Angle Lake Parking (Sounder Bruce - Flickr)
Angle Lake Parking (Sounder Bruce – Flickr)

Though the light rail projects in Sound Transit 3 (ST3) took up most of the oxygen during the run-up to the Board vote to put the measure on the ballot, there was less public discussion about station access. Advocacy groups won $100m for a Station Access Fund (consisting of things like sidewalks, signalization, bicycle lanes and parking, and transit restructures), but lost their broader goal of parity between access funds for cars and all other modes. Parking still took the lion’s share of access funds, with $600-700m for vehicle parking.

So I thought I’d put together a map to visualize the extent of onsite, publicly provided parking at Link stations following a full ST3 buildout. Private paid parking (such as at Mount Baker) is not included, nor is nearby public parking that will likely see light rail use (such as Green Lake P&R for Roosevelt Station). ST3 would boost Link station-area parking by about 45%, adding roughly 8,300 new stalls (at $80,000 per space) to roughly 18,000 existing spaces from ST2, Sound Move, and other prior agency projects such as Northgate.

The resulting map comes with many caveats, first and foremost that final parking tallies are dependent on later project development and design considerations, and are thus subject to change. The map includes parking built prior to ST3 as well, such as at Tacoma Dome or Everett Station, so the map is intended to be a cumulative total rather than just ST3-funded projects. I’ve attempted to subtract net new stalls from existing totals, such as when a surface lot becomes a structured garage, but it’s likely I made some mistakes along the way.

The system we’d get would be similar to DC Metro in many respects, fully tunneled and zero parking in the urban core, fully traffic-separated, and with both poor land use and gobs of parking on the exurban periphery. Like DC Metro, there would be the occasional urban-ish station, such as Downtown Redmond. Unlike DC, we’d have historic cities (Everett/Tacoma) anchoring the ends of the lines. The scope of our Everett-Tacoma spine would be unprecedented, equal to straightening out DC’s Red Line and then doubling its length.

The dual nature of our system is clear from its parking provision, with a genuinely urban subway that becomes interurban, parking-fed commuter rail on the periphery. From a current or transitional land use perspective, this makes some sense. But it bodes poorly for the suburban TOD that is the main hope for filling the suburban trains off-peak.

Lastly, this further shows how parking fundamentally can’t scale. The 26,000 total parking stalls are less than just the ridership growth from ULink’s two stations. If every stall were taken and assuming 1.5 people per car, the resulting 40,000 people would be less than 10% of projected ridership. Those 40,000 riders would only fill 50 crushloaded 4-car trains, which at 6-minute headways on 3 lines would mean roughly 1.5 hours worth of capacity every morning per line, with lots still full as early as 7:30am.

Link Parking Map ST3-01

110 Replies to “Mapping ST3 Parking”

  1. Great map. I like how it shows there are actually two “urban” regions – obviously all the Seattle stations, plus central Bellevue. Some of these parking structures make sense – some stations serve areas where TOD is very difficult politically or geographically, and some (e.g. south Bellevue) are in residential areas that aren’t easily served by bus service.

    What is more disappointing, however, are stations that do have great TOD potential (and even great TOD plans!) but still have major parking. Issaquah and Lynnwood seem like big offenders here. Might be a necessary political compromise, though, to get the support of voters in those cities who know they will never live within the walkshed of the stations.

    1. >> I like how it shows there are actually two “urban” regions – obviously all the Seattle stations, plus central Bellevue.

      Good point.

    2. Three really – since Tacoma Link has zero parking whatsoever for its entire proposed length, aside from Tacoma Dome. Also, both Tacoma and Everett can be viewed as the end-of-the-line parking intended to serve travelers from the countryside.

      1. I like the point about parking at the end of the line – same for Issaquah and SE Redmond (since the line then curves back to Redmond town center).

        As for Tacoma, I think Tacoma Dome and Everett station more similar to each other than Seattle & Bellevue – they are very close to urban centers, but they stop just short. Here, adding parking causes two problems. One, it prevents the urban center from naturally extending towards the stations via TOD development. Second, it inhibits local access between the urban center and the station, though this second problem can be mitigated if bus/streetcars have direct access to the stations [In theory, Tacoma Link does this??].

        In the medium term (i.e. through ST3), these stations will be end of the line, so I’m OK with parking … but if/when Link is extended onwards, the parking should be redeveloped for TOD.

        If/when Link is extended north of Everett station, I would imagine the 2 or 3 stations to get to Everett CC would have zero parking, as that would be a fairly urban zone. Same for Tacoma, if Link extended into downtown Tacoma rather than towards Tacoma mall.

      2. I’ll second AJ’s points about TODs and pedestrian/bikeway access.
        Public parking can double its use with commercial development alongside housing.
        Devoting Link stations to parking reduces potential patronage and increases demand for rush-hour commuting; lost local development potential occurs elsewhere. Rule of thumb:
        Commute systems create more demand for commuting than they can handle.
        Conclusion: Link LRT will never meet meager US standards, nevermind worldclass Metro.
        And don’t pretend the idiotic Autonomous Self-driving clown car notion isn’t stupid.

    3. I’m really tired of everyone looking at light rail as merely a real estate tool instead of a viable way to get around. Forget TOD. Real estate should work around light rail, not light rail working around real estate.

      1. Exactly! Unfortunately the structure of the ST Board is such that everyone has there hand in the cookie jar. Worse is that most of the Taxpayer Oriented Development requires rezoning because the only way to site stations with large enough plots of land that developers can cash in on is to put them where it’s primarily light industrial or otherwise sparsely populated.

      2. You forgot the nimbys. Nimbys are extremely vocal about no growth in single-family areas, and they’re an even higher percentage in suburban cities than they are in Seattle, so politicians have a more real fear that they’ll be voted out of office if they upzone a single-family area. So they go to the industrial areas because there’s little opposition there. And it turns out that even though people think the suburbs are mostly bedroom communities, they actually have a lot of industrial and commercial land that people don’t notice. I doubt very many people in Bellevue realized how big the Spring District is. They thought, “It’s just the Coca-Cola plant, and the Safeway distribution center, and the bus barn. Not much of a district, just a few buildings.” And the extended area with its one-story businesses, well that’s just more suburbia so it’s invisible, people don’t realize what you could do with the land.

