Sound Transit Trying to Get People to Park at Little-Used Lot

By Erica C. Barnett February 16, 2011

The Tacoma News Tribune reports today that a satellite parking lot for the Puyallup Sounder station, intended to meet overflow parking demand when the regular Sounder station is full, is still less than ten percent full nearly five months after it opened in early October last year. The $2.8 million project, funded through state and federal grants and Sound Transit, is connected to the Puyallup Station, about half a mile away, by a shuttle bus.

Sound Transit community relations specialist Rachel Smith told PubliCola today that ST took over the lot—which was previously used only during the Puyallup Fair—because back in 2008 when Sound Transit decided to open it, the Puyallup station was often at crush capacity. These days, with lower Sounder ridership than during the economic boom, the regular stations have some capacity, although they remain largely full.

Smith says the agency hasn't determined all the reasons parking is down, and is working on a survey to find out how people are getting to the station. The results could be instructive. For example, if more people are choosing to walk or bike to the station, there may be little need for the second lot, and Sound Transit's marketing campaign could be counterproductive to the agency's goal of getting more people out of their cars. On the other hand, if people simply aren't aware there's another lot, and if demand for Sounder parking rebounds as the economy improves, the little-used lot could get a new influx of drivers.

City of Puyallup policies could also increase demand for the lot. Currently, Puyallup has few rules around on-street parking---no meters, no time limits, and no residential parking zones. If the city made it harder for people to park on the street for free all day, more drivers might choose to use the satellite lot.

Smith didn't know off hand what it costs Sound Transit to maintain the lot; I'll update with those numbers when I get them.
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