Opinion

Parking dilemma | Editorial

Talk of a daily fee to use Sound Transit park-and-ride lots is not surprising. The $2 or even $4 payment amount being kicked around is not huge — it may make drivers think twice about parking near transit, but will likely not discourage many.

No, the larger issue is that the lots are simply not big enough. Fees are simply one tool for lessening demand and to collect dollars at the same time. The question is: should we add parking? More parking would encourage transit riders. Fees and full lots might keep commuters off the bus or trains. More cars will end up on the freeway.

Ten years ago, reports indicated that the 257-space lot on North Mercer Way was used at 103 percent. Cars tended to overfill the lot, parking illegally in fire lanes.

By 2005, Mercer Island was home to the fourth most used park-and-ride on the Eastside. The old lot continued to be filled over its capacity. People parking illegally was a constant problem.

Even after the 2007 expansion of the lot, which the Mercer Island City Council voted to keep from being even larger — nearly every parking space is occupied full during the day, making it one of the most used park-and-rides in the county.

“With the amount of traffic and the amount of people coming from the Eastside, we always knew it would be a popular lot,” said Sound Transit spokesperson Bruce Gray, of the Island lot in 2008.

Indeed, Sound Transit checked license plates and found that over half of the cars parked there were from off Island. No surprise there.

City manager Rich Conrad said that the City Council did not want the revamped park-and-ride lot to get too big. They told Sound Transit to spend some of the money allotted for the Island lot to build more parking east of the Island in the hope that it would discourage off-Island drivers from parking here. Did that work, or did regional growth overpower good intentions?

The city has been mulling a parking structure in the Town Center. It could help Island businesses. Would it fill with commuters or shoppers? We can only hope they would be both.

 

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