    4. Well, considering that the stations in issaquah and Lynnwood don’t open for awhile, maybe those parking lots will be changed into mixed use in the future. Isn’t angle lake being built with some sort of retail and plaza structure? Hopefully it sets a trend toward mixed use buildings… At any rate, Issaquah is already starting to develop like crazy within walking distance of the bus terminal there, so I don’t think we have to worry too much about it’s land use between now and 2041

  2. So frustrating, but I’m still having a hard time understanding why all this parking isn’t paid parking with the ORCA card. Making it paid (even with minimal payment levels) would make people value it (and evaluate whether they want to drive, get dropped off, walk, bike or take feeder buses). Plus, if it was only accessible with an ORCA card, it would keep freeloaders who want free parking for other purposes out. Plus, if the only nearby parking was paid, we’d be able to see what value that parking holds for nearby area residents, and we would see if private parking lots would be constructed to meet the real demand for parking (which probably wouldn’t get built at the price of parking). But with free parking, no one will ever come in to meet the demand (if there is any) or innovate with new solutions for the last mile, such as UBER Pool or its transit-line service. All things everybody here knows, but damn. I’m depressed.

    1. An idea to at least start out on this: Have parking be payable with the Orca card… and then offer a free “transfer” from the parking to the train. That way, people would either be paying or be using the parking for transit, Orca card adoption would be promoted, and it’d be easier to raise the price in the future above the basic train fare.

    2. Not necessarily. If the “free” parking fills up by 7 AM, there will still be plenty of incentive for the private sector to innovate.

      Where the free parking poses the biggest problem is actually on weekends. Not only is the amount of free parking essentially unlimited at every station, but people from further out will save time by driving into a station closer to town, rather than using the station closest to their home. For example, will people who will need to be in their cars anyway to access a station bother to ride the Issaquah line on a Saturday? Or will they just drive directly to South Bellevue P&R and hop on the train there?

      1. Any real-world examples of this? No “private innovation” (whatever the hell that means) has occurred for Sounder stations in the Valley nor TIBS despite clear demand and nearly a decade of being full by 7am. Or Lynnwood TC, MLTTC, etc. As usual, the government is the one expected to be the “innovator” here with large sums of taxpayer money because it makes little economic sense for a private firm to build a $50M garage with a 50+ year ROI.

      2. Mike, not totally true. Auburn recently set up a commuter parking program involving private lots located next to the station. No strictly “private innovation” but definitely a public/private partnership.

        That said, as long as parking is free, private innovation won’t happen. No business can compete with free.

      3. The private paid lots that exist are mostly underused lots in Rainier Valley. They’re either existing parking lots with empty spaces, or idle land converted to a temporary parking lot to make some side income. The owners don’t plan to keep them parking forever, they’re just waiting for a lucrative enough development deal.

        In the suburbs where everything has on-site parking and it’s hard to walk from one lot to another, there may not be adjacent lots suitable for a private surface P&R. Or the owner may believe he wouldn’t get enough money because drivers expect parking to be free. The reason paid parking works at a station is because it’s at the station: you don’t have to walk very far.

        And the owner certainly wouldn’t built structured multilevel parking: at $80,000 a space that’s a lot of money; they’d have to charge $10 a day to break even. Only a public agency that subsidizes it can build parking like that. The owner could doubtless make more profit building something else instead.

    3. I think a good process might be to sell monthly passes that guarantee a space before, say, 9am for $75/month. You would get a hang-tag on your car, so that a ST inspector can quickly walk through a garage at 8.45 to find violators.

      After 9am, parking is free. This means commuters (who fill up the garage) can depend on a parking space, and there is a price incentive to take transit/walk. But off peak people can use the garage as needed, boosting demand at these surbuban stations.

      Of course, if garages start filling up during other time periods, you would extend the hang tag time requirements.

    4. Great comment. Orca use, tied to transit use for the same trip ensures the parking is for the explicit purpose for which it is being built – TRANSIT
      I’d really like to see this adopted early on using existing parking so the number of protesters over losing their free spot is at a minimum.
      A side benefit to early adoption is that ST will get a better picture of what true parking demand is over the supply available. If for example S200th goes from 80% full to 50% full, then what an opportunity to downsize some of the 26,000 spots being built for ‘who knows who’.
      30% of 26,000 at $80,000 a pop is over a half billion.

    5. ST didn’t promise that the parking would be free, just that it would be there. It has a monthly morning guaranteed-space program like AJ describes, at a few lots for some of the spaces. It hasn’t ruled out other paid-parking schemes. 2030 (Tacoma) is 14 years away, 2036 (Everett) is 20 years, and 2041 (Issaquah) is 35 years. That’s plenty of time and board turnover to push for a more effective parking scheme, a rethinking of parking’s role compared to other priorities, and possible TOD conversion.

      Will people even drive cars in 2041? What kind of cars will they be? That’s a generation beyond the current notions of “solar cars” and “autonomous cars”. Maybe the growing popularity of transit will reach 1940s levels with frequent last-mile routes. If the public decides it wants it, it will demand it, and that’s certainly possible in the next 20 or 35 years. Also, as asdf2 said, Bellevue/Redmond will look much different, more like the U-District to Northgate as a vague comparison.

  3. If ST is going to spend this much money building parking at the stations, the very least they could is incorporate car sharing into their parking plans so that someone who doesn’t own a car can get something out of their “parking” tax dollars.

    1. +1. Worth pressing ST on. Why should “legacy car” owners have the only privilege, as legacy single-family homeowners are also demanding.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the parking being built at Northgate was a replacement for other parking being eliminated by the project. If that’s the case, the parking for Northgate should probably be zero, shouldn’t it?

    1. Zero net spaces, but still not zero total. Some of the P&R spaces, I believe, are shared with the mall, and are legally required according to contracts previously signed between Sound Transit and the Mall.

