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Transportation

bridgesferriesdelaydriving • park-and-ride • transit


Updated Jan 13 2016, by Craig Helmann, PSRC

Park and ride demand is on the rise, given the rebound in the regional economy

Park and ride lots provide a key access point for people into the regional transit network. Land use patterns throughout the region don’t always provide the necessary density to sustain frequent, all-day service.

Park and rides create an artificial density of transit riders, which provide the ridership necessary to fill peak-period transit service typically oriented toward commuters heading to major job destinations.

What does the trend show?

As of December 2014, there were 120 permanent park and ride lots with 38,102 parking spaces and 101 leased park and ride lots with 4,752 spaces in the region. Permanent park and rides are usually larger and are publicly owned or have long-term agreements in place to provide parking for public transportation users. Leased park and rides are typically smaller than permanent park and rides with parking that goes underutilized during the week (e.g. church parking lots).

Figure 1. Park and Ride Lot Capacity, 2001-2014
Figure 1. Park and Ride Lot Capacity, 2001-2014

This chart shows the total capacity of permanent park and ride lots between 2001 and 2014. The region has added more than 17,000 parking spaces since 2001. There were noticeable increases in parking capacity in 2002, 2006, and 2009. Since 2011, however, the total number of parking spaces has actually decreased by 573 spaces.

Figure 2. Park and Ride Lot Utilization, 2001-2014
Figure 2. Park and Ride Lot Utilization, 2001-2014

This chart shows the total utilization of permanent park and ride spaces between 2001 and 2014. The utilization rate in 2001 was 78%, a rate that wasn’t achieved again until 2008 when the utilization rate hit 80%. Between 2001 and 2008, 16,000 additional park and ride stalls came online. The utilization rate declined in 2009, likely owing to the effects of the recession. With the regional economy recovering, so has the park and ride utilization rate, which hit 81% in 2014.

Unique Findings: Local vs. Regional Differences

Figure 3. Park and Ride Lot Capacity by Subarea, 2001-2014
Figure 3. Park and Ride Lot Capacity by Subarea, 2001-2014

This chart shows the total capacity of permanent park and ride lots by regional subarea between 2001 and 2014. Of the 17,201 parking spaces added since 2001, almost 16,000 were in the East King County (4,521), South King County (4,511), Snohomish County (3,780), and Pierce County (3,066) subareas. As of 2014, South King County (10,208) and East King County (8,855) have the most permanent park and ride spaces in the region, followed by Snohomish County (8,324) and Pierce County (6,675). The North King County subarea had 3,279 permanent park and ride spaces in 2014, which is actually a smaller number than it had in 2002 (3,451). There were only 761 permanent park and ride spaces in Kitsap County in 2014.

Figure 4. Park and Ride Occupancy Rates, 2006-2014
Figure 4. Park and Ride Occupancy Rates, 2006-2014

This chart shows how utilization of permanent park and ride spaces varies throughout the region. The highest utilization rate in 2014 occurred in the East King County (96%) and North King County (93%) subareas. The regional utilization rate of 81% in 2014 is right in line with the utilization rate in the Pierce County (82%) and Snohomish County (81%) subareas. South King County and Kitsap County have utilization rates of 66% and 65%, respectively.

Future implications

The total number of permanent park and ride spaces has been largely the same since 2009, increasing a total of 0.4% or 149 spaces. The utilization rate, on the other hand, has steadily increased over that time from 72% to 81%. Constructing new permanent park and rides or adding significant numbers of spaces to existing lots is neither cheap nor quick. The only considerable increase expected in the next year will occur when 1,050 spaces come online when the Angle Lake Station opens as part of the Link light rail expansion in fall 2016.

Figure 5. Park and Ride Lot Utilization, 2009-2014
Figure 5. Park and Ride Lot Utilization, 2009-2014

The lack of growth will put increasing pressure on those lots that are already full and exacerbate existing challenges associated with these places: overcrowded lots that fill very early in the morning, congested local streets surrounding these facilities, and crush-loaded trains and buses that bypass riders down the line, filled with riders who commute early not out of convenience or need, but simply to get a parking space.