It’s a common complaint among South Sound regional transit users.
They arrive at one of Sound Transit’s light rail or Sounder commuter train stations on a weekday morning only to find all of the parking places occupied.
They then must drive into Seattle or points north or spend time looking for alternative parking nearby. Many times there isn’t anything available.
“The one-level parking lots at Tukwila International Boulevard station, both the main and overflow lots, are completely filled by 6:40 a.m.,” one Tukwila resident wrote to Sound Transit earlier this year. “So unless you work at 6:30 a.m. or earlier, you are pretty much out of luck.”
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Sound Transit officials hope a new parking permit system will help change that.
Beginning Sept. 24, commuters who carpool to the Tukwila International Boulevard station or the new Angle Lake light rail station will be able to buy a $5 monthly permit that will give them priority parking during the morning rush hour.
Sound Transit considers 4 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. as the morning rush.
The program will expand to Sounder south line stations in Sumner, Puyallup, Auburn, Kent and Tukwila in October and to Sound Transit hubs in Federal Way and Issaquah in November.
“Transit customers must have and use a valid ORCA card to apply for a permit,” the agency said in a news release. “Carpool permit holders must arrive with at least two other transit riders in the permitted vehicle.”
Up to half the parking spaces at each location will remain available for other transit riders on a first-come, first-served basis.
On weekends and after the morning rush on weekdays, commuters who do not qualify for a permit will be allowed to park in the permit-only spaces without penalty, Sound Transit said.
The program could be expanded to single-occupancy vehicles next year, according to agency records.
Sound Transit has hired Republic Parking Northwest to administer the program for one year with four one-year options at a total cost of nearly $3 million.
“Vendor enforces permit parking, issues warnings followed by towing,” according to agency records.
Sound Transit hopes the program eventually will sustain itself through permitting fees, which might go up after nine months.
Other transit agencies, including LA Metro and Bay Area Rapid Transit, charge from $20 to $129 a month for parking at their stations.
“Under any of these fee structures, Sound Transit would be able to fully recoup permit parking management costs and may be able to generate net revenue,” according to a staff report presented to the Sound Transit board earlier this year.
Sound Transit operates 27 Park & Ride facilities. Twenty-four of them are at or above 90 percent full on a daily basis, according to agency records.
“All of the lots in the program are consistently at 97 percent capacity, many at 100 percent or better,” said Bruce Gray, a spokesman for the regional transit agency. “Many of these lots are full by 7 a.m. or earlier every morning and have been for some time.”
One commuter lamented in a letter to Sound Transit that getting to the Auburn Sounder station by 7 a.m. is not nearly early enough.
“Now I take the 5:55 train,” the rider wrote earlier this year.
A 2014 pilot program found that permitting might help ease some of that parking congestion.
“Pilot participants liked the program and enjoyed the flexibility and predictability the permits offered,” according to a report generated after the pilot program.
How to apply
Information about and application materials for Sound Transit’s new carpool parking permit program can be found at soundtransit.org/permitparking.
Which lots are affected
Beginning Sept. 24: Tukwila International Boulevard station and Angle Lake light rail station.
In October: Sounder south line stations in Sumner, Puyallup, Auburn, Kent and Tukwila.
In November: Sound Transit hubs in Federal Way and Issaquah.