Edmonds parking deal may help Sounder ridership

EDMONDS — For anyone who has wanted to take the Sounder commuter train from Edmonds to Seattle and been stymied by a lack of parking, that obstacle could soon be removed.

Sound Transit has agreed to lease 103 parking spaces from Salish Crossing LLC of Bothell, which recently purchased the Waterfront Antique Mall property next to the train station in Edmonds.

The agreement still requires approval by the Sound Transit board of directors. A vote is expected Nov. 15.

Currently there are 156 spaces at the station, but riders say the lot is full by the time the third of four trains pulls out for Seattle in the morning. That leaves no parking for anyone hoping to take the last train at 7:41 a.m.

The trains run between Everett and Seattle with stops in Mukilteo and Edmonds. Some Sound Transit officials say a lack of parking in those cities is a factor in the low ridership for this Sounder train compared with the numbers for express buses and Sound Transit’s commuter train between Seattle and Tacoma.

All the current spaces at the station are available free of charge, as would be the new spaces, Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason said.

Michelle Stevens of Edmonds rides Sounder to her job at Vulcan, an investment and project management company in downtown Seattle. She had been taking the 7:41 a.m. train to Seattle but switched to the third train, the 7:11, when she couldn’t find parking. Now the lot is full even by 7:11, she said.

“I’m encouraged, it’s good news,” she said of the agreement.

Sound Transit has agreed to pay $150 per space per month to Salish Crossing, LLC for the parking, Reason said. This will amount to $15,450 per month or $185,400 per year. The agreement would run for five years, and Sound Transit still could consider other measures to improve access at the station during that time, Reason said.

Some reconstruction of the site is planned and the new parking areas are not expected to be ready in their entirety until May. However, Sound Transit and the owners are negotiating to make some of the spaces available before then, Reason said.

The southernmost building on the property, which currently houses a physical therapy business and a cafe, is tentatively slated for demolition to make room for 68 of the parking spaces, Reason said.

The buildings on the 4½-acre property appear as one continuous structure but in fact there are three. The central building is home to the Waterfront Antique Mall and the northernmost building houses several eateries, including the Channel Marker Pub and Grill.

Salish Crossing, LLC, bought the property in September for $4.5 million, according to Snohomish County property records. The company is a subsidiary of The Echelbarger Co., a Lynnwood real-estate firm. Company officials could not be reached for comment.

Parking has been an issue at the station since the service began in 2003, riders have said. The situation worsened last year after Sound Transit removed about 35 spaces during a makeover of the property.

“I do believe they will see ridership go up if the infrastructure is there,” Stevens said.

The Sounder North line averages about 1,100 boardings per weekday, less than half of what was projected when the service began. Sounder trains between Seattle and Tacoma average between 8,500 and 10,000 boardings per day, according to Sound Transit.

A citizen oversight panel suggested in a recent report that Sound Transit consider cutting back the service if the numbers don’t improve.

Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling said he put Salish Crossing, LLC in touch with Sound Transit so the two could negotiate the agreement. Earling also is a Sound Transit board member.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Earling said of the parking plan. “We have a long list of commuters who have been frustrated by the lack of parking and have had to make other choices with their commutes. This will bring enormous relief to the community.”

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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