Federal Way Link Extension Route Image: Sound Transit

Sound Transit’s route to Federal Way is no longer just a vague line extending south from the Angle Lake Light Rail Station to residents attending an open house as the extension project moves into the pre-construction phase.

With design plans still developing for the stations, residents had little to react to during open houses hosted by Sound Transit last week. However, residents expressed concern about the accessibility of the stations and what they say is a lack of parking planned at each station. Comments included providing better bus service to the station and the need to build future parking adequate for the next 30 years.

Sound Transit plans to build parking at each station. At the Kent/Des Moines station, a 500-space garage is planned directly east of the station. A 1,100-space garage will replace a 600-space surface parking lot at the 272nd Street Station, and at the Federal Way Transit Center, Sound Transit is planning a second garage adding 400-spaces to the existing garage which currently holds roughly 1,200 cars.

Despite that the future Federal Way Station planned near the downtown area of the city, several residents doubted Federal Way could become a walkable city with the rainy weather.

With one resident commenting, “Sound Transit hasn’t planned for the people. They want us to be a walking city, but it’s the Pacific Northwest.” Another resident chimed in suggesting Sound Transit should make it easier for commuters to be dropped off at the station.

Several alignments were originally studied, with Sound Transit ultimately choosing to run the 7.8-mile extension from the Angle Lake Station along I-5 rather than following State Road 99. Near Highline College, the track will deviate west to reach the Kent/Des Moines station located adjacent to the college. The alignment will quickly return to I-5, continuing south along the highway with stops at 272nd and the Federal Way Transit Center.

A previous STB post details station plans and potential nearby development.

Similar to the Angle Lake Station, Sound Transit will eventually award a single contract for the design and construction of the extension. According to the agency, “the integration of design and construction services eliminates many opportunities for conflict” and “some stages of construction can begin while the design process is still in the development phase.”

“It’s efficiency not typically seen,” said Dan Abernathy, Executive Project Director of the Federal Way Link Extension Project. “The engineer understands what the contractor needs.”

He predicts the design-build approach, rather than the traditional design-then-bid-then-build method of project delivery, will shave at least six-months off the timeline of the project.

Abernathy said the design-build method often also saves projects money with the contractor committing to a project cost up-front. But, there are challenges to managing a design-build project, Abernathy added, so Sound Transit plans to hire a project coordinator to act as a liaison between Sound Transit and the contractor.

Voters approved the entire extension in 2008 with the passage of the ST2 ballot measure, however, then funding was only available for the Kent/Des Moines. The passage of ST3 in 2016 provided funding for the 272nd and the Federal Way Transit Center stations. 

ST anticipates selecting station designs in 2019 with construction also beginning that year. The extension is slated to open in 2024, after a one-year testing phase. ST has already begun the process of acquiring property for the project.

Residents have until this Friday, September 22 to participate in an online survey and submit public comment. 

44 Replies to “Parking Remains Concern at Future Link Stations”

  1. You know, I’d like to hear from these park & ride commuters in a focus group why they cannot or will not use the bus system to connect to/from the light rail lines either built or under construction. What solution or solutions would be best – like expanding vanpools even more? Subsidizing Lyft, Uber, Taxis and other such companies?

    I’ll hand off to my fellow STB commentariat.

    1. Here’s an experiment to try: go to Angle Lake station and try to get to any nearby population center or town center using transit.

      In my experience, the transit network doesn’t function well to facilitate this at all yet.

    2. Part of the problem is coverage, but the other part is frequency and the reverse trip.

      My place in Snohomish county has a local bus that runs by it which would allow me to transfer to a sound transit bus (the 512) in lynnwood and get downtown.

      The problem is that while the sound transit bus runs every 10 minutes, the local bus runs every 30 at best. If I’m going downtown it’s fine, but coming back I end up waiting 30/40 minutes in lynnwood for my local bus to show up.

      So my trip time is 30 min from Seattle to Lynnwood + 30 minutes waiting at the park and ride + 30 minutes from Lynnwood to my house. (These times are outside of rush hour)

      Now if I drive, it’s only 45 minutes the whole way. So if I didn’t have the transfer, it would only cost me 15 minutes to take the bus, which is fine since I can get some work done on the bus. However, with the transfer it bumps the “transit penalty” up to 45 minutes, doubling the length of my trip. That’s over my pain threshold.

      So for Link to work effectively in Snohomish and Pierce counties, it’s going to need to be paired with frequent bus service. Snohomish county has plans for this. They will add new Swift BRT lines that sync up with light rail. I don’t think Pierce county has any such plans.

