Share story

This is the painful stage of getting commuters out of their cars and into buses.

At the increasingly busy South Kirkland Park-and-Ride, nearly half the 600 parking spaces have been temporarily eliminated while a three-story parking garage is built.

When the garage is done this summer there will be more parking stalls than before, making it easier for the many commuters who have started taking the bus to avoid tolls on the 520 floating bridge.

And by consolidating parking in a smaller area, the King County Metro garage will do something else — free up enough of the seven-acre parking lot to build a four-story building and a five-story building with shops and apartments — and residents who are expected to fill more buses.

For Metro, it’s part of a 13-year effort to bring housing and other kinds of development to large park-and-rides. Similar transit hubs already have been built in Renton and Redmond and at Seattle’s Northgate.

But for now, the garage construction has gobbled up spaces and closed the lot’s 108th Avenue Northeast entrance, forcing commuters to show up early or seek parking a mile or more away.

Despite the disruption, Kirkland city officials welcome the park-and-ride’s transformation.

“When I was growing up, it was a huge parking lot for a drive-in,” Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride said. “Then it was a drive-in for commuters. Now all these years later it’s going to be a neighborhood.”

Transit hubs

King County first added housing to a transit hub in 2000, when it broke ground on 308 affordable apartments above 536 parking stalls at Redmond’s Overlake Village.

Overlake Village is expected to grow dramatically in the area around a former Group Health hospital and a future Sound Transit light-rail station.

Other transit-and-housing projects have been built in downtown Redmond and downtown Renton. The largest such venture is at Northgate, with 1,500 commuter parking stalls and a transit center next to a regional mall, a multiplex theater and multifamily housing.

Metro has sought developers or talked to city officials about other possible high-density projects near transit hubs in Burien, Kent, Auburn and Shoreline.

Sound Transit, similarly, is working with city governments to attract apartments, stores and offices above or adjacent to future light-rail transit stations in places like Capitol Hill, the University District and the Bel-Red Corridor.

“Moving from straight-out surface parking lots to garages for park-and-ride, and housing, we accomplish two things at the same time,” said King County Assistant Transportation Director Ron Posthuma.

“We create new opportunities for housing, with people of various income levels, and we make it easier for people to get to transit.”

End of summer

Until the South Kirkland lot was hit with the double whammy of tolling on the 520 bridge 13 months ago and then the parking-garage construction, it typically wasn’t as crowded as some park-and-rides, including the one in South Bellevue.

That lot, which will be replaced with a garage and a light-rail station by 2023, gets so crowded drivers sometimes park in fire lanes and their cars are towed.

Now the South Kirkland lot is filling earlier in the morning as well, Posthuma said.

South Kirkland commuters will see relief by the end of summer.

“In this case,” Posthuma said, “it’s the long-term gain of getting the new garage up and 250 new stalls that we think make it worthwhile. It’s the birthing pain of getting it done.”

The park-and-ride is adjacent to the Eastside Rail Corridor, where Kirkland plans to tear out the old tracks this spring to put in a 5¾-mile gravel trail.

Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett has promoted the trail as a prelude to a paved trail alongside a future transit route, connecting the South Kirkland Park-and-Ride to Google offices and the Totem Lake retail district.

King County will pay Polygon Northwest $10 million in land and $7 million in cash to develop the parking garage, Metro Senior Project Manager Gary Prince said.

Polygon then will build the five-story building with 181 market-rate homes and first-floor retail, and nonprofit Imagine Housing will build the four-story building with 58 affordable apartments.

The Imagine Housing building is expected to open in late 2014 and the mixed-use building in early 2015.

Polygon Development Project Manager Holly Smith said retail tenants could include a coffee shop and a bike shop.

For more information about the South Kirkland project and alternate parking lots, go to

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or