Northgate Station area plan, showing amenities for pedestrian, bike, and auto access.

Northgate Station area plan, featuring amenities for pedestrian, bike, and auto access.
(Sound Transit)

The Sound Transit Board has adopted a new “System Access Policy” which broadens the measures that Sound Transit will include in planning for ways to get riders to stations. While in the past, most of the emphasis has been on making station design convenient for transfers from buses and providing free parking for other potential riders, the new policy creates a broader approach that includes pedestrian and bicycle access. It also includes a parking management approach that contemplates using parking permits and fees to optimize use of parking facilities by transit users.

The new policy complements the broader approach to Transit Oriented Development adopted by the Board and is also based on the new direction for Sound Transit developed at the April 2012 Board retreat. At that retreat, Board and staff agreed that the Sound Transit 2 plan was proceeding well despite the financial constraints imposed by the drop in revenues due to the recession. The Board agreed that we should consider ways to make transit work more effectively in concert with local governments by creating new transit oriented development and station access policies, and should begin discussing the possibility of advancing the Sound Transit 3 vote to an earlier date. This new policy concludes the first stages of implementation of the directions outlined at that meeting.

Current Sound Transit policy has emphasized providing free and open parking at stations with limited enforcement. Parking is a significant investment, is constrained in urban areas and has limited compatibility with dense development around stations. Providing free parking also encourages riders to use the private automobile to access light rail. While the private automobile has a role in accessing transit stations, particularly for those who are not well served by alternatives or have physical limitations, the Board agreed that this role must be only part of an access strategy, and that access investments should be developed based on how they meet ridership and community goals.

The policy’s management approach for parking promotes efficient use of parking investments through mechanisms such as HOV stalls, parking permits, and parking fees and validation, with an emphasis on limiting the use of Sound Transit funded facilities to transit users.

The Board has already begun implementing this policy with its new access strategy for the Northgate Station. In addition to this construction and development approach, Sound Transit will also begin piloting parking management programs such as fees for parking, possibly with credits for HOV’s and/or for riders on the system.

The complete new access policy can be found at [PDF]

With this new policy, Sound Transit is formally transitioning to a 21st century approach to integrating its transit stations with access. The new emphasis on encouraging pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access in partnership with local jurisdictions will encourage a better and more comprehensive approach to making transit, land use, and other transportation options part of a seamless strategy to reduce dependence on the automobile and create transit oriented communities that maximize the efficiency of personal and governmental transportation expenditures.