Park and ride: What happened? l Guest View

 

Last updated 10/30/2019 at 11:26am



In the first two parts of our Mukilteo waterfront/Old Town parking discussion, we discussed where we are today, how we got there, and what we might expect in the future. This week, we’ll finish up with a detailed discussion of the rise and fall of Mukilteo’s (almost) park and ride, and a realistic look at whether a park and ride is in Mukilteo’s future.

A Mukilteo park and ride has been a desire of many for over 20 years. When I was a new councilmember in 2006, the former airport director showed me a decade-old plan for a park and ride on the west side of airport property. Mukilteo officials had wanted a park and ride and that was the reason for cutting down all the trees near where Lombardo's Pizzeria is now. The need for a Mukilteo park and ride seemed obvious then and even more so today.

It was almost built a couple of years ago, but the $4.7 million project was killed by Community Transit and the state grant was returned because of a $50,000 dispute and a whole lot of deception, lying, and misinformation from CT.

Here's what happened.

Background

Community Transit is the primary agency that builds park and rides in Snohomish County.

In the eight years I was a councilmember, the message the mayor (a CT board member) sent to the council and the City’s Transportation Committee about a Mukilteo park and ride wasn't a positive one. The two primary roadblocks were that CT didn’t have the money to build a park and ride, and, CT had to purchase the property (FAA regulations only allow airport property to be leased.)


In 2012, Mukilteo Councilmember Steve Schmalz and I went to Olympia and met with a state Senator on the Senate Transportation Committee. Surprisingly, some of her staff recommended that we apply for a state transportation mobility grant to build a park and ride.

Around the same time, the airport director (Dave Wagoner) had been working with the FAA to create a 20- or 30-year lease of airport property that worked more like a purchase, so as to meet the grant application and Community Transit’s requirements.

I tried to get the City and Community Transit on board with a park and ride, but the entrenched culture of “it can’t be done” that still exists today prevailed.

So, I went around the obstacles. When looking for a sponsor for the state grant, Snohomish County and County Councilmember Brian Sullivan stepped up in a big way. Brian and Dave (the airport director) worked to get me the information necessary. I wrote the grant.


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The idea for the “Mukilteo Park & Ride Plus” was for it to be a traditional park and ride during the day, and at other times, as a paid overnight parking lot and weekend overflow lot to ease the parking demands on Mukilteo's waterfront.

That demand is due to the popularity of Lighthouse Park and commuter needs created by the ferry and Sounder trains. Overnight parking was available on the waterfront until Lighthouse Park was renovated and the new community center was built. Therefore, the “plus” was an important part of the project and also served to generate revenue for maintenance and the required state match.

With the help and support of many, including local, county, and state representatives, $1 million was awarded for the park and ride in the 2013-2014 biennium (two years later the balance was awarded for the 2015-2016 biennium). It should also be noted that the project did have its enemies including our own mayor at the time (currently a City Council candidate) who state representatives told me was actually lobbying lawmakers in Olympia AGAINST the park and ride funding.

In 2013, the powers that be gave the project to Community Transit. In just one meeting, the transit system outlined its own plan for the park and ride. Overnight paid parking, and the source of funding for operational expenses, was a no go. At the time, CT allowed vehicles to park for up to 72 hours at no charge, so the commuters were OK with that.


service changes

At the meeting, we were also told that there wouldn’t be a stop in the park and ride itself, so commuters would need to cross SR525 to catch the bus. I objected to this and was told that staff would address safety and efficiency concerns in the design phase. I left the council at the end of 2013 and heard nothing after that.

All was quiet until May of 2016 when the City Council was presented with information at a worksession that included the requirement that the City contribute $100,000 to the project match requirement. Up until then, there had been no status reports, no opportunities to provide feedback, nothing.

At the June 6, 2016 meeting, the CEO of Community Transit attempted to get the council to commit $83,000 toward the project. This later became $50,000. CT claimed the City agreed to be a financial partner back in 2013. That’s simply not true. I didn’t attend that meeting, but the councilmember who got the ball rolling was referred to 13 times, mostly in an unfavorable light.

It’s important to note here that an individual councilmember (or any other official for that matter) can’t speak on behalf of the council and the council never had the opportunity to agree to be a financial partner in the project.

The council (in agreement with City staff recommendations) expressed a safety concern with the project requiring riders to cross SR525, sometimes in the dark, during the morning rush to catch a bus.

To make a long story short, the council eventually agreed to fund the $50,000 with the request that CT apply for future grants so the busses could pull into the park and ride instead of requiring riders to cross SR-525 during the morning rush. Either Community Transit’s CEO didn’t read the council motion, didn’t understand it or just chose to misrepresent the facts, but the end result was his decision to cancel the $4.7 million park and ride project (which was ready to go) because of a $50,000 misrepresentation of the facts.

Post Mortem

The Mukilteo park and ride is dead. It was killed by Community Transit. Looking back at everything, there are important lessons to be learned.

Community Transit doesn’t play well with others. From the very beginning, I was told CT didn’t want to do a park and ride in Mukilteo. My firsthand experience with some CT representatives while a councilmember is consistent with those statements.

The Community Transit CEO knows how to play the CT Board and has misinformed them to justify killing the Mukilteo park and ride.

Involving Community Transit in any way in a future Mukilteo park and ride would be equivalent to trying the same thing over and expecting different results. Some may want to waste their time doing that but I’m not one of them.

The public records request I obtained after CT killed the project was revealing and only underscores my disdain for the way this agency under the current leadership conducts business.

Life after death?

Mukilteo could benefit greatly with a “Park & Ride Plus” as originally envisioned. Add to that the high demand for longer term parking for Paine Field commercial air commuters and the necessary shuttle between the Park & Ride Plus, the Mukilteo waterfront and Paine Field, and everyone wins.

Unfortunately, based on past experience, it’s going to take real passion to make this happen and while I see a lot of public officials who want a "Park & Ride Plus," I don’t see the passion necessary to really make it happen in a way that will maximize the benefit to Mukilteo.

So, at best, I think this will need to be a public-private partnership to be successful.

There are obstacles that need to be overcome and partnerships that need to be made including:

The airport director and much of the staff involved in the “Park & Ride Plus” have retired. The new airport director and staff don’t appear to have a grasp of the history or the benefits one could have. Snohomish County appears to have other uses in mind for the property.


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There needs to be a shuttle system that could service the Mukilteo waterfront, Paine Field and the park and ride. Everett Transit and Island Transit could be very valuable partners and combined with private partners there could be a very comprehensive solution.

Apparently, our state representatives won’t sign off on a Transportation Mobility Grant (the grant CT returned to the state when they killed the original park and ride) unless CT is involved. Somehow, Whidbey has both a WSDOT park and ride in addition to a Port of South Whidbey park and ride in close proximity to the Clinton terminal. It seems that Snohomish County (Paine Field), the Port of Everett, the Port of South Whidbey (now that the Tulalip Tribes announced they wouldn’t be building a parking lot on the waterfront), Everett Transit, Island Transit, and Island County might be able to work together to make this work?

OK, maybe wishful thinking on my part, but if there are any resourceful private entities out there who are interested, I have a lot of history to share including a recent Snohomish County public records request asking for all the park and ride documentation and correspondence.

In closing this last part of the parking discussion I want to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of former Mayor Emory Cole for his ongoing efforts to bring the parking issues that plague our waterfront to light and continue to remind us that we’re not always heading where we thought we were.

Also, although I didn’t cover it here, I appreciate the continued effort by former Mukilteo City Councilmember Charlie Pancerzewski for pointing out the discrepancy between the development regulations that require less parking for businesses in the waterfront/Old Town area than for the rest of Mukilteo, and its impact on the parking issues we’re experiencing. I’ve never understood why we’ve never been able to get a reasonable answer from the City (even while on the council) and more importantly why Mukilteo officials won’t address this obvious problem.

Drop me a note at [email protected] if you have information to share or ideas for future articles.

 
 

Reader Comments
(1)

Kristina Melnichenko writes:

Thank you for the time and effort to put this together, Kevin, and for all you continue to do for Mukilteo.

 
 
 

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