A group of Sound Transit commuters arrived home in Edmonds Tuesday evening, Jan. 9 to a shocking surprise — their cars were gone, having been towed to the Everett impound yard operated by Mary’s Towing.
Commuters have been filling up spaces daily ever since Sound Transit, Salish LLC and the City of Edmonds set up a 2012 agreement designating 103 stalls (including five ADA) in the Salish lot for Sounder train commuters to supplement the 156 existing spaces at the Edmonds Station. With the region’s growing population and ever-longer delays along I-5 and other commuter routes, these spaces fill increasingly early on workweek mornings, and some commuters have chosen to risk parking in non-designated stalls.
When the spaces were first added, Salish Crossing was a much slower place. Businesses were just getting established, and some hadn’t yet arrived. To the casual observer, it appeared that there was plenty of unused space in the sections of the lot not designated for commuter parking, and some commuters got in the habit of parking in non-designated parking areas. Word began to spread that you could pretty much park anywhere without consequence.
“When I started using the lot to commute, even the station master told me that I could safely park anywhere in the Salish lot,” said Kris Byrum, one of the commuters whose car was towed on Tuesday.
But now, businesses like 190 Sunset, Scratch Distillery, Brigid’s Bottle Shop and of course the Cascadia Art Museum are drawing increasing numbers of customers and visitors, all of whom need a place to park.
“I’ve come in here some days to work when the entire lot is full,” said Niles Peacock, who manages the bar at 190 Sunset. “The museum and other businesses wouldn’t even be open yet, but still you couldn’t find an empty stall. Then our lunch customers would start arriving, some complaining about having to park blocks away.”
Kim Karrick, who along with husband Bryan runs Scratch Distillery, said the situation “really came to head right after the first of this year. Maybe it was due to the end of the holiday season, or maybe folks are just sick of the freeways and see the train as a low-stress way to get to work, but I’ve never seen so many cars parked here,” she said.
By the end of the first week of 2018, things had reached the tipping point for the business owners and property manager Pacific Asset Advisors, Inc., and they contacted Sound Transit.
“Sound Transit was notified Friday, Jan. 5 by Salish Crossing of their intent to enforce the parking restrictions,” said Sound Transit spokesperson Scott Thompson. “On Monday, Jan. 8 the Sound Transit station agent informed commuters of this pending enforcement and rider alerts were posted at our Edmonds station.”
According to Thompson, Sound Transit leases the spaces in the Salish Lot, but the same parking guidelines apply as in owned lots. These are posted in several places in the Salish lot.
Notices on Pacific Asset Advisors letterhead and from Guardian Northwest, provider of security services for Salish Crossing, were placed on cars Monday. Enforcement began on Tuesday.
“Mary’s Towing tows in accordance to Washington State law that governs Registered Tow Truck Operator (RTTO) companies,” said owner Mary Brubaker. “Private property owners establish their own parking policies.” Mary’s guidelines specify that only the person or persons authorized on the towing agreement may actually order a tow, and Brubaker verified that Tuesday’s action at Salish Crossing was ordered by “an authorized representative of Salish Crossing LLC.”
But for commuters like Kris Byrum whose cars were towed, the sudden enforcement action was frustrating — and expensive.
“I had to find transportation to the tow yard in north Everett and pay $398.88 to get my car back,” said Byrum, who also had to make alternative arrangements to pick up his small children from preschool. “With no enforcement for two-plus years, the choice to tow cars was shortsighted, unfounded and misdirected.”
No one will argue that it’s a bummer to get your car towed. As parking in Edmonds gets increasingly tight, the lesson may be: It’s never been more important to read the signs and only park in designated areas.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel