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King County Metro Finding New Ways To Deal With Parking Problem

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Simone Alicea
/
KNKX
A King County Metro RapidRide B Line bus approaches.

King County Metro is trying out a few programs this year to improve parking access for its transit system.

Building a parking lot near transit can be more cost effective than building frequent bus or train lines outside a dense city center. But the transit agency's park-and-ride lots often fill up before many commuters can get to them. 

"Access to the system is a big piece of the puzzle," said Metro's manager of strategy and performance, Christina O'Claire.  "If you can't have access to the system ... you can't use it."

To connect drivers living in areas that aren't served by frequent transit, that means better managing the parking the agency does have and finding ways to expand.

One way the agency is looking to manage parking is by giving carpool drivers free permits that guarantee them a park-and-ride space. Drivers can already begin signing up for those permits.

Building park-and-ride lots can take a long time, so Metro is also looking into using open spaces at apartment buildings as transit parking spots. The agency would partner with landlords with buildings near transit lines to use spaces that aren't being used during the work day.

Metro has already contacted developers and owners about the project, which is expected to begin early this year.

"If we can encourage people that don't have good access to frequent service to get to our system and use our park-and-rides, then we think we will move even more people on public transportation," O'Claire said.

O'Claire also said the agency was looking into partnering with companies like Uber and Lyft to connect people from transit centers to their destinations. Pierce County Transit is expected to roll out a similar pilot program this year.