    3. I use to commute via park and ride. I lived in my parents basement at 6563 170th pl SE in Bellevue and drove to the east gate park and ride were i took the bus into Seattle. It is a 15 min drive or a 1 hr, (2) bus ride with a mile and a half walk to the bus stop w/ a 600 ft elevation change. It only 5.5 mile trip. Suburbs are not dense enough to support the kind of bus frequency or stop spacing that will allow you to eliminate the park and ride. While urban-ism and density are great and provide lots of benefits their is no real plan to move suburbs to dense and walk-able/bus friendly areas.

    4. I live in Federal Way and drive 2 miles from my house to the transit center where I transfer for the hour bus ride into downtown most mornings. Because Federal Way is a suburban hell – I am not able to take a bus to the transit center without walking 1.5 miles to the nearest stop – hence why I drive. I wish there were feeder routes, but the layout of the City does not provide the density needed to make it successful.

      As things stand right now – 2024 seems like an eternity – hopefully I no longer live in Federal Way by then – LOL.

      1. >> I wish there were feeder routes, but the layout of the City does not provide the density needed to make it successful.

        You don’t necessarily need the density — you just need satellite park and ride lots and connecting service. Once it becomes way too expensive to enlarge the existing park and ride lots, it makes sense to build them farther away, and run buses from there. You actually end up with something that is more convenient for the average driver.

        A good example of this is the 41. It runs by a park and ride (it used to run by two) before it gets to the third one at Northgate and then runs on the freeway to downtown. Not only did this serve the park and ride users well, but folks in the neighborhood headed to Northgate. Now that the entire area has grown, the park and ride lots are less important (and you could get by without them) but having them kept ridership high long before the area grew.

      2. Satellite P&Rs are less obnoxious than huge ones in city centers because they don’t displace walk-up retail and housing and push everything further apart. I like Bellevue’s situation where the transit center is downtown and has no parking, and the P&R is located periperally, and the express bus serves both.

        I have often thought of having single-family blocks with the parking all on one lot rather than individual driveways. Maybe call it a parking house. A satellite P&R is a similar concept, although it would serve several blocks and wouldn’t be the car’s primary parking space.

  2. I’m not surprised by the citizen comments. The ST shopping-spree mentality often conveys to citizens that they should ask for their wildest wishes!

    Does ST really mean Santaclaus Transit? Was there a big bearded guy in a red suit letting people sit in his lap at the open houses? As long as the input process doesn’t include access scenarios and difficult trade-offs, they would get just as much value by having that be the open house approach.

  3. Do you think some day they will make transit free and charge people for the parking? ST would still make money, It still cheaper then driving and parking downtown, and you would get the bennies of all door boarding and ditch the Orca card and all the management fees and equipment that comes with it.

  4. ” the need to build future parking adequate for the next 30 years”

    But I thought that every car will be autonomous in the next 10 years so we don’t need high quality light rail? /s

  5. […] several residents doubted Federal Way could become a walkable city with the rainy weather. […] “Sound Transit hasn’t planned for the people. They want us to be a walking city, but it’s the Pacific Northwest.”

    Idiotic comments like this are why I’ll never be able to work in the public sector. I remember during the viaduct debate, the most common non-transit-nerd objection to knocking it down was that the views are great when you were driving on it. I would just lose my shit if I had to listen to this for hours on end.

    1. Nope, nobody is walking in Capitol Hill or downtown or Fremont or the U-District today, can’t because of the weather. When i walked from Bellevue Ave to 3rd I didn’t see a soul; everybody was bundled up warmly in their cars and circling for parking and vowing to move to the suburbs where there’s more parking.

      And what was that last week about park n rides reaching $100,000 per space? ($)

      ““Most vehicles are worth less than these parking spaces,” said Todd Litman, a Victoria, B.C., analyst who publishes as the Victoria Transport Policy Institute. “It would actually be cheaper to give people cars.”

      And:

      “In many regions, the strategy of building station garages triggers second-guessing by pro-transit urbanists…. How high of a subsidy to park at a train station is too high? Should users pay, or does that penalize lower-wage workers? Are parking garages that support driving a wise use of land in the face of high housing costs and climate change?… The answer in Kent: full speed ahead…. “The project, it has to happen,” said Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke. “The cars are now filling up our East Hill neighborhoods. There’s no place to put them, besides a parking garage.”

      People are parking in East Hill to take a bus to Kent Station to ride Sounder? Or how else are they getting from East Hill to Sounder: are they skateboarding down the hill? Ayayay!

