Issaquah Transit Center Credit: Sound Transit

This week, Sound Transit’s board approved an expanded permit program that would bring paid parking to several of its most popular park-and-ride lots.  In addition to the $5 carpool permits, ST will now add a permit for single-occupancy drivers.  Rates will vary based on the location of the park and ride but could be as much as $90/month, with a discount for ORCA LIFT holders. We covered the program in depth last year.

From the board resolution:

This action changes the parking utilization threshold for permit implementation (HOV and SOV) from 97% to 90% or higher for at least three consecutive months, allowing program expansion to popular facilities in Snohomish, King, and Pierce Counties (Edmonds Station, Mukilteo Station, Mercer Island Park & Ride, and Lakewood Station currently meet this threshold in addition to the facilities with HOV permit programs). All future facilities built to provide access to Link light rail, or projected to reach 90% utilization within the first year, would be eligible for permit implementation at opening.

At least 50% of spaces at the lots will remain free of charge.  ST first began piloting carpool permits back in 2013.

19 Replies to “Sound Transit Board Approves Expanded Parking Permit Program”

  1. Once you’ve already coughed up the money for an unlimited permit, you have zero incentive to ever ride a feeder bus. And occasional commuters after 8 AM are still out of luck.

    A step in the right direction, but it should really be pay per day, not per month.

    1. UW has a “pay per use program” where people who occasionally drive pay for the days they drive rather than a full quarter permit, and there is a garage set aside for it. The daily rate also goes up if you use it so many times in a pay period. Clearly, once you got a full permit, it’s a sunk cost, and there is much less incentive to take a bus or bike, ect. I can imagine Sound Transit setting aside part of the lot, or a floor of the parking garage, for pay per use purposes before 9:30. That way people don’t necessarily need to reserve a spot all week to be able to use it 2-3 times a week.

      Of course in the end, there’s only so much you can do with a full parking lot, and the best way to encourage people to ride feeder busses is more feeder busses. Especially in the evening when you can’t really time a transfer from an express bus affected by traffic to a 30-60 minute local bus. In the morning, it is easier to follow the tracker and catch the bus with a minimal transfer penalty to the more frequent express bus. So far it looks like only Bellevue is looking in to driverless feeder busses, which would greatly cut down on operating expenses and be less sensitive to labor force challenges.

      Bus shelters also make it more palatable to take a local feeder bus. Looking at you, Community Transit. Yes, it rains in Snohomish County too. The convergence zone turns some of that rain is the kind that leaves you soaked.

      Feeder busses, and implement a safe bike network within 3 miles or so of every station and transit center. Meanwhile, something like Pierce Transit’s Uber/Lyft last mile connection might help, especially if the cost is competitive with my “pay per use program” rate.

    2. It’s parking. It’s not transit.

      As many monthly permits as possible should just be auctioned off for whatever cost recovery possible.
      Garage will remain full, whatever they do.

      1. I think it’s still useful for weekend parking to remain free, even if weekday parking moves towards paid permits. On weekends, many groups use the park and ride lots to carpool into the mountains, and some people use the transit system to get to the carpool meetup spot (usually an express bus from downtown Seattle). There are tons of empty spaces, so availability is not an issue.

        If weekend parking became paid, these groups would change their meeting points to less transit accessible places, forcing people without cars into expensive Lyft and Uber rides to join the group.

      2. Yeah, I agree on both points. They should charge daily (if not hourly) and the rate should change based on when you use it. It is the same model successfully used on the HOT lanes. In this case, you show up, see that the free lot is full, then pay extra to use the parking garage. If this is a rare occurrence (not part of your regular commute) you just shrug and pay. But if it is part of your regular commute, you start looking for alternatives, and that includes using a feeder bus. My guess is ST would maximize both the use of the parking lot, as well as the transit being served by it. There are drivers who, after determining that the lot is full, will simply drive and pay at that location (e. g. downtown) which doesn’t do anyone any good. Giving them an alternative (however expensive) seems like the smart thing to do.

