MLTNews.com recently reported that Sound Transit and Metro will be hosting meetings to address the demand for scarce commuter parking at their various park and ride facilities. The focus will be on charging single-occupancy vehicles parking fees to utilize transit facilities so that parking is available for commuters after the early morning hours. It is unclear from the article if the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center Parking is included in these deliberations. If this plan is adopted for the other facilities, that policy will most likely be implemented for the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, which is often filled to capacity by early morning during the week. If charged a parking fee, be assured that an increased number of commuters will opt to park on the streets of Mountlake Terrace regardless of Transit Center parking availability.
Currently, traffic volumes and on-street parking in residential areas adjacent to the Mountlake Terrace Town Center have both experienced exponential increases as more and more commuters avail themselves of the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center. This trend will only be exacerbated when the light rail project to Lynnwood is completed, and the Mountlake Terrace Light Rail station opens.
Sound Transit’s logistical plans will severely exacerbate both traffic and residential street parking in Mountlake Terrace. Once light rail service is instituted to Lynnwood, bus service from points north to south of the Lynnwood Transit Center will be eliminated.
Those bus commuters commuting from the north of Lynnwood to Seattle will be required to transfer from bus to light rail when arriving at the Lynnwood Transit Center. Many commuters from the north will avoid the cumbersome process of driving from their residents to park near a bus stop north of Lynnwood, then commuting by bus to Lynnwood, only to transfer to light rail in Lynnwood to continue their journey south, and repeat the process in the opposite direction at the end of the day. Many commuters will opt to drive to Mountlake Terrace, park their vehicles in residential neighborhoods, and continue their journey to or from the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center. Lynnwood does not provide a residential parking option as there is minimal on-street parking adjacent to that facility, and their transit center is already filled to capacity in the early morning.
In addition, many commuters residing south of Mountlake Terrace that currently commute by Metro buses will also travel north and park in the residential neighborhoods of Mountlake Terrace to avail themselves of the future light rail station in Mountlake Terrace.
All of this, coupled with aggressive intensive development, will create increased amounts of traffic volumes and on-street parking for Town Center residential neighborhoods within the next five to 10 years. All that increased activity will have a negative impact on the quiet suburban quality of life that residents had relied on when relocating to Mountlake Terrace. Requiring commuters to pay for parking at the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center will only exacerbate a growing problem for residents in the area.
Sound Transit has implemented a deliberate strategy to limit parking facilities near their light rail stations in order to encourage commuters to journey to various Sound Transit light rail stations by public transportation. The mitigating factor preventing those journeys is the infrequent service of local buses that depart from the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center to South Snohomish County neighborhoods. A Sound Transit commuter who completes his or her commute by bus and has missed his or her connection will have to wait up to an hour for their next bus in an unpleasant Transit Center environment that does not even provide bathrooms for its customers, let alone any other comforts such as an inside waiting room. As many Community Transit buses that service residential areas in South Snohomish County journey with little or no passengers with their current infrequent schedules, even an increase in ridership will not justify increasing the frequency of bus operations, especially in the evenings when most of the buses currently ply their routes with few or no passengers.
Most commuters will simply not avail themselves of the decidedly inadequate service by commuting to the transit center by bus. They will continue to arrive and depart by automobile, and park their vehicles in what is currently accommodating Town Center residential neighborhoods if parking at the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center is not available. This pattern will increase dramatically both when the Lynnwood Light Rail Link is operational, and when commuters are charged a fee to park in the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center garage.
At this time there appears to be little future relief planned for those residential areas adjacent to the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center. Those residents will experience significant increased traffic, noise, congestion and on-street parking from increased out of town traffic over the next number of years. This matter has been brought to the attention of the Mountlake Terrace City Council in the past by various concerned residents, without any comprehensive action or resolution. It is only going to get much worse over the next number of years, during the construction of the light rail station when significant facility parking is eliminated, as well as when the light rail system becomes operational, with its dramatic increase in both service and capacity.
