Sound Transit looking at expanding paid parking permits to solo drivers

Riders could pay for spots at Federal Way Transit Center.

Next year Sound Transit will start outreach to get feedback on plans to offer reserved parking for solo drivers who are frequent transit riders, including at the Federal Way Transit Center.

The permits could be available in late 2018. The initiative is the next step for the agency as it develops new ways to manage limited parking resources, according to a Sound Transit media release.

In September 2016, the agency rolled out its Carpool Permit Parking Program, which has been a success with almost 300 permits issued to new carpoolers.

While walking, biking, getting dropped off or taking a bus to the station or transit center are the agency’s preferred way to get people to and from the train or bus, programs like these can make a big difference for many commuters by providing the peace-of-mind of knowing they will have a place to park without having to arrive earlier than needed.

That extra time can mean a lot for busy commuters who may have to drop kids at childcare or can’t get to the station by 6 a.m. to find a parking spot.

How to get a permit

Exactly how and where the solo driver permits will be rolled out are part of the outreach coming next year.

Like the carpool program, solo drivers who take transit an average of three times a week or 12 times a month will be eligible. The agency verifies transit use through ORCA fare card data and check for regular usage monthly to renew the permits.

For now Sound Transit is considering Angle Lake Station (Link light rail), Tukwila International Boulevard Station (Link light rail), Auburn Station (Sounder), Federal Way Transit Center (ST Express), Kent Station (Sounder), Puyallup Station (Sounder), Sumner Station (Sounder), Issaquah Transit Center (ST Express bus) and Tukwila Station (Sounder).

Sound Transit has almost 12,000 parking spots at 37 locations serving the regional transit system. Most of these are full or over capacity on weekdays. Only lots that Sound Transit owns and manages and are more than 97 percent full for three consecutive months are currently eligible for the permit programs, or those that were built to serve Link.

Up to half of the parking spots at any location may be eligible for permit parking based on the demand for permits. That’s the same setup as Sound Transit has today with the HOV permit program.

The reserved spaces would only be available during weekday morning rush hours and would revert to first-come, first-served parking afterward.

As far as costs, Sound Transit is considering a range of $15 per month to cover administrative costs, up to $90 a month based on the market-rate average of pay lots near the permitted stations. Any revenue from the program beyond administrative cost coverage would fund access improvements in the communities where the money was collected.

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