is simply a waste of $37m.

ST3 Parking
Parking occupancy data from PSRC.

North King 

North King has just $20m in parking in the ST3 Draft Plan, with a 300-stall garage proposed for Lake Forest Park along SR 522 BRT.

East King

The polar opposite of Snohomish, East King is long on funds and short on projects, so it would be slated to get 46% of ST3’s parking dollars, for a total of over $300m. This would include:

  • Link: 500 stall garage near Issaquah Transit Center ($50m) and 1,400 stall garage near the SE Redmond Station ($93m)
  • I-405 BRT: 1,000 stall garage (800 net stalls) at Kingsgate/Totem Lake and 700 stalls at a relocated Renton Transit Center ($119m total)
  • SR 522 BRT: two 300-stall garages, at Bothell and Kenmore ($41m total)

South King

Image via Streetsblog
Parking in Orange (Image via Streetsblog)

South King’s parking proposals are painful for those of us who fought (and lost) the battle for an SR 99 alignment for Federal Way Link. When the preferred alignment was chosen, several Boardmembers (Mike O’Brien, Larry Phillips, and Joe McDermott) lamented the TOD impacts of the freeway choice, with McDermott specifically asking the Board to look at improving non-motorized access to the most remote station, Star Lake/272nd.

It appears those appeals have fallen on deaf ears. Though the current Star Lake lot (500 stalls) is barely half-full, and though downtown Federal Way consists nearly entirely of parking already, the parking proposed for South King is massive, and directly contradicts non-vehicular access goals. Rob Johnson’s call for Sound Transit to lease adjacent lots prior to building new parking is perhaps nowhere more appropriate than Federal Way. And yet:

  • Link: 1,240 stall garage (700 net) at Star Lake, a second garage at Federal Way TC with 400 stalls ($134m), and a 300 stall garage at Boeing Access Road ($12m)

Pierce County

Thankfully, no new parking is proposed at the Tacoma Dome, despite the proposed additions of both Amtrak and Link. Pierce County’s parking proposals include:

  • Link: two 500-stall garages, in Fife and South Federal Way* ($58m)
  • Sounder: a 125-stall surface lot in Tillicum ($4m) and a 125 stall surface lot in Orting ($2.5m)

South Federal Way (which I chose to ‘bill’ to Pierce) is perhaps the most disappointing among these, with 500 new stalls despite the current 500 stall lot being 70% empty.


To conclude, in each of these cases it’s worth looking at the opportunity costs of providing such a high level of parking. What could $661m buy besides expensive car storage? Here are a few ideas:

  • The current Station Access proposal for bike/ped funding is just $100m and could use a boost
  • Sounder North’s garages could be eliminated and the funds redirected toward the spine
  • Graham Street and 130th are $80m each
  • A few hundred million could go a long way towards hourly Sounder service
  • We could entirely pay for and expedite Tacoma Link to TCC ($450m)
  • We could repurpose the $140m for parking at Issaquah and Redmond towards providing some sort of service to Kirkland

179 Replies to “ST3 Parking: $661M at $80k Per Space”

  1. City of Mukilteo has long sought to have other agencies build parking for Whidbey Island commuters that maintain a car on both sides and walk on the Ferry.

    It has nothing to do with Transit, but with eliminating overnight parking on city street.

      1. Yes; that’s an odd argument – ST should pay for a parking facility for people who do not live in the ST district to store their second auto–despite the fact that they will not pay any taxes towards this. As AJ and Donde say, that seems like a problem for the municipality to solve via on-street parking restrictions and/or funding their own parking facility. Seems to me they should have done that long ago if it is a problem. Again, let the various cities decide what they need and pay for it themselves or let private companies provide it. If they can’t or won’t do this, it’s not really a priority for them.

      2. I have no sympathy for people who want to commute from Whidbey Island to Seattle every day, have enough money to store a second car in Mukilteo, just for work trips, while still paying to park their first car at the Whidbey ferry every day – and, yet, expect Sound Transit to pay for the storage of the second car, to someone who doesn’t pay either taxes or fares to Sound Transit.

        If people in Whidbey want to store a second car in Mukilteo, they can rent garage space from a private landowner.

      3. Do these people live or work in Mukilteo? Or do they drive past the Mukilteo city limits and beyond? If the latter, what’s the advantage to Mukilteo of letting them store their car there, or is it just that a third party is paying for it? (Although actually if it’s in ST3, then Mukilteo residents are paying for it.) That’s kind of like the argument that having the Vashon ferry terminal in Fauntleroy is good for West Seattle’s businesses because people will shop along the way. Except they don’t much. When we lived in Bellevue and had a house on Vashon and spent weekends fixing it up, we drove through West Seattle without stopping because everything we needed was either on the island or in the Eastside. I doubt people who commuted from the island stopped in West Seattle either.

        The only plausable case I can see is if these people work at Boeing so they don’t drive very far on the east part. But isn’t this precisely the kind of case where company shuttles would work great in: a short distance to a transit hub. Couldn’t the “Everett Technology Center” employers set up a shared shuttle system to the Mukilteo ferry, Everett Station, Mariner P&R, and wherever? Wouldn’t it be in the cities’ interest to partner in that and contribute to it?

      4. “that seems like a problem for the municipality to solve via on-street parking restrictions and/or funding their own parking facility.”

        In countries like Lebanon it’s common to have a main house in a village and an apartment in the capital city, and members of an extended family use one or the other as occasions arise. Likewise, some Harborview nurses live as far as Victoria or Ellensburg and stay in town three or four days a week rather than commuting every day; either staying at a friend’s or family’s place or renting a room part time. What these all have in common is the people pay for the second place: either renting or owning it, or being hosted by somebody. So why can’t these commuters “pay rent for” their second car’s parking space? Not a discount $30/month or $80/month, but something resembling the market-rate cost of the space?

      5. Almost all parking (except the Sounder station) in Mukilteo is paid parking. It probably provides them a nice bit of income.

      6. Mukilteo has mostly paid parking downtown? That’s a good sign, and commendable for an exurb. Although it may be motivated by the ferry traffic to prevent it from overwhelming the town, akin to residential parking zones in the northern U-District. Still, that makes Sounder’s free parking look like an anomaly. There was an article a few days ago that said built an $80/month interim lot next to ST’s free P&R and has no trouble filling it.

    1. Can’t they just change the parking rules on the city streets? Eliminating free overnight parking for non-residents seems like an easier solution to implement, never mind the costs

      1. Yeah that seems trivial. Tons of cities hire private security firms to enforce overnight parking bans in their jursidictions. They drive around the streets and are pretty efficient since all they have to do is see a car, stop, check to see if the permit is in the dashboard, and if not, write a ticket. It usually pays for itself.

  2. Are you going to write an article on last night’s meeting in Ballard? Nothing exciting happened, but it might be nice for people who couldn’t make it to get a quick summary.

  3. Removing new parking from places that have unused spaces seems an obvious change to make.

    1. Unless there is reason to believe demand will increase. Given the growth in the region and planned expansion of the system, expecting P&R demand to grow is intuitive. I’m guessing you are already not a huge fan of parking, so not building P&R till proven useful is obvious to you. Remember that for many voters in this region, the idea is flipped. They know their car gets them places. Transit has not been useful yet to them or the people they associate with. For them, transit shouldn’t be built until proven useful, but if it’s built, they can’t see themselves using without parking, so building P&R to meet future growth is obvious. If you want to convince this large body of voters, people sound transit needs to pass, you’ll need to demonstrate to them that P&R demand won’t grow.

    2. I use Star Lake and yes, it is half empty. Only because hardly any buses use it. Only 8 buses in the morning go to Seattle… Once light rail opens, it will be packed for sure. Hardly any frequency on a slow, stuck in traffic express bus is the reason Star Lake isn’t used by more riders. They can go to Kent Station for a faster train and hunt for parking, or go to FWTC for more frequent bus options. Or just drive.

  4. It seems like parking should be left to local cities and private companies via zoning. If a city wants parking near their station, and there is demand for it, they can simply allow it via zoning then wait for a private company to come and build a lot.

    I don’t see why we should be subsidizing people driving.

    1. You’re not “subsidizing people driving” – you’re enabling them to use transit and minimize the amount of driving they have to do to get around.

      If someone in suburbia want to get downtown, they HAVE to drive at least part of the way because their local transit connections are likely so infrequent/disjointed/nonexistent that they need to drive to get from home to their first viable transit option (a park-n-ride lot at Link, Sounder or Sound Transit).

      Walking a mile to a local bus, waiting, taking that bus to Link/Sounder/Sound Transit Bus, waiting some more, riding into the city, and then very likely taking a downtown bus to their final destination is a bit too much to ask a suburbanite who likely owns a car anyway and sees value in using it.

      Add in the fact that they need to repeat the entire process in reverse at the end of the day – likely with added stops for chores like going to the grocery or picking up the kids – and it’s a bridge to far.