  2. As someone who lives in Shoreline (near where the 145th station will eventually be), I will definitely be doing everything I can to get a monthly permit at the Northgate park and ride for that period between 2021 and 2024. I’d have no problem paying $90 per month.

  3. I hope ST will begin to explore parking with an ORCA tap. Tap on to start parking, and drive off to end your session. Not just for paid parking, but even for free parking (it could show number of hours parked, whether the user took a bus, etc.)

    It could maybe even become a way to pay for parking in Seattle and Tacoma as well. With an ORCA reader at parking meters, drivers who begin using an ORCA card for parking convenience now have the region’s preferred fare media in their hand, and can just hop on a bus just to try it out without having to stress about cash.

    1. I wouldn’t mind possibly extending the transfer credit to parking fees, depending on what the resulting economic impact to the agencies and incentives to the drivers would be. Would it cause people to drive much more or not? Would it cause them to shun feeders because they get the same transfer credit driving to the station? Would it cause a significant reduction of revenue to the agencies or not? I’m not sure. If the impact were negative, than it could value as a partial transfer credit rather than a full one. For instance, if the parking fee is $2 and then the person taps in to a train, the transfer credit would $1 instead of $2.

  4. From several years’ experience with Tacoma Dome and Angle Lake parking structures, let’s try this. Feeder service fast, frequent, and generally usable as humanly possible. Dome? After 9AM. street-park car at secret location, and Tacoma LINK to Route 547 or 594.

    Angle Lake? Try express on same headway as Rapid Ride- or Rapid Ride from Tacoma Dome for whole working day. Right now, $10 a day at private lot across from the station works- but bus in a transit lane would be only thing moving when I need to travel the most.

    But take it from me. Going to work, nobody’s going to be punished into riding feeder service that’ll get them fired for using. Make it good, and you’ll need either artics or double deckers.

    Mark Dublin

  5. To do that, you need a place for people who don’t have Orca cards to park while they fiddle with the machine to get one. The Washington D.C. metro uses a good solution for this. To enter the parking garage, the gate just opens – no card required. But, to exit, you are required to insert a metro card, from which the parking fee will be deducted. Machines which dispense metro cards are available right at the station, so no one is trapped, unable to get out.

    1. Unless they have no cash or credit cards with them of course. But I assume there’s an open pedestrian exit even if there’s no open car exit, so they won’t suffocate or starve in there over the weekend.

      1. Have seen that handled by a human employee on duty 24-7-365. Which is a good idea for a lot of reasons.


      2. I’ve seen parking garages now that only accept credit cards. No dead bones scattered about (that I noticed). Seriously though, I have no idea what you do if you don’t have a credit card and didn’t realize until too late. My guess is most have a number you can call (or someone to talk to).

    2. Yeah, asdf2 — that makes the most sense. That also allows you to easily charge a dynamic price (a different rate for weekends or evenings instead of weekdays). These are all good ideas, and have been applied in other places. A bonus with the ORCA card being used for payment is that it allows you to easily target satellite parking garages and feeder buses (even if a small percentage of riders pay with cash or credit card). I think the only reason they aren’t being applied here is for political reasons. ST doesn’t want to just start charging for parking and hear the complaints (“We paid for those parking lots, and now they are charging us…”) similar to what folks heard with the tolling. But if the lots really fill up and the prices go up based on how full they are, then charging a dynamic price is the best option.

  6. And of course, I’m sure there will be some low income pricing in there somewhere….putting even more burden on others. Eventually there will be a tipping point.

    1. Horror of horrors, people are encouraged to help support their fellow humans in a cooperative society!

    2. Which is worse: somebody with can afford it has slightly-less, or that somebody with less money can’t afford a bus (a basic service that’s intended for people who have no other option) or the fares are a large percent of their income (leaving no money for other basic necessities).

  7. Others have said it, but this is a REALLY dumb approach. Monthly permits? PAY BY USE. Sound transit is such a goofy agency.

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