One of the most practical objections to agency-built parking is that it is a very expensive way to lure a rider to the system. The tens of thousands of dollars spent to build a space could fund other capital improvements that would also build ridership, while using the land more intensively would cost nothing and also bring riders.
Metro’s new Multifamily Park & Ride program is an attempt to address those issues while also connecting Metro with more of the voters that pay for the service, at least those don’t have good options besides their car. Funded by a $543,900 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) grant and Metro staff time, the program will change the agency’s role from providing parking to connecting riders with under-used, privately owned parking spaces near frequent transit. The total cost is $777,000 including the contributed staff time.
The first lots will open in the first quarter of 2017. Multi-family and mixed-use (at least partly residential) buildings must have at least 20 spaces and be within 1/4 mile of a frequent (every 15 minutes or less) transit line or an existing park-and-ride.
According to Project Manager Daniel Rowe, although Metro wants the price to compare favorably with driving and parking downtown, there are no formal limits on parking rates and there is no direct subsidy to reduce parking costs. “There are more challenges involved with managing daily parking so most properties offering parking in this pilot program will probably offer monthly parking,” Rowe said, but they “would like to have at least one property offer daily transit parking” to explore that more flexible business model in the pilot.
Residential lots are the target because that’s where spaces are available during commuter hours. Rowe added that “other types of parking (church, commercial, city owned) are being explored through our lease lot program.”
ORCA integration is not part of this project, but Rowe said “there is potential to integrate ORCA with our next generation work.”
Though this is not quite in Metro’s core mission of driving buses, the under-used parking spaces in apartment buildings are a product of bad zoning laws and market failure due to the difficulty of managing a parking program. Brokering a connection between parking supply and demand seems like a low-cost way to better use the region’s land while cheaply netting some new Metro riders in the process.