      Rejecting parking is cutting off your nose to spite your face. NO ONE is going to be encouraged out of their car because there’s no parking at a transit hub – they’re just going to drive for their ENTIRE commute instead of the shortest, local part of it.

      1. If there is a demand for parking–and in the suburbs particularly this is not in dispute–the local municipalities and/or private operators can make the decisions to add it as they choose. Transit funding is finite and, as we have seen throughout the region, not adequate to serve the needs of any of the subareas. If the demand is there, why not let the market provide it–or, like has happened successfully in places like Boulder, CO and Greenville, SC, have the municipality provide it as part of their neighborhood planning and upzones? The point here isn’t eliminating parking, it’s not using transit funds to provide for automobile infrastructure. Funding for cars is much easier to come by.

      2. What are you talking about? Scott’s proposal would provide the right amount of parking to a suburban area by building for only what is demanded. If a government agency is building that parking instead and offering it for free how is that not subsidizing driving? Your argument that suburban commuters have a last-mile problem elicts sort of a no-fucking-shit response and doesn’t address Scott’s assertion that a transit agency should not have to pay to store someone’s private vehicle for the day.

      3. So, why should a proposal to for transit capital projects provide free, government-funded parking at transit centers in government-run parking lots? If there’s truly demand, it should cost money to the user (just like riding the train or bus does). Obviously, people still get to transit just fine without a car. Save for ~500 people parking at Tukwila, the remainder of Link Light Rail’s 55,000+ daily riders access it via walking, biking, or buses. Same with most of Metro’s 375,000 daily riders.

        Ah the “kids and groceries” argument. One of my favorites. Just out of curiosity, is there any data to show what percentage of suburban park-and-ride commuters make a stop between the P&R and home? Personally, I’ve never seen anything. And again, why is it necessary for taxpayers funding more transit to subsidize someone’s suburban grocery run to the tune of nearly $700M dollars as they head home?

      4. “Walking a mile to a local bus, waiting, taking that bus to Link/Sounder/Sound Transit Bus, waiting some more, riding into the city, and then very likely taking a downtown bus to their final destination is a bit too much to ask a suburbanite who likely owns a car anyway and sees value in using it.”

        This. Commutes from outlying areas are already a minimum of 90 minutes, up to 120 in rainy winter weather. Adding another 20-40 minutes to take a local bus to the P&R, OR paying for parking would have me seriously considering driving to Seattle. The extra time and minimal cost savings wouldn’t be worth continuing to use public transportation.

        If each regional ride on a bus or train is subsidized, and that’s ok, why is subsidizing parking not? It all works together to reduce traffic on I-5.

      5. Three things are needed.

        1) Cities should take the responsibility for funding P&Rs at stations if they think it’s needed. If they’re concerned it won’t fit within their limited tax authority, they should ask the legislature for a small tax authority for P&Rs. Northeastern cities have more of a tradition that transit agencies don’t provide P&Rs at stations: local cities do if they want to.

        2) The parking should cost money, either something to defray the cost or something to keep a few spaces open throughout the day. If that’s a burden for the involuntarily car-dependent poor, then address that directly with some kind of targeted subsidy. And somehow integrate the payment with ORCA.

        3) The high cost of free parking needs to be more transparent to suburbanites. It needs a marketing campaign. That’s more than ST can do on its own, since it involves big-box parking lots and residential parking spaces as well as P&Rs. It’s the kind of thing a county or city could most effectively do, hint. It’s also something a group like Transportation Choices Coalition could focus on.

      6. Well, the streets and roads are already subsidized (i.e. nearly half of the state’s budget for them comes from the general fund, not the fuel tax or other transportation-specific funding), so there is already a subsidy for drivers. If funding for transit were unlimited, or if it were as difficult to get funding for auto-related items, I’d tend to agree with you. The problem is that our transit funds are insufficient and it is very difficult to get more–much more difficult than to get street or highway funding. It therefore makes sense to me that this finite pool be structured in such a way where the money all goes to transit.

        Reducing traffic on I-5 is nice for others who use I-5 (mostly suburbanites, in other words). If that’s a valid goal for those who live there, then paying for parking and for parking facilities themselves should be a worthwhile expenditure, much as for Seattle residents it was worthwhile to add additional bus service and may someday be worthwhile to provide additional rail service.

      7. I see what you are saying, but there are cheaper ways to do it than the knee-jerk reaction of building one parking space for every single weekday passenger. I think dynamic carpooling to park-and-ride lots could have a lot of potential (although it would still require building someparking). You would also almost certainly need a parking charge for solo drivers to get people to bother to use the app. Once the car is a sunk cost and parking is completely free, there is very little reason to even bother to consider any option other than driving one’s own car – even if the additional time is as little as a minute or two.

      8. I live in suburbia and have to either ride my bike 3 miles or take a local bus connection to transit to downtown Seattle. If I want to drive and park at the transit station, I pay $11/day. Comes in handy when I need my car there, and it’s worth $11 to have a space.

        Myself and thousands of others do it every day, in a land called Bainbridge Island.

      9. At the Northgate open houses, where parking was also contentious, one comment stuck out: You are Sound Transit, not Sound Parking.

      10. One of the things that you get when parking is free is a lot people using it up out of laziness who have other options. For example, people who live 5 blocks from the P&R, but are too lazy to walk 5 blocks. Or people who live near a feeder bus that runs every 10-15 minutes, but choose to skip the feeder bus because driving saves 5 minutes or so. Especially when the “feeder bus” is the same bus that goes all the way downtown, anyway (e.g. route 255 in Kirkland). There are also lots of people who could get dropped off at the P&R by a spouse on the way to work, but drive separately in order to leave 10 minutes earlier or later. The examples go on and on.

      11. “At the Northgate open houses, where parking was also contentious, one comment stuck out: You are Sound Transit, not Sound Parking.”

        Northgate is the one area so far that wanted more bus/bike/ped access to the station rather than parking. One hopes that would be the case for 145th and other stations but it doesn’t seem to be yet.

      12. Not to diminish Mike’s point, but 500 spaces should generate about 1,200 riders. That’s 2 transit trips per space and a 1.17 occupancy for each car. That’s not counting turnover but it is assuming 100 percent occupancy. It’s also assuming that the riders who park have no other ways to get to the station.

      13. The majority of cars at Northgate TC come from west and east of it according to a Metro license place survey. So ST asked the people west and east of the station whether they wanted more parking or more bus/bike/ped access, and 3/4 of them said the latter.

      14. ST3 is a voter approved measure. If suburban voters don’t feel they are able to use the system, then they vote no and no one gets anything. We all know that voters are more likely to be older, whiter, homeowners, and have children than nonvoters. The goal should be to accommodate the needs of voters, which is why subregional equity is in place – so every voter who pays taxes has a say. It’s one person one vote, not one dollar spent one vote.

      15. NoSpin:

        Sure, if there isn’t a dedicated parking lot, you might not stop driving.

        However, if the transit station is located in a place where huge numbers of actual destinations exist, you wind up with thousands if passengers having their transportation needs met rather than the hundreds that will use a park and ride lot.

        If you want to decrease congestion on I-5, you do so by hitting actual population centers and attracting the thousands, not the service that only attracts a very few.

        SkyTrain has one of the best ridership per population ratios in North America. They serve very few park and ride lots, and instead serve places people actually want to go. The park and ride lots are typically served by various bus routes. Why have frequent all day transit to something people only use during peak periods?

        The other thing is: is hide and ride really that bad so long as the parking is enforced? I know people park along 22nd and its side streets in Magnolia and take the 33 into town. As long as no driveways are blocked, is it really so bad? Magnolia probably serves several hundred hide and ride users with no parking lots and their affiliated expenses.

      16. It may be a problem if there are no parking spaces left for people visiting the houses and repairmen. The #33 situation may be more benign than most because it’s probably mostly people from lower-density western Magnolia because everybody east of there has a better bus route. So maybe it’s just good neighborliness to host their western neighbors. But around MLK you have people driving from Seward Park and Rainier View, and that may stretch the boundaries of neighborly sharing.

      17. Part of the reason for the southeast Magnolia hide-and-ride is frequency. The only places in Magnolia with frequent service to downtown are the vicinities of 28th and Blaine and 33rd and Government; of the two, 28th and Blaine has much the best peak service (with the peak-only #19) and is more on-the-way.

        That hide-and-ride has been a minor issue in the past. At one point a number of years ago, Metro soothed the neighbors by actually retiming buses (19/24/33) to run at about the same time and largely destroy the frequency advantage (forced frequency destruction turned out not to be a very bright idea). Subsequently a RPZ was added for a couple of blocks around 28th and Blaine, which seems to have largely solved the problem. The hide-and-ride is now more spread-out, and there is more use of the somewhat more distant parking farther north on Thorndyke along the park, which bothers no one.

  5. We should rename Link to: The zig-zagging parking lot and shopping mall shuttle. Would be much more descriptive of the actual service.

