I lived in rural King County for much of my childhood. In 1992, me and my dad went to Husky Stadium to watch the undefeated UW Huskies destroy Pacific. My dad hated (and hates) sports, and it was nice of him to do an activity that only I wanted to do. It was a fun; a day of watching football surrounded by drunk-ass WASPs and rowdy college kids. Mark Brunell (yeah!) and Bill Joe Hobert (boo!) split time at QB, and Napoleon Kaufman was unstoppable at tailback.
So how did we get from Redmond to Montlake? My dad drove us to the Downtown Redmond Park and Ride. We parked and waited for the Metro bus that would take us, across the Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge, to Montlake and Husky Stadium.
Well, the bus never showed, so we had to drive. Traffic sucked, as it always does. We missed kickoff.
I chalk it up to the inherent drawbacks of a bus system. If my dad had driven us to the Downtown Redmond Light Rail Station, it would have been a very different story. Given that light rail has suburban headways of eight minutes (depending on demand, service could be more frequent, or less frequent), the train (barring some calamity) would have shown within those eight minutes, and we would have saved big bucks on parking.
Suburban and rural folks are likely to engage with transit through park and rides. When Sound Transit does community forums out in the ‘burbs, the first question is always, “where are the park and rides?” This is a sensitive issue, especially for enviro-folks, who don’t like park and rides because they think them too accommodating to the automobile.
It sounds counterintuitive, but you have to be strategic about using mass transit to promote density.
Light rail is not just a pour and stir fix.
Running the line where there’s already some earnest development will suck in development and fight sprawl. Spending billions to run it out into Yenemsvelt [Yiddish for “far, far away” -Will] will simply create park and rides and more sprawl.
Opposing light rail on because of park and rides is so incredibly short-sided. If suburban citizens are going to pay taxes for transit, they’ll demand park and rides. Lecturing them to think otherwise is mostly a waste of time.
Besides, who cares? Park and rides become popular, they fill up, and the decision is made about what to do next. Sometimes they’re expanded into parking garages. And those parking garages eventually become paid parking garages, which turn into paid carpool parking garages, which turn into… apartments with retail. I know, evil right?
The park and rides along I-5 are slated to become light rail stations. The empty lots and asphalt slabs that surround these stations are going to turn into mixed-use developments (if you want examples, visit the line that’s opening in ’09). Those developments with attract the kinds of folks who will leave the car at home and ride the train instead. Sure, they’ll use the Honda (or better yet, a Prius Plug-In Hybrid) to run to the store, but many trips, especially the everyday commute-type trips, can and will be made by train. If they need a car at work, there’s always Flexcar (soon to be ZipCar). Give people choices and they’ll respond.
Like Josh, I would err on the side of fewer park and rides at rail stations. Unlike Josh, I’m not going to kill a huge light rail investment over park and rides.