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Sound Transit floats idea of paying at park-and-ride

Mercer Islanders who try to use the park-and-ride in the morning, but who don’t beat the early rush hour commute, typically can’t find a spot.

The lot, which has 447 parking spots on two levels, is consistently at capacity throughout the work week, and sometimes during the weekend for special events. Sound Transit said last week they are considering the possibility of charging to park at the various park-and-rides throughout King and Pierce Counties.

While nothing specific has been planned or set up, the change wouldn’t happen until at least 2013 or later, and it’s possible those looking to park could pay between $2 and $4, or use a monthly permit.

The idea is to encourage more people to use other forms of transit, like biking, walking or carpooling, to get to the transit stations before continuing on to their final destination, freeing up spots in the lots.

When asked on Facebook if Islanders use the park-and-ride, Jon Hanlon responded, saying, “it really isn’t worth the trouble, since half of Bellevue uses the park-and-ride on MI.”

While nothing specific has been discussed with the City of Mercer Island concerning the possibility of paying to park, Mercer Island City Manager Rich Conrad said they have had discussions in the past about the park-and-ride and the fact that it is routinely full. Almost all of the Sound Transit park-and-rides, especially in the South Sound, are at capacity on a daily basis.

“It’s not the first time I’ve heard of discussions with Sound Transit with the concept of paying to park,” said Conrad. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve pointed out that a lot of the people who are parking in the park-and-ride are from cities and businesses east of us. We’ve asked if they ever do consider going to a pay to park model that there be some Mercer Island-only spaces or some kind of designation to allow Islanders to be able to park.”

Conrad said ideally there would be a way to give preference to Islanders looking to use the park-and-ride, and others would have to pay, but it is not a system used at any of the current park-and-rides throughout the county.

“That’s been our concept,” said Conrad.

Currently, drivers who park at the park-and-ride on the Island only have access to buses, but like other transit stations to the south, eventually the area will also serve the light rail station. Construction on the East Link of the Sound Transit Light Rail project is not expected to begin until 2015, but parking is something which will continue to be addressed.

“There is nothing in the East Link budget that allows to expand the Park & Ride,” said Conrad. “We’ve been talking with Sound Transit for the last year about expansion in connection with the Town Center redevelopment, and ideally there would be a developer to partner with Sound Transit to create a new area of parking. If it happens it would make parking more accessible for Islanders.”

The Mercer Island Park and Ride opened in 2008. It cost $16.8 million. Similar to many central Puget Sound park and ride lots, it is well-used. It holds 447 cars. It is reportedly used at 100 percent of its capacity during weekdays.

To learn more about the various Sound Transit park-and-rides, visit soundtransit.org.

 

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