    1. My nickname for Link is “The Train to the Five Malls”. Although now that it’s also reaching several colleges and universities it could also be called “The Subway to the Seven Colleges”.

  6. To park a bike in a protected environment ST charges something like $50 a year. Cars park for free. What an insult and a miss use of funds. ST is transit agency even thought it sometimes acts more like the highway department and competitor to Joe Diamond parking. Charge at least a single trip fare for all parking per day at any ST lot. (Of curse make the ORCA card usable for payment). Or even better, lease off the parking lots to private companies and share in the revenue — don’t give it away.

    And do away with any charges for bike parking.

    1. I think part of the problem is administration. A car can be parked just about everywhere securely. Bikes, not so much. So typical solutions are to provide restricted access to some kind of secure cage. The problem is then administrative costs – how do you deal with providing everyone keys, providing security, etc… How do you restrict access to those who bike vs those who just want to get a pass to steal bikes? How do you clean out old bikes? The same problems don’t apply to a car parking lot as much.

      Now, you could argue that we should spend some of the parking money on bike parking, but there are still a number of non-trivial issues to solve. And at least car parking is used – ST might not want to get into the business of bike parking just to find that no one uses it (for all the aforementioned issues).

    2. Only when bicycles carry license plates that cost multiple fees can being charged for bicycle parking be criticized.

    3. It’s mostly tradition: people expect free parking everywhere; it’s the job of facilities to provide parking for patrons. It’s also a different kind of service: these aren’t just bike racks but covered and locked shelters with individual keys or access codes. An equivalent car facility would charge money.

      1. No, an equivalent facility is a multi-level parking garage, which costs $80,000 per space to construct.

      2. The garage roof is a secondary benefit but the main reason garages are built is to fit more cars in the space.

    4. Nail on the head. Sound transit needs to get with it on parking policy or just stop altogether.

  7. Zach, although it’s not in ST3 the garage at NE 145th station seems to have been overlooked here at STB and should be tossed into your list of what not to do when considering providing parking at stations. The most recent plans I have found, from the Lynnwood Link Record of Decision (July 2015), site the station two blocks north of NE 145th solely, apparently, to provide direct access to the station from the garage instead of from the crosstown arterial where one might expect buses or even a kiss-and-ride lane. This site plan also apparently shows a TIBS-like bus pullout which I assume is where they intend to terminate the 522. This turnoff will take the bus through two signalized intersections just to reach the station, instead of allowing the bus to continue straight and drop its passengers off directly beneath the platform.

    What this does, of course, is make the station nearly useless for any cross-town bus routes on 145th, which now will be a two block walk instead of a direct street-to-platform transfer that any halfway cogent design would have provided. The site plan does not even provide bus pullouts on NE 145th–in fact, from the south side of the street (eastbound) there isn’t even a crosswalk to get you within that two block walk. They actually want you to walk down a looping trail underneath the overpass down to the freeway level, then back up to grade then up AGAIN to the platform. None but the hardiest transit users will even consider this. Once again ST has flown in the face of best-practice transit design the world over to provide doorstep access to cars–who at most will provide 750 riders. What’s even more infuriating is that the money used to provide this new garage, the additional land acquisition, its new access roads, and signalized intersection could have gone a long way towards adding the far more useful station at NE 130th.

    Seattle needs to get the NE 130th station done–and it needs to be designed correctly with a direct street-to-platform transfer. 130th WILL become a major crosstown route if this gets done, and then all the folks in Lake City that got screwed by the 522 avoiding it completely can laugh as they hop off their bus and head right up to the platform.

    This garage–because it has such a negative impact on the design and siting of the station for anybody but 500 car drivers who wish to use it–should go into the Park and Ride Hall of Shame.

    1. In SoundTransit’s defense, 145th is a terrible place for people to wait for the bus. Perhaps they understand that. It is very odd, though, that there will not at least be a pedestrian bridge from the station to the west side of the freeway where there are actual, you know, houses within walking distance of the station.

      And that looping trail will be mostly downhill! for people taking an eastbound bus on NE 145th (other than the BRT successor to the 522 of course).

      If they refuse to include 130th in the final package on which people will vote, it’s just one more way of poking Seattle residents in the eye.

      In the meantime, Seattle can Paint The Town Red! and start enforcing the lanes. We all agree that would be best for West Seattle — more people would have quicker access to places outside the peninsula with a BRT network — and the truth is it’s true for Ballard too. One station does not transit access make.

      Vote the damn thing down, save yourselves twelve thousand dollars and get out the red paint buckets.

      #Paint The Town Red!

      1. No disagreements here, Anandakos–particularly with the snark (I pretty much figured that out from your post history). :-)

      2. Agreed. I will say, though, that if the place is so unpleasant for bus riding that we wouldn’t have built it out so far. If you don’t build really good bus to rail transfer, then you are going to get no riders. There is very little in the way of walk-up riders (either existing or potential), and park and ride lots aren’t big enough. Given the stop spacing, you need somewhere around 10,000 people a station for this thing to make sense. This station will be lucky to do one tenth that unless it gets really good connecting bus service (and that means a station designed for it).

      3. Ross, they’ll get the forced transfers from the 522 terminating there, which is where their ridership numbers come from (well, that and the 500-750 people in the garage). Unfortunately for them the 522 riders are losing the time it will take to actually get to the station from the intersection of 5th and 145th, whereas with a decently planned station they’d already be there. One could make a plausible argument that due to worse congestion on NE 145th, the tortuous entrance to the station, and having to travel an additional stop, they may be saving little or no time as compared to keeping the route to Lake City, then on 125th/130th to a well-designed station with immediate access.

        Better placement of the NE 145th station would not only have allowed for crosstown bus service to easily use it but would have allowed the 522 to continue past it to Aurora and a “downtown” Shoreline terminus at, say, 155th (or even Shoreline College)–meaning now you get riders on the 522 to the station from both directions. Lake City/Bitter Lake will already provide that on 125th/130th.

    2. Yes! It has the ability to become the ‘Station of Shame’ of all the ST2 stations.

      The station does so many things poorly that it’s tough to begin. The back-up into and out of the garage. The pedestrians running across lanes of stopped traffic, having been dropped off a block from the station. The inability of buses to operate in the area.

      I even predict that it will be a future case study on how not to design a rail station – and how the decision to not create a large lid and new circulation pattern over 405 or a 130th Street relocation could have made such a difference.

      1. >> Yes! It has the ability to become the ‘Station of Shame’ of all the ST2 stations.

        Then Mount Baker Station is the ‘Station of Shame’ for ST1. It is really mind blowing how simultaneously bad and important that station is. The 7 carries over 13,000 a day, or more than any other bus but one RapidRide line (which barely beats it out). Before the expansion, it carried over a third the riders of Link. Yet the Mount Baker Station — where the two lines intersect — is rarely used. It just isn’t worth the hassle. Simply awful (

    3. The stations at 145th and Northgate are there mostly because the existing P&Rs are there. When 145th was sited, there was no talk about a 145th bus route and there was no existing route. The station was for the P&R. If the station is being designed like TIB to hinder an east-west bus route, then we should make a big stink about that. That’s one mistake ST should not make twice; it must end now.

      1. Mike, the station is sited two blocks north of the east-west arterial. There are 68 spaces in the P&R that ostensibly this station was to serve; I find it either a bit of a stretch to think that a station was located there to serve what is by far the smallest P&R in Shoreline that isn’t a church parking lot, or planning so stupid as to require heads to roll at Union Station. It was sited there for two reasons: one, to build a large parking structure and two, to site it wholly in Shoreline so that Seattle’s moratorium on parking at stations could be avoided. The other argument is specious at best–if you are planning a one-hundred year facility it is insane to believe that since there isn’t a bus there now, there will NEVER be a bus there. They made the same assumption at 130th, despite the fact that 130th is, was and forever will be a better location for buses as the road will never be as full as 145th is–since there is a not a full interchange with the freeway there, traffic is considerably less.

        Have a look at the plan located on page 6 (IIRC) of the FHWA Lynnwood Link Decision of Record–it’s on ST’s website. It clearly shows that any bus serving the station must turn off of 145th at 5th, travel two blocks north to a new signalized intersection at 147th, then enter the station grounds and drive around the 500-car parking structure to the elevated station (getting to TIBS from Pacific Highway S, in other words, or worse). As bad as that, the lane configuration they show–complete with crosswalks–have no place for bus stops nor a crosswalk from the south side of 145th to the station side at the place where one would expect a bus stop to be. It’s a right turn lane and so if you’re on that side, you walk down and under the overpass, then two blocks north, then up again to the platform.

        Stations on elevated structures located at arterials should be sited immediately over them with access from both sides of the arterial. If that is impossible for whatever reason, at least one end of the platform access should be at the street so that you only need to cross the street once per trip rather than twice. Not only does this station not manage to do either of these, it is two blocks away just so 500 drivers can get a spot immediately adjacent to the station. (Better get there before 7am though, folks!) As I said on an earlier thread, this stuff gets you booted from a first year design studio in architecture school.

