A public-private partnership will open 250 stalls at 12 sites for paid transit-commuter parking.

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As free park-and-ride lots overflow, King County Metro and Diamond Parking are launching a partnership to sell reserved spaces near popular transit lines.

The pilot project begins June 1, and stalls went on sale Tuesday.

The first month is free, and after that rates will vary by location, ranging from $32 a month in Kent to $173 a month at the 106th Avenue lot in downtown Bellevue. Metro doesn’t collect parking royalties but could gain ridership and fares.

Paid transit parking

Diamond Parking will manage and sell reserved commuter parking stalls at these locations. More details: www.parkbytransit.com

• West Seattle: Bartell Drugs garage, 2331 42nd Ave S.W.; Jefferson Square shopping garage, 4704 42nd Ave S.W.; U.S. Bank, across 42nd from Jefferson Square.

• Fremont: Mural lot, 4314 Fremont Ave. N.

• Kenmore: Safeway, 6850 N.E. Bothell Way.

• Redmond: Village Square, 16150 N.E. 85th St.

• Kirkland: Northlake Unitarian Church, 308 4th Ave. S.

• Bellevue: 1001 106th Ave. N.E.; The Belcarra, 10688 N.E. 10th St.; Bell Centre, 308 108th Ave N.E.

• Mercer Island: The Aviara, 2441 76th Ave. S.E.

• Kent: KeyBank, 505 W. Meeker St.

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These lots and garages typically have idle spaces midday, compared with busier nights and weekends. Most are a short walk from commuter or RapidRide buses, while the Kent site is near the Sounder train station.

“Historically, transit parking has been free. I think we’re reaching a tipping point here that a lot of the lots that the public sector is operating are full early in the morning, and customers are looking for other opportunities,” said Daniel Rowe, a Metro planner managing the project. People surveyed said they’re willing to pay $2 to $3 a day.

Four sites are in Seattle, despite city policies to discourage park-and-ride expansions that attract car trips. These stalls are in mixed-use buildings or existing facilities, so the city won’t sacrifice dense development for parking, said Rowe. In West Seattle, reserved stalls might entice “hide-and-ride” parkers who would otherwise occupy neighborhood curbsides.

About 250 stalls are available now, and another 250 are expected later.

The public-private partnership includes a $543,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration, said Metro spokesman Scott Gutierrez.

That’s an eye-popping $1,000 or so per stall, to exploit existing space. The grant covers first-month user subsidies, Metro staff time, and market research by four consulting firms that examined transit corridors, surveyed transit users, and estimated the parking rates.

On the other hand, Rowe said, “It’s very expensive to develop a park-and-ride stall that’s free to a customer,” which makes this new partnership more economical. New parking stalls can cost $30,000 to $75,000 each to build, he said.

Efficient private markets theoretically should lead landowners to sell commute space without Metro’s prodding. But according to Rowe and the market study, Seattle-area landowners tend to focus on selling space to employees or shoppers, and are unfamiliar with bus commutes.

“In other cities the market for parking is much more dynamic,” as in New York, he said.

Locally, the city of Auburn markets commuter parking for Sounder trains at $30 to $70 a month, while in South Seattle a few private lots exist near light-rail stations.

Meanwhile, King County and Sound Transit offer reserved spaces for carpoolers in major transit stations, for a nominal monthly fee from zero to $5.

Sound Transit has discussed widespread imposition of parking fees someday, that could include low-income discounts. Some 8,560 parking spaces are proposed to be added in the 25-year ST3 expansion program.

Metro says it operates 25,000 free parking spaces in 137 locations.