Every morning, dozens of riders board shuttle buses one block from Eastgate Park-and-Ride. All but a handful are coming from the parking garage, after storing their cars there for the day. This particular shuttle bus travels to Amazon’s Brazil building in South Lake Union. Other companies appear also to use suburban transit parking as pickup points. Unmarked white buses are frequently seen adjacent to other Eastside P&Rs.
A few riders arrive by bus. Absent direct shuttle service, many might take transit to work. So one may ask whether we should be concerned that publicly funded transit parking is being used by private transit services.
Maybe it depends on what we think these shuttle riders would do in the absence of shuttle buses. Would they use public transit, or drive to South Lake Union? Shuttle buses to South Lake Union are filling a gap in the transit market, albeit one Metro is endeavoring to serve.
At the same time, transit parking is expensive to build. At many locations, it is insufficient for demand. Utilization at Eastgate hovers near 100%, so shuttle riders may be displacing other transit users.
The wholesale parking market is increasingly competitive. Churches and other parking lot owners who have surplus parking on weekdays find it easy to lease space to nearby offices. Many office employers, squeezing more people into smaller spaces, use offsite parking and shuttles for employees. When Sound Transit went looking for parking in Bellevue to replace lost capacity at South Bellevue P&R, there were no nearby alternatives. Every lot in the area was already fully used. Residential neighborhoods near popular transit routes find an increasing number of ‘park-and-hide’ users.
Generally, we should welcome this. It means parking, on- and off-street, is being used more efficiently. The first step to moving beyond ubiquitous driving in the suburbs is to use existing parking more intensely.
But parking scarcity creates a search for less regulated parking. Where can I park for free without getting a ticket? Transit lots are lightly monitored and maybe more readily abused.