Morning Fizz

Sound Transit Three Looks at Nearly $1 Billion for New Parking Stalls

Sound Transit's parking agenda and the city council's legislative agenda.

By Josh Feit December 18, 2015

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1. When Sound Transit staff unveiled its list of potential ST3 projects, it focused on trains and tunnels, like a Ballard-to-Tacoma light rail line that would travel through a second, new downtown Seattle tunnel. Overall, with four potential lines, the roughly $27 billion set of projects, would connect Everett, Tacoma, Redmond, and Seattle (with new last-stops in West Seattle and Ballard.)

However, there’s another aspect to the plan, which the board is preparing to send to voters this November: Nearly $1 billion for potential new parking stalls, including “Expanded parking capacity of 4,000 structured stalls” in one project alone in the Southern portion of ST3 to provide access to Sounder trains. There's also park-and-rides like the potential 600-stall park-and-ride at Canyon Park in the Lynnwood-to-Bellevue Line in the Eastern corridor, and garages such as a 1,240-stall garage at the Star Lake station as part of Federal Way Link in the Southern corridor.

Overall, according to my review of the ST3 proposal, ST3's parking component considers: 11 parking projects in the Southern portion of ST3 for roughly 8,400 new stalls, four projects in the East corridor for roughly 4,600 new stalls, six projects in the Northern portion for 3,513 new stalls, and two projects in the central corridor for about 1,300 new stalls.

Grand total: Nearly 18,000 stalls at $52,000 a stall.

(I did not double count competing parking projects that would serve the same corridor.)

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Depending on Sound Transit’s assumptions about the average number of light rail riders who access the train by car, it’s an investment that deserves some scrutiny, particularly when the regional mission is to reduce the Puget Sound’s future reliance on car travel.

By way of comparison you could build 13 (no-parking necessary) Graham Street stations—a $70 million project for a new southeast Seattle station—for the same amount of money ST has designated for new parking. With a maximum 5,000 daily boardings a day projected for Graham Street ($14,000 per rider), you have to wonder if $980 million for 18,000 cars—at $52,000 each —is the best investment.

I have asked Sound Transit what the formula was for deciding how many new stalls were needed at each project.

2. The city formalized its legislative agenda this week for the upcoming session in Olympia.

A couple of noteworthy items: preventing local jurisdictions from honoring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unless they are supported by a federal judicial criminal warrant; laws that support the pot delivery business; simplifying requirements for becoming a teacher; and funding McCleary without relying on the levy swap.

(Editorializing on that last point: while Seattle stands to lose if the state took over local tax levies and reapportioned the property taxes statewide—“the state legislature…should not create winners and losers between the state’s school districts” the city’s agenda says—the stand against progressive tax principles is an anomaly for such an otherwise left wing document.)

Speaking of left-wing, the agenda says this about the state law against rent control: “We support the repeal or modification of RCW 35.21.830 to allow local governments to protect tenants from rent increases.”

RCW 35.21.830 explicitly bans rent control.

After all that, with council president Tim Burgess framing his legislation as scaling back this year’s activist demand to repeal rent control, Sawant ends the year with a huge victory.

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