Tight parking hurts Sounder use

  • Tue Apr 10th, 2012 6:56pm

By Bill Sheets Herald writer

EDMONDS — Two women who ride Sounder commuter rail from Edmonds to Seattle say they know first-hand one factor that limits ridership.

It’s parking – or lack of – at the Edmonds Amtrak Station, where the Sounder platform is located.

Anyone hoping to take the last of four morning trains, which leaves at 7:41 a.m., is out of luck if they hope to find a parking space, said Michelle Stevens, of Edmonds.

“Even when you’re taking the third train now you’re not assured of a parking spot,” she said.

Stevens and her friend, Sarah Thompson, of Edmonds, work at Vulcan in downtown Seattle. Thompson has been riding the train since 2004, shortly after service began from the station at 211 Railroad Ave.

“The lack of parking has been an issue since day one,” she said.

Parking got worse last summer, when Sound Transit refurbished the two station parking lots. A bus turnaround was added, which eliminated 35 spaces, the women said.

Since then, they have adjusted their work schedules and now take the train at 7:11 a.m. instead of at 7:41. Still, they arrive at the station 10 to 15 minutes ahead of time to make sure they find parking. The spots rapidly fill up in the last few minutes before the train’s departure, Thompson said.

Nearby street parking has time limits. Some commuters have parked in nearby retail lots only to be towed, or find threatening notes left on their windshields by business owners, the women said.

Two earlier trains leave at 6:11 at 6:41 a.m. The trains depart first from Everett and stop at Mukilteo before reaching Edmonds. Parking has been a problem in Mukilteo as well, Mayor Joe Marine said.

Sound Transit officials expect to increase Sounder ridership and know they can’t do it without more parking.

“We know there is an enormous parking shortage. We know it’s hurting ridership,” said Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, newly appointed to the Sound Transit Board of Directors.

Park-and-ride lots throughout the Sound Transit system are bursting at the seams. Board members discussed the issue in general terms at their retreat April 5, Earling said.

In Edmonds, Earling said he’s talking with private property owners about arranging some extra parking. He hopes that can come to fruition in the next couple of months.

“I’m also focused on the parking shortage in Mukilteo,” he said.

Last year, nearly 10 times as many trips were taken on Sound Transit Express buses between Everett and Seattle than on the Sounder – roughly 2.3 million versus 280,000.

The parking lots at the station were rebuilt as part of a $12.9 million project. The lots were repaved, drainage improved and platforms extended. The project also added the turnaround and two shelters for bus riders because some train riders said they wanted better bus connections, officials said.

The number of parking spaces is now at 156.

A nearby gravel lot was leased by Sound Transit from the Port of Edmonds to provide temporary parking during construction.

Thompson and Stevens said they’d like to see it return.

Sound Transit estimates making that lot permanent would cost about $800,000 for paving and construction of sidewalks, plus the cost of the lease.