Carpooling to park-and-rides? You can get a free permit for reserved parking

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Park-and-rides are a great way to access transit from the suburbs and areas that lack frequent transit service. As demand for transit grows, many of Metro’s park-and-rides are already full or nearly full by early morning. At some park-and-rides, you might not find a space if you don’t arrive by 6:30 a.m.

Metro wants to make it easier for those who regularly use park-and-rides and who also are interested in carpooling. Starting February 1, some parking spaces at Metro park-and-rides will be reserved until 8:30 a.m. each morning for groups of two or more who regularly ride the bus, or use park-and-rides to meet a vanpool or other carpool.

All they have to do is obtain a free Carpool Parking Permit. Those permits are now available through Republic Parking Northwest, and customers are encouraged to obtain them early. More information can be found at Metro’s Permit Parking website.

“Metro is committed to developing innovative solutions that better serve our customers,” Metro General Manager Rob Gannon said. “This pilot program offers regular transit users more convenience as demand increases at park-and-rides.”

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Starting Feb. 1, six Metro park-and-rides will have reserved spaces until 8:30 a.m. for groups of two or more who carpool to catch the bus and display a free permit. Metro’s Daniel Rowe shows an example of new parking signs that will identify those spaces.

When park-and-rides fill up so early, many commuters — such as shift workers and working parents who have to drop off kids at daycare — are unfairly disadvantaged.

“Commuters who carpool to these busy park-and-rides now can have certainty they can find a parking space,” said Transportation Planner Daniel Rowe, who is managing the program. “That makes transit more accessible, and it does so without having to build more parking spaces at additional expense to taxpayers.”

Most park-and-ride spaces still will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The number of reserved parking spaces will be based on the number of permits issued per location.

The program will be tested at six of the busiest park-and-rides in King County, including Redmond, Issaquah Highlands, South Kirkland, South Renton, Northgate and Eastgate. Metro’s program was designed to be integrated with Sound Transit’s new carpool permit program, which also offers permits at nine additional area park-and-rides.

Frequently asked questions

How do I obtain a permit?

Applicants must provide basic contact information, ORCA card numbers, vanpool ID, or RideshareOnline.com email for each member of the carpool. Permits are free.

Regular transit use is not initially required to obtain a permit, but at least two carpool permit-holders must average three days a transit ridership per week (12 days per month) to stay qualified. Permits can be obtained through Republic Parking Northwest, and must be renewed monthly.

Metro also is aware that customers are increasingly having to deal with those who don’t follow park-and-ride rules. In February, Metro will step up enforcement for violations, with a focus on trouble spots at the Redmond, Northgate and Eastgate park-and-rides.

Drivers who park in reserved spaces without a permit will be subject to three warnings – subsequent violations will result in having the vehicle towed.

If you have questions about permit eligibility, applications and payments call Republic Parking Northwest at 206-783-4144, extension 0. More information can be found at Metro’s Permit Parking website.

Why is Metro offering carpool permits?

Of the 54 permanent park-and-rides Metro operates, half are at 80 percent capacity or higher, and some fill up completely before the morning commute ends. In addition to being inconvenient, the “first-come-first-served” system now in place is unfair for people with later work, school or appointment schedules.

In response to increased demand, Metro is currently exploring a range of options to both manage and expand parking supply. One way to do this is to encourage people to carpool to the park-and-ride. In February 2017, we are launching a pilot program at six of our busiest park and rides that will offer free carpool parking permits to regular transit riders.

 

Are Metro carpool parking permits free?

Yes. This pilot carpool parking program we plan to launch in February is strictly voluntary, and the permits for carpool users are free. Our partner agency Sound Transit also offers carpool permits and reserved parking for $5 per month.

What’s the perk for permit holders?

In return for signing up, carpool permit holders will have reserved parking until 8:30 a.m., after which time the stalls will be available for all transit riders.

How long will the pilot program operate?

The pilot program will last for one year. At that point, permit holders and riders will be able to share their feedback about what worked well, and what could be improved.

Is Sound Transit also offering carpool permits? How is Metro’s program different? 

Sound Transit kicked off a carpool parking program last fall at nine area park-and-rides after completing its own public outreach campaign and pilot program. Metro’s program was designed to be integrated with Sound Transit’s new carpool permit program, but Metro’s carpool parking permits will be free of charge. Sound Transit’s permits cost $5 per month.

If people can’t find parking, shouldn’t they just get to the park-and-ride earlier?

Flexible work schedules aren’t an option for everyone, and many Metro customers work in a variety of occupations with schedules that don’t conform to a typical 8-to-5 business day. Those who don’t work outside the home still depend on transit to get to classes, job interviews or appointments. Making sure all riders have access to consistent service level, including parking availability, is a priority.

 What if people obtain permits and don’t carpool?

At least two carpool permit-holders must average three days a transit ridership per week (12 days per month) to stay qualified. Permits can be obtained through Republic Parking Northwest, and must be renewed monthly. Metro staff will review information to make sure permit holders meet the eligibility requirements, and revoke permits for those who no longer qualify.

Will Metro start charging for carpool permits? Or require paid parking for all riders?

Metro has no plans at this time for a paid parking system. Any changes in these plans would involve discussion with a number of local governments and other stakeholders, and we would also give transit customers an opportunity to be part of this process.

3 thoughts on “Carpooling to park-and-rides? You can get a free permit for reserved parking

  1. This is not a good idea. If I am going to bother to coordinate a car pool, then we’ll use it all the way to the office, not to a P&R. Metro has underplanned for parking in so many areas. They should be able to partner with nearby businesses who have excess parking – this would be a better solution than a whole new process with a huge admin overhead.

  2. Thank you for your feedback. This is one of several plans Metro has to expand access to transit through park-and-rides. Metro also is restriping park-and-ride lots to add more spaces; leasing additional space from private property owners; and working with multifamily building owners to lease parking space that is unused during the day to transit users.

    The Carpool Parking Permit program aims to incentivize more efficient use of our current lots – Sound Transit has implemented a similar program that so far has seen some success in increasing the number of people carpooling to park-and-rides. Metro will evaluate the effectiveness of our pilot program and we hope to see similar results.

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