Auburn (Google Maps)

Dan’s report on the ever-increasing cost of Sounder parking garages demands a little rough math. The per-space arithmetic is damning enough. But the opportunity costs are the practical reason to hope for something better.

The most expensive of these is Auburn Station, which is now to cost $120m in year of expenditure (YOE) dollars for 675 spaces (555 net new). Generous assumptions about inflation [1] make this $107m in current dollars. If this money were instead spread over 30 years for bus routes to Sounder, it would allow 10 additional buses to serve the Auburn area during Sounder operating times [2]. A similar, though slightly less dramatic, story plays out at the other stations. The potential of these buses to improve several different outcomes is an exercise for the reader.

In my earlier days, this would be an occasion to slam the stupidity of the people in the charge. But in my thirteenth year of doing this, I know that things like this happen because of incentives:

  • These projects have increased considerably in cost, making the math much worse than at the time of decision.
  • Without any additional outlay, parking is there for Sunday Seahawks trains, Puyallup Fair trains, and whatever else brings people into central Auburn.
  • Because the law insists on voter approval, we often select projects not based on cost per rider, or least-cost alternative, but what will win over the marginal voter. It is very plausible that the marginal voter likes the idea of driving to Sounder, but not taking a bus there. The election literature, both for and against, hesitates to point out that the parking will be full.
  • A quick glance at the road grid (see above) suggests that many marginal voters are right to be skeptical that a bus will serve them effectively.
  • Because Metro has a wonk-approved, metric-driven formula for service allocation, it is reasonable to think that putting more money into the bus system results not in carpeting Auburn with buses, but distribution to more places in need across South King County, or the County as a whole. Little wonder that leaders in Auburn prefer the garage: bus service is centrifugal, while capital investments are concentrated. And the state has granted cities practical veto power over projects through permitting.

The 2008 election is over, so vote-maximizing calculations are irrelevant. There is still a duty to deliver what voters approved. But riders are fungible; fewer parking spaces may mean certain people don’t use Sounder, but the alternative bus service can bring many more others. The ridership benefit of a parking space is about 2 times the carpool minimum of that space, but the cost-equivalent bus can be much more. I would hope that in an environment of uncertain revenues and spiraling costs, Sound Transit would find cheaper ways to get the same result.

[1] Assume all the money is spent when the garage opens in 2024, and an annual inflation rate of 3%.

[2] At Metro’s current rate of about $150 per service hour, $107m would fund roughly 700,000 hours of service, or about 15% of all Metro service in 2018. But the garage lasts for a long time, if not quite forever, while there is little to show for operating expenses once spent.

It would be far more reasonable to spread those hours of a longer period. It’s not clear what the useful engineering life of the garage will be. Furthermore, without succumbing to tech hype, widespread autonomous cars would make on-site garages largely obsolete. Perhaps 30 years is a good guess for robot cars or a big garage renovation, leaving us about 23,000 service hours per year. For convenience, we’ll assume the increasing cost of service mirrors the interest savings of deferring most of the spending.

Sounder serves Auburn Station over a 7-hour span each weekday. We’ll assume buses start an hour before the first train and end an hour after the last one, for a total of 2,250 hours per year. This implies that forgoing the garage would allow 10 additional buses to serve Auburn Station simultaneously during the Sounder service window.

68 Replies to “Opportunity cost of a parking garage”

  1. What would the cost per stall have to be for parking revenue to actually pay for the garage construction cost? My guess is it would be something very close to the $10/day riders pay in round trip train fares.

    Which presents in interesting idea, that Sound Transit could try out a scheme where they charge for parking in their existing garages, using the revenue to reduce Sounder fares, thereby resulting in little to no impact in people’s pocketbooks compared to the current scenario. Not only would it encourage carpooling and bus ridership to get to the Sounder station. It would also make it easier to get rid of bus routes like the 157, since a truncation to Sounder would no longer amount to a de-facto large fare increase.

    Maybe with the right incentives, you wouldn’t need a whole new $120 million garage in the first place.

    1. I think that a lot of people who ride Sounder get a subsidy from their work. So a discount wouldn’t really help them (it would help their employer).

      More than anything, it would be very tough politically. The park and ride situation has been mishandled for years. Once you get to the point where a lot is full, the next step is start charging money, and start looking to improve bus service. This idea that these areas are so spread out that only a park and ride lot will work is ridiculous. There are only so many roads into town, and there are opportunities for satellite lots, at the very least. If you really want to build your own lot, then you can do so fairly cheaply in all but one place: next to the station. The current approach is bad, and has been bad for years.

      Your suggestion makes a lot of sense and would have been a great solution a few years ago. Unfortunately, it would be a very tough political sell right now. Rather than expand the park and ride lot (as they promised) you would start charging money for the same number of spots. Oof. Good luck selling that.

      On the other hand, leveling with voters and just explaining that an expansion costs too much, and you want to work with local businesses and clergy to build a combination of improved shuttle service and satellite park and ride lots is a lot easier. Even if you don’t end up with as many park and ride spots, you have still added something of significant value.

      1. I totally agree it’s a political nonstarter, even though there is nothing to stop employers who subsidize train fares from subsidizing train parking. I put it out to show just how entitled everyone feels about free parking. Somehow, $5 to ride the train with free parking feels normal, but paying the same $5 to park while riding the train for free does not.

        I am also in complete agreement with you on the issue of satallite lots and connector buses.

      2. I agree, it really is a crazy approach. It also isn’t universal. My guess is it is actually unusual for cities to have free parking next to commuter rail, let alone spend a huge amount building new free parking. I’m pretty sure that in most of the country (the Midwest and East Coast especially) they charge for it.