      1. Yep, there are bus routes that travel from East Hill to Kent Station. People out in Covington and Maple Valley, and in parts of East Hill not convenient to transit, need to get to work, since there are few good paying jobs out that way. One way of getting to work is parking in a neighborhood in East Hill, taking a bus, then hopping on a train to Seattle or Express Bus to Bellevue/Microsoft. The more logical solution is to figure out where these people filling up East Hill are coming from, and trying to create transit that serves them efficiently. If that brings in more riders, even better. Also, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never driven to a residential neighborhood, parked for free, and hopped on a bus heading downtown or to a transit center.

      2. “It would actually be cheaper to give people cars.”

        -Except most transit riders don’t need cars, they need places to park them at the stations, since bus service is so awful in these exurbs.

        -Urban stations absolutely should not have parking. But in the exurbs light rail will function more like commuter rail, like the MTA and out on the ends of DC Metro. Now, some of the MTA stations have parking lots/garages that are operated by the villages or towns. Partnering with Kent and other points south and north could be something ST considers. Either way, it’s critical to consider the viewpoint of the person who WANTS to take the train into the city, but has a hard time getting to the station via any other method than POV. A lot of people who aren’t kid-less urbanites value time more than most realize. Their commutes into the city are long and getting longer – can we at least make them reliable?

        -Everyone agrees that we’ll charge for parking, right? If you don’t, too bad because we are going to.

    2. Sorry to hear it, Bruce. Was getting ready to nominate you for something. But in my experience, only time I’ve started to get uneasy listening to idiots I was being paid to deal with was when they started to convince me they were right.

      Or maybe you really meant idiots who were either your supervisors or the company owner. But since chief anti-idiot public defense is knowledge on subject being discussed, what I need to know is whether it’s possible to turn a parking structure residential or retail when train riders get tired of being stuck in traffic.

      I’m thinking about absorbed poisons. So seriously, can I get a run-down on parking-convertibility?

      Mark

      1. Actually, Washington is in the top 10 states by percentage of people having passports (Alaska is even higher; Oregon is substantially lower).

  6. So where are all the people who were saying “driverless cars/taxis therefore no train needed”? To be consistent, they should now be showing up and saying “driverless cars/taxis therefore no parking needed”! Just sayin’. Perhaps it’s time to take a page from their playbook especially when it comes to “the need to build future parking adequate for the next 30 years.”

    1. Given the emerging driverless shuttle technology, 1/2-mile-away surface lots connected by high-frequency driverless shuttles that work like sideways elevators seem increasingly cost effective. Those lots could also be reduced or eliminated as the technology advances to driverless private vehicles.

      Generally, any ways to incentivize drop-offs and pick-ups of any type should be favored over less productive parking garage spaces.

    2. The same place as the folks who sing the praises of real-BRT when a rail transit proposal is up for a vote, but are nowhere to be found when it comes to instituting real-BRT or (especially) paying for it.

      In fact, a fair number of them are the same people.

  7. When a park and gets full, the approach taken by public agencies is “make it bigger”. That makes sense if it is cheap, but in many cases, it isn’t. Imagine if fast food restaurants operated this way. Subway sandwiches, for example, started out as single restaurant. It became popular, and then expanded. Imagine if they simply made it bigger. Even if it was the biggest restaurant in the world, it would be tiny compared to the billion dollar franchise that is Subway.

    The point is, this isn’t how you expand. With park and rides, the answer isn’t to spend a fortune making it bigger, but to create new park and rides, and then connect them with good bus service. If necessary, time the transit to the trains. It is especially ridiculous in Kent, where the train only operates a few times a day. Just run shuttle buses from the park and ride to the station. Better yet, run them in the neighborhood, swing by the park and ride, and then go to the station. Since often times (if it is done right) the station has something other than a place for the train to stop, the bus provides more than just a connection to the train.

    This type of system scales. Eventually the satellite park and ride gets full too, and you create a bus network where a significant number of people walk from their home to access it. In the meantime, the rest of the people drive a shorter distance to access the park and ride. It becomes faster for the average rider to use the bus instead of circling around and around to find that one spot at the main park and ride. You also enable a much better system in general, as folks on the other end of the train can actually visit their friend by transit (instead of asking to be picked up, or paying for a cab).

    This is the type of network they should be building, but instead they are fixated on just making the park and ride lots bigger.

    1. “When a park and gets full, the approach taken by public agencies is “make it bigger”.”

      It’s the voters who are pulling this along, screaming at their councilmembers to add parking, which causes them to pressure the agencies, which causes the agencies to do it.

