Our Park & Ride: Why It’s a Little Screwed Up

Recently commenters on this blog have noted that the new Park and Ride is full by 9 am and suggested tactics for solving the problem, whether City-Council-approved or guerrilla.

The reigning theory is that folks from Issaquah, Bellevue and further reaches are coming to the closest P&R to the city– namely, ours. That becomes a problem for Island residents who can’t get a spot after 9 am. Get up and get to work earlier, you lazy bums, you think? Perhaps, but last Tuesday I worked from home til 11 and then couldn’t park to take the bus to work.

From Bruce Bassett, City Council

I emailed Bruce Bassett on the City Council for his thoughts on the problem. His remarks, which he didn’t mind me publishing, are:

The history of the park and ride is long and I don’t have all the details.  Here’s what I do know:

P&R was financed by Sound Transit, not by MI.  And Sound Transit has a hard and fast policy that all P&Rs are open to all.

MI had the option of adding additional levels to the P&R for MI only.  MI opted not to invest.

Citizen created signage saying ‘MI only’ would not be well received and would likely strain relations between the city and sound transit.

City staff and council are well aware of the problem, but good solutions are in short supply.  If you have thoughts, we’ll all be listening.

I’ve cc’ed Rich Conrad in hopes that he will correct me if I’ve misspoken here.

– Bruce Bassett, City Council, via email

From Rich Conrad, City Manager

Bruce did in fact cc Rich Conrad, City Manager, who further stated:

Bruce has stated the situation correctly. Sound Transit owns and operates the Lot and they will not set aside spaces for local residents anywhere in the ST boundaries. We have tried to make the case many times that MI is a unique location since we are the last stop before entering Seattle and are well-served by an Interstate hiway that simply queues up drivers for the eastside to use the MI P&R lot. They’re not convinced or concerned.

We are working at ideas to create additional spaces in the Town Center that would be MI-only spcaes (or at least much harder to get to for people coming off the freeway). If we are lucky and successful we would get the State or ST to fund the construction and we would include it in one of the future Town Center re-development projects. It would be considered “mitigation” for closing the center roadway to cars if/when light rail is added (or worse yet, if tolling is implemented). Unfortunately, at best, these ideas would come together 6 to 8 years from now. I’m sorry I don’t have a bette near-term solution for you. Yes, it is complex….

Lobbying Sound Transit Board members to consider “dedicated spaces” might help. Our eastside reps are Mary-Alice Burleigh, Councilmember at Kirkland, Fred Butler, Councilmember at Issaquah and John Marchione, Mayor of Redmond. Last time I talked to them, they at least listened closely – but no promises.

– Rich Conrad, City Manager, via email

So there you have it. We got our Park and Ride built for free by Sound Transit, but we have to play by their rules. Which, to be fair, seem to have been open and straightforward since the P&R was planned. We probably should have built another level for residents.

Now it seems like our best option is to lobby Sound Transit.  In the meantime it seems some additional parking at the Town Center is a decent option, if less convenient than the P&R itself.  So thanks to the City Council for working towards that. And here is:

Who to Call to Get a Spot at the P&R

Per our City Manager, call these folks and tell them we need to get to work. I looked up their emails:

  • Alice Burleigh, Councilmember at Kirkland- mburleigh@ci.kirkland.wa.us
  • Fred Butler, Councilmember at Issaquah- fredb@ci.issaquah.wa.us
  • John Marchione, Mayor of Redmond- mayor@redmond.gov

For the record, Sound Transit has done some great work in our mass-transit-challenged metro area, and I support them. But I’ll email and ask politely for a place to park.


8 responses to “Our Park & Ride: Why It’s a Little Screwed Up

  1. I might be more sympathetic to local residents faced with full park & rides, think about the “stay off public property” approach here. Once “outsiders” are limited from using public transport facilities they paid for, we can start limiting local road access, too. Furthermore, if anti-tall building MI residents hadn’t opposed a multi-story garage on MI, there might been room for the author to park his car.

  2. mercerislandblogger

    Max, I’m in the strange position of agreeing with you and yet being unable to park. I can’t fault Sound Transit, who seems to have been above-board with their open policy on parking since the beginning.

  3. mercerislandblogger

    Oh, and it’s “her car”, not “his car” that I can’t park. Anyway, thanks for the comment Max.

  4. Not that I am advocating this, but if they put a toll on the east channel bridge, then there won’t be any more others parking on the island.

  5. Interesting point, Jon. A toll on the East Channel would certainly deter most off-Island users of the P&R. Maybe I shouldn’t be so opposed to an I-90 toll. 😉

    However, I think some Islanders are suggesting that any I-90 toll be collected on the West side of MI, allowing Islanders to travel toll-free to/from Bellevue.

  6. Here’s an idea that would take significant, concerted effort, but would make the situation much better.

    First, imagine a commuter from, say, Issaquah, who habitually drives to and parks at the MI P&R. The commuter always finds a spot and builds his commute schedule around the assumption of availability at MI P&R.

    Now imagine that same commuter getting to MI P&R one day and not finding a parking spot. The commuter must drive back East–through traffic–to the South Bellevue P&R. (That lot also fills up every morning.) Our commuter can’t find a spot at South Bellevue and now must drive further East to the Eastgate P&R. At this point, our commuter is very frustrated and very late for work. If this happens more than once, our commuter will change his commute, ideally deciding to use the Issaquah P&R or Eastgate P&R as his default lot instead of MI P&R. If enough non-MI commuters go through this experience, there will be more spaces for MI commuters.

    So, how about we get 100 MI volunteers to park their cars in the MI P&R from 6:00-10:00am (or overnight until 10:00am) for 5 consecutive days, Monday to Friday? We would coordinate this effort, making it as easy as possible on everyone. For example, we could arrange carpools to get volunteers to/from the P&R.

    Since the deterrent effect might not be lasting, we may need to do this every few months, but it would be a small price to pay for reliable access to parking.

  7. mercerislandblogger

    Interesting idea, Joe. Another twist on that is to get MI commuters involved, since they’re the most frustrated and would also lose parking if others parked there. Kind of an “early to work” week for MI commuters.

  8. Pingback: Park and Ride Still Short on Parking, Riding « Surrounded By Water: A Mercer Island Blog

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