      1. Asdf2 the mall spaces are independent of transit parking. The mall required ST to reinstate surface parking impacted by construction in exchange for the property rights to build the garage underneath.

    2. Zach is showing total spaces at end of ST3, not just incremental. I think it’s the same for Eastgate – that’s the current number of spaces, no additions in ST2 or ST3

      1. Yeah, exactly. the only thing he didn’t include was nearby parking, such as Green Lake (which he mentioned). There is likely to be some parking close to NE 130th, for example, but very little (a church may allow its parking lot to be used in that manner).

  5. It would take a while, but it might be good to also include on the map the paid parking lots, as well as the parking lots that are public parking lots but not open to use by commuters.

    As an example, the 2,283 Tacoma Dome parking spaces are supplemented by:

    1216 spaces at The Overlook surface lot, but it is not open to parking except during events.

    187 spaces next door to the SoundTransit lot at Diamond Parking lot just east of the parking structure.

    155 spaces at a Diamond Parking lot two blocks west of the parking structure.

    66 spaces at a Republic Parking lot which is next door to the above Diamond Parking lot.

    ….and so on. There are areas that are awash in parking.

    It’s interesting that transit agencies have to be very careful about what types of special bus routes they have for schools due to protests from private bus operators, but private parking lot operators don’t seem to have issues with competition from publicly subsidized free parking lots.

  6. 26,000 parking stalls times $1 daily parking fee (with orca card and transit ride) what a deal! is $26k/day, Mon-Sat, half that on Sunday… that’s $170k/week and $9.1M/year. Sound Transit is missing a huge opportunity here. And that’s only light-rail. Extend that to express buses and Sounder and that could be close to $40M/year to speed up construction.

    I may write an article on Page 2 about Sound Transit leasing space at Link stations, even transit centers for buses, to businesses and stands/booths. There is so much unused space on the mezzanines at the UW and Capitol Hill stations, and it would encourage Sound Transit to build more intricate pedestrian tunnels at underground stations.

    1. Absolutely agree. You should be able to walk up to UW Station, see that your train doesn’t leave for 7 minutes, and grab a coffee at a stand there. They should go all out on this–small lunch stands, table/patio for cafes, etc. Letting businesses come into transit stations makes them more vibrant community hubs, rather than just functional movement zones. And that community vibe is badly needed at UW Station, with nothing of note nearby other than a bus station, empty parking lot, major road, and empty stadium.

      1. A cafe would be an incredible amenity at UWS. Rumor has it there are even hookups on the Mezz level to accommodate such a thing! (Walk in the area between the two escalator banks) However, after the years of finding a developer willing to put up with ST’s requirements for Capitol Hill Station’s TOD, I could imagine the requirements for such a coffee vendor would be…lengthy.

    2. Russian subway stations have clusters of kiosks around them, and they function like convenience stores and street food. People stop for groceries and errands on the way home from work, so it’s very convenient. The prices are higher than in larger dedicated markets, but again it’s convenience. Germany takes this a step further with a real supermarket at main train stations.

      1. Yes yes, but is the food organic and sustainability grown? Are the workers happy and in the appropriate union? Are nearby businesses offended by the potential competition? Has a full EIS-level study been performed? Was that 4th round of public outreach really enough? Should we delay for no particular reason in case we’re moving too fast?

        These are all important questions to consider before making such bold moves; like selling coffee at a train station.

      2. Those German train-station supermarkets have a huge competitive advantage: in general German stores are closed on Sundays, but there is an exception for stores in train stations and airports in order to serve travelers as Sunday is a busy travel day.

        Station supermarkets get a lot of local customers on Sundays – in Berlin I saw dozens of people lined up to get into a grocery store!

    3. Except the cost to collect and process $1 a day will cost sound transit more than $1.

      This parking nonsense is garbage and is why I reject this Frankenstein system ST is proposing.

      1. You reject transit mobility because it has too much parking? I look at the mobility itself, how much it helps a carless person.

      2. Yes, but the parking is really just a sign of the overall stupidity of the package. In short, it won’t do much for transit mobility (for a carless person or one with a car) but it looks great on paper.

      3. Sure, the suburban extensions are car oriented (at least right now, Metro, Community & Pierce transit would set up some great feeder bus systems) but what about the urban Seattle and Bellevue stations? Especially in Seattle, ST3 + Metro’s long range plan equals a pretty damn good transit system that would totally serve a carless person.

      4. Sure, QARider, but Metro’s long-range plan does almost all the heavy lifting there. It’d be pretty good just by itself; add in a busway from the West Seattle Junction to downtown, and it’d be great.

      5. Metro’s long-range plan is still unfunded. It depends on a future countywide tax or funding by the cities. But it does do a good job of filling in between Sound Transit as it should.

      6. Exactly, Mike. But what I’m pointing out is that we don’t need ST3 for Metro’s LRP to do a great job all by itself. Sure, it could be improved – say, by SDOT finally realizing that Rapid Ride + should mean “rapid” – but that stands or falls almost completely separate from ST3.

    4. Leasing spaces is a great idea – I believe that Capitol Hill’s TOD is slated to get a “market” where there will hopefully be a variety of places to shop at on the way home (in addition to the existing neighborhood businesses of course), but as Henry notes there is nothing at all normally available around Husky Stadium.

      I rode one of the lines on the Santiago Metro out to its terminus a couple of months ago; the subway station was located in a California-feeling, suburban, mostly single-family area–gas stations and all. The station had been designed to house a full restaurant/coffee shop on one of its mezzanines including interior seating; it was open even in the evenings (Chileans love their savory pastries!). In Brazil, Rio has several stations with quite a number of small, lockable kiosks on mezzanines and along underground passageways. There’s no reason we can’t add plans for this sort of thing during the design at future stations where this may be warranted. I assume the various transit agencies make money on these leases, or they wouldn’t do it.