      1. Yeah, sure, but again, I’m not opposed to adding parking. First off, I don’t blame folks for pushing for parking. Read the first three comments. It is obvious that folks have no choice but to drive to where there is frequent transit. It isn’t like the agencies involved have provided a good alternative. Contrast that with what happened in northeast Seattle (the area between the UW and Lake City). Metro stopped running buses from the UW to downtown, and sent them to Husky Stadium instead. They also bumped up frequency dramatically in the area. A couple interesting things about that. First, there haven’t been a ton of complaints, because the frequency has helped make up for the loss of speed. Second, Metro just decided to give an area (northeast Seattle) way more service than is justified (based on population density or previous ridership). In other words, they provided an alternative that is a bit too expensive for the ridership, but one that would please people *in the area*.

        Yet it is clear they haven’t done that anywhere near the express buses. Nor are they prepared to do that anywhere near suburban park and ride Link stations. It is no wonder that riders want big park and rides — that is the only way they can get to the station.

        But again, I’m not against park and rides. If you can cheaply expand next to the station, then go ahead. But if not, then expand somewhere else, and run connecting buses.

        A great example of this is the 41. There used to be three park and ride lots along its route. The second one was very big, and provided an alternative to parking right next to the transit center. The third still exists, and is closer to Lake City than Northgate. Drivers had a huge set of options for driving and parking. In the case of the third one (that is still there) it is close to an area that is not well served by transit (requires a long walk). It is worse for many suburban areas, as the cul-de-sac street design is extremely difficult to serve with a bus. Putting several small park and ride lots on the main streets (where the residential streets converge) is a proven system that works.

        And it scales. Fast forward several years, and some things have changed for the 41. One of the park and ride lots is gone — replaced by a park. The people in the area actually opposed keeping the main park and ride — they wanted a bridge (and more housing) instead. This is all because the bus service has improved in the area, and become more cost effective. It isn’t that the area is special, or more urban (parking is still a major concern for a lot of people) it is that they have decent alternatives. Either they park in a smaller, more convenient park and ride, or they ride a frequent bus after a short walk from their house. Folks in other suburban areas aren’t given that choice.

        Of course they want to make the main park and ride bigger — it is the only choice they are given.

    2. I like this shuttle idea a lot. It would be even cooler if these new shuttles went a few other places too, for the people not going to the station. Maybe instead of paid parking, you’d just pay a bit to get on the shuttle. You could get on and off wherever it normally stopped, and perhaps if you hopped on another shuttle quickly you could get a bit of a discount?

      I’m loving this idea!

  8. If the people of the City of Kent want a $60 million parking garage (or the people of the City of Federal Way, Des Moines, Auburn, whatever). Have them put it on a local ballot measure. They can build their own garages, make their own rules. Hell, they can even require you to be a Kent resident to use it.

    Put it on a local ballot measure as a $60 mil levy, and see how fast they run away from their parking garages.

    1. The 168 goes to Covington and Maple Valley. The 164 goes to 124th in east Auburn. the 914 and 916 fill in between them west of 132nd and have DART service for the low-density houses. Peak hours when Sounder is running the 157 amd159 serve other areas. Where do these people live that they have no buses? Are they out on 240th or 256th east of 132nd, or in Auburn east of 124th?

      There are two simultaneous phenomena, and it’s unfortunate we don’t have numbers on what percent of people are which. The purpose of P&Rs in my mind is for people who have no buses near them, and growing up in Bellevue I know there were times I walked a mile or more from a bus stop to somebody’s house. But there are also people who won’t ride local buses even if they’re there, and prefer to drive to a train station instead. At least some of the people in the P&R or wanting a larger P&R must be the latter, and their claims for an ST-funded P&R are more dubious. I’ve met people from Auburn who drove to TIB to catch Link off-peak and couldn’t wait for Federal Way to open, and now presumably drive to Angle Lake. There may be no buses near their house but there are certainly buses between their house and Angle Lake, both the Auburn and Federal Way express buses and the 150 in Kent.

      1. The 164 barely crosses into Auburn from Kent, so in that case they would live west, east and south of that route.

        In my experience, a well-timed bus ride to the train station is a much more popular choice than the uncertainty of fighting for a parking space at the station. I’m sure there are some that will only want to drive, but they’re the exception.

  9. This is garbage. People like free stuff and dislike change. Not a surprise.

    Head on over to Bainbridge Island and try to catch our exclusive (ish) ROW ride to downtown Seattle. You can walk, take a bus, ride a bike, be dropped off or park. But if you want to park, it’s about $12 a day or $300 a month. But there are always spaces for you. It works just fine. And tons of people take transit to the terminal.

