Commuters’ cars towed away as Salish Crossing ramps up parking enforcement

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    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.

    This map shows the 103 designated commuter stalls in the Salish Crossing complex. Commuter vehicles parked outside of these stall are subject to impound.

    “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.

    One of the notices issued by Northwest Security, contractor for security services at Salish Crossing, to improperly parked vehicles.

    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

     

     

    34 Replies to “Commuters’ cars towed away as Salish Crossing ramps up parking enforcement”

    1. $400 is an excessive amount to charge someone for a tow and to get your car out of being impounded. The city may need to help find more parking space or a solution for more places to park. I think it’s mean spirited to tow someones car and then not release it unless they come up with $400. Thats a small fortune today and a short sighted way to solve this problem. I would hope you could find a better way that was not so harsh.

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    2. I live in Edmonds and commute to work to downtown Seattle by train, and by the last train (7:40), there aren’t usually any designated spots left, and ridership has been steadily increasing. Are there any legal alternatives, like nearby street or other parking that allows 7:30am-6:30pm weekday parking? It would be nice to offer a solution if there is one. If not, Mary’s parking will be racking up a lot of money.

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      1. A group that worked such issues for numerous years was the City of Edmonds Parking Committee. Unfortunately the city council unwisely abolished that committee a few years ago.

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        1. Parking is a subject that is being worked on by the group appointed by the Mayor. The Economic Development Commission has and will continue to looking into parking solutions.

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          1. I’ve now had time to review the minutes of a few of the most recent EDC meetings and saw no discussion on parking. The EDC is a very capable group, but does not have a focus on parking issues that a dedicated group had. The last Parking Committee meeting was held January 2014.

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          1. The committee chair position was filled by another committee member and there were was no problem having an adequate number of members. A city staff member didn’t want the committee because he didn’t like having the work associated with it. The Parking Committee was a city council committee and city council allowed it to go away. So technically, the city council indirectly abolished the committee.

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    3. I believe quite a few stalls are available in the Port of Edmonds’ gravel lot across Admiral Way from Arnies. Those spots aren’t free, but I recall the monthly parking fee is reasonable (in the range of $125/month). Certainly worth considering if the Salish Crossing lot is often at capacity.

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      1. No. My husband’s car was towed that day among many others. There was no warning whatsoever. He got off the train from downtown Seattle and the car was gone. It cost $398 to get it out of the towing yard. I understand that the businesses need those spaces but towing without any notice at all?! No tickets on the cars letting the driver know why he/she is getting a ticket. Nope. Just a $398 towing fee. I can tell you that we live in Edmonds near PCC and my husband and will probably not spend money at those businesses again. This is unfortunate but we aren’t the only ones left feeling this way.

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    4. The whole idea of taking the train (which costs money) is to not pay for parking in downtown Seattle. I am shocked that a tow and a $400 fee is the direction they would go to solving this. A warning should be issued especially if this hasn’t been enforced for years. It sounds like the parking for the train needs to be increased somehow for the sake of helping Edmonds residents get to work. I’ve heard (from someone that parks there daily) that the police men that were down there warning people were not very friendly in their delivery and many missed their trains. Unfortunate.

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      1. Data I have seen shows that each one way trip costs in excess of $45. Due mostly to the $200-250million payment to BNSF to use the tracks. The train fare is less than $5. So the subsidy so far is about $40. The payment for the parking was several dollars a day, I recall it to be about $6-7 per stall per day. No charge to customer. So now the subsidy is $45+ and the fare is $5 and the total cost include the parking stall is $50 per person per ride. Providing added parking for free increases the subsidy. The real question is how much subsidy should we have. Or should some of the added cost really be borne by the user. We can say all we want about what a good thing the train is but in reality it costs a lot of money over and above the fare box.

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    5. We noted in Cindy’s comment that she references “the police men” giving people warning about this not being very friendly.

      We want to make it 100% clear that the Edmonds Police Department has had zero involvement with this issue. The towing of vehicles from private property is a civil matter between the vehicle owner and property owner. Our officers were not down there issuing warnings for parking matters on private property. Anyone in uniform you might have seen was likely from a private security company contracted by the business owner(s).

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      1. This is more towards everyone else, I doubt I’m telling Sgt Hawley anything he doesn’t already know… but private security work of this sort does not pay well, and telling people where they cannot park all day long is a particularly thankless task. It is never received well, and some people are verbally abusive. After a few hours of that, I think the most cheerful person might find themselves coming across a little grumpy.