      2. >> When 145th was sited, there was no talk about a 145th bus route

        Exactly. Yet one more sign of ST’s incompetence. They learned nothing from Mount Baker. It sounds like the 145th street station is just as awful, and a result, everyone will suffer. Even folks who have no interest in every using the station. If you are in Shoreline or Lynnwood, you will benefit from “being on the way”. But if ridership is so low that Link can’t justify low headways during the middle of the day, you are screwed. Your transfer to Link will be worse than your old bus.

      3. Everyone who can interpret a site plan with activity should look at the documents that Scott is referencing. Think about how this will operate in an already clogged interchange; not as just a site plan with no one using it.

        I interpret the design to be very dangerous and difficult as for any pedestrian or bicyclist trying to reach the station, and designed to make it as difficult as possible for a bus or a car doing drop-off/pick-up to reach the station. It’s basically designed as if it is a parking garage for an office building. I expect that Link riders are going to turn 145th into a default drop-off/pick-up point and take their chances to try to get to the station — especially when there isn’t another nearby good place to pull quickly on and off I-5 to let a passenger out to catch a Link train.

    4. If 145th Station is really two traffic lights north of the arterial, then we really need to push ST to mitigate that. But stations are two blocks long, and I thought the southern end of the station was just north of 145th Street so there could be an entrance at the northwest corner, and perhaps an underpass from the southwest corner. If that’s not the case and it’s too late to change the station’s design, then we’ll have to do something to ensure at least some station access. It also makes it more difficult to have a route from Lake City to 145th Station if 130th isn’t built, especially if it continues west.

  8. As Zach said, some of these are reasonable investments. For example, the huge lot in SE Redmond can really be see as the token capital investment for Sammamish, which will pay into ST3 without getting anything more than a few ST Express route. Having large parking at terminal stations seems defensible.

    And South Sounder is getting very little parking, which is great! It’s good that Auburn, Kent, etc. aren’t getting additional parking – the cheap surface lots in Pierce seem very reasonable given the land use that far from the urban cores.

    The South King lots seem more perplexing, given the potential to just lease existing lots. Would be nice if some of those could be re-classified as “provisional” – in 20 years the local politicians might decide they don’t want parking lots next to their stations.

    And the 522 BRT lots seem to me the ones that are most damaging to TOD potential, given there is a very small envelope around the stations that will allow for TOD construction before you run into single family zones. Contrast that to, say, Federal Way, where there is plenty of land that can be redeveloped for denser use, even if you drop in another parking garage or two.

    1. I would rather see Sammamish simply get half-hourly bus service, with a few scattered surface lots in Sammamish next to a few stops. The bus could connect to Link at both ends, so 30-minute frequency in both directions would be like having 4 buses per hour, for those willing to take whichever bus comes first in either direction. If you don’t build the giant parking garages, people will have reasons to actually ride these buses. But, as it is, people won’t. Even the existing parking garages at Eastgate and Issaquah are going to be undercut by people driving directly to the train to park at the South Bellevue garage. On weekends, especially, the South Bellevue parking garage is going to cause route 554 ridership to fall off a cliff, when all the Issaquah people start driving to the train instead.

      1. If on the weekend the 554 ridership can be fully met by a single parking garage …. then is the 554 service will be cut. There is minimal congestion on weekends, I don’t see a reason to run a commuter route off peak on weekends if there isn’t demand.

        As for running buses in Sammamish – yes, I think a ST or KCM route connecting the two Link endpoints is a sound idea & will serve some demand, but it will be nearly impossible to connect most of Sammamish directly to bus routes given the land use patterns. I’d rather have people drive to SE Redmond than drive directly into Bellevue or Seattle.

        I think most of those concerns can be met by putting a price on parking. For example, charge for parking at the structured parking by rail, and then have the secondary lots be free & served by buses. As demand rises over time, secondary lots and feeder buses can be added to the system (and prices steadily rise at the most desirable garages)
        This same solution would work for Mercer – charge for the lot adjacent to the station, but then have the various small lots on the island be free & served by a circulatory route that is aligned to the Link schedule. And on weekends, the main lot can be free, while most of the secondary lots are in private use (on Mercer I believe they are mostly Church parking lots that are in private use on Sundays)

      2. It’s pretty certain indication that the 554 will be truncated at Mercer Island or South Bellevue. So it won’t be wastefully going to downtown Seattle on weekends. Some of its ridership may drive directly to the stations, but the point of the route is for those who can’t or don’t want to drive. For that it needs to run at least semi-frequently to be useful. Extending it to Sammamish would be a good idea.

      3. Another good idea is local stops between the Issaquah Transit Center and the Highlands overpass, where there’s a lot of semi-dense housing and a school and library but no transit.

      4. I’ve seen enough reverse-direction ridership on the 554 on weekend mornings that I’m pretty sure Eastgate and Issaquah won’t be cut-off outright – maybe 15 people per trip, not including the people I am hiking Tiger Mountain with. What all the commuters driving to the train will mean is most likely a route truncation to South Bellevue, but no increase in frequency or span (except during peak hours, peak direction) to compensate for the added connection.

        But the point remains that if South Bellevue didn’t have such a glut in parking, people would park closer to home and ride the bus to avoid dealing with the hassles of trying to find a parking space right by the train. This would create ridership to justify running the bus more frequently. When the bus ridership gets artificially limited to people who do not have cars, ridership, and hence, frequency, inevitably suffers.

    2. The huge garage in SE Redmond means that area is shot as far as making it a walkable, nice place to live. There’s plenty of TOD potential there.

      Frankly, sitting in traffic is the price of living in Sammamish. Though if we are to hold that line, there needs to be a drastic increase in the amount of family-size housing closer in. Every unit of housing we decline to build in Kirkland means one more family driving from Sammamish.

  9. Until ST starts charging for parking I am very skeptical of the need to build any more of it.

    As seems to be common with transportation policy it is people who walk who get the worst deal. Not only are they likely paying higher rent to live near transit access, they also get to fund expensive parking arrangements for everyone else.

  10. At $80,000 a pop for a lousy parking space, I can think of lots of things to trade it for.
    1. Nearly 200,000 miles of Car2go service for anyone with a phone.
    2. A shiny new transvan to wander around the neighborhoods picking up people.
    3. 2 years of driver salary for #2 above.
    4. 400 new bicycles with free parking at each station.
    5. 1600 pairs of walking shoes.
    Oh, the list goes on and on.

    1. Just think, if that spot were able to generate $5 per day, it will have paid for itself in almost half a century!

    2. Or for the total of $661M, we could build 10 Swift BRT lines, roughly a line to each station, and operate each one of them with 12 minute headways for over 5 years.

      Imagine all the existing surface parking THAT could utilize AND the additional catchment area added to each station.

    3. Agreed, a combination of BRT lines, bike and ride share and sidewalk/bike access to these stations would be a lot of value for that money. I live in Seattle and have very similar issues getting to the Northgate P&R and access to the ULink Station (take a bus, walk several blocks, get on Link, bike share to work). There’s nothing magic about suburbs in that respect. The P&R’s fill up well before buses and Link cars will. The big parking lots drastically reduce access to the station for people who do arrive by bus, bike and on foot, which perpetuates the cycle of ‘needing’ a car. Have some parking, sure, but it should be balanced more appropriately with other uses (including housing and retail). Also price the parking to keep spots open for those who really needed to drive that day. I paid something like $30 a day to park at a meter when my office moved until I got the transit figured out (very quickly!).

  11. You want to rely on car buyers/owners to fund ST3, you better keep them happy and build them their parking and quit your whining.

    1. This proposal is adding 8,300 parking spaces in a region of 4 million people, so the benefits are very few. A 130th Station and Graham would benefit more than 8,300 people and cost 75% less than all that parking. That’s a poor justification to give a very select few car owners in our region a free-to-use, $80,000 space in perpetuity.

  12. Zach, according to the fact sheet on the ST3 website, the board is allocating the costs of the parking (along with the station itself) at Boeing Access Road to North King. It’s clearly a project designed for South King commuters, so I suspect the cost allocation is a hidden grab for North King funds. Re-allocating the cost of that station alone would be enough to fund the 130th St Station and expedite Graham Street.

    1. I didn’t know that, thanks! Yeah I’d take Graham in a heartbeat over parking at BAR.

      1. Now I see the real motivation for building BAR. Build a giant parking garage just north of the subarea boundary so that North King gets to pay for it, even though all the users will be coming from South King. And, in return for this, north King riders get a slower ride to the airport (and can’t even use the BAR parking garage for trips to the airport because of the 24-hour parking limit).

      2. Something to put in our comments to ST. “BAR benefits South King, not North King!”

    2. Seriously?

      Which North-King officials were asking for BAR? How did this get on N.King’s budget?

      1. Oh my God, this gets worse and worse.

        Kill ST3 with fire. And every elected official who advocated for this horrendous plan needs to be fired.

