By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
EDMONDS — The public is not flocking en masse just yet to newly designated parking spaces for Sounder train commuters in Edmonds, but for some riders, the spaces already are making a difference.
The first week, an average of about eight cars per day were parked in some of the 53 newly set-aside spaces at the Waterfront Antique Mall, near the train station, after they became available Dec. 3, Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason said.
Last week, the numbers were in the teens and 20s, with a high of 23 on Thursday, she said. December ridership typically dips because of holiday vacations, she added.
The new owners of the antique mall property, Salish Crossing, of Bothell, agreed in October to lease 103 spaces to Sound Transit for commuter parking.
The Sounder trains run from Everett to Seattle and back four times on weekdays, with stops in Mukilteo and Edmonds. The trains have been shut down since Monday morning because of mudslides on the tracks in Everett. Another slide occurred at 5:50 a.m. Tuesday, said Gus Melonas, a spokesman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The railway, which owns the tracks, requires a 48-hour waiting period for passenger trains to resume service on the line for safety reasons, so the next Sounder service will be Thursday morning, barring more mudslides.
Closures from the slides have been frequent in recent winters. These have been cited as a factor in low ridership on the line, as well as the parking shortages at Edmonds and Mukilteo.
In Edmonds, Sound Transit last month agreed to pay $150 per space per month to Salish Crossing for the parking for five years. This will amount to $15,450 per month or $185,400 per year for all 103 spaces.
The lot at the train station, which is shared by riders for both Sounder and Amtrak trains, has 156 spaces that are usually full by the time the third train of the day departs at 7:11 a.m., riders say. Those hoping to park at or close to the station and catch the fourth train at 7:41 a.m. have been out of luck.
Amie Armstrong, of Lynnwood, had been taking the 7:11 a.m. train to downtown Seattle to avoid losing the game of musical parking spaces at the train station. On Tuesday, for the first time, she parked at the antique mall and caught the 7:41.
She previously tried taking the bus, but the Lynnwood park-and-ride lot was full, she said.
“I don’t want to drive,” Armstrong said.
About half the 103 new spaces are not yet available because they’re part of the owners’ remodeling plans for the mall, said Nick Echelbarger, a manager for Salish Crossing, a subsidiary of Echelbarger Investments, a Lynnwood real estate firm.
The work includes tearing down the southernmost building on the property and creating new parking in that area. The job is expected to be done next May.
In the meantime, the company set aside 53 spaces around the perimeter of the antique mall for Sounder train commuters. Signs mark the areas designated for train parking.
“I’m glad they’re doing it now. I’m glad they didn’t wait until May,” said Melody Harris, of Edmonds, who had been parking downtown and walking about half a mile to the station.
She parked in one of the new spaces on Tuesday, as did Greg Banasek of Edmonds. Like Harris, he had been walking from downtown Edmonds.
“I think it’ll be a huge benefit,” he said.
Readson said Sound Transit will spread the word about the new spaces “via customer outreach, social media, and other marketing efforts.”
The Sounder North line averages about 1,100 boardings per weekday, less than half of what was projected when the service began. Sounder service between Seattle and Tacoma averages 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.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.