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Park-And-Ride Permits Is a Step Toward Equitable Access

Posted by keiko@transportationchoices.org at Jul 19, 2018 01:50 PM |
King County Metro and Sound Transit’s proposal is heading for review.

Update 7/26/18: Today, the Sound Transit Board of Directors approved the parking permit resolution for Sound Transit parking facilities. Sound Transit will soon institute a fee structure. The program is expected to start in October. Program details below:

Imagine having a long commute to work and living far away from a bus route. You can’t rely on parking at the park-and-ride because you cannot arrive early enough to secure a spot. This is true for many transit riders who can’t use park-and-rides because lots fill up early, increasing crowding on early morning trips and leaving little to no parking for workers with later start times, who have to drop kids off at school, or those who do not have the flexibility to arrive early. Rather than building more parking lots, parking permits can help manage the available space.

To address this concern, King County Metro and Sound Transit have been developing a new parking management strategy throughout the region to make sure that park-and-rides are accessible to everyone. The proposal would allow people driving alone to pay for a reserved space at park-and-rides. Park-and-ride permits are still available for carpoolers and free park-and-ride spots will continue to be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

What are park-and-rides?

Park-and-ride lots are convenient and safe transfer areas that make transit more accessible for people who do not live near a bus or light rail route. They assist transit riders to find fast, frequent, and reliable connections. Riders can leave their vehicles (or bike) at a park-and-ride and transfer to a bus, train, or vanpool. Park-and-rides are a tool to relieve congestion and promote the use of public transportation.

All riders and taxpayers pay for expensive parking infrastructure, and building more parking will only occupy land that can be used to build housing near high-frequency transit. Parking permits can help manage demand and curb the need to build endless parking lots.

A look at the parking permit proposal

After collecting community feedback, Metro and Sound Transit have created paid single-occupancy vehicle parking permit proposals that are heading for review. Sound Transit’s proposal will:

  • establish SOV permit prices in consideration of market rates for monthly paid parking alternatives otherwise available to customers;

  • offer reduced-price SOV permits to ORCA-LIFT qualified customers no more than 50% of the full SOV permit price for the same facility;

  • authorize the Sound Transit CEO to change the rates without board action, based on performance measures (e.g., demand);

  • offer free permits to carpoolers (HOVs),

  • make permits only available to Sound Transit district residents; and

  • maintain at least 50% first come, first served free parking stalls.

Metro is considering a similar proposal in terms of performance-based pricing that will likely be as rooted through the budget process. These changes will only go into effect in lots owned and operated by Sound Transit or King County Metro. We are exploring ways WSDOT-owned lots can charge for parking.

Overall, we support the proposal and see it as a useful step to provide reliable transportation access, especially for those who need it most. The permit proposal:

  • offers increased certainty and predictability for transit riders;
  • spreads out demand for space on transit;
  • provides income-eligible discount rates for ORCA LIFT users to make sure that low-income drivers are not priced out. We will continue to make sure Metro and Sound Transit can ensure fair access to these permits;
  • defrays the costs of building and operating park-and-rides so taxpayers are not paying for expensive parking infrastructure;
  • encourages commuters to consider whether they need to drive;
  • lowers operating costs by requiring fewer trains, buses, and drivers during peak periods; and
  • provides performance-driven price adjustments. Sound Transit and Metro can use data to determine the pricing’s effect on demand so they can adjust pricing to meet goals around reliability and equity.

Our only concern is the policy’s regional restrictions. The proposed exclusion of non-Sound Transit residents from these permits at Sound Transit operated lots will create an imbalance, where non-residents are allowed to use the lots for free, but are unable to pay for a stall. Drivers outside the area that want to use the light rail or bus systems and leave their car behind may now have to drive all the way. It is imperative to treat our system as a regional one.

This is proposal is an important first step in parking management. Offering priced monthly permits will help achieve more reliable capacity and reduce early morning demand as folks struggle to get to lots before they fill up. We will continue to work with Sound Transit and Metro to develop parking policies, as the ability to access transit is critical for a seamless, sustainable, and equitable transit system.

Next steps

King County Metro has submitted legislation to the King County Executive along with their budget. Sound Transit will send the policy through its approval process, with multiple opportunities to engage.

Click here to check out our park-and-ride one-pager.

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