        Get rid of Boeing Access Road parking, and build 130th St. Station. Use the South King funding for Boeing Access Road station as a Link-Sounder-bus transfer point only, and build *no* parking.

  13. The impact of P&R on TOD could be somewhat mitigated if the cities change zoning laws to allow for tall residential buildings on top of the structured parking lots. Sound transit could partner with builders to develop residential units with no additional parking generating funds which can partially pay for those garages

    Charging for parking (free with ORCA Lift or subsidized parking coupons) seems like a good way to manage both demand and operating costs.

    1. +1. I’d really like ST to start partnering with developers in the early stages of just about all of their station area plans.

  14. Some useful reading about parking fees
    Washington DC Metro station parking is generally $4.60 per day. And they fill very large parking structures with paid parking.

    and about parking construction cost – note on page 90 estimates for Seattle parking construction costs (as of 2012): $25,000 to 35,000 per space. Does not include cost of land, but even so $80,000 / space seems pretty high. Perhaps parking should be (at least partially) planned and built outside the ST process. This is not intended as a criticism of ST but to note that parking is a different problem with different constraints from transit and might be done more efficiently by other folks.

    1. Donald Shoup’s book was written about 10 years ago, so inflation alone will mean higher per-space costs than what’s in the book. Land values have also risen since (even out in the burbs where the parking garages would be built), which pushes the costs up further.

      Then, there’s the incremental cost factor. If you replace an existing 300-stall surface lot with an 800-stall garage, you have paid the full cost of 800 stalls of structured parking, but you’ve only increased the parking supply by 500 stalls, not 800. So, the marginal cost per additional stall is even more expensive than the raw construction costs would indicate.

      1. The material I linked was copyright 2014. Here’s the citation given in Shoup’s piece for the number I quoted:
        Source: Rider Levett Bucknall, Quarterly Construction Cost Report, Third Quarter (2012).
        According to Zach’s post, ST’s figure is in 2014 dollars.

        If you slowed down enough to give your real name, perhaps you’d also slow down enough to read the linked material before commenting on it 8^).

        Fair enough to refer to gross (9700) rather than net (8300) additions: in that case ST’s cost is $68K per constructed space. Not sure that materially changes the question.

    2. The $35k/space construction costs given by Bucknall are for an average lot or garage. How many stories high is the average parking structure? It’s safe to assume that in many of these cases, ST is going to be building something taller and more expensive than the average, which would increase the cost above average.

      But still, your point is valid. ST is paying roughly double what Bucknall estimates structured parking should cost. Are they getting ripped off? Does ST even have a way to check if they are?

      1. How many cars do they want to fit? Isn’t a tall garage better than a second short garage next to it? Construction costs do go up with buildings when you pass the 4-story, 7-story, 12-story, and 40-story thresholds, but parking garages don’t necessarily follow the same scale.

  15. As a resident of the Eastside without a car, I’m mostly infuriated by us spending $300M on car storage. Our transit dollars should be spend on encouraging getting people OUT of cars. For example, let’s build high-quality reserved ROW for Kirkand and Juanita. Juanita is a new, dense neighborhood that could be better served by transit. Why we would prioritize helping people to drive to Kingsgate as opposed to getting rid of their cars in Juanita is beyond me.

  16. With self-driving car technology getting closer and closer to reality, we should be especially weary of spending billions of dollars on new parking garages. Driving people from suburban homes to a nearby train station is precisely the kind of trip that robo-taxis would be very good at.

    Even in the immediate term, there are app-based carpooling solutions that should be explored for home->park-and-ride solutions, that don’t involve building a separate parking space for every single daily transit rider. For example, let’s suppose parking at the station normally costs $5/day, but if you take 2 minutes out of your time to pick up another passenger along the way (with an app matching drivers with riders and providing turn-by-turn directions to pick up the passenger), you get to park for free, plus get guaranteed parking, once you arrive and access to a “preferred” parking area closer to the bus. A scheme like this would be a win-win for everybody – the driver gets free parking, the passenger gets a free trip (no money for parking or even gas), and the public gets more daily transit riders than the would ordinarily be possible based on the number of parking spaces. And for those unwilling to share their ride – they could still park, but they would have to pay for their space, and possibly find no spaces available.

    1. “closer and closer to reality”

      We still have no idea when this technology will become widely available to the public and a long ways to go. Self-driving cars are still an unproven technology in the hands of normal drivers, governments still haven’t determined safety regulations, insurance companies are still determining liability, engineers and planners are still determining how to integrate them into the landscape (including interactions with people biking, walking and not in self-driving cars), nobody owns a self-driving car, they’re not being mass produced yet, and the public will need significant mental and cultural shift to letting the car drive itself and possibly not being legally allowed to touch the steering wheel. Shoot, we’re still afraid of self-driving trains in this country yet they run on tracks.

      Seattle is decades behind transit today because of the “technology silver bullet” mentality, so I’m always a bit skeptical of technophilia.

    2. “Driving people from suburban homes to a nearby train station is precisely the kind of trip that taxis would be very good at.”

      So then why are taxis so rare in suburban neighborhoods?

      Is the answer different if we can dispense with the driver and lower the cost of the taxi trip by, say 50%?

      1. The taxi companies and Ubers have a fiendish plot. Dispense with the drivers and don’t lower the cost. Bwahahahaha!

  17. the current [South Federal Way P&R] 500 stall lot [is] 70% empty.

    That’s because there’s no longer any transit that serves it (except a circulator). It used to be full when there was a peak-only Downtown route that served it.

      1. Right, forgot about that. Was only thinking of the 196 that was cut which left a few years where was no Downtown service.

  18. Parking is an important issue to the suburbs. County policies have allowed numberous housing developments to be built with low density, cul-de-sacs, and non through streets making transit service impractical to impossible to serve. That being said there is an excess of surface parking, that could be used at least by ST express with minor routing changes. The large 700 space Kent P&R could be connected to the sounder station with a bus shuttle providing many more spots for a lower cost than building a new facility.

  19. I live on Capitol Hill, and work next to the UW. My life is transit/walking/biking easy (probably as easy as it can get!), and basically never involves driving. But, you know when it does?, when I visit my parents in the suburbs. People that live in cul-de-sac land need station parking to use Link or Sounder. When my parents come up to Seattle they exclusively use Link from the TIBS P&R. They are super excited about the Angle Lake station. Without parking, Link becomes unusable for them…seriously, what are soon-to-be-retirees who live unrealistically far to walk to a bus stop supposed to do?

    They wouldn’t have a problem paying a reasonable parking fee, however.

    1. Agreed – when looking at “only” 8,300 user – that’s a valid number when looking at the capacity for serving commuters, but remember those parking spacers serve a much larger number of occasional users who want/need access to transit but won’t be using it for core, commuting purposes.

    2. >> what are soon-to-be-retirees who live unrealistically far to walk to a bus stop supposed to do?

      Drive to the bus stop.

      As I said below ( I have no problem with park and ride lots serving buses (and in many cases, street parking works just fine). But park and ride lots make no sense for high capacity transit. Feeder buses should do the job, and if you can’t get enough feeder buses to do do the job, then chances are, you have spent a huge amount of money on something that will only benefit a handful of people. Like buying a Kenworth truck to move a coach, it is really the wrong tool for the job.

      1. There’s nothing wrong with parking garages next to train stations. There is something very, very wrong with FREE parking garages next to train stations.

        If there’s enough demand for parking, people will pay for parking — in fact, if there’s really enough demand, they’ll pay enough that the parking garage will make a profit. Why is Sound Transit giving away *very expensive structured parking* for free?

        Free parking makes sense when you have lots which already exist and never fill up. But then you would not build new parking. If you are considering building new parking, you should charge a fee for parking *first*.

    3. Driving to a bus stop is not realistic in suburban areas where the local routes are sparse, infrequent coverage routes that don’t go to where the express buses stop at.

  20. In the context of this discussion, does anyone have up to date links to analysis of the policy introduced maybe seven years ago by the Denver area RTD to introduce parking charges at P & R facilities? As I recall it, the parking rates differed according to where a vehicle was licensed (within or outside the RTD taxing district.)

    1. No up to date links. I do know that it worked just fine, nobody complained, it’s been good for RTD’s budget.

  21. It’s not going to be convincing to ask a voter to pay an MVET between $40 to $400 annually and not at least provide some parking. There is a direct political dimension to this.

  22. There is a likely commingling of park- and-ride users for transit with those who form carpools. It could be argued that the non-transit-using share of these lots should be paid for by cities or WSDOT – but not ST.

    1. It could be, but there are carpools where only some of the participants are driving to the meeting point, while others are taking transit there. Having the carpool meet at a transit hub makes things like this easier for everybody.

