Lawmakers want to allow state-funded park-and-ride lots to contract with private vendors to provide services for commuters.
A bill proposed Wednesday by Democratic Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens would allow the Washington State Department of Transportation, or any local transit agency using state money for a park-and-ride lot, to contract with private vendors, such as restaurants or coffee shops, to lease part of the lot.
Hobbs said he is thinking “out of the box” by proposing this bill as a way to earn revenue for transit agencies and encourage public-private partnership.
Any revenue gained from the lease agreements with private vendors would go first to the local agency to help operate and maintain the lot. Money collected beyond that would be funneled into the state’s multimodal transportation and motor vehicle funds.
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The bill’s sponsors are still working out how to split the revenue into those two funds, but preliminary ideas suggest that money from lots operated by WSDOT would go into the motor vehicle fund, while money from lots owned by local transit agencies would go to the multimodal fund.
“Some community transit agencies have cut service and some are also in the process of cutting service, due to the shortