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Park & Ride struggle with popularity

Your parking space may cost $80K

Tom Trimbath

Drive past a Park & Ride and don’t be surprised to find that it’s full. As people are moving farther out and as traffic is getting busier more people are deciding to commute by bus and train. Great! That’s what they’re there for.

Unfortunately, commuters now have to get up early, not to beat the traffic but to get a space in the parking lot. Making more spaces is an option, and an expensive one. A typical patch of asphalt costs the transit authorities more than $20K; and a parking space in a parking garage can cost as much as $80K, according to a KUOW report. Commuters who can’t find a space may be forced to drive, making traffic, and their commutes, worse. Commuters who wake up early enough to get a space may also be up early enough to miss the traffic, in which case they may drive in anyway.

One of the issues is that Park & Rides are also being used for parking but without the riding. They are being used as convenient and free parking lots for locals who don’t have a space at their house, apartment, or condo; people shopping in the local neighborhood; and even construction crews.

Metro is considering options like permits and fees. Even a no-fee permit would curtail some of the non-riding parking. There could be variations based on time of day and the length of the stay. Details are being worked out. One option is to simply make the Park & Ride lots into regular paid parking lots, though there would probably be provisions for low-income users.

While people may balk at paying for parking on principle or by need, some solution is necessary to accommodate the success of local mass transit. At tens of thousands of dollars per parking space, the solution isn’t as simple as pouring more asphalt and concrete.