        I put myself through a couple years of college doing similar work, and that was probably my least favorite task. It ranked well below cleaning the bathrooms.

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    6. Ron, The EDC first started on parking issues at the June 2016 meeting and held several subgroup and group sessions to discuss. The EDC sent a letter to the Mayor and Council with some suggestions in Nov. 2016. The Mayor formed a team with several staff members and a member of the EDC and a member from the BID. That group made several recommendations to the Mayor and Council that were basically adopted.
      1. Folks do not park as efficiently as they can and leave too much space between cars which result in lost parking. Adding “tick” marks in some areas around DT was tried to see if it would help. Before and after observations. Showed improved efficiency and more cars parked in the areas tested.
      2. Employee park permits number in excess of 530, cost $.25/day and take up valuable space near the DT core. Council approved an ordinance change and employee parking was moved a little further from the DT core freeing up added spaces.
      3. Residence Parking, we have 3 zones and more than 500 permits at a cost of $.07, yes 7 cents a day. No recommendation was made on the first go around to move or change anything relating to residence parking.
      4. Enforcement improvements. We have 3 hour zones in most areas and needed more enforcement to help free up space for those visiting DT. Council approve added in enforcement for 2017 and recently approve more enforcement dollars for 2018.

      We only have a limited number of parking stalls in Edmonds but a lot of demand. While no one wants to say it we may be nearing the time to find more aggressive ways to enforce, and pay for that limited resource.

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    7. The signage in this lot is very very poor. In fact, it could be construed by a reasonable person that the whole property is managed by Sound Transit, and that the only violation would be to use the lot when taking the Kingston ferry. I spoke today with the property manager, and she conceded as much, saying that additional painting/striping is planned to make it more clear. She also signaled that there will be additional days of militant enforcement next week — be warned!

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    8. Maybe the Port or whoever owns the gravel lot across from Armies could build a 2 or 3 story parking garage where you pay by the hour or day to park. That would be a good money maker for the Port (or whoever owns that lot) and would solve many waterfront parking issues….just a thought.

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      1. That would probably be a good idea, but the building would likely have to be a height that’s above what’s currently authorized. A taller building could be allowed by city council, however the chances of that happening are slim.

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    9. And a good one, Janine. The Port will be commencing a feasibility assessment on just such a structure at that location to assess if a parking garage serving transit users, the new waterfront center planned for development at the site of the current senior center, and the crush of visitors to the waterfront in good weather will result in a favorable public cost-benefit. With the future expansion of multi-modal capacity in the immediate waterfront area, increased bus service connecting to inland light rail, along with planned expansions in ferry service and Sounder rail to meet future demand, substantially more parking in the area will be needed. If feasible, a code-compliant parking structure serving transit and the waterfront might very well be part of a solution to the current parking shortfall.

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    10. Steve– Great suggestion– time to get started on serious study to produce a ‘pay-to-park-by-users’ parking garage. If I can help the Port with this at any time, please let me know.

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    11. It is great that the Port will create a feasibility assessment for a parking garage. Parking garages cost in the range of $30,000-$40,000 per stall. So a 100 stall garage would cost $3-4m. Just recovering the capital costs over a 10 year period would require revenue of over $1000 per day or an average of $10 per stall per day. That would not include the interest on bonds, expenses like taxes, lights, security and other things. It is hard to see how a garage could generate the kind of revenue needed to pay the costs. That would suggest some form of subsidy. The tax payers of the port district have taken the position in the past that things like the marina and harbor square should stand on their own to have revenue cover all costs.

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      1. Agreed. We explored the same concept for the Edmonds Senior Center rebuild and deemed it too expensive to consider. Though it’s easier said than done, we as commuters have to pivot to better transit options. I take a Community Transit bus to downtown Seattle for work a couple of days a week. While I’m grateful that the bus stop is only a block away from my home, it only runs during commute hours in one direction.