    1. And many many of those people riding transit park at park and rides further away in order to access that Transit. This is really not so no different from the plan to have metro buses that largely feed off park and rides dump folks at UW Station for access to downtown. Except in this case it’s a ferry dock. I could easily drive to UW and park in the u-district for considerably cheaper than I could downtown and ride link to save a little $$$ and time, but I don’t and won’t.

      The posters who note that the suburbs are not dense enough to support walking access to transit for significant numbers of people and still need park and rides are for better or worse simply speaking the truth. I am incredibly fortunate to have a core east side metro route go near my house on it’s way to a park and ride, however I am the exception, not the rule.

      1. I don’t believe lack of density is the problem. Transit feeding doesn’t work specifically because it is undermined by a transit agency committed to building free parking. Why would anyone connect by transit in that scenario?

        Kent is 4 times as dense as mostly rural Bainbridge Island.

      2. True, but you must consider the cost effectiveness of delivering that service vs building a PR. At a certain point excluding environmental considerations your money truly is better spent on a P&R.

        You could argue anytime you have to talk about building a large garage (or even a large surface lot P&R) that’s an indication that you have to at least evaluate your feeder service, or you should take a look at the viability of building cheaper P&Rs closer to where the people are coming from. My personal view is that P&Rs should never be more than a few hundred surface parking spots, and I’d prefer un-paved.

      3. You could argue anytime you have to talk about building a large garage (or even a large surface lot P&R) that’s an indication that you have to at least evaluate your feeder service, or you should take a look at the viability of building cheaper P&Rs closer to where the people are coming from.

        Yes, that’s my argument. It gets lost in the whole park and ride versus no park and ride debate. Or even the charging to park debate. I’m not against park and rides, but they don’t scale. Once a park and ride has become really big (i. e. you need to build an expensive garage) it is time to look for cheaper land and start building small satellite park and ride lots.

  10. As Bruce observed, climate is certainly not the issue; Federal Way has similar rain to London, Paris, or Seattle. First, it is the lack of a complete street and sidewalk grid. Placing the alignment next to the freeway limits pedestrian access; freeways are to pedestrians as dams are to fish. Second, the local network is inadequate. The ST access policy suggests that cost-effectiveness be considered. If objectively applied, the land used for parking would be used for apartments; the funds used for parking would be used for local service. More riders would be attracted. Further, traffic generated by parking will slow local transit, upon which most Link riders will rely for access. Is the ST board attempting to maximize ridership or mobility or build monuments?

  11. Kent will sorely regret that big parking garage at Highline. Their citizens won’t be using it much. The folks who live west of I-5 in the little pocket there will simply walk to the station. Those between I-5 and the valley floor are few in number but will probably take one of the buses on Military Road headed to the station.

    The rest are miles away, east of downtown Krnt.

    The garage will mostly be used by people from Des Moines, represented by “public servants” who didn’t want a station in THEIR town!

  12. A thought: Why is ST doing these open houses all by themselves.

    – Shouldn’t Metro be taking initial input on how to serve the stations better, with ideas for new routes and frequencies?

    – Shouldn’t Federal Way be taking input on how to make the area more walkable, connect the bicycle system, and encourage TOD?

    There appears to be no substantive discussion about what happens off of ST property. Of course, people will say that they want to drive. It’s the only option offered to them!

  13. “With one resident commenting, “Sound Transit hasn’t planned for the people. They want us to be a walking city, but it’s the Pacific Northwest.” Another resident chimed in suggesting Sound Transit should make it easier for commuters to be dropped off at the station.”
    One thought that came to my mind is that ST has two masters. Seattle-Centric which is all about walking and taking local transit connections where distances are not great and frequency is king, and Suburbia where distances are great, sidewalks few, and frequency and span often leave much to be desired. When they think of Sounder they think of Suburbia, when they think of LINK there seem to be thoughts of Seattle, and its just not the case when outside the city limits. Not to mention the fact that in the service scenarios with all the commuters shifting over to LINK it will fill up all the capacity outside Seattle giving those in the RV and north little room to actually use the system.

  14. “Despite that the future Federal Way Station planned near the downtown area of the city, several residents doubted Federal Way could become a walkable city with the rainy weather.”

    What a sad excuse – Seattle has 152 days a year on average with measurable precipitation. New York has only 75. But Seattle hardly ever gets snow. New York Averages lower winter temps, higher summer temps, and many times more inches of snow annual. Also, the rain there is truly paralyzing – in half the number of rainy days, New York sees CONSIDERABLY MORE measured rainfall. It’s raining a lot harder when it does rain.

    AND SOMEHOW, New Yorkers walk everywhere.

    Stop repeating this tired notion that Seattle can’t be a walkable city.

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