Sound Transit expands parking permit program to solo drivers, more transit facilities

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Up to fifty-percent of spaces at highest-demand lots will be reserved for train, bus riders who use parking permits

The Sound Transit Board today 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. The following Sound Transit facilities will be considered for inclusion in the solo driver parking permit program this fall:

  • Mukilteo, Edmonds, Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, Sumner, Puyallup and Lakewood Sounder stations;
  • The Federal Way Transit Center, Issaquah Transit Center and Mercer Island Park-and-Ride
  • Tukwila International Blvd and Angle Lake Link light rail stations
  • The Northgate Mall Park-and-Ride (scheduled to open in October)

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 Chief Executive Officer 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 percent 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.

How the expanded program will work

Starting this fall, transit commuters driving alone will be able to purchase a monthly reserved parking permit for use at Sound Transit park-and-ride facilities that have reached 90 percent or greater capacity for three consecutive months. The permit price, number of permits issued, and number of permitted spaces offered at each station will be determined by the Sound Transit chief executive officer based on a market analysis of local parking rates. Other guidelines for implementing the program include incentivizing carpool- over solo-driver parking to serve more transit riders, rider demands for permits, and ensuring that permit prices at least cover the costs of administering the program.

Sound Transit will begin selling permits for selected stations as soon as September 2018 for use as early as October 2018. Permits for ORCA-LIFT qualified customers and carpooling transit riders will be offered at a reduced rate. Commuters interested in purchasing a parking permit can sign up for program updates, including when and how to purchase permits, at: https://www.soundtransit.org/blog/platform/permit-parking-program-expanding. More information will be posted on soundtransit.org as details are finalized.

Permits will be optional for all participating facilities. The CEO may allocate up to 50 percent of parking stalls designated for transit rider use at eligible Sound Transit facilities for HOV and SOV parking permit holders Monday through Friday during permit enforcement hours. Permitted stalls will available for general use after 8:30 a.m.

Carpool parking permits free this fall

Starting in October, Sound Transit will provide HOV monthly permits free of charge as a way to encourage more transit use by carpoolers. Commuters interested in reserving carpool parking permits this summer can find more information at: https://www.soundtransit.org/carpool-parking-permits-now-available.

A map of facilities offering carpool parking permits, and those that will be eligible for the carpool and solo-driver parking permit programs in 2018 and 2019, is available https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/Potential-SOV-Permit-Locations-MAP-071118.pdf. Additional facilities will be added based on parking demand.

Transit customers without permits will still be able to park in non-permitted spaces on a first-come, first-served basis. Parking facilities served by Sound Transit trains or buses and owned by other agencies, such as the Washington State Department of Transportation, are not currently covered by the permit program.

More information about the parking permit program is available at: https://www.soundtransit.org/blog/platform/permit-parking-program-expanding.