    2. I think anyone who pays ST car tabs should get a sticker for their car to put on a windshield that lets them park for free at ST garages. Then, a daily parking charge can be levied on users that don’t pay the tabs —like Maple Valley and Covington residents here. That assures that ST meets the promise of free parking to taxpayers, while recovering the extra cost of parking for non-resident leeches using these garage spaces.

      I like how some paid transit parking in other metro areas is handled for commute-driven service. They have a parking attendent or gate active only a few hours each day (like when trains are running) and free at all other times.

      It also may help fight against the 976 challenge, as it changes car tabs from a tax to a fee. ST may have to make it a flat fee to get around the “tax” based on value before that approach can be legitimized.

      1. I think the first you do (well before you promise to build more free parking) is figure out where people are driving from. If there are a lot of people from outside the Sound Transit area, then yes, absolutely, do that. If not, then don’t worry about it.

        More than anything, though, it gives you a quick heads up on where you should concentrate your satellite park and ride and shuttle efforts. It may be, for example, that a substantial number of people could park somewhere else, but don’t. This makes the case for additional parking even weaker. They have alternatives, but simply prefer the convenience of parking right by the station. This is understandable, but a terrible use of transit money (since it doesn’t increase ridership one bit).

      2. ST didn’t promise free parking. That came up during Northgate planning. There’s no legal impediment to charging for P&R spaces, and both Metro and ST are dipping their toes into it with tactics like a guaranteed morning space, which has been going on for a while. There’s a wide continuum between free and $10 and between charging for all spaces vs charging for some spaces.

        The issue of out-of-district cars depends heavily on where the P&R is. Everett is especially vulnerable because it’s at the edge of the district with a large population beyond it in Marysville and Skagit County. Kent less so because Covington and Maple Valley are smaller. Auburn is probably even less because east/southeast is sparsely populated, and south goes to Sumner and Puyallup Stations.

        During the Northgate hearings Metro did a study of were the cars came from, and found that most of them come from west and east of the station. We should learn this about the other P&Rs. Have the agencies studied it and made the percentages available? That would help clarify what the need/use is, and thus what we should do about it.

  2. Because Metro has a wonk-approved, metric-driven formula for service allocation, it is reasonable to think that putting more money into the bus system results not in carpeting Auburn with buses, but distribution to more places in need across South King County, or the County as a whole.

    That is why Sound Transit (not Metro) should commit to the additional bus service. Sound Transit has no qualms about routes with low efficiency. They run buses that Metro would reject out of hand, for having really bad numbers.

    Furthermore, the bus routes that really struggle are the long distance ones ( the three worst are Auburn to Overlake, Dupont to Seattle and Tacoma to U-District). The Sounder Shuttle routes are quite cost effective (Bonney Lake-Sumner is the fourth most cost effective ST bus route).

    Sound Transit should commit to a combination of satellite park and ride lots and connecting bus service. There are plenty of churches in the area, with fairly large lots: — 200 spaces — 150 spaces — 250 spaces — 200 spaces — 100 spaces — 200 spaces

    The only issue then becomes Seahawk games, which aren’t likely to overflow the existing park and ride lots. These are just official park and ride spots. If you run buses on a regular basis through the various neighborhoods, people will create de-facto park and ride spaces. I’m sure this is already happening in Lakewood Hills, for example.

    Having the parking spread out over the area is often better for riders as they avoid congestion as well drive less. At the same time, many riders would avoid having to drive at all.

    Perhaps the biggest benefit is to the city itself. Sounder serves real towns — places that have existed for years. The historic buildings in Auburn are all fairly close to the station. Downtown and the nearby surrounding areas have a traditional small-town grid, with a mix of churches, shops and homes. They have the potential for both residential and commercial growth; connecting bus service is far more likely to spur that than additional park and ride spaces. These shops and apartments already have parking lots. Having additional transit (from the surrounding community) is a significant improvement and increases the chances of transit oriented development.

    Of course it is a trade-off, but with a little bit of work, more people would be better off.

    1. The context is having Sounder’s budget include feeder buses, not vague Metro service, even if Metro is the operator or brand. Ten routes — that should be more than enough to cover northeast Auburn, Lakeland Hills, and other least-served areas. How many routes would it take to put a route to Auburn Station within 5 minutes of 95% of residences, or on all arterials?

      Auburn itself could fund some of these, the same way Seattle funds additional in-city service.

      The cities of Auburn, Kent, Sumner, and Puyallup have already complained about Sounder commuters filling downtown streets and detracting from the small-town main street commerce and impacts on TOD residents. The cities could become part of the solution if they tried, by promoting feeders and at least thinking about contributing to them.

  3. The conversation and project should end after it’s known that each parking stall will cost between $200,000 and $300,000. This is like the Pentagon spending $10,000 for a replacement toilet seat cover. On second thought, ST makes the Pentagon look thrifty.

  4. Regarding Sinaloa-Extortion-level costs for parking structures, doesn’t transit have any bargaining power at all? Is there no such thing as “A Writ of You Gotta Be Kidding?”

    And also, every older town, including Auburn, has elegant and desirable buildings built a hundred years ago for one purpose, and now serving another, or a series of purposes, very well.

    I’d imagine there’d be some chemical-removal measures in a future conversion. But is there any other reason this year’s parking garage can never be next year’s, or decade’s, or century’s office block? Or better yet, a transit center expansion including a classic Viennese espresso cafe?

    Mark Dublin

  5. There is also the opportunity cost of using the most valuable land for the least valuable use. Surely there’s a better place to abandon your car for ten hours a day than right next to the transit center.

    I would guess you’d calculate this by the property tax generated by a TOD parcel (or rent revenues generated, if they changed the state law to allow ST to be a landlord) and the additional benefit to the local economy from having a functioning building right next to a transit hub. Is there an actual way to calculate this?