      (as an aside, when the DSTT was in design in the early ’80s, I brought this idea up as a HS student attending transit advisory council meetings. While the comments made the EIS, Metro said they were unlikely to accommodate such things due to the additional cleanup required. I hope this attitude changes, particularly as ST can likely make a bit of money as well as have additional “eyes” in stations adding to the feeling of security.)

      1. The downtown stations are already dirty. Having a few kiosks would, in a sense, force what whatever entity is supposed to be cleaning them to actually clean them.

      2. My guess for the Husky Stadium station is any vendor would have to be a UW affiliated vendor like in some of the buildings around central campus (the cafe/mini mart in Suzzallo Library for example).

  7. A few years while staying near Huntingdon Stn,, the southern most station of WMATA’s
    Yellow Line in Alexandria, Va, parking users have to have a Smartlink (Orca) to exit the lot.

    Here in Metro Vancouver, Translink,, except for 2 park n rides, do not provide parking for
    transit users. All Canada Line and Skytrain stations are pedestrian accessible.

    1. The northern terminus of the WMATA Green Line is like that as well. I was picked up last year by a friend who didn’t realize that but fortunately I had my SmarTrip card.

  8. “ST3 would boost Link station-area parking by about 45%, adding roughly 8,300 new stalls (at $80,000 per space)”

    $80k is an absurd of money per parking space. I don’t think I’ve seen a per-space cost quoted that high in Seattle. When you consider that most of these garages are above ground (i.e. cheaper), not underground, that figure looks even worse.

    How does ST spend so much money? Is it all land acquisition?

    1. 1. Parking structures are expensive. Mortenson Development is building a 600 stall parking structure in Portland for $26 million, or $43,000 per space, and I believe that the land is owned by the convention center across the street.

      2. The number is a budget number for the next 25 years. Other than electronic equipment, prices for pretty much everything goes up over time.

      1. Electronic equipment goes up over time because electric standards tend to change very slowly. So you’re stuck buying equipment that hasn’t changed in 25 years, that only one company bothers to make, and only because they can keep jacking up the price.

    2. That’s 8,300 units of homeless housing that could be built instead. And they probably wouldn’t cost $80,000 each. And you could build in the driveways so that’s twice as much space per unit.

      1. Why bother building in the driveway? Just buy 16,600 Mini Winnebagos for the same amount and house all the homeless – utilities included.

    3. $80k is an absurd of money per parking space.

      Yeap. 2X at least the normally exorbitant price paid for structured transit parking. It’s hard to believe that it wouldn’t be cheaper initially to buy more land for surface parking. Long term it’s a no brainer because the land can be sold at a profit without demolishing the H-U-G-E sunk cost parking structure. It’s also cheaper to maintain surface lots. So much money, so little transit.

  9. Why can’t affordable housing be incorporated into these? Add 5 floors of housing on top of that Angle Lake garage!

    1. Angle Lake is almost finished, but the other lots haven’t been designed yet and ST says it’s promoting TOD now, so maybe it could. It’s thinking of housing on surplus land around the station, but why not on top of the parking garages too? The limiting factor in some Seattle sites is that the tunnel roof wasn’t designed for the weight of a multistory building. But that wouldn’t apply to new structures built on surface parking lots for an elevated train.

    2. Brian, the garage is in fact built to support future development over it and some of the parking decks to be turned over when it happens. The only questions are a matter of what type of development (housing, hotel, etc) and FAA limitations on height since the station is in the flight path.

      1. Interesting. Do you have a link? All I can find is a reference to 35,000 sq ft of adjacent land for future TOD.

      2. I’ll see what I can fish out. The station will open with over 1K spaces but will decrease with TOD down to about 750 spaces after development happens.

      3. … and the line is extended to more P&Rs so Angle Lake won’t be hosting parking for the entire area south of it.

  10. Does ST have statistics on how riders currently access suburban ST Express, Sounder, and Link stations? What’s the existing mode breakdown between people who transfer to/from a local bus, drive and park, are dropped off, bike, or walk?

    1. This back of the envelope calculation should get you pretty close.
      10% by auto using parking facilities. (From the article)
      70% by bus, using 1.7 factor of all trips being linked using both bus and rail. (EIS)
      Balance of 20% split between bike, walk, cab, gyrocopters, gondolas and lost people just returning.

  11. What most surprises me is that land is so cheap in the suburbs that governments and corporations can literally throw it away with parking lots and five-lane arterials and access ramps and open space. This would not happen in Japan or Hong Kong. It’s cheap enough that malls like Southcenter and the big-box stores around it can treat parking as a cost of doing business rather than prohibitively expensive. And the vision of SOV-dependent America is so entrenched that the public puts high priority on it, rather than on the shops and housing and parks that could be there instead.

    1. Mike, keep in mind that in most jurisdictions in Washington, parking is mandatory. They couldn’t get rid of it if they wanted to.

    2. If the mandatory parking were so expensive to build that the chain stores couldn’t afford it while charging their customary prices, then they would tell the city they can’t do business there and the city would change the policy because of the jobs and tax base.

      1. But all the chain stores have the same parking requirements, so they all have the same price inflation. This is definitely a case when introducing some competition (no parking mandates) would help.

      2. They’re not only competing with each other, they’re also competing with what people are willing to pay. If people think something costs more than it’s worth, or if they can’t afford it, then they won’t buy it.

    3. That’s the nature of suburbs. Japan and Hong Kong are unusual in that they are very compact. Much of Europe is that way, too, although you can still find plenty of places that aren’t. Head out far enough from Paris and you can get a lot of cheap land.

      Which is why building a big parking lot as your metro gets to the suburbs is not a crazy idea. Less density means cheaper land which all makes sense for a big parking lot. What doesn’t make sense is to spend a huge amount of money to keep going. If you are building multiple park and rides on the same line, chances are you are doing it wrong.

  12. For the Boeing Access Road parking structure, which is on the edge of Seattle and will be a huge demand, 300 stalls is a joke. It either needs to be 0 or 3,000, preferably the former.

    1. The problem as the article points out is these parking stalls are never able to meet demand. As they can’t scale out fast enough.

