Many park and rides in King County have begun to overcrowd, forcing county officials to look for solutions as traffic continues to worsen.
The Kingsgate Park and Ride in north Kirkland is the busiest King County Metro lot on the Eastside at 116 percent capacity in the second quarter of 2015. The Kenmore lot was filled to 100 percent capacity, and Redmond and Bothell lots were at 99 percent with South Kirkland at 95 percent capacity.
More than half of King County Metro’s 64 park and rides average at least 80 percent capacity, with customers complaining that people aren’t using the parking lots to catch public transit. Of Metro’spermanent park-and-rides, 16 were filled to 100 percent or above on average.
“That means people are literally finding stalls in hashed areas or fire lanes if they can’t find a spot,” said Dan Rowe, a King County transportation planner.
The county has seen shifts in the way people use park and rides.
“Once we came out of the recession, transit ridership has been growing steadily — and that’s a good thing, but we’re filling our park and rides,” Rowe said. “Commuters are struggling to find a stall, and the ones who can shift their schedules are showing up earlier to guarantee they have a stall.”
Rowe said there’s an imbalance in King County lots, with some badly overcrowded and some, like church parking lots the county rents on weekdays, are underused.
Metro is hoping to cost-effectively increase the supply of parking stalls, while also working to better manage the current supply.
The transit organization may begin leasing space in non-traditional locations such as commercial lots,multi-family lots or other large developments with underused parking lots. Metro also hopes to restripe and fit in more parking spaces.
For better management, Metro is considering permits to use the park and rides as one of several option sand is taking public comment until Aug. 19 and has a public survey.
One option would allow public transit or carpool users a free or low-cost permit to use the park and ride, such as the Kingsgate and South Kirkland lots. The permit-holders would get first pick until 9:30 a.m., and each lot would still have first-come-first-served parking spaces.
Rowe said the permit-for-HOV riders would be the first and easiest option, and would be a pilot for further programs. Beginning in September, Metro’s partner Sound Transit will begin selling similar permits for Sound Transit-owned lots.
“It really starts to get us greater efficiency of stalls,” Rowe said. “If the user is taking public transit and coming with two or more people, we’re getting more ridership out of the stall.”
Metro is also considering a permit option for solo drivers, but for a fee. The permit would help to promote carpooling to park-and-ride locations.
Among the other options are a daily paid parking system, reducing the maximum stay to 24 hours and increasing on-site security.