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October 06, 2016

Could Airbnb model help expand Park & Ride spots?

Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce

Brian Miller

King County Metro Transit is working on a pilot program that would let apartment building owners rent out empty parking spaces.

You've heard of transit oriented development, or TOD, where large apartment buildings rise in dense clusters near transit nodes, light-rail stations (current and planned) and Park & Ride lots.

There are examples around Northgate and the area near Roosevelt and 65th. However, not everyone who rents apartments in TODs actually owns a car. Some residents may, in fact, only use transit, or bike or walk to work.

But throughout King County Park & Ride lots are increasingly full, sending panicked morning commuters circling around the neighborhood looking for someplace - anyplace! - legal to park.

Now King County Metro Transit is working with partner Diamond Parking and consultant Kidder Mathews on a pilot program that would let apartment building owners rent their empty parking spaces as Park & Ride spots.

The program's working title is the Multifamily Park & Ride Program. Metro would have Diamond identify and manage empty blocks of parking spaces - with a minimum number of 50 - in apartment buildings that are near overfull Park & Ride lots.

The project manager for the proposal is Gary Prince, and he says it might begin in the first or second quarter of next year.

Diamond is currently scouting for locations. Where will they look? Prince cites chronically full Park & Ride lots like Eastgate, Northgate, Kirkland-Kingsgate and Mercer Island. Though of the latter, he adds, "I don't know if we'll find anything there."

The best candidates would already have multifamily housing built around them, as is the case at Northgate.

Diamond and property owners would share in the program's proceeds.

(Editor's note: The story was changed to say that Metro would not share in the proceeds.)

"We don't know about pricing yet," says Prince. "Initially we'll be selling them on an monthly basis." He foresees a much cheaper rate than one would pay, for instance, downtown.

There will be an app to help users find reserved, guaranteed spaces.

Prince said that Metro transportation planner Daniel Rowe came up with the idea, partly inspired by Airbnb. The key notion is to spare King County the cost of building new Park & Ride garages - at about $40,000 per stall - and to take advantage of excess parking capacity in the private sector.

At a time when Park & Ride lots are "bursting at the seams," Prince says he wants to find a way to use the thousands of empty spaces around the city.

© 2016 Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. All rights reserved.

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