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        1. The last report of a garage Sound Transit build was in Kent. The estimate for the 500 stall garage was $35m or $70,000 per stall but the end product is not estimated to cost $65m or $130,000 per stall. Forgetting the cost of money and expenses for the garage that $65m could be use to provide a door to door train pickup and delivery service for all 500 people for more than 25 years. Finding ways to get folks to the stations economically may be cheaper than building garages

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          1. Before everyone spends a bunch of effort to solution design a known problem for years, think about factors outside of city or citizen control:

            a) This a known flood zone, making underground parking much more costly. Alternative? Above ground? Good luck getting an above ground parking structure approved by all the building height zealots in Edmonds.
            b) There is going to be some sort of “over the tracks” bridge structure coming, to address the public safety concerns west of the tracks. Which will change the whole landscape of Main to Dayton.
            c) BNSF owns Railroad Ave and will be reclaiming it soon to finish their plan for double tracks between Portland and Vancouver. Which also will change the landscape of Main to Dayton.
            d) Sound Transit, Community Transit, Amtrak and other agencies refurbished this area a handful of years ago to turn it into a Transit Center. Reducing the amount of available parking for the bus activity and shelters. Good luck getting them to admit they made a mistake and need to invest more $$.

            These are all good thought and I would fully support a world class transit center in this location. The amount of revenue it would produce, enhance the exposure of Edmonds to others and give people the chance to experience our great city would be invaluable.

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    12. I was one of the commuter who was towed and had to pay $398 to get my car back. The folks inside Mary’s Towing were laughing and smiling when a group of us came to get our cars (I am sure the $8,000 they just scammed us out of was hilarious to them).

      My beef is with the security company that requested the tows. Tues a.m. when I arrived to park there was the patrol officer there telling people they couldn’t park in particular spots. That same patrol officer watched a whole group of us park in the far NE corner (at the street), then watched as we all walked right passed him and he SAID NOTHING TO US about not being able to park there.

      Sound Transit doesn’t care either. Many have contacted them and all you get is “We didn’t do it, we have nothing to do with it, you need to call someone else.”

      I will be DRIVING TO WORK now because that is far better than a $398 shock and no way home. I guess Sound Transit doesn’t really want commuters or they would make it easier for commuters to commute. Today is the last day I am taking the train, I will add to the congestion because that is a better solution for me.

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      1. Sound Transit is already spending more for the parking than it gets in revenue for these 103 spots. Bottom line is Sound Transit is losing money on everyone who parks in a stall and uses the train. It is hard to understand way a business would add an amenity that costs more than the revenue produced by that amenity. Since the demand for parking is greater than the spaces available then a normal business would raise the price to start covering their costs. If it costs $7/per day for a stall charging $7/day would simply cover the costs. That rate would be lower than the paid lot to the north. Paying $400 for one day of illegal parking is like paying for 60 days of parking if the rate were $7/day. One should take that risk only if they feel they will be towed only once in a 3 month window. That may have been a good risk in the past but not likely to be a good risk in the future.

        This whole thing points out the sad reality of publicly funded projects that would not happen in the traditional business world. If a business paid $7 for a box donuts and then charged its customers $5 for those donuts the loss is $2 per box. Hard to make up by adding volume.

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          1. Totally agree with Darrol.

            What baffles me is this seems like a ripe orange for the typical politician and lobbyist to pick from the tree. There are multiple justifications to redevelop that whole area to make it world class, multiple agencies with deep pockets of tax and sources to private $$ to fund it. Why not take the discussion up a level and incorporate all of the city’s needs from this location into a potential design? Piece by piece is much more expensive and the pieces rarely fit together like a logo set.

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    13. Reminds me of the full parking lots at the Edmonds Public Library. Hard to believe all those parking spots are being used by library patrons.

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    14. Some folks in this thread have express an interest to offer ideas to parking issues in Edmonds. Now is your chance!! The Economic Development Commission started some work on parking June 2016 and recommendations were forwarded to Council and the Mayor and some early changes were made to help ease down town parking. See Jan 11 post above for a summary.

      The EDC will be discussion parking on Wed Jan 17 6:00pm at City Hall. Here is the link for details of the meeting.
      https://edmondswa.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=14&ID=2039&Inline=True

      The link opens the agenda info including a memo on parking that will be discussed. See pages 5 and 6. The EDC welcomes public input and your views would be helpful for the work of the EDC.

      If you are unable to attend the you can send your comments to me at my EDC email address. [email protected]
      Your comments on the points in the memo will be helpful for the EDC. I will summarize your comments for the rest of the EDC.

      So go to the link, come to the meeting next Wed., and send me your comments. Your input will help the EDC and the Mayor’s Parking Advisory Team assess the next steps to improve parking in Edmonds. Let me know if you have questions.

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