  23. I don’t necessarily disagree with main arguments against P&Rs. I’d like to think that as a suburban commuter I use them the ‘right’ way – I carpool to the P&R, and I’m in support of charging for spaces

    All that said, I think this article and urbanists in general make a few incorrect assumptions about how P&Rs work

    For one, it’s a mistake to think that 100 spots can only serve 100 people per day. 100 spots serves many more than 100 people as spots are constantly recycled per day – even lots used by work commuters.

    The second issue is using current usage and capacity to make arguments against projects decades in the making. I find it unusual to see that type of shortsighted thinking among a community that is typically always thinking of the future

    Think of it this way: how would you have felt if people used 1991’s capacity numbers to determine what 2016 would look like. That’s ridiculous, right? The area has changed dramatically in those years in both population density and area.

    We need to fund projects that match future populations. Anything else is a waste of time and money that will need to be corrected by our children

    1. I agree that many kinds of parking are recycled continuously during the day, but I don’t see how work commute transit P&Rs located right at the station would get more than a percentage of spaces reused during a 10-hour day. (8 hours+commute). Maybe a handful of folks only work morning or evening (but are many of those commuter jobs?). Most of the P&Rs are completely full by 9. I couldn’t imagine relying on them if I only worked part-time.

      1. There could be some recycling of spaces as a result of people attending evening events downtown, or part-time people only working half a day, but this isn’t enough to make much of a dent in the ridership numbers of a high-capacity transit line.

      2. I would imagine that they are extremely useful for, say, a Husky or Seahawk game, or a weekend Mariners game, or other in-city events on the weekends or evenings when you might plausibly decide to park there and likely find a space. Weekdays, however, probably have little to no turnover before 2 or 3pm, since very few people will make an hour+ commute each way for a four-hour job, and fewer still will risk there not being a space available when they get to the garage. The howls of people starting work much after 8am thinking they’ll get a spot in the garage they voted for will be interesting….

        Northgate TC has always filled up very early even after they added a decent number of spaces near the freeway. When I used it and returned early there were sometimes a handful of spaces; many more when returning at a normal time. But that was only a 20 minute commute, a commute time where working a half-day downtown and taking transit was still reasonable. It would be interesting to see when spots start appearing at TIBS–and that’s still only a half-hour or so from downtown.

    2. One occupied spot should produce 2 transit trips )if all spots are occupied and all users are on transit. Also, probably 10 to 20 percent of users have more than one person per vehicle. That’s on top of turnover impacts.

      On the other hand, some users may walk or get dropped off or take a local bus to a station, so it is hard to estimate what the true ridership benefit is.

  24. Snohomish could also cancel Sounder North and then it would have more money for its Link extension. What could that on top of the parking fund?

    Of course ST would have to provide replacement express buses in the interim. But people who drive to Mukilteo and Edmonds Stations are going out-of-direction because that’s where the station is. But they could just as easily drive to a stop somewhere else instead, possibly a place that’s both closer to them and shorter for the bus route.

  25. Please retract your statement that you have placed South Federal Way in Pierce County. Those of us who live in this part of the county already feel disenfranchised for having no reliable local transit. Yeah, I guess you are probably right. Metro provides us with Pierce-Transit-level of service down here. So, yeah, collect our money when it is time to pay taxes, but deliver an inferior product to us in terms of transit, and, oh yeah, drive to Seattle any time you need any sort of essential service. Sorry, it’s King County. Period.

    As for why South Federal Way is mostly empty, it’s because there is minimal, if any, bus service there. Everything shifted up to the FW TC when the 317th St HOV Ramp was built. Want to go to Seattle? Yep, FWTC is the place to be, not South Federal Way. A-Line doesn’t go that far. The 182 is the only route that serves it – great, you can circle around Federal Way, but it takes you nowhere useful. Walk a half mile to the nearest bus stop on SR 99, and you can pick up some Pierce Transit routes then transfer to something else at, you guessed it, FWTC. Get Link built out to South Federal Way, and it will be packed.

    I guess you could always advocate for improved neighborhood transit service in Federal Way (population 90,000) and Auburn (population 70,000). But that would take away from transit service in the north half of the county that we subsidize. Oh, and all the businesses that give you your strong economy… heavily fueled by low-paid staff who can’t afford to live there and end up living out here, commuting in to Seattle and Bellevue. Do you have a receptionist at your office? What does she make per hour? How about a waiter at a restaurant? The janitor that cleans the urinal in your office? The nursing assistant who helped out at your last medical appointment? Housekeepers at the hospital? The gardener who does lawn maintenance at the nearest public building? None of these people can afford a home in north King County.

    Sorry, end rant. Sick of our County’s suburban poor getting dumped on!

    1. South King County has a lot of transit needs and not a lot of money. Its population is larger than Seattle so it should have more comprehensive transit than it does, and the large number of poor and transit-dependent people is another reason. But they don’t subsidize the north half of the county because they don’t have the money for that. South King County has a self-funded level of ST service, and probably a self-funded level of Metro service. When the Great Recession hit, South King was the hardest hit because it doesn’t have many high-paying jobs, so its Link extension was partly deferred. South King also voted against King County Prop 1 to supplement Metro. The most commonly-cited reason was that poor people can’t afford more taxes and especially an MVET on their essential car. Well, there’s where your bus-service improvements went to.

      To be clear, I think south King County should have a lot more transit, and the rest of the county should consider subsidizing it given its population size, lower-income demographics, and industrial jobs that generate two-way commuting. But that’s more a Metro issue than a Sound Federal Way Link Station issue. And Metro’s draft long-range plan is encouraging: it has more RapidRide lines and frequent routes and express routes in south King County by 2025 and 2040. Although it will need increased funding in that timeframe, either countywide or with support from the cities or most likely both.

      Zach’s statement about Pierce paying for the south Federal Way Link segment goes back to a general principle that subareas should pay for what benefits them. Snohomish benefits from Link between 185th and 205th. East King benefits from International District to Mercer Island. North King benefits a little bit from Judkins Park Station, but North King wouldn’t have built that branch on its own because it has much higher priorities (Ballard-downtown, Ballard-UW, West Seattle-downtown, Lake City, and Denny Way). the argument is that south Federal Way is the same kind of situation: South King wouldn’t build it on its own, because South King has much higher priorities. Kent has no all-day express to Seattle, but Kent has the highest density in south King County, many of those are poor, and it has two-way ridership with the industrial jobs. Burien-Renton, Kent-Renton, Kent-Auburn, and Kent-99 are other places South King should increase transit in before it gets to south Federal Way. So the south Federal Way Link segment mostly benefits Pierce County and it’s a higher priority for them, because it’s their only way to connect the county to the airport and Seattle via Link.

      1. Thank you for working through the logic for me. I follow the logic of how SFW would benefit PC. Please understand that we still feel very disenfranchised from the luxuries of life in Seattle. Our view homes overlook a sea of factories. We get no transit service. (Some neighborhoods LITERALLY get no transit service; others get terrible transit service.) We pay for a port that doesn’t supply jobs locally. The local jobs are at Port of Tacoma which we should be subsidizing. Your “environmentalist” governor chose to RECRUIT a toxic waste factory from China to the Port of Tacoma, which would have put the residents of Federal Way at a high risk of cancer and of being the victims if anything ever went wrong at said factory. People describe Renton & Burien as “south King”, when geographically, they are closer to the center of the county which makes us what, exactly? Your dumping ground? When you compare schools, public schools in south King are terrible relative to places further north, and meanwhile in the state legislature, we can’t get basic across the board funding for K-12 education. The list could go on and on.

        Back to transit, here’s a sticking point. Technically, we do still subsidize north King County. No, not in the form of direct taxes. We subsidize north King by taking all of your grunt jobs. If the residents of south King did not exist, the Port of Seattle would be dead and there would a massive shortage of low-paying support jobs. The people of south King often work longer hours usually for lower pay than their north King counterparts. Then we get stuck with a transit system that doesn’t get us to work so we end up needing to drive a car, which employers will not subsidize like they will a transit pass. So we’re taking the jobs that you can’t afford to work if you live in Seattle or Bellevue. But we aren’t offered a transit system that will get us to and from those jobs.

      2. South King County is traditionally defined as the White Center-Tukwila-Renton border to the Pierce County border. Sound Transit’s South King subarea is the same except it excludes Renton which is in East King. Maybe “South King County” is too large and diverse to consider as a single unit, but it’s what we have, and it does describe the area that was mostly built up after WWII. I’m curious about how Federal Way-Auburn is different from Burien-Tukwila and Des Moines-Kent and how their needs may be distinct.

        I can’t really see how low-wage south end workers are “subsidizing” central King County. What I see is that south King needs better transit that reflects its large size, high population, high transit dependency, and the obvious need to commute to Seattle and the Eastside. At the same time, its low density contradicts the level of service Seattle has, so it needs something in between. I also want to see a wider variety of jobs come to south King so that people don’t have to commute to Seattle and the Eastside to get a good wage or any job. Kent is doing well with its industrial base; I just wish the buildings were closer together and more walkable and less setbacks. I’d like to see downtown Federal Way evolve into an urban center with midrise mixed-use buildings and multistory shopping/office buildings around the station, along with whatever parking is necessary as long as the parking is off to the side. Improving south King’s and especially far south King’s transit and wage situation has to go hand in hand with moderate densification and a wider variety of jobs and incomes (and thus people) in the south end, because solely increasing transit in low-density bedroom-commuter sprawl is contradictory and not ultimately effective.