      So what we are doing here is throwing money into the toilet in order to appease these motorists and get the st3 to pass.

      I think its a bit of a scam to have to help these people continue their ridiculous expensive lifestyle. At the expense of people who made the sacrifices.

      1. +1

        The design/siting of the station at N 145th (actually 147th now) is due to and oriented towards a parking structure that will typically serve 750 passengers per day and will likely fill up prior to 8am.

        The saddest part of this, aside from a transit agency paying to construct and operate private vehicle storage rather than letting the market handle it, is that moving the station two blocks north eliminates a direct transfer to any crosstown bus service on 145th–just to store those 500 cars. (The 522 will terminate there but should have continued on 145th to Shoreline without having to detour two blocks north.)

    2. 300 spaces is a token number. That way it won’t become Tacoma’s secret Link P&R as asdf2 is predicting. People from Tacoma and Federal Way and Auburn will assume it’s full, and that might even free up some spaces for its primary purpose, the scattered houses near it that don’t have a nearby bus route.

  13. Great map, that really illustrates the situation. I would love to see similar maps of other transit systems (including DC). In general, a lot of the parking is the result of old lots in areas that can’t be used for other purposes (e. g. the Green Lake park and ride) or rules that prohibit conversion, years after the area has become urban (e. g. Northgate). But large suburban parking lots are also very common. I think you can make a decent case for adding substantial parking at the terminus.

    But multiple big lots, stretching out for miles, should raise some red flags. Not only about the lots, but the stations themselves. Looking at the map, a few things jump out at me:

    Every station to the south of SeaTac will have a lot of 500 cars or more. This pretty much confirms what a lot of people have said. This is not an urban area, and not an area where light rail will be effective. Not that many people will take a trip from Fife to Kent/Des Moines, even though the map suggests that is the most urban pairing in that section. It is a commuter rail trip pattern, but folks are trying to build a light rail line (with its high cost and inherit disadvantages) into that area.

    Oddly enough, the north end (after Lynnwood) is not like that. No parking at Paine Field or Evergreen. but a big parking lot (second biggest of the system) at Everett. This implies that those two stops are the urban ones, and will anchor the extension. I seriously doubt it, but nice try.

    East Link is interesting. Mercer Island and especially South Bellevue have big lots. These are classic “on the way” destinations. They wouldn’t warrant much effort, but since they are on the way, you might as well add a station. Since you added a station, you might as well add a big parking lot. It is just unfortunate geography that the more urban area is farther along (the next several stops). The last extension into downtown Redmond is interesting. It is easy to guess that Redmond was the original terminus.

    Perhaps the biggest thing it confirms is the absurdity of the Issaquah to South Kirkland line.Three of the four new stops have big parking lots. The map isn’t to scale, or you wonder why in the world we are building the Issaquah station. Eastgate from Eastgate to issaquah doesn’t make sense. If you want a suburban terminus (with a big parking lot), then why not terminate at Eastgate? If Issaquah is a big city — the next downtown Bellevue — then why build a giant parking lot? As you said, the parking lots won’t scale. Worse yet, ridership will be largely dependent on them, which means that much of our investment in transit infrastructure will be a waste.

    1. I’d trade all that South King and Pierce parking for a Tacoma Mall station.

    2. No parking at Paine Field or Evergreen. but a big parking lot (second biggest of the system) at Everett. This implies that those two stops are the urban ones, and will anchor the extension.”No parking at Paine Field or Evergreen. but a big parking lot (second biggest of the system) at Everett. This implies that those two stops are the urban ones, and will anchor the extension.”

      Of course it’s not the lack of parking that makes a station urban, it’s the concentration of people and activities around it. Renton TC could be made more urban not by eliminating the garage but by increasing the amount of walkable businesses and housing in the blocks around it. Then the TC wouldn’t be so empty with only one or two people waiting at a time.

      Everett asked for an extension to downtown Everett and Everett Community College, so there’s your urban stations. It didn’t get into ST3 because of cost and the Paine Field priority, but it would probably come back in ST4.

      What the P&Rs really show is the post-WWII areas that are built with car dependency. I still think light rail to a string of suburban P&Rs is better than nothing or the existing buses which are less frequent, spend time detouring into bus bays, and only go to one or two places. It’s not necessary but it’s not useless either.

      Issaquah Link is absurd. But it’s not like the mayor of Issaquah doesn’t know his residents have cars, yet he’s still keen on Issaquah Link anyway. That tells me that the line is mostly about attracting businesses and residents to Issaquah’s urban center and the rest of the city. When the population of Bellevue and Redmond has increased significantly and there’s less land there for more housing, then it won’t look as absurd.

      1. The light rail station in smack in the middle of Issaquah’s official PSRC growth center. It’s a bet that the growth center actually exists come 2040. As long as the eastside economy doesn’t tank, it should be another Spring District in 20 years.

      2. Good point on Renton, Mike. It would be interesting to see this same map with the two BRT lines included.

      3. >> As long as the eastside economy doesn’t tank, it [Issaquah Station] should be another Spring District in 20 years.

        Which is why it is ridiculous that they are building a park and ride with 1400 spaces. That is my point. Somehow the area will suddenly become extremely urban, but at the same time it will remain suburban (with huge numbers of people arriving by car to the station). Meanwhile, I wonder what plans they have for local bus service to the area. Are they going to add lots of BAT lanes on the surface? Now would be the time to do so, as it is much cheaper than building it later.

        My guess is none of them believe any of that. The area will remain much as it is now. Of course it will grow. Areas like Bitter Lake and Rainier Beach will finally grow by then. But neither will look like South Lake Union, and I don’t think planners believe otherwise. They are just making plans that sound great to folks who don’t dig into the details, even if they are contradictory.

      4. >> I still think light rail to a string of suburban P&Rs is better than nothing or the existing buses which are less frequent,

        Less frequent? Tacoma to Seattle buses run every five minutes. Besides, it would be dirt cheap to add frequency to all the express buses (much cheaper than running the trains more often). With almost all the stations, you still have to get to them. Very few people will walk to them, which is why the frequency of the connecting buses as well as the frequency of Link itself is critical. I very much doubt that the combination will be better than if the train was truncated in higher demand areas.