    This is to say nothing of other effects – traffic and service impacts due to overloading the road network with park-and-riders in a very concentrated place at peak times, for example.

    1. “I would guess you’d calculate this by the property tax generated by a TOD parcel…”

      I agree, but that too would be an incomplete calculation. TOD would also increase the sales tax revenues from the “new” residents and from the potential generation of new economic activity for the area. So population change assumptions of some sort would need to be taken into account as well. I only mention this because property tax revenues, while an important revenue stream for counties and local jurisdictions, is a much smaller revenue source for ST.

      Now, if you were looking at the lost opportunity cost for the larger purposes, e.g., King County and City of Auburn, then property tax revenues are critical to this sort of calculation, as well as sales tax and local B&O tax revenues.

      1. Fair enough, but it does suggest that politically, there should be support for an alternative. While many constituents may want the parking garage, the city stands to benefit from not building it, or putting the money into something else.

    2. Simplistic ball park calculation: Get the monthly PI mortgage payment on whatever the per stall cost is, and divide by the number of days, that’s roughly your daily rate to break even in 30 years (remember, this is being paid for with debt!). It is quite a sobering exercise. Even for “just” $100K, I get $473 per month which would be $15/day, or $23 per work day! I kind of doubt many people would be willing to pay this to park at the Puyallup Station, so maybe you subsidize it at the same rate you do Sounder fares (70% so $4.50-$6.90?).

  6. Martin: thank you. amen to Ross. the funds are fungible and could shift to service from stalls. the land is not fungible; the land next to the station in the center of the Auburn and Kent street grids is better used for housing next to frequent transit and the fast and reliable Sounder service and not used for car storage. ideally, ST staff and board would have seen this as ST2 and ST3 were assembled. the higher cost are a magnifying glass to help them see it more clearly today. the objective could be to optimize the future and not the electoral environment of 2008 and 2016. the concern about housing and climate change has shifted. Metro Connects also discusses parking, though it makes no sense.

  7. Thanks for going through the calculations!

    The cost of the garage is more than construction cost. It’s maintenance and operations too. As Adam says, the use of TOD real estate for a public garage is a loss of tax revenue. Finally, there is the cost to expand Sounder capacity — more train cars, longer platforms, more train slots if that’s negotiated.

    You’re actually being a bit conservative!

  8. The illogic of it all is built upon a fundamental assumption that peak-period, peak-direction Sounder stations belong in suburban Downtowns. There isn’t really much benefit to these Downtowns because of the infrequency of the service. It doesn’t encourage dense employment within walking distance of these stations and takes away places to put buildings with other functions. It only significantly helps these Downtowns by providing nearby available parking during evenings or weekends.

    In contrast, ST is building Federal Way Link just three miles away — and many of those stations are envisioned to be heavily park-and-ride oriented even though the frequent service lends itself well much better to having employment density and TOD around the stations. (Let’s hope KDM and FW evolve but I hold little hope for 272nd.)

    It really makes me wonder if the right kinds of stations are put in the right places. It seems that we always go in the path of least incremental expense, and systemically it creates contradictions like this.

    1. Commuter rail of this nature is common, and tends to work out well. For relatively little money, you give people what they want more than anything — a fast, smooth ride downtown during rush hour. Outside of rush hour, not very frequent but regular, predictable bus service is more than enough to both handle the demand, and give riders the confidence that they can get home if they miss the last train or have to leave early.

      The problem is when you go beyond that. If you try running the trains really frequently, you end up spending a bundle and having low ridership. That is because there simply isn’t enough demand in the middle of the day to go long distances (the bus can handle that demand). Even if the area around the station becomes very built up and attractive with something in the way of all day demand (which is more likely in Auburn then Federal Way) you still won’t have big demand in the middle of the day. You would have demand to the local downtown (enough to justify better all day bus service*) but not enough demand from that station to Seattle to justify frequent rail service.

      The point being that Sounder makes a lot of sense. There shouldn’t be a major investment in park and rides, but I wouldn’t get rid of them either. That is fine. What is silly is extending Link to an area that has similar ridership patterns, like Federal Way. That area (since it lacks cheap commuter rail possibility) should simply have better bus service, either to a station closer to Seattle or downtown Seattle. This is expensive — it means a fair number of buses running a fair distance — but it is way cheaper than extending the subway that far out.

      * If this happens — if downtown Auburn becomes a regional destination — then it makes sense to take the express bus that serves it in the middle of the day and combine it with the most popular route serving the city. If Northgate was much further away, and served by commuter rail (instead of a subway) then the 41 would run in the middle of the day, much as it runs now (while rush hour service would involve everything getting truncated).

      1. I didn’t intend the comment to be a criticism of Sounder as a concept. The comment is about station locations and surrounding land uses. For example, Tukwila Sounder station is not in a “downtown”.

      2. OK, yeah, good point. However, I think overall the Sounder stations have more potential. Let me start by listing them, with Sounder first (north to south):

        Tukwila — A bad station, but that part of Tukwila is bound to have a bad station. Hardly anyone lives there. The only significant density in Tukwila is north of 518, west of I-5 (close to SR 99) and even that isn’t worth a major deviation for Link. Ideally the station could be a bit more convenient for the buses, but the roads in general are terrible, and obviously designed to move stuff from the warehouse to the freeway.

        Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent — About as good as you can get. These are all in the heart of the city/town. If you are going to have TOD, this is where it will happen.

        Tacoma Dome — Fairly weak area (not only not downtown Tacoma, but a relatively ugly part of what is in general a fairly attractive city).

        Now compare that to the Link stops south of SeaTac:

        Angle Lake — Too close to the airport to be anything much but a shuttle service for the parking lots and motels nearby. The bus works just as well for that.

