Eastside reporter Celeste Gracey, writing in the Bellevue Reporter about a recent "date night" with her husband to the Emerald City Comicon at the downtown Convention Center, describes downtown Seattle as a parking-free wasteland and says Sound Transit's service to Bellevue is sparse, hard to reach, and infrequent. (Via Seattle Transit Blog, which linked Gracey's column in their news roundup.)
Bringing up nearly every "but it's impossible for me not to drive" objection in the book, Gracey claims that she has to walk more than a mile from her West Bellevue condo to the nearest transit stop, and that's too far; that buses on the Eastside arrive "only maybe every 30 minutes" and are "poorly timed"; that on the night that she ventured into the wilds of Seattle, there was not a single private parking space available "within a mile radius of downtown; and that parking at night on Capitol Hill would cost $24 and several trips back to the meter.
Finally, she claims that it would make no sense for her to drive to the free park-and-ride down the street from her condo, because riding the bus back and forth would cost $10 for two people, and "We paid that for the private parking spot we eventually found."
While those first two complaints might seem like the kind of arguments transit advocates make for more transit service, they're also standard fare from car proponents who see transit as too inconvenient, slow, and generally icky for them to use. Based on Gracey's disparaging remark about Mayor McGinn's "new spandex bike shorts" and "offensive parking rates," I'm going out on a limb and speculating she's coming from the latter POV. (I have a call out to Gracey to find out whether she supports higher taxes to improve transit speed and reliability, and will update if I hear back.)
I don't know in what part of West Bellevue Gracey lives, but I do know that the area in general is well served by the 550, which travels across I-90 and reaches the convention center in about 40 minutes. I also know that her claim about infrequent service that runs every half-hour at best isn't true during most of the day. The 550 runs about every 15 minutes between 8:30 in the morning and 6:30 at night, and keeps running every half-hour until well past midnight. Driving to the (again, free) South Bellevue Park and ride cuts 10 minutes off that time.
As for the question of cost: It's true that the fare to ride a Sound Transit bus to Seattle from Bellevue and back adds up to $10. What's not true is the claim that parking on Capitol Hill would cost Gracey and her husband $24---unless they're staying for eight hours when parking meter rates are in effect. But since she mentioned her enraged drive took place at night, that seems pretty unlikely---paid parking on Capitol Hill (at the "offensive" rate of $3 an hour) ends at 8. It's kind of a bizarre claim, actually---if it's possible to get private parking for $10, why would anyone spend more than twice as much for on-street parking during the same hours?
Finally, about that impossible-to-find private parking: I work in downtown Seattle, and it's extremely rare for multiple surface parking lots or parking garages to be entirely full. Sure, you may not be able to park right at the front door of the convention center, but if you're willing to walk a couple of blocks, you're pretty much guaranteed to find a space. According to the city's online e-Park system, which displays the number of available spaces at downtown lots, there are currently more than 1,700 parking spaces available at just five downtown parking garages.
Seattle's residents tend to stereotype Bellevue residents as snobbish, out-of-touch, unsophisticated nouveau Richie Riches, hermetically sealed in their SUVs, who should really just stay on their side of the lake. Gracey, unfortunately, is doing everything she can to promote that stereotype.