Tukwila Intl Blvd Station Park and Ride, by SounderBruce, used with a Creative Commons License.

King County Metro will begin to offer paid solo-driver parking permits to transit riders at its busiest park-and-ride lots. Led by Councilmember Claudia Balducci, the 5-3 approval from King County Council comes nearly a year after Sound Transit passed a similar program to better manage parking and provide transit access to a broader audience of people. This is a step in the right direction, and a policy victory that will benefit transit riders and the transit system overall!

Years in the making

Transportation Choices and its transit access partners, including Futurewise, Sierra Club, the Housing Development Consortium, Cascade Bicycle Club, Climate Solutions as well as researchers like the Sightline Institute have for years advocated for better management of parking at park-and-ride lots. 

Free and unrestricted parking produces many unintended consequences: From encouraging driving to privileging those drivers who have the flexibility to arrive early in the morning to grab a spot. Building additional parking as an answer to full lots is not only pricey, it means forfeiting valuable space near transit that could have been used for affordable housing, childcare or other amenities that better leverage the prime location. 

Not to mention, we already have plans to build a lot more parking: More than 10,000 stalls are already funded through the ST3 program, and the majority of those will be in King County.

A step in the right direction; with room to iterate 

Ten of Metro’s park-and-ride lots are busy enough to qualify for the new program (lots must be at 90% capacity on weekdays). Solo drivers will be able to purchase permits for $60-$120 per month (which breaks down to $2-$4 per day), depending on the lot. Low-income transit riders can purchase monthly permits for $20 if enrolled in the Orca LIFT program. Permits will be limited to up to 50% of stalls, and the rest will remain free. 

Now, people who drive to park-and-rides have a variety of options. They can pay for a permit; they can arrive early to grab a free spot; or they can get a free permit if they carpool. After 10 a.m., permitted stalls that are unoccupied will open again for free use.

During its review of the program proposal, King County Council asked that Metro conduct a thorough evaluation, and continue to iterate the program. We look forward to seeing how this program works and how it can be improved to increase access and reliability for transit riders!

Want more? Check out our Park and Ride one pager and previous articles below.

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