And how much more does it cost to build Washington State Ferries here instead of places elsewhere, per state law? Readers asked. Here are our answers.

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Roy McIntosh, of Redmond, said he prefers taking a bus to Seattle, where he visits his children or attends events downtown.

But because finding parking at nearby park-and-ride lots is nearly impossible, he said, he’s given up on transit and now drives his car whenever he makes the trip.

McIntosh wants to know what King County Metro Transit is doing to improve parking at its crowded lots.

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, CenturyLink, Kemper Development Co., NHL Seattle, PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and Seattle Children’s hospital. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

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His question and one other about the costs of building state ferries in Washington instead of elsewhere, per state law, are answered in this week’s Traffic Lab reader Q&A.

Got a question? Send it to, and we may feature it an upcoming column.

Q. What is being done about increasing parking space at park-and-ride lots around the county? Mass transit is wonderful and should be encouraged, but it is useless if I can’t find a parking space at a mass-transit center after driving from my home.

— Roy McIntosh, Redmond

A. By 8 or 9 a.m., many of Metro Transit’s 130 park-and-ride lots, totaling more than 25,000 parking spaces, on popular commute routes are full. You’re not alone feeling the struggle.

The agency has a few projects in motion to help free up room, though.

Carpools of two or more people can reserve parking space at six of Metro’s busiest lots — Redmond, Issaquah Highlands, South Kirkland, South Renton, Northgate and Eastgate — to guarantee a morning spot.

“It helps to reduce the amount of cars and forces people into a share ride,” Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer said. “It frees up space for someone else.”

That pilot program, for people who arrive before 8:30 a.m. weekdays, started last month. Permits are free, but users must register through Republic Parking Northwest. The sign-up form can be reached through Metro’s “permit parking” webpage.

In 2015, about 19,500 vehicles on average used park-and-ride lots each weekday in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, Puget Sound Regional Council data show. At least 51 sites were 95 percent or more full.

Metro is also in the process of identifying multifamily and commercial properties near popular park-and-ride lots that could provide paid daytime parking for transit riders, he said. The agency plans to launch that program this spring, Switzer said.

And for later this year, Metro is scoping out a pilot project that would help people get to full lots via app-based ride-service companies, rather than taking their own vehicles, he said.

Those are some of the solutions officials are trying now. But what’s to come?

By 2040, Metro says the number of parking spaces across the system will increase by more than 13,000, and more people will walk or bike to catch a bus.

Sound Transit 3’s investment in parking will help.

That $54 billion, 25-year package — funded through car-tab fees, property taxes and sales taxes — will add 8,560 park-and-ride spaces as commuter stations open between 2024 and 2041.

Q: According to state law, Washington State Ferries must be built in Washington. How much more does it cost to build the ferries here than it would other places?

— Christopher Hodgkin, Friday Harbor

A.It costs millions of dollars more on average to build a ferryboat in Washington than at an out-of-state shipyard.

But according to a recent study by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), if you weigh that cost against the loss of shipyard jobs and consumer spending by building elsewhere, the math isn’t that definitive.

We’ll break it down.

The study is split into two parts: a benefit-cost analysis that addresses how an out-of-state builder would directly impact specific groups, and an economic-impact analysis that assesses indirect and long-term effects.

The benefit-cost analysis found Washington taxpayers could save $10.5 million to build a 1,500-passenger, 144-car ferry — like the Washington State Ferries (WSF) vessel called Tokitae — in another state. But that would mean losing $7.25 million in shipyard-employee income for that project, the study says.

That pencils out to a benefit of $3.25 million.

For perspective, the Tokitae cost $144 million.

The economic-impact analysis predicts that building elsewhere would have a more negative effect, including an average two-year loss of about 659 jobs and about $68 million in consumer spending.

“Neither analysis predicts a substantial impact on Washington’s economy (either positively or negatively) from keeping ferry construction in state or moving construction to out-of-state shipyards,” the study says.

The Olympic-class Tokitae entered service in mid-2014 as part of a three-vessel deal with Vigor Shipyards in Seattle that totaled $388 million.

Vigor has led WSF construction for the past 20 years, as the only company that meets all the state’s building requirements, the study says.

This summer, a new Olympic-class ferry will launch on the Seattle-Bremerton route, and another new vessel will go into service next year.

WSF spokesman Ian Sterling said the agency has no official position on the out-of-state vs. in-state issue.

The Legislature directed WSIPP, a nonpartisan think tank, to do the analysis in 2015. WSIPP is governed by a board of directors that represents the governor, legislators and public universities.