        I’m curious about your thoughts on Federal Way-Auburn’s best evolution strategy, what the Federal Way government is doing, how productive it is, and what the rest of the county should do. And how Federal Way should relate to Tacoma and Pierce County, in terms of Link, RapidRide, jobs, non-work trips, etc. Perhaps you have some ideas for the next open thread.

      3. Mike,

        Thanks for the thoughtful response. I think that Federal Way & Auburn are moving in the right direction with the densification and revitalization of their downtown cores, but what they are doing is simply too little, and FW’s lack of cooperation with ST for an SR 99 alignment was a bad move, plain and simple. These cities need elected leaders who recognize their cities for the potential urban powerhouses that they actually are. I’m tired of seeing Auburn depicted as a small town with themes like the “Good Old Days” festival. Those days are long-gone. There is plenty of under-utilized prime real estate that could be easily redeveloped and densified in both cities (Auburn in the form of vacant land, vacant building, and auto shops; FW in the form of excessive available parking that ought to be consolidated, put on the ground floors of multifloor buildings, and shared between tenants). Councils need to recognize the potential that densification in combination with improved transit could bring.

        The other major transit need, and this is a tricky one, is transit to our nearest jobs center: Tacoma. (Likewise, Tacoma needs to work on it’s own poor transit system to solve the “last mile” problem. Separate topic.) Other counties, particularly Snohomish Co (CT), provides out-of-county peak direction transit service from their residential areas in to Seattle, which is well outside of their service area. I see no reason why Metro couldn’t do the same thing by providing peak hour transit in to Tacoma from Federal Way and Auburn. As for the reverse direction Sounder, I like it, but it does not serve Federal Way, and for an Auburn commuter, there are only two trips which are not well-timed for the working hours of many commuters. As we get more reverse-direction Sounder trips, this will take care of itself, but in the meantime, we should have something similar to the Community Transit 410 or 424 to connect Federal Way and Auburn residents to downtown Tacoma, or even to major employers at Port of Tacoma. To be fair, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for residents of Shoreline or the north side of Lake Washington to request a route to Boeing in Everett.

      4. Auburn can surely find a way to honor its small-town legacy and historic areas (if it has any left) while simultaneously becoming the city it needs to be.

        As for Boeing Everett, there are special bus routes and vanpools but I don’t know what areas they serve.

  26. Many people are suggesting charging for parking. My question is how much? It makes sense to at least partially offset the cost of the space with fees. But the value of the spot is going to be different for everyone. Someone going to Seattle might be willing to spend $10-15 total per day if the bus saves times and money (overall). Someone going to Microsoft (which provides free parking) is probably not going to be willing to pay anywhere close to that much. If parking is not priced right, either people will move to parking on the streets (making local residents upset) or transit use will go down.

    1. I think the rates should be variable based on demand. As high as is needed such that it doesn’t fill up, or doesn’t fill up before 9:30 or 10:00 AM on weekdays. Probably free on weekends, or much cheaper. Same as the Shoupian approach to on-street parking fees (which is, set them at whatever level is necessary to maintain a 10-15% vacancy at all times, so people who want to pay for parking, can.)

      That pricing model will not prevent people from parking nearby in the neighborhood, but if you price it too low, then the late arrivers will park in the neighborhood. Bottom line: if the neighborhoods near stations don’t want people showing up to eat their free ice cream, they should stop handing out free ice cream.

    2. “If parking is not priced right, either people will move to parking on the streets (making local residents upset) or transit use will go down.”

      Where parking regularly fills up, both of those outcomes are probably already happening. I’d argue that parking is mispriced today at $0.

    3. I’d imagine pricing will vary by location, but $5/day seems reasonable. I’d also assume there will be discounts for monthly passes, plus weekends cheaper/free than weekdays.

      As for people parking in the streets – cities will have to adapt & adjust their street parking rules. The existing parking rules will not work with new stations being built … that’s a reason to change parking rules, not a reason to build parking garages.

      1. I think a $5/day (payable with an Orca card, free on weekends/major holidays) is a reasonable price point. I don’t think there should be monthly passes for parking because automatic re-filling the e-purse is easy enough, and it would lead to a situation where, once you’ve paid for that monthly pass, you have zero incentive to ever travel to the station any other way.

        I would also go ahead and allow overnight parking on Friday and Saturday nights. This would get people onboard who are making short (weekend-only) plane trips, and also helps people out drinking late avoid the choice between driving home from the P&R drunk or getting their car towed.

    4. For starters, Sound Transit should take any parking garage or lot which fills up regularly and make it $5 a day. That should be the first move. Wait three moneths. Any lots which still fill up should have their prices raised at that point.

      Basically, I advise $X/day for each lot, but different depending on which station it is (some fill up more than others). Keep it fairly simple. If the lot is more than 95% full on an average weekday, ST needs to raise the price. If it’s less than 80% full on an average weekday, then ST should cut the price.

      1. If people are parking on the street because the garage costs money and the street is free… the city needs to start metering the spaces on the street. Not Sound Transit’s poriblem — the city should do it and accept the influx of revenue.

  27. Orting? ORTING? Why are they building a parking lot in Orting when ST3 is only “studying” Sounder to Orting? (Which is, perhaps, the most wasteful thing in the whole damn package.)

    WTF is it with Sound Transit and Orting. It doesn’t support a single bus route now! What do they think is going to happen, why Orting, and not some other random exurban 6K town?

    1. Pierce County wants an express bus route to Orting (some people there bizarrely want a DMU to connect them with Sounder, but there’s no way that’s going to fly).

      1. Even if Orting had an express bus to Sounder, I still don’t see the need for parking. The town of Orting is simply not that big. The entire town is within 1/2 mile of the main road (most of it less), which means if the bus simply goes down the main road and stops at each intersection, everybody except the disabled is within walking distance of a bus stop. Granted, some of the cul-de-sacs make the walking distance to the bus stop longer than it should be, but buying out a narrow strip of yard space between two homes and putting a sidewalk on it is much easier and cheaper than building a parking.

        So, any Orting P&R is essentially about people who are too lazy to walk getting into their car to drive 3 blocks.

        As to the idea of the operating the express bus in the first place…if the Sounder station didn’t have so much parking, you could probably find 50 out of the 6000 people to fill a bus for at least one trip each weekday, maybe two. But when parking is free, these people are all going to just drive to the train (and make the road more congested for everyone, including the bus riders). And so, the bus would run empty.

      2. A park and ride in Sorting would likely be used by quite a few south hill and graham residents

      3. Pierce County wants an express bus route to Orting

        1. For God’s sake, why? Is there some councilmember who lives there or something? There must be some explanation–it seems like a completely random fixation.

        2. If they think this is worth a shot, how about trying it out with Pierce Transit?

      4. @asdf2 There are a lot of exurb developments like Tehaleh around the Orting area- the P&R would serve those people.

        @djw There’s already an ST express route to Bonney Lake, and apparently it’s popular enough that Pierce County thinks it’s worth doing the same with Orting. Unfortunately, Bonney Lake and Orting aren’t part of the Pierce Transit service area any more since they decided to drop out because they thought they weren’t getting enough in return for their tax dollars. Pierce Transit accepted that since it would make it easier for transit funding referendums to pass (not that actually work out in the end, through).

      5. I haven’t been to that part of the county, but judging from online pictures, it can be widened to be big enough for transit and 3+ vehicles lanes.

  28. As I said on the Urbanist piece, if you are dependent on park and ride lots, you are doing it wrong. It becomes very difficult to build a park and ride lot big enough to create many riders. If you did, then you incur traffic, which eliminates one of the big incentives for transit.

    There are exceptions, of course, and for the most part they are the exceptions that you see with rail in general. In most cases, a subway a long ways away from the urban core carries few people — too few to justify the very high cost. With commuter rail, though, you can get a few thousand riders for very cheap. In many cases, adding parking in small towns is a reasonable thing to do, assuming there are no connecting buses.

    But for the most part, ridership to a brand new subway should be driven by walk-up passengers, and connecting bus service. North of Northgate, Link will have very few walk-up riders. But in many cases, it will have pretty decent bus to rail ridership. Likewise, Mercer Island should get plenty of riders from Issaquah, and South Bellevue riders should have plenty from south of there (Newcastle, Renton, etc.). But the best part is, these stops are just on the way. You aren’t dependent on these riders. Most of the ridership will come from downtown Bellevue and Overlake. There will be enough riders from there to justify low headways, which in turn makes the transfer a lot better. Lynnwood can hope for enough ridership to justify decent headways, but it may have trouble achieving it.