        Star Lake — Pretty bad. A station hemmed in by the freeway, a greenbelt, and a school. Somehow manages to be a hefty walk from the relatively close apartments nearby. It could connect to another neighborhood, except there is little to connect to.

        Kent/Des Moines — Pretty good, in that it is close to Highline Community College. Other than that, meh. (Not close to SR 99).

        Federal Way Transit Center — Based on the theory that every parking lot within a ten minute walk will be replaced by something better, and that no one will mind walking ten minutes from a bus stop on SR 99.

        South Federal Way — Could be bad, or terrible.

        Fife — Will be bad.

        East Tacoma — Another bad freeway station. I guess there will be some casino land, but I just don’t see that working out, since the line ends at the Tacoma Dome (not downtown Tacoma). You are supposed to take Link down from Seattle? Or maybe drive to the Tacoma Dome, then take the train? It doesn’t make sense since there will be a huge parking lot at the casino (of course — it is right next to the freeway).

        Tacoma Dome: Same weak station.

        I think in general, Sounder (i. e. the old train line) does a much better job. That is because Link largely follows the freeway, while Sounder largely follows the old town centers.

        The biggest weakness to Sounder is that it doesn’t serve Tacoma that well. It isn’t close to downtown, nor can it easily grow into it. It is an industrial area, separated from downtown by the freeway, and a fair amount of distance. Unfortunately, Like has the same problem. Sounder does have an additional issue, in that the train follows an awkward path to Seattle, first going southeast before going north.

      3. Good station analysis. I think that underscores how the Tacoma Dome extension is much more about connections within Pierce/SKC and connecting to Tacoma to the Airport, rather than serving Seattle-bound commuters. Which perhaps reinforces Dannaher’s point that Pierce would be better served by bus lanes on I5.

        Tacoma Dome is going be a massive transit hub, they gotta figure out how to create TOD within the immediate neighborhood, or at least grow downtown Tacoma southward. Is it that much worse than SLU was 25 years ago?

      4. I’d argue that the biggest weakness to Sounder is its peak-direction orientation. That limits the attractiveness of any TOD except for residential.

        I’m not saying having suburban downtown stations is inherently bad. I’m merely saying that Link stations are being built as if it’s Sounder, and Sounder stations are being built as if it’s Link.

      5. Al, I’m not sure the data supports that. IIRC, Sounder peak load is at Kent, not Tukwilla, as the Boeing jobs at Tukwilla result in more people alighting than boarding each morning.

        Yes, Sounder does poorly to serve non-traditional commute windows or most non-commute trips, but no reason “9-5” jobs at all stations can drive ridership. All stations have municipal jobs, schools, etc. within the station walkshed. Kent has a bunch of county jobs, Auburn has a medical center, etc. I wouldn’t expect any of the stations to match Tukwilla, but if I’m a city leader I’m certainly selling Sounder as an asset for economic development.

      6. “Kent/Des Moines — … Not close to SR 99”

        It’s one block from 99. No further than a big-box store parking lot.

        “Federal Way Transit Center — Based on the theory that every parking lot within a ten minute walk will be replaced by something better, and that no one will mind walking ten minutes from a bus stop on SR 99.”

        It’s kitty-corner from The Commons, the biggest thing, and there will be “better things” in between as you said. As for the distance from a bus stop, do you know what the bus stops and routes will be? All the buses will presumably go to the station.

        “The biggest weakness to Sounder is that it doesn’t serve Tacoma that well… Unfortunately, Like has the same problem.”

        Tacoma has a long-term geographical problem with downtown being out of the way and a small dead-end penninsula beyond it. This is compounded by Tacoma Dome’s location. Central Link just barely gets into the Pierce subarea — 95% of it is beyond the last station, including the three largest cities. How could Pierce possibly think Link would be the transit solution? Sounder goes further, and serves two of the cities (Lakewood and Puyallup), but it misses most of the largest city (Tacoma). This is practically unbelievable, and way different from Snohomish County. No wonder Piercians are doubting they’re getting much from their ST taxes.

        Another problem is the distance: Everett is as close as just south of Federal Way. With that distance it was always going to be hard to connect the Pierce economy to the Seattle/Bellevue/Redmond economy. And even if Link were extended to Tacoma Mall (as the subarea wants) or Lakewood (another theoretical terminus), that would just add to the distance and travel time, so it would not help much. And it would still miss most of Tacoma including downtown. Tacoma Link will be there, and it may grow into the multi-line network envisioned, but without exclusive lanes in the extensions it will never go faster than cars.

      7. Would a RapidRide A/181 be feasible? Starting from BAR (Tukwila’s preferred terminus) to Federal Way along the existing route, and east to Auburn Station and Green River CC along the 181 (which is designated as future RapidRide). Or would that be too long? That would be a way to connect north 99 riders to Federal Way Station and something useful east of it, and avoid terminating at the station (so that everyone would have to transfer).

        It would break the continuity between north Federal Way and south Federal Way, but that’s inevitable because the A can’t bypass Federal Way station, the biggest downtown in the area. Of course this could have been avoided if Link were on 99 and the A could serve the station in-line and continue straight south, which I think is RossB’s point, But there would be a strong argument for the A to turn on 320th even then, because of the future job density there, and Auburn beyond it.

      8. I think you’d leave the A as-is. It’s a super logical route serving a linear corridor, and it is the ‘local’ for Link with transfers at FW, KDM, and TIBS (and potentially BAR) … as you say, KDM is close enough to 99 that the A shouldn’t need to diverge to still have a good transfer. Extending to BAR makes good sense, but going all the way to Auburn might hinder reliability, particularly as the A has BAT lanes most of the way, and I don’t think 181 has any.

