Whether you think of park and ride lots as a necessary service for suburban transit or a sprawl-inducing evil, we can hopefully agree that maximizing utilization of existing parking capacity near transit is a good thing.
With that idea in mind, WSDOT conducted an interesting evaluation of park and rides (via KIRO). They visited 17 lots in the Seattle region and interviewed riders. The results won’t surprise you: Most lots are full by 8am, almost everyone drives alone to get there, and almost everyone is going to work.
There were some interesting bits in the rider survey however: 46% of respondents were willing to pay for a “guaranteed” spot at the lot, but only 28% were willing to pay for a general spot in the lot. If people are going to be asked to pay for something that used to be free, they want something in return.
The survey recommendations include some ideas around incentivizing carpooling to park and rides. The initiative is laudable, and Sound Transit is working on something similar, but it’s hard enough to get people to carpool, even all the way to work. Going through the hassle of organizing a carpool just to get to a bus stop seems like a lot of effort for little return. It seems like a better idea to just charge for spaces and let people organize a carpool if they want to save money.
Whatever program takes hold, increasing the utilization and/or revenue generation from park and rides is a good thing. Folks will complain and threaten to just drive to work, but the reality is that a monthly spot in the Seattle CBD costs $288/month, the 7th most expensive in the country. Paying for parking and an ORCA card (assuming your employer doesn’t provide one) is still a better deal.