King County Metro is expanding its Carpool Parking Permit program next month to nine more park and ride locations, including Kingsgate, Bothell and Kenmore.
The program, which reserves parking spots for permit holders, goes into effect Nov. 1.
Permit holders will have access to reserved spots until 8:30 a.m. on weekdays, when the spots become open to everyone. The South Kirkland park and ride has offered reserved parking since February, when Metro implemented the program at six initial locations.
“Parking stalls are in very short supply at park and rides that serve our most popular transit routes,” said Joel Pfundt, City of Kirkland transportation manager, in a press release. “We’re optimistic that this new program will help get more people riding the bus. It provides another vehicle parking option for people that need to drive to a park and ride in order to ride the bus.”
The program had a positive impact on the six original locations in Redmond, Issaquah Highlands, South Kirkland, South Renton, Northgate and Eastgate. Metro decided to expand the program further because of this success, according to Daniel Rowe, senior transportation planner at King County Metro.
“Some customers are frustrated because (park and rides) are filling up earlier and earlier,” Rowe said. “We offer guaranteed parking for customers who’re willing to commit to carpool.”
The 15 park and ride locations that host the permit program are at least 90 percent utilized. Currently, these are the only locations that exceed 90 percent and Metro isn’t going to expand the permit parking spots to locations that don’t meet that mark, according to Rowe.
The program only initially occupies five percent of the total parking spots at a given location, which will reserve about 25 of the 502 spaces at the Kingsgate park and ride, 11 of Bothell’s 220 spaces and about 30 of Kenmore’s 603 spaces.
Metro will place signs at these spots, but cover the signs that are not in use. This allows Metro to limit the amount of reserved spots to the number of permit users, Rowe said.
“A lot of customers don’t have opportunity to use park and ride because they’re full,” Rowe said. “(Now), customers who arrive after 8:30 get lucky a little later in the day.”
The program averages 100 active permits per month, according to a Metro press release. As of Monday, the Kingsgate park and ride had nine completed permits and six that were still processing.
Permits are free and available to groups of two or more transit customers who ride the bus or use the park and rides for a carpool. Permit applications are available for all 15 locations through Republic Parking Northwest.
Regular transit use is not initially required to obtain a permit, but at least two carpool permit-holders must ride transit 12 days per month to stay qualified, according to a Metro press release.
Metro has increased their enforcement effort at park and rides because of drivers who don’t use the locations for transit, according to Rowe, but there have been few problems with drivers who park in reserved spots without a permit.
Metro issues one warning per site, per week, on average, Rowe said. Drivers get two warnings before their car will be towed for parking in a reserved spot.
“I think parking is difficult period at many park and rides,” Rowe said. “We’re also looking to add new parking opportunities, because most are offered as first come first serve.”
Metro partnered with Diamond Parking Service to offer paid parking near transit locations. There are locations at the Northlake Unitarian Church in Kirkland and the Kenmore Safeway.