        >> spend time detouring into bus bays,

        As opposed to detouring into train stations?

        >> and only go to one or two places.

        Which are the only two places people want to go. Without a doubt there are trade-offs. Let’s say instead of extending Link, we improve bus service and bus infrastructure from, say, Lynnwood to Everett. Now folks trying to get from Mariner to Ash Way have to go all the way to Lynnwood, or take some sort of local. The trade-off is that folks from Everett, Mariner and Ash Way, along with buses that serve the neighborhoods along the way get a straight shot right to Lynnwood. The vast majority of riders would take that trade.

        Evergreen and Paine Field are different. This is why I find it interesting that they don’t have park and rides. I agree, there isn’t a one to one correspondence, but it is pretty close. The Everett station is not urban, and at the very least, folks are hoping that the other two become that. But those connections (Evergreen to Paine Field, Everett TC to Evergreen) are much better served with Swift, a service that connects to a lot more stops (including ones with more density).

        Of course we can theorize all we want. The simple fact is that no one, anywhere, has had success with this sort of system. This time it might be different, but I see no reason why.

      5. “Less frequent? Tacoma to Seattle buses run every five minutes. Besides, it would be dirt cheap to add frequency to all the express buses (much cheaper than running the trains more often).”

        Peak hours. Off-peak the 594 is half-hourly. When I travel to Tacoma it’s usually off-peak, so the peak frequency doesn’t help at all. The agencies are more willing to run trains frequently than buses. No bus route has Link’s frequency full time, and only a few routes have its midday frequency.

        “(much cheaper than running the trains more often)”

        The train makes several stops along the way so it’s like several bus routes simultaneously. It’s more economic than all those routes, and many of those routes don’t exist at all so you either have to spend an hour meandering on one or two local buses or there’s no transit to it.

        >> [Express buses] only go to one or two places. Which are the only two places people want to >> go. ”

        The only two places you want to go. Lots of people want to go from Snohomish County to Northgate or 85th or Lake City to go somewhere in north Seattle but there’s no express bus that does so. You have to take some combination of the 347 or the E and a CT route, and maybe the 330 too if it’s running, and it would take so long people give up on it as unrealistic. I’ve had three jobs in north Seattle and all of them had colleagues from Lynnwood and Everett and I wanted to recommend transit to them but the itineraries were so ridiculous they’d never do them.

    3. I’d trade a terminus at Eastgate if ST provides really good bus service from Issaquah TC, Issaquah historical center, and Issaquah Highlands. A good bus turnaround/layover facility at Eastgate [freeway lid?], a new bus only lane on I90 between Eastgate & the Highlands, and bus-only on ramps at exits 13, 15, 17 & 18 will do the trick.

      Ballard to Eastgate seems like a reasonable light rail line, eh?

      1. But that would mean a 3-seat bus ride from Issaquah to anywhere in Seattle. That’s too much.

      2. @asdf2 — Not really. Highlands to Eastgate/Bellevue College would be one stop. Highlands to everywhere else would be no worse (two stop to downtown Bellevue, three stop to downtown Seattle). All of these would likely be a lot more frequent. It would be tough to justify running the trains from Issaquah to Bellevue very often. There are miles and miles of track, with only one (or at most, two) stops after Eastlake. There are very few riders as well. Buses, on the other hand, are much cheaper to run. A train that only went back and forth between Eastgate and Kirkland would run more often, which means making the transfer there is much better than making it in Issaquah.

        But you are right. Some people would come out on short end of the stick. From the main Issaquah station to anywhere is an extra trip. You could easily poor the savings from not extending the rail out that far into service if you felt like it (or make other infrastructure improvements).

        Not that I think any of that is a great idea. The best system for that area (and areas like that) is one based on bus service. Build a busway from Eastgate to downtown Bellevue or South Bellevue. The first would give you one seat rides from various parts of Issaquah (and Lake Sammamish) to downtown Bellevue. The second would give you a very efficient (and thus very frequent) connection to Link either direction. You might end up with both, of course.

      3. @AJ — Ballard to Eastgate is a lot more reasonable than most of what ST is considering. But that says more about the crazy nature of their proposals than it does the promise of that line.

        First off, Ballard to the UW would make for a great line. It has everything you want in a light rail line (urban, compact, great bus interaction, faster than driving all day long). Ideally it would go from 24th NW to the Brooklyn station. Every stop would have lots of riders, with every combination being popular.

        But beyond there it gets really complicated and expensive. A tunnel or another bridge over the lake is ridiculously expensive (as cool as it would be). Going on top of 520 is the only practical way, and isn’t cheap either. How exactly do you get there, while adding value? The cheap answer is to interline, and then branch again at Husky Stadium. Even that is very messy. That means spending a bunch of money without adding any stations. You could probably add a second line that curves around the UW, and followed Montlake Boulevard. But we rarely do cut and cover anymore, so that would also be extremely expensive, and at best we add one station, at 45th and Montlake Boulevard. While this might make things better for buses, there really isn’t a lot there (a mall and a lot of open land owned by the university). Even for buses, I don’t think it saves them much time. The bus would still go the campus, which means it continues on its current route. It might save folks a couple minutes, but there are much cheaper ways to do so.

        But the big problem is the rest of it. There just aren’t many good stations along the way. South Kirkland Park and Ride is just that, which makes it a very weak station. Everything else is built already. Of course you want good connections, but building miles and miles of track to add connections (without good stops along the way) is not a very good value.

