Parking for Mass Transit

by Bob Fleming

News about existing and proposed mass transit in and around Seattle, and a healthy dose of my own opinions!

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My name is Bob Fleming, and I am very interested in seeing a greatly improved transportation system for Seattle and the surrounding region.

Current Situation

In order to encourage development of high-density residential and business around light rail stations, and to discourage “ugly” parking lots, the City of Seattle has a zoning ordinance prohibiting parking for transit riders near light rail stations.


CITY RELENTS ON PARKING BY TRAIN STATIONS (Monday, 11 January, 2010) — New Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced that for the time being the ordinance against parking lots for light-rail patrons will not be enforced. This follows objections from The Seattle Times (the source of my report yesterday) and others.

CITY ORDERS PARKING LOTS TO CLOSE (Sunday, 10 January, 2010) — A few months ago a Safeway store near a light rail station in south Seattle had unused space in its parking lot during weekdays, so it sold $30 per month passes for light rail riders to use those parking spaces. At least two other businesses provided parking for light rail users in otherwise unused or under-used parking lots.

Then the City issued cease and desist order to the operators of those lots, citing the ordinance porhibiting parking for more than four hours for light rail patrons.

My Opinions

NOTE: The day after I wrote the opinions below, the mayor announced that parking will be permitted near light rail stations. However I believe that my arguments below are still valid and should be considered in future rapid transit planning.

I agree with the concept of high-density neighborhoods around the stations, but I strongly disagree with the current anti-parking laws.

I agree that there should be some limitation to the amount of area occupied by parking lots, however I feel it important to provide parking for riders of light rail, bus rapid transit, commuter trains, monorail, bus rapid transit, or other high capacity rapid transit system, except in the downtown area.

It is important to cut down on autombile use and encourage use of public transit, in order to reduce our dependence on oil and also to combat global warming. However to be realistic, currently many people are too dependent on the use of a car. And many people live too far from a bus line to reasonably expect them to walk a long distance to catch a bus. Many people need the car to run errands on the way to or from a rapid transit station. There are errands such as taking kids to school or day care and picking them up, shopping, dropping off friends, or getting to some activity on time.

The ideal is for someone to not use their car to get to work or school, but rather to use public transit from home to work or school. But for many people this just won’t work. Judging by the number of people using the Safeway parking lot before they were banned, there were many people that used their car to get to the station then took light rail from there. I would presume that now most of them drive all the way to work or school. If somebody can’t use mass transit all the way to work or school, isn’t it a reasonable compromise that at least they use mass transit for part of the trip?

My suggestion is to build a multi-story parking garage by each light rail (or other rapid transit) station, and permit use of existing parking lots for transit parking on a space-available basis. Discourage the construction of new permanent parking lots. This would mean more people driving less and more ridership on the trains.

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©2002 Robert M. Fleming Jr.

This page was last updated on 16 May 2018.