        So I’d argue for a different route to serve east-west and connect to Auburn, sticking to the 181 route going west of FW TC and east of Auburn station. It creates a more natural grid.

        Alternatively, if you aren’t interested in going west of FW TC, you could have this “181” route swing south to provide some service on 99 between SFW and FW. PT would presumably be happy to truncate the 500 to SFW, to minimize their travel outside their service area.

    2. Link has a framework where they distinguish between ‘urban’ and ‘suburban’ stations. It seems to work well on East Link, where East Main/Downtown/Wilburton/Spring District/Bel-Red/Redmond have little to no parking, while SE Bellevue and SE Redmond are categorized as “suburban” with giant garages. The problem with applying this framework to Sound is Tacoma Dome and Tukwilla are the two “suburban” with plenty of room for parking. That’s a big gap to have no parking, so you would functionally not provide P&Rs for east Pierce and much of SE King.

      You could just punt on parking , as many on this thread would argue, but I’ve wondered if instead Sounder needs an infill station, somewhere between Puyallup and Auburn, to be a ‘suburban’ station with massive amounts of parking, so that the historic downtowns of the existing Sounder stations can focus on TOD and good station access.

      For example, ST could just buy Emerald Downs and convert it into a giant surface parking lot. Would that be better than structured parking at the existing stations?

      1. “For example, ST could just buy Emerald Downs and convert it into a giant surface parking lot.”

        To what parts of the property are you referring? The existing surface parking lots, the stables, the exercise area or the track and related grandstand and service buildings? The Muckleshoot Tribe owns the bulk of the property if I’m not mistaken and in 2014 (?) also purchased the operation and racetrack facilities. So there’s that.

        Additionally, the bulk of the property is essentially a natural wetlands area. The center of the track area is designed to channel surface water runoff at a certain rate, along with some sort of routine pH testing, as it is ultimately directed to feed into a local creek. It frequently becomes a big pond and wildlife habitat during our wet season. Again, if my memory serves me right, the original development of the property for Emerald Downs horseracing required creation of a new wetlands nearby as part of the environmental mitigation.

        The property is huge. So, again, what parcels are you considering? I think roughly 25% of the grounds are already paved parking areas.

      2. Do the tracks run by Emerald Downs? I’ve only ridden Sounder once and don’t recall going by the race track. If memory serves, the tracks by there are the UP mainline?

        Assuming it’s feasible to build a station at Emerald Downs that might be a good location. The track only operates part of the year so the rest of the time the parking is going to waste. I used to go to Longacres but haven’t actually been to Emerald Downs. If I could take Link to King Street and Sounder to the track I might go. Although some sort of bus connection back to Bellevue would be required. But I’m “betting” a fair number of commuters would park at the track specifically to attend the races after work. Can you use your ORCA card at the wager window :=

        Daily Double, if the tribe owns and runs the race track they would probably run a shuttle from there ginormous parking lot at the Muckleshoot Casino.

      3. Was just picking a large, mostly open parcel near the Sounder alignment that’s within SKC but isn’t near any of the town centers, didn’t mean to highlight a specific parcel. The point was to pull parking away from the TOD while still allowing people to walk from their car to the train

      4. These stations all have parking. Lots of parking. The question is whether it is worth building more, at great expense (and the answer is, unequivocally, NO).

      5. While siting is hard, I’m glad that you understood my observation, AJ. Emerald Downs would be a strategic place for another Tukwila Sounder kind of station. I think it’s probably too late to move any existing station though.

        I keep my eye out for technological advances that allow for electric battery trains to operate on the line. That way the acceleration and deceleration can be quicker and ST could add Infill stops like one near Emerald Downs . Bombardier has the Talent3 which looks promising. Even then, the extortion by BNSF railroad for train slots makes it tough to create all-day service so they best thing about adding a station would be to save money by avoiding building a garage — and the cost of adding a platform would seem to wipe out cost efficiencies.

        The BNSF ongoing cost and frequency limitations are to me the biggest reason to not invest in Sounder projects. It’s like renovating the kitchen of a rented apartment owned by a greedy landlord because there is nowhere else to rent.

      6. The racetrack sits between the two rail lines. A station would be possible there. The 15th NW ramps would serve it directly.

      7. @Ross the idea is that buy building surface parking at an infill station, rather than structuring parking at an existing stations, the cost for expanded parking is far less, plus the parking footprint could be converted to TOD much more easily if the need for parking is ‘solved’ in the future.

      8. So it’s trying to solve the issue of “where” to put the parking, not whether we should have parking.

      9. So it’s trying to solve the issue of “where” to put the parking, not whether we should have parking.

        Yes, but your sentences continue to be misleading. A more precise way to put it is:

        So it’s trying to solve the issue of “where” to put the additional parking, not whether we should have additional parking.

        The point is, even if we do nothing, there is still parking at each station (more than enough, in my opinion).

        If you really want to add parking, then add it in the neighborhoods, away from the station. I’ve mentioned churches as an obvious possibility. This would likely be way cheaper than building a new station and buying out Emerald Downs.

        More than anything, adding additional parking by a station is Cadillac transit. It only benefits those that don’t want to take shuttles, while hurting everyone else. This is another example. It is quite possible you could lease parking from Emerald Downs for fairly cheap, and run shuttles. They have over a million square feet of it, and are eager to lease it out*. On the low side, that works out to 2,500 spaces**, which makes sense, given that attendance averaged 3,767 (and peaked at 14,000) in 2017 ***. The only conflict would be for Friday night, but they could easily lease out 600 spaces (more total spaces than what is planned) and still avoid a conflict, as I would assume that Friday night is not when they are busiest. It would mean that some of the park and ride users would have to take a five minute shuttle bus. Boo Hoo.