        The best approach is the one you outlined. Lots of bus-only ramps, along with similar infrastructure improvements. A lot of it exists already. This is one of the best corridors of the state as far as bus service is concerned. There are lots of great bus stops (with bus only lanes) and one of the few places where buses run in HOV-3 lanes (not HOV-2). But there are a lot of improvements that need to be made. The top priority is in Montlake. If we are going to consider spending enormous sums connecting 520 with Husky Stadium Station for a train, then we can connect the two for a bus. The same is true for connecting downtown Bellevue with westbound 520. Building ramps for buses is a lot cheaper than ramps for trains. Likewise Eastgate to downtown Bellevue along with places farther east (as you mentioned). Much of the work has already been done. I would also add ramps in the other direction (southbound 405 to westbound 520) unless folks decide to finally add buses to the Cross Kirkland Connector. The result is something like BRISK: Buses running from various neighborhoods to a shared fast corridor, making a few stops which connect to Link or popular destinations.

        None of this is cheap. Not by a long shot. But it is a lot cheaper than building a long train line, and a lot more effective. You enable a lot more direct connections, while still getting fast and frequent connections along the shared corridor.

      4. @asdf2 – yes, but the Highlands are way out there. People understand it’s a long way to Seattle, and many people who live there rarely go to Seattle. It’ll be a bummer for daily commuters, but such is the life of living in the far suburbs.

        @RossB – ST will run buses between UW and Bellevue, and really the only missing piece of infrastructure you describe is direct access between 405 & 520 HOV lanes … the freeway stations on the way have been built, and Montlake lid will have HOV ramps. This is the infrastructure we’ll be relying on for the next ~30 years. Can I say we’re getting BRISK, but with normal bus routes, not BRT.
        We can lobby WSDOT for direct access ramps at the 405-520 interchange and the 405-90 interchange, but those are WSDOT projects, not ST projects.

        However, there is going to be demand for a rail crossing. Maybe ST will study it and decide, nah, the 520 bridge + 522 BRT is sufficient. But people love their rail, and if U District & Bellevue grow into legit urban centers, a rail connection will be required in the future.

        Any rail project will be expensive, both cross the lake and building the series of underground stations in Seattle; if it gets built, it will be the signature project in a whole new funding package. The section from Eastgate to Issaquah is likely the cheapest part of the corridor.

      5. Ruminations on how to cross 520:

        There is going to be a big push to cross around downtown Kirkland (aka the Sandpoint crossing). This make sense from an Eastside perspective, as you run the line from South Kirkland to Kirkland TC (maybe 1 stop on the way) before crossing the lake on a new bridge/tunnel. Very expensive.
        Other option is to cross at 520, and South Kirkland station then becomes the bus transfer stations for much of Kirkland, via ERC bus lanes or city streets. This is still great for Kirkland as you should be able to get dependable 2-seat rides to both UW & Bellevue w/o a bus needing to interface with 520 or 405.

        On the other side of the lake, I would love to interline with U Link but I don’t think the stations are designed for that. You can go under U-District perpendicularly, similar to the new Westlake station
        …. heading to Sandpoint is a pretty logical 3 station placement (U Village, Hospital, Sandpoint) before crossing the lake
        … heading for a 520, I think a clever idea would be similar to Mount Baker – have a portal then immediately an elevated station at 25th Ave and NE 45th, and then head down Montlake in an elevated line. A new elevated station directly on top of the Husky Stadium stations, and then a station at the Montlake lid before heading across 520 to South Kirkland station.

      1. Thanks. That map is helpful, as it is interactive (you can click on a station and see the amount of parking). But even then, it takes a couple steps (and the map is tiny). It still isn’t as easy to read (for this purpose) as the one that Zach did. A lot of people have put together Google My Map versions of subway systems, include the DC Metro. But none of them (that I’ve looked at) include parking. It wouldn’t be that hard to do (just add that to the description for the station). In many ways, that gives you the full picture. Schematics are great, but unless you know the area, it is hard to figure out the distances. In this case, with Zach’s map, the size of the bubbles actually makes it a bit more accurate. Even then, though, it isn’t quite right. Redmond looks a lot farther away from Bellevue than Issaquah (it even looks farther east) when in reality it is substantially closer.

        Your point about DC charging for parking is a good one. From what I can tell, there is no free parking for the Metro there.

  14. Can we begin to talk about drop-off/ pick-up rather than park-ride? Park-ride gets discussed here often but this other access market is summarily ignored.

    Text messaging, Uber, Lyft and car sharing are growing this access method rapidly. We need to discuss this and not discuss park-ride again.

    It’s a looming and immediate issue. SeaTac is backed up several hours a day, Cars are sitting at existing Link stations waiting for people. BART is seeing a similar real spike in drop-off and pick-up activity and its share higher at big park-ride stations than even park-ride is . The ST2 stations have horrible designs to address this; people will be in the middle of intersections jumping in and out of cars.

    It’s also an issue that can be undertaken with direct actions. Park-ride projects are developed over long periods of time. STB can either discuss and force the drop-off and pick-up issue to get changed for rider convenience and safety or academically ponder one more time about parking.

    1. This is a great point. Today’s airports are probably about the limit of what can be done with pick-up and drop-off areas. Older suburbs with commuter train stations that aren’t in major through-traffic areas can get away with some pick-up/drop-off area overflow, because the streets are walkable and street parking is generally available. A lot of our stations are going to be in places where all the car space is pretty heavily programmed, and the street network isn’t particularly walkable or legible. So the stakes for really getting pick-ups and drop-offs right are raised.

    2. One solution: How about allocating some of this suburban parking to work like a cell phone lot — with a 15 minute parking maximum and clearly signed spaces for that purpose? Right now, drop-off and pick-up is treated as merely a curbside concept and that’s completely missing the mark.

  15. Can ST hit some of it’s parking commitments with leased surface lots, rather than parking structures? That would allow it to legally meet it’s commitments and provided needed spaces, but surface lots can be much more easily developed into TOD in the future.

  16. Imagine if anyone proposed a $700m network of top notch, exclusive-lane feeder bus service. Nobody can imagine taking a bus to the train because nobody can imagine great service to where they live. It should have been presented to the public as an option.

    1. Amen, but if Seattle can’t get the Roosevelt HCT corridor done right, I’m not optimistic about ST building bus lanes in Federal Way.

