Seattle’s Sound Transit Board approved expansion of its parking permit program by providing a reserved parking option for solo drivers at its highest-demand transit facilities. Beginning in October, the permit program will offer weekday commuters driving alone to selected stations the option of purchasing a permit to park in areas reserved exclusively for permit holders.
No more than half of the parking at any one station will be set aside for permit holders. These and other Sound Transit facilities offering permit parking in the future will continue to provide non-permitted parking on a first come, first-served basis.
“For thousands of daily commuters, especially those living in suburban communities, driving to a transit facility is their fastest way to connect to our trains and buses,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “Light rail will reach Northgate in 2021 and the Eastside in 2023, with more expansions to come. Giving solo drivers the option to use permits for a reliable place to park means their days of hunting for a parking space will soon be over.”
Prioritizing parking for transit riders
The goals of the parking permit program are to improve the availability of parking for transit riders who arrive at Sound Transit stations anytime during the morning commute period and increase the total number of transit riders using these stations. By prioritizing parking for transit riders, the permit program will support the use of taxpayer-funded transit facilities for their intended purpose — connecting more people to more places by train and bus.
The expansion of the parking permit program follows years of policy and planning work to better manage parking for Sound Transit commuters. In 2012, the Sound Transit board directed staff to update the agency’s parking policy and develop pilot projects to test new parking management strategies. The following year, the board established a System Access Policy to support investments in system access improvements for pedestrian, bicycle, transit, and vehicle station access to train and bus connections. The policy established criteria for determining investments in system access facilities and infrastructure; parking management tools such as parking permits and fees; and parking enforcement mechanisms.
In 2014, Sound Transit conducted a six-month pilot test of implementing reserved parking permits for carpool and solo drivers at the Mukilteo and Sumner Sounder stations, the Issaquah Transit Center, and the Tukwila International Boulevard Link light rail station. The pilot offered quarterly parking permits to carpool and solo drivers for $5 and $33, respectively.
More than 1,400 riders applied for pilot parking permits and more than 500 people enrolled in the program. Evaluation results showed a high level of rider interest in permitted parking and rider willingness to pay for a reserved parking space in high-demand lots.
Based on these positive outcomes, the Board in 2015 approved creation of a system-wide permit program to manage customer parking at its high-demand facilities. In 2016, a permit program for transit riders who carpool, or High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) drivers, was implemented at nine Link light rail and Sounder stations showing 97% or greater parking capacity. Since then, the HOV permit program has grown to more than 280 participating carpools at these facilities.
Despite the success of the HOV permit parking program, Sound Transit continued to receive rider complaints about the difficulty of finding space at park-and-ride facilities. Earlier this year, the agency surveyed riders about whether Sound Transit should expand the carpool permit parking program to solo drivers. Riders identified the need to ensure availability of parking as their top priority for expanding the program.
Offering parking permits to solo drivers represents the next phase of the agency’s effort to manage parking to achieve this goal. The Sound Transit 3 (ST3) financial plan assumes revenues from parking fees; any revenue from parking fees over and above amounts assumed in the plan will be directed to the ST3 System Access Fund to further improve station access and safety, including bicycle and pedestrian access improvements.