        ** According to this ( a parking spot can take up to 400 square feet per space

  9. Now that STRide is in development, I’d like to see what the cost numbers and ridership estimates are for day-long STRide service to Kent, Auburn and Sumner would cost. For example, use 516 to connect to Link, and develop a North-South corridor between Kent and Sumner. It would be amazing service and reach many destinations in these communities that Sounder doesn’t.

    The 522 STRide program was budgeted for $386M in 2018 for comparison. It has 13-16 stops, eight miles and is estimated at 22 minutes to Woodinville from Shoreline South Link. This is giving 10-minute bus service to Bothell all day long and 20-minute service to Woodinville.

    I realize that it’s not in ST3 — but the ST3 garages that were promised for Sounder were budgeted at much less. The “deal” with the taxpayers was broken with this much higher cost.

      1. Link at KDM (SR 516).

        It would be a “three-fer” benefit — feeding the occasional Sounder train (from remote surface lots) as well as tie in to Link for all-day service and connect several activity centers in these cities that Sounder doesn’t.

      2. Sounds like you are describe a KCM rapid ride line.

        Express bus service along SR167 corridor would duplicate Sounder and would make sense as a non-peak STX “shadow” for Sounder, presumably multiple STX routes tying into either FW or KDM. Express bus service pulling riders away from Sounder to Link during peak doesn’t make sense because Sounder is most useful during that exact time period to alleviate crowding on Link.

        There isn’t a need for a Stride “rib” connecting to the Link “spine” in SE King because Sounder exists. By all means have good, all-day east-west service to tie together SW and SE King, with Link stations as key nodes, but that’s a job for KCM, not ST.

        IMO, if there’s a future for Stride in SE King, it would be to leverage SR167 to provide a Kent-Bellevue route, as an express route that ties into Rapid Ride I in Kent and Renton before interlining with 405 Stride.

      3. Yeah it seems to be what a KCM RapidRide line should be by default. Of course, 522 BRT seems more appropriate as a KCM RapidRide line too.

        The function of KCM RapidRide versus ST STRide is a much more complicated discussion! Lol

      4. Haha yeah I meant more as shorthand that an east-west route wouldn’t have near the same peak demand that would merit “high capacity transit” investment in the way that Sounder or Link does, so it’s solving a different problem than this garage, which is intended to fill up rather fast for a very specific time of day.

        ST 578 is more or less what you recommend, and it’s very possible ST would continue to run this route truncated to Federal Way Link. But the span of service is very different, as the route doesn’t start running until after the last Sounder train leaves. If you ask for all day ST 578, ST would say “no need – Sounder has you covered 6am to 8am to get you to Seattle” But if you say, “I’m just trying to get from Sumner to Federal Way,” then “sorry but that’s not the trip we are solving for.”

        Goal 1: Give Sounder stations all-day service to Seattle, with Sounder trains during peak and STX bus otherwise. Done by ST.
        Goal 2: Give Sound stations all-day service to other SKC destination. Done by KCM.

        If you want to solve goals 1 & 2 with one route, I suppose you could, but you may end of serving neither well, as #1 is an express between stations and #2 would presumably have many more intermediate stops.

      5. I would probably send the bus to SeaTac, but since KDM means Highline College, truncating there is pretty good. It would probably be yet another mediocre Sound Transit route (which is to say, a below average Metro route). Not terrible, by any means, but not spectacular either. With the college there, it should have decent all day demand.

        But it would be crazy to give it “STRide” treatment. We are talking about a bus that will probably get maybe 2,000 riders a day, even if you run it all the time. The college is a decent destination, but it’s not the UW. Being on the Link line ignores the fact that it is a very long ways from downtown Seattle, or any other major destination.

        That really is the problem with the south end of Link. It is too far from Seattle, and there is very little in the way of destinations (SeaTac is pretty much it, and it is a not a minor destination). In contrast, Lynnwood will be only twenty minutes from the UW, and less than a half hour from downtown. The 522 bus will connect to Link in the middle of nowhere, but from there it is 10 minutes to the UW, and 20 minutes to the far end of downtown. There just won’t be that many people willing to take a bus (from say, Auburn) then wait for the train so they can then spend 40 minutes before getting to downtown. That is an hour trip (each way) if not more.

      6. I am also supportive of the idea of a bus from Kent to Kent Des Moines Link Station, but it needs to continue east, past Kent Station, rather than forcing the bulk of the riders into making an additional transfer to continue in a straight line. The trick is how to do that without making the route too long (e.g. thru-routing with today’s 168) or duplicating coverage.

      7. I thought about it some more and I think ST 578 is actually a great starting point for a Rapid Ride/Swift/Stride/whatever route. Here, the sole value of “Stride” is that you have a route that crosses county lines, or neither PT or KCM are well positions.

        You are basically trying to tie together 3 key nodes:
        1. Puyallup station, which is going to be the terminus for PT’s ‘BRT-4’ Meridian corridor. (
        2. Auburn station, which allows a transfer to Rapid Ride I and further buses to East King.
        3. Link. I suppose you could go to SeaTac, but the transfer environment will be much better at Federal Way or KCM (direct ramps, etc.), and you avoid the congestion mess of the 5-405 interchange.

        Note that in all 3 cases, the relevant transfers don’t yet exist. So right now, ridership would be pretty anemic. But in the future, it could be a key piece of a cohesive grid pulling together east Pierce and SKC.

      8. Metro is planning a Seattle-Kent-Auburn express on 167. There have been unofficial suggestions for an Auburn-Renton Stride or Auburn-Bellevue Stride on 167. Ever since Sounder started many STBers have been asking ST for an all-day Seattle-Kent express when Sounder isn’t running but ST has always refused.

