We recently reported on Sound Transit’s planning effort to build a new park-and-ride for Mercer Island Station. At the time, Sound Transit reached to out local residents at the Mercer Island Community Center. But within weeks, residents of the area spoke out in opposition of the plan, citing the value of community park space that the parking structure would take over. The irony of this situation is that the anti-park-and-ride movement has lead to a pro-urban outcome, which prevents public space–badly needed in urban areas–from turning into a parking lot.
Sound Transit is now in the process of looking for other parcels to locate a park-and-ride in and around Mercer Island Station. But such a solution is not optimal for high-capacity, frequent transit service. Instead, Mercer Island should first start using its already-present feeder bus service.
The current Metro Route 204 only runs once-hourly. But it only do so because of poor ridership, largely due to the park-and-ride suppressing linked trips. The future light rail station presents a unique situation to change this and boost ridership on the route. A large swath of island residents live within walking distance of a bus stop. If they took transit to the station instead of driving, this would both free up parking spaces and justify added bus service. Naturally, added bus service also benefits people who may not have access to a car, like youth or the disabled, as opposed to a park-and-ride, which only serves car owners. In other words, it’s an equity builder for all.
Another option that has been proposed several times is to make the current park-and-ride a pay-for-use parking lot, except for Mercer Island residents. This would likely leave many more spaces open for Mercer Islanders by driving away Eastsiders to other, free park-and-ride facilities. Of course, such an alternative is incredibly exclusive and inequitable for a transportation system that is supposed to treat all fairly.
Sound Transit has plenty of options available so as to make Mercer Island Station more accessible to a wider number of people. The agency should explore these instead of simply building additional parking or treating other riders unfairly.