      1. If Seattle had 700 million to play around with, they could have got the Roosevelt HCT corridor right. Besides, building bus lanes to Federal Way has far fewer issues (building busways is very similar to building railways, which is something ST does quite a bit).

    2. Federal Way already has bus lanes on 99 for RapidRide A. The suburbs generally have wide streets and room to expand, so it’s not as difficult for them to install transit lanes. Swift has transit lanes in Snohomish County, and Shoreline has full BAT lanes for its part of RapidRide A. Phoenix’s light rail also has its own lanes in the middle of the street I’ve heard. The problem in Seattle is the streets are narrow, there’s more competing demand for them, and a minimum amount of car thorougput they want to preserve (two lanes or four lanes). For instance, Market Street coming up the west side of Phinney Ridge has two lanes one direction and one the other. If you converted two lanes to transit lanes, there would be only one car lane one direction, and for the other direction cars would have to go several blocks out of the way because there are no adjacent through streets or places to put them.

      And the Aurora Avenue landowners are particularly backward: they advertise “Aurora is an inexpensive auto-oriented place in the city; it’s easy to park free and shop in Aurora” and they want to keep it that way. Never mind that Shoreline is much more enlightened.

      1. Yeah, exactly. Also keep in mind that the budget for Seattle’s RapidRide+ is very small. So you really can’t expect any new tunnels, for example. Plus most corridors are not next to existing freeways, which means that even if they had the budget, building elevated would be very hard politically. With few exceptions, you have to go underground or on the ground. Sometimes that can work out great, but other times it doesn’t. There are places in Seattle where it can work out well, but there are more places like that in the suburbs.

  17. Does anyone know why sound transit doesn’t lease space at link stations for coffee, snacks and magazines? Seems like an easy revenue source that is untapped. Not that you could count on it in forecasts but it could pay off bonds faster an accelerate projects especially with the number of stations being planned.

  18. I would still keep those big parking structures but use those to fulfill any minimum parking requirements for development within a half mile of each station.

  19. For the cost of all of those parking spaces in Federal Way-Kent, I’ll bet they could really beef up actual frequent reliable bus service in this area. Quite disappointing. No, instead, they’ll stick us with winding bus routes that meander slowly through the neighborhoods, once per hour, every thirty minutes during peak.

    1. South King County went through a couple restructures in the past five years. The long, slow, winding routes from downtown to Highline CC are gone. Now there are routes from Southcenter and Kent and Burien in all directions to neighboring cities, and they’re mostly 30 minutes weedays & Saturdays, 60 minutes evenings and Sundays.

      1. Mike,

        That’s great for residents in central King County. South King (south of SR 516) is still stuck with service that is less than 5% of what Seattle gets.

        Winding service in a neighborhood near me:

        My own neighborhood gets peak-only service on 40-minute headways, on a Pierce Transit Route, funded by the City, not by PT or Metro.

        Algona & Pacific get this pathetic route (one route shared between two cities):

        Edgewood, Milton, and the south third of Federal Way don’t even get routes from King County, despite being in King County. They have to rely on Pierce Transit with routes that operate on 60 minute headways during weekdays.

        I’m sick of getting lip service from the county, as if we don’t exist. We are paying taxes for service that we don’t receive. Supplementing transit service in de-facto urban and suburban areas would be far more efficient than park and rides, once we also account for the individual cost of car maintenance, and the cost to maintain and expand roads incurred be each individual municipality.

      2. It’s a game of definitions. Does “routes from King County” mean that King County is driving or does is mean that the route come from there. No for the first, yes for the second, since the Pierce routes all go to Federal Way transit center.

        And let’s not forget that Tacoma is really a different city from Seattle. The only place that urban Tacoma touches urban Seattle is NE Tacoma at Federal Way, and even that is very low density suburbs.

      3. OK, south of downtown Auburn and Federal Way is bad. But that’s the very south edge of the county beyond the last commercial centers where few people live. Metro’s restructure focused on connecting the commercial centers. The 180 tail is especially bad. I’d really like to straighten it out but I don’t know enough about the area’s travel patterns and low-income apartments to say whether moving it off K and M streets is justified, or if it could do K or M all the way. Perhaps two routes would be best there, one on A and one on M?

        Looking at Metro’s long-range plan, the 180 and 917 corridors look the same, with no other service around them. Perhaps that’s worth giving Metro feedback on. In Federal Way south of 320th, there’s a 15-minute route to northeast Tacoma and four 30-minute routes to Dash Point, northeast Tacoma, Milton/Puyallup, and southeast FW. It looks like good coverage for FW although I don’t know the area.

      4. I live in a subdivision of around 8,000 people in SE Auburn, probably the same one where Engineer lives. There’s a bus that runs down to the Sounder Station for the Sounder train for regular runs, and that’s it.

  20. on a directly related note:

    as a north king resident, I’m looking at the SR522-BRT project in ST3 — and especially for it’s plan to build three 300-stall parking structures (in Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, & Bothell) by 2024.


    I’m trying to wrap my head around the probable/potential size/shape of a “300-stall parking structure”…..

    Anyone have any good links to share? I’ve been searching online with little luck so far….

    extra points for any articles and/or visuals that show how to make the most (or at least best mitigate the negatives) of parking garages.


  21. @Zach, so we’re spending $600 million for 3.3% of projected ridership?

    Also, could you break this down a little further into the subareas of what expenditure for percent of projected ridership per subarea? The argument that suburban leaders & average folks is that big parking garages are necessary in their communities otherwise the light rail stations & commuter stations won’t serve them. So if we could analyze the percent of projected ridership, the cost to achieve the ridership via parking, and the opportunity costs, that’d be really helpful for advancing this discussion in a positive manner with our sub/ex-urban friends.

  22. Great map!
    Its my understanding that there will be lots of parking built in other areas not on the link, including Sounder stations, and cities like woodinwille, renton, tacoma. It would be interesting to see an expanded map for all the proposed ST3 parking structures, both at Link stations and beyond. The only fixed thing some cities and areas are getting from ST3 is parking garages.

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