Sound Transit had three representatives on hand during the June 4 Federal Way City Council meeting to give an update on efforts to alleviate parking congestion at the Federal Way Transit Center.
The regional transit authority is also trying to alleviate rider congestion on some of the more popular bus routes that begin and end in Federal Way.
"We're really working hard to kind of balance these competing needs from our customers for parking and service, as well as our financial situation," said Chelsea Levy, Sound Transit government and community relations officer for South King and Pierce counties. "We've developed some short-term and long-term solutions…I'm happy to announce tonight that we are evaluating opportunities to lease parking near the Transit Center to address this overflow issue we've been working through the past couple of years."
Levy indicated that an actual lot has not yet been identified, but that it would be "within walking distance" of the transit center.
"We plan to have this parking available to commuters this summer, and we really think this is a tangible way that not only you, as council members, but as adjacent property owners, will see results from this overflow parking issue," Levy added. "We're looking forward to this, and we'll be updating you and your staff as we move forward on implementing this leased parking over the course of the next several weeks and months."
Levy also announced that starting on June 10, the 577 express bus will have an additional run during afternoon peak times. This will complement an added run during morning peak times that was implemented last year.
"Federal Way is fortunate, in that sense, that even in this time where we have very constrained resources, we're able to be adding services here," she noted.
While those are some of the short-term solutions, the parking issue continues to be a major issue for Sound Transit, according to Michael Miller, manager of customer facilities and accessible service.
"We have a total of 23 facilities," Miller said, referencing Sound Transit's parking facilities throughout the region. "Of these 23 facilities, 13 of them are at 94 percent capacity or higher. As you know, the Federal Way facility has 1,190 stalls, and it is currently at 99 percent capacity. Two additional facilities are at 99 percent capacity…We are experiencing high parking volumes at all of our facilities."
Within the context of Federal Way, Miller said data shows that the majority of people using the Federal Way Transit Center live within 4 miles of the facility.
"We're a victim of our success," he added.
Rachel Wilch, associate planner for Sound Transit, shared some pilot programs that the agency hopes staff the board of directors will approve in the near future to help alleviate the parking congestion.
"The goal, individually, for these pilots, is to really look at things we think will increase the number of transit riders per (parking) stall at facilities," she said.
The three pilot programs being explored include a parking permit program for "premium" parking spaces, a promotional program to get transit commuters to carpool to transit facilities, and parking monitoring systems, Wilch said.
For the permit pilot program, Wilch said the permitted spaces would only be in effect during morning peak hours. If this idea were to become a permanent feature for Sound Transit, she said it's been written into the plan to make sure there will always be some sort of non-permitted parking spaces at transit facilities.
"These permits would be available to regular transit riders and regular ridership would be validated by ORCA card numbers, and it would require a quarterly renewal," she noted.
The carpooling feature would also allow commuters to park in designated/reserved spots, Wilch said.
"Again, the goal of each of these is to increase the number of transit riders per (parking) stall," she reiterated.
Finally, the parking monitoring pilot would install a number of features at Sound Transit facilities that would allow the agency to provide realtime information to customers about parking availability.
"This would decrease frustration, time and uncertainty when commuting to the facility," she said.
Levy said Sound Transit hopes to continue to work with Federal Way in a constructive manner going forward.
"I hope this presentation kind of provides for you the picture of all the different pieces swirling around the Federal Way Transit Center. For us, it's not just a parking capacity issue, it's a bus capacity issue as well," she said. "We want to be a good neighbor and service the citizens of Federal Way well."