As Sound Transit grapples with escalating costs for ST3, one emerging option focuses on delaying parking construction to prioritize transit. In the past month and a half, we have:
- WSDOT Secretary Roger Millar’s most righteous February 25th letter demolishing the importance of parking to a transit system
- The Sound Transit Board reviewing a “Delay Parking Not Yet Designed” scenario (see slide above) at its March 25th meeting
- An April 4th executive committee review of nuances of parking in ST3
Delaying parking has a number of advantages. It allows ST to complete the “lines on the map” that captivated most voters with the least delay. Parking is an expensive way to acquire riders, averaging $128,000 per net new space in ST3. By comparison, upzoning and selling the land to a market-rate developer adds riders and is revenue positive.
Finally, it’s possible rideshare and autonomous vehicle hype actually comes true by mid-century. In this case, structured parking will instantly be obsolete while trains still avoid traffic and carry more people in constrained spaces.
On the other hand, a great many voters will never have good bus, bike, or pedestrian options to Link, and the only way they can conceive of accessing the system is through parking. While the ST3 statute is structured to allow Sound Transit to do cost-effective things to improve station access, the representative alignment has a lot of parking. While not building all of it is not legally a “lie,” voters would be right to feel misled if the bits they liked were jettisoned at the first sign of trouble.
Additionally, diverting parking funds to more cost-effective modes adds riders. Cutting parking and replacing it with nothing, which an austerity scenario implies, does not.
At the Executive Committee meeting (video starting at 58:00), reaction was mixed. Mr. Millar and King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci were clearly favorable. Meanwhile, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier and Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus were skeptical, perhaps drawing from the auto-oriented experience of Sounder.