This issue can be readily resolved by the City of Mountlake Terrace if the city wishes to act in a proactive way to protect the quality of life for Mountlake Terrace residents in Town Center residential neighborhoods. If the city council does not act in some capacity to address this issue, the residents of Town Center will continue to be increasingly and unfairly singularly burdened by the impacts of inadequate planning and implementation of regional transportation policies and facilities. This will be readily apparent when the Lynnwood Light Rail Link is completed, with its corresponding dramatic increase in commuter traffic throughout Town Center.
The City of Mountlake Terrace can institute two or three hour parking limits through its street parking regulations in Town Center residential areas that will be negatively impacted by Sound Transit commuters in the near future. Those residents requiring on street parking would be able to obtain residential parking permits for themselves and their guests. The issue that has plagued communities overrun by traffic as a result of these types of facilities can be resolved before the problem increases even more.
The policy of limiting on street parking to commuters but allowing residents normal parking access has been implement with great success in other jurisdictions facing similar issues. Seattle has instituted such a program that is called the Restricted Parking Zones In Seattle
In its informational website, the city of Seattle states that:
“Restricted Parking Zones (RPZs) are residential areas around commuter traffic generators — like hospitals or light rail stations — where on-street parking is restricted for those except residents and short-term visitors.”
One such area where this program has been successfully instituted is the extremely congested University District. By limiting the number of allowable hours of parking for both University of Washington students and employee commuters, the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Washington have not been overrun with long term vehicle parking by those who then travel to the university. As a result, there was a reduction both in traffic, noise and congestion in those residential areas after restrictive parking policies were implemented. That parking policy has proven to be successful in restoring a pleasant, calming atmosphere in what was once a very congested neighborhood.
It is truly unfair to destroy the quiet suburban lifestyle of only those residing in the Mountlake Terrace Town Center. They alone will be directly impacted by a public transportation system that is unable or unwilling to adequately fund both transportation infrastructure such as adequate on site parking for its commuters, as well as provide adequate public transportation to and from the proposed light rail transit centers . By implementing a Parking Restricted Zone policy in Mountlake Terrace such as has been successfully implemented in various Seattle neighborhoods, parking and the resulting noise and congestion will be reduced or prevented entirely as longer term daily commuters will no longer be able to park in those areas. Commuters can utilize the local bus service to travel to the Mountlake Transit Center as initially proposed by Sound Transit. If that is inconvenient for commuters, let the commuters approach Sound and Community Transit, for resolution of those issues. But the Town Center residential neighborhoods should not be a singular sacrificial victim for a system that is unable or unwilling to adequately transport its ridership to the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center.
The Mountlake Terrace Transit Center located in the geographic center of the city is a fait accomplit. The resultant increased traffic through residential areas of Mountlake Terrace by out of town commuters heading to the Transit Center garage is an unpleasant fact of life that cannot be eliminated. However, the Mountlake Terrace City Council can easily resolve the issue of extensive future commuter residential parking, with its corresponding increases in traffic and noise in Town Center neighborhoods. Those communities adjacent to and surrounding the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center do not have to have their once quiet and tranquil suburban neighborhoods transformed into busy, noisy commuter parking lots for the benefit of future Sound Transit commuters who would never permit that type of parking situation in their own surrounding wealthier residential communities.
There is a window of opportunity both before the heightened development of the Town Center area, as well as the introduction of the light rail system, for the city council to provide present and future relief to its Town Center residents. All can readily observe that the implementation and introduction of new governmental policy regulations is an exceedingly slow process. The time is now for the Mountlake Terrace city council to act on this matter, rather than delaying the matter as more and more complaints about these concerns are voiced by a growing frustrated community that witnesses its quality of life disappear.
Is there the political will on the part of the Mountlake Terrace City Council to represent and protect these quality of life issues for their constituents in the present and in the future? Will the council initiate the process to allow Restricted Parking Zones so that Town Center residential neighborhoods are not transformed into one giant parking lot for the benefit of Sound Transit over the next decade? Or will the city council allow the peace and tranquility of these neighborhoods to be sacrificed for the benefit of poor planning and implementation by transportation agencies masquerading as some sort of “greater good” for the regional community? Who knows? A resolution of this problem clearly is within reach of the Mountlake Terrace City Council before it escalates further if they so desire to represent the actual interests of their constituents rather than further flung interests.