    In any event, if you build park and ride lots, they should be for buses, and they should be small (serving only that small neighborhood). A good example of that is this little one hosted by a church: This holds 21 slots and serves the 41. It really doesn’t make sense to drive very far to this stop (there are other options for buses). But if you live to the north (in Olympic Hills) this could save you twenty minutes a day. Of course street parking can achieve the same thing, but neighbors often complain about people parking on the streets only to use the transit.

    1. Link is commuter rail in East King. The fact that the technology being used is the same as it is in Seattle for the subway doesn’t change the nature of its use. Like Metro in DC, there are commuter and subway aspects to Link. Build the park-and-rides for the commuter parts, like in South Bellevue, Issaquah and Redmond. Don’t build them in Seattle.

      1. I don’t think we are building any new P&R in Seattle. And East Link between South Bellevue & SE Redmond will have zero P&Rs – that’s a stretch of (I think) 7 stations that serves dense areas (DT Bellevue & Redmonds), one major job center (Overlake), and one big opportunity for TOD (spring district). It’s not fair to call that commuter rail.

      2. Seattle has a policy against new P&Rs. That’s why Rainier Valley didn’t get any even though some of them keep asking.

      3. 130th will have a P&R for 300 cars.

        Redmond Technology Center will have a P&R for 300 cars (also 100 bikes!)

        P&R lots that serve three digits of cars don’t have the impact of those that serve four digits, but they are also nearly irrelevant to the numbers of riders we should be looking for.

      4. That’s 130th in Bellevue, not 130th in Seattle. (response to AJ’s claim of zero P&Rs in that stretch of East Link)

    2. I do love the small lots. Mercer Island has them, and there is probably opportunity to build them in Sammamish once East Link gets extended past 405 & the bus to rail station trip is quick for people.

  29. Everybody who pays for this system has the right to use it. And people without any/adequate transit service (of which there are many) have to pay for this system. Pay for parking is a good solution. But the $80K per space cost noted here is excessive. Seattle-area garage spaces should be in the $20K neighborhood. Provided no payment for parking, the “subsidy” should be closer to a dollar (utilizing the 50 years/every day parking example noted in the article). The biggest problem in this analysis is the subscription to Sound Transit math. They have hoodwinked the public by controlling the message, and excessively padding their estimates by incredible multiples. That’s how they are touting their “on time/under budget” theme so consistently after the early years of crash and burn. How else can they pay huge contractor claims, while still finishing under budget on their projects?

    1. As I said above, if you are building park and ride lots to your extremely expensive subway (and this is extremely expensive) than you are doing it wrong. Either the station can justify feeder bus service or not. If so, then park and ride lots for the feeder buses are fine (these are often really cheap). But if not — if you can’t possibly serve the station with adequate walk-up riders and feeder buses — then you shouldn’t build the station. Ridership will never be high enough to justify the cost.

      1. What’s the cost of feeder bus service to replace parking? I think it appropriate to charge for parking, and it would make for a usable service for a large portion of the outside-Seattle residents…who pay for the system too. $5 to $10 per day is not that unreasonable a trade-off for living in the ‘burbs. Certainly you couldn’t park in Seattle for much less than that about anywhere. That would about pay for itself according to the $80K analysis…though more likely could prove profitable, since the parking estimates do not remotely approximate costs in studies found in RS Means (for Seattle) for example.

        Different topic regarding the comment about “Ridership will never be high enough to justify the cost”…I am not sure what that looks like for sure, but in my ideal world, it would be that the system revenues offset the operations and maintenance (probably beyond hope to ultimately pay for capital replacement costs, though someday those big bills will come due). Currently, the bigger the system, the bigger the bill. I don’t have current figures on farebox recovery for Link, but isn’t is something around 35%? So to “justify” the cost in terms of ridership…I don’t know how many paying riders we would need, but a rough guess in my mind would make it seem the number of riders required exceeds the capacity of the system.

  30. So, let me get this straight. Everett has been pushing for a “spine” to serve it for a very long time. It makes no sense, given the distance and density along the way. But Everett claims that it deserves light rail because it is a big city. So much so that it doesn’t matter that light rail is inappropriate — it just needs it. So now this:

    1,000 stall garage at Everett Station

    Holy smoke, Everett, you want to build a huge parking garage in your downtown station! That makes no sense. If you are really this big, dense city that you claim, then the last thing you need to build is a parking garage. How the hell are you going to prevent people from just taking advantage of the free parking, and walking to your bustling metropolis?

    The whole thing is just ridiculous. People have no idea what commuter rail is good far, what commuter bus service is good for, or what a subway is good for. As a result, if this passes, my guess is more people drive than ever before (because there will be way too much money spent on the wrong thing, and not enough on the appropriate things).

    1. Why am I picturing Everett winding up with another 1 mile streetcar to connect its downtown with Everett Station and its parking structure, just like Tacoma?

    2. Because if you’ve been to Everett, the station is basically in an industrial area, not in the downtown. Also they are not just serving Everett. They are serving people who drive in from Arlington, Marysville, Lake Stevens, and Granite Falls to park and than take either the bus or train to Seattle.

      1. In your experience, how many people do you think would be coming in from Arlington, Marysville, Lake Stevens, and Granite Falls and using the garage? These places are all well outside of the ST taxation area and hence those people will be provided a free garage at the expense of other projects in Snohomish County for the people there who actually will be paying for it (as silly as Orting service goes, at least it’s inside the taxation district).

        As to the station’s location, I think that’s Ross’ point is a valid one–why on earth would anyone run a rapid transit line to the middle of an industrial zone in a small city on the fringe of a metro area? Having the Sounder station there at least makes some sense–that’s where the tracks are, after all–but there will be nobody transferring from Link to Sounder North or v.v. If Everett (and Tacoma) need rapid rail transit, they should build out from there, not from Seattle to there–and this station is not sited to serve Everett itself or many living in Everett. Nobody living in the taxing district will use this station to go to their job at Paine Field, for example. It is, as you say, a garage for people living outside the district, paid for by those who will never use it at the cost of something that might better serve their needs.

      2. Nevertheless Everett and Mukilteo are keen on more parking garages for their out-of-district guests. The reason seems to be to keep those cars off their highways. Everett seems to understand that most of the cars at Everett Station come from Marysville or further north, and one of the reasons for the Paine Field deviation is so that they’ll park at Everett Station and take Link to Boeing; i.e., not driving in south Everett. That seems ridiculous to me, both that drivers would do that and that it’s worth extending Link to Paine Field and Everett for it.

    3. People don’t understand the concept of all day rail service is using commuter rail rolling stock.

      I would put it to the voter of commuter rail comfort with light rail frequency and much faster speed.

  31. Here’s an idea: use some of this parking money to pay for a new crosstown rapid ride line roughly were Ballard-UW would go. This would provide a much needed crosstown route in north Seattle and (somewhat) appease those that really wanted the Ballard-UW line in ST3. Plus a line like this is already in metro’s long range plan any. If they really needed to, they could cut the funding for D line improvements and sink those resources into building this thing in the next 5-10 years.

  32. Regarding the social justice rebuttal and charging for parking, Metro and ST have ORCA LIFT, so a similar program could be instituted for parking. Meet an income threshold and you park for free (or at a reduced rate). Piece of cake. I envision ORCA readers at gated entrances and exits to park-and-ride lots (yes, no cash payment allowed).

    And if ST doesn’t build kiss-and-ride facilities at major stations, they’re just stupid.

  33. Your subsidy calculations neglect to include the taxes paid by those who use the stalls (assuming they live in the RTA). Back of the napkin calcs indicate their parking would be subsidized about as much (proportionally) as a Metro bus trip.

  34. People in the burbs want a one-seat ride. It increases ridership. Build them P and R lots. Charge for parking in them. The End.

    1. People in the burbs can’t afford million dollar homes in Seattle and Bellevue, and the routes we have don’t get us to and from work efficiently. I used to take transit exclusively to and from work, no park and ride (Auburn to Kirkland). Round trip, it took 120 minutes in the morning, 150 minutes in the evening. This is why people in the burbs want a 1-seat ride and park-and-rides. The system as it is currently configured DOES NOT WORK.

      1. We can’t have one-seat rides from everywhere to everywhere. For Auburn-Kirkland, the 566 transferring to 405 BRT might be a solution. That leaves the last mile in Kirkland though, depending on which part(s) of Kirkland you’re concerned about.

      2. Mike, I think Engineer’s bigger problem – since he’s not using any P&R – would be local connections in Auburn. No idea how to solve that, though.

      3. Actually, with 405 BRT and East Link, I guess the 566 would be truncated to Auburn-Bellevue or Auburn-Renton.

      4. Actually, the Metro LRP has the 566 and 567 staying exactly the same. I think they do need to feed into the BRT spine, given how many people are going south on 167 as compared to west on 405/516. You’re right, though, you’d expect them to be truncated to Bellevue.

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