        KDM Road will have RapidRide if Metro Connects succeeds. There are two Kent RapidRides planned. RapidRide I on 169/180 (Renton-Kent-Auburn) is in planning. RapidRide 166/164 on KDM-Kent-132nd-Green River CC (but on KDM Road and KK Road, and without Burien) has not started. Those are all in Metro’s 2025 plan. Metro’s 2040 plan also has a second express route, West Seattle Junction – Burien – SeaTac – KDM – Kent on KM Road.

  10. “Perhaps 30 years is a good guess for robot cars or a big garage renovation.”

    That’s a reasonable assumption. The IRS puts enclosed parking facilities in the same depreciable asset class as buildings and thereby assumes a 39-year useful life.*

    “For convenience, we’ll assume the increasing cost of service mirrors the interest savings of deferring most of the spending.

    I know you’re just using “rough math” here in this exercise, but I do question whether the assumption stated above is really a wash. Setting aside your caveat about convenience, which is totally understood, do we have any sense what the service cost growth pattern has been, say over the last decade? Has it indeed mirrored general inflation? What was Metro’s service hour cost in 2010?

    *If you really want to get into the weeds on this, read the linked IRS ruling following a taxpayer challenge regarding the depreciation schedule said taxpayer elected for an open-air parking facility he operated. Spoiler alert: he lost. (The IRS had issued a Coordinated Issue Paper on parking structures in 2009; the taxpayer challenge ruling was from 2012.)

    1. Tax tables have a generally aggressive depreciation schedule. Asking ST for their useful life assumption is far for relevant than the tax treatment. For example, here a parking garage is expected to last 50 years.

      And the cost of a major rehab of a parking garage will cost a fraction of the initial construction. At 30 years, the SOGR spend isn’t another $100M for a new garage. A concrete structure should have a much longer useful life (west seattle bridge notwithstanding), which could tip the math. If the garage is still perfectly functional in 45 years, then you have 1/3 less bus hours in the analysis.

      1. “Tax tables have a generally aggressive depreciation schedule.”

        Well, in general I agree with you but I wouldn’t categorize commercial building depreciation schedules as particularly aggressive. I was simply trying to assess if the OPs 30-year assumption was reasonable. Useful life depreciation is one way, admittedly with its inherent flaws, to make such an assessment. We all recognize that capital assets can have a much longer serviceable life, particularly with good maintenance and smart SoGR spending. Hell, I own/drive a 17-year-old pickup truck myself!

        I just didn’t have ready access to the ST documents that specifically state their assumed useful life for parking structures. I assumed the OP was in the same position, or was simply doing a back of napkin type of calculation for this mental exercise. (And that was fine by me.)

        Btw, I agree with the rest of your analysis (in regard to how the math changes dramatically as the lives of the built assets are extended).

      2. Yeah I looked around to see if I could find useful life assumption for garages somewhere but didn’t find anything at hand.

    2. “For convenience, we’ll assume the increasing cost of service mirrors the interest savings of deferring most of the spending.”

      Answering my own question here….I came across the following info on the KC Metro site:

      Year Cost Per Hour
      2008 $123.80
      2009 $122.47
      2010 $126.02
      2011 $129.51
      2012 $135.68
      2013 $139.30
      2014 $142.46
      2015 $142.91
      2016 $140.86
      2017 $151.33
      2018 $153.71

      But when you adjust for inflation, the figures come out as follows (2018$):

      Year Cost Per Hour
      2008 $148.91
      2009 $148.36
      2010 $152.76
      2011 $151.39
      2012 $154.48
      2013 $156.77
      2014 $156.84
      2015 $155.65
      2016 $150.43
      2017 $156.85
      2018 $153.71

      So, without diving into the details on the above numbers (like the inclusion of the operational cost of the DSTT) and taking them as given, it does appear that Metro’s cost per hour for running buses has generally increased at the same rate as inflation over the past decade.

  11. Great analysis Martin, but I think you are missing the cost of bus replacements – I don’t believe those are covered in the $150/hour O&M cost. Over 30 years, 10 buses replaced twice would cost $25MM in 2018 dollars, per M2018-161.

    Also, 30 years is rather aggressive for a concrete structure, given most of ST’s guide-ways and bridge was supposed to last >75 years. And I don’t see how a garage is less useful in a magic robot future, given the one-way nature of Sounder travel. Or do you ‘solve’ parking by deadheading all the driverless shuttles back to their owner’s home and have 4 rush hours rather than 2?

    1. Or do you ‘solve’ parking by deadheading all the driverless shuttles back to their owner’s home and have 4 rush hours rather than 2?

      Yeah, pretty much. If you read any literature about driverless cars, that is what they feature. In the morning, you are let off at work. Then your car goes back home, and takes your husband to the grocery store (and back). Then the car picks up sally after soccer practice, and drops her off at home, before heading off to pick you up at work.

      In this case, the car is going a lot shorter distance (even if it is traveling twice as far). If that is really an issue, it could drive a shorter distance, find a parking spot, and just wait there. Yeah, there would likely be two part rush hour congestion around the station. The best way to deal with that is additional shuttle bus service.

    2. ” In the morning, you are let off at work. Then your car goes back home, and takes your husband to the grocery store (and back). Then the car picks up sally after soccer practice, and drops her off at home, before heading off to pick you up at work.”

      Still, that’s one car instead of two. Most suburban couples have two cars. And if Sally were 16+, she would have a third car. Well, used to. Now Sally may be too busy instagraming with her friends and consuming online games/movies to bother with a car for a few years.

      1. Yeah, but that’s the point. When cars drive themselves, lots of people won’t need a second (or third) car.

  12. Tlsgwm, no quarrel with your statement, but pretty high on my Bad Basic Ideas, list is the acceptance of, or resignation to, the idea that robot cars are inevitable.

    Willing to trade, though, for inevitability of horses- and for all-terrain use, llamas and mountain goats – trained not only to become their own Lyfft and Uber self-driven vehicles…

    But also to handle credit cards, which by that time may well be transmitted via telepathy. Sugar cubes and whole apples, respected traditional “tips.”

    Though have to recall that the robot car concept has been in literature since at least 1951, when Robert Heinlein has his hero Don Harvey arrive at the residence of his uncle Dudley in a self-driven cab.

    When the cab demands payment at his uncle’s apartment, he worries that it might not be able to “sniff” his uncle’s Letter of Credit. No Fear, though the Feds murder his uncle and call it “Heart Failure.” Does bureaucratic “Sclerosis”, like the Atlantic now calls it, ever change?

    With the Federation capitol in Bermuda clapped in place under a force-field dome that looks like a giant chrome hubcap and lets everything through its rays except for bureaucrats…….. too bad Lieutenant Heinlein isn’t still here to help us out.

    A naval engineer who can deliver a dragon named Sir Isaac Newton (Ph.D), and a pushy creature called a “Move-Over” because that’s what it makes everybody do, though wicked humans still eat it at expensive restaurants-can certainly replace existentially dangerous robot cars with terrain-friendly animals who can read minds, credit cards, and traffic reports. Pray Dave Ross lives to interview them.

    Mark Dublin

    1. My post above in response to the OP’s interesting mental exercise was focused on the parking structures, and not the idea of robot vehicles being the norm in 30 years. I am in no position to weigh in on that matter. Sorry if I was unclear in my earlier comment.

      1. Policy, Tlsgwm. Don’t ever apologize to me about anything. It only encourages me. Fair accusation that this one was farther Off Topic than the West Seattle Bridge is from complete repair.

        Like a lot I’m saying now, main point is really about the progress of an idea from being thought and talked ABOUT to the kind we think WITH. In this case, the ability to steer, brake, anticipate, and accelerate through changes over time.

        Especially, in consciously designing a structure incorporating the “Opportunity Value” of a structure whose strength, function, and beauty will make it an ever more valuable presence regardless of the changes imposed by time.

        Far as the chemical-contamination problem…..many of the world’s best examples started out as very large-scale stables for horses. Over centuries when pitchforks performed the function now served with power chemical-charged hoses and very large diapers.

        That’s all.

        Mark Dublin

  13. a frequent Route 181 would connect parking and the network with both Federal Way Link and Auburn Sounder. the hours might be covered by both agencies; the riders would not care about the paint on the bus. the Sounder station areas would benefit from two-way all-day service; could it be via EMU in the future? a frequent Route 166 would connect parking and the network with both KDM Link and Kent Sounder.

  14. I reject the idea that a park and ride expansion was ever a good value. Implicit is the assumption that it is the only way that lots of people can use the train. The problem is that it conflates two ideas. There are plenty of areas that will are difficult to serve because of their density, or the street layout ( For example, people who live here ( can’t be expected to have a bus go by their house. Density is too low, and it isn’t on the way to anything. Residents there will have to ride a bike, drive a car, or walk a very long ways to get anywhere on transit.

    But that doesn’t mean they have to drive to the station. They can drive to the nearest bus stop. This parking is expensive per space because it is an expansion of parking that already exists. It is much cheaper to build parking away from the station. Better yet, lease parking from churches, or other places that don’t need it during the week.

    This means that riders have a two seat ride to downtown. So what? That will be common with our system. We are spending about a third of a billion dollars (not counting operating costs) to speed up a bus that will then connect to Link. The SR 522/145th Street BRT project has no big destination, other than the station at 145th. It is largely just a shuttle bus, and yet somehow folks in Auburn can’t do the same thing, despite living much further way from Seattle.

    This is not to say I’m against park and ride lots. I’m not. I’m against huge park and ride lots. Once you have enough demand for hundreds (or thousands) of spaces, you obviously have enough demand to run shuttle buses.

    One of the big problems with this project (and similar ones) is that it doesn’t scale. If they spend the money, they will end up with 675 total spaces. About 2,000 people board transit there, which means that when all is said and done, at best this helps about a third of the riders. But what if demand goes up? The parking lot is still full, and there is no easy way for people to get to the station.

    In contrast, a bunch of satellite parking and shuttle buses scales quite nicely. Over time, those lots get full as well, but by then you are running the bus more often, and more people walk to the bus stop. Or you add more satellite parking, and add more routes (or extend what you have).

    This is a flawed approach, that gives a relative small number of riders (less than a third) a nicer option for getting downtown, but the end result is less money is spent on the 2/3 of riders who have to find another way there.

  15. I can’t help but call out the irony (hypocrisy?) of building garages close to Sounder platforms so some riders don’t have to walk very far from their cars — but not building user-focused pedestrian connections at King Street to Link. We make all South Sounder riders change levels (with most level changes lacking escalators) and walk a few blocks once they get to Downtown Seattle. I see nothing wrong with widening the search for available land for surface parking as opposed to building earthquake-resistant garages.

    1. “I see nothing wrong with widening the search for available land for surface parking as opposed to building earthquake-resistant garages.”

      Agreed. I like some of the suggestions thus far. I’ve always been a fan of RossB’s satellite parking lots idea, like church/synagogue/mosque lots, with connecting bus service. I’m sure there are many other surface lot opportunities as well, such as the leasing of existing spaces at the Emerald Downs property as discussed above.

      So how do we get ST to even put such ideas on the table?

  16. Almost $200k/stall for a parking structure? That’s completely insane. Are they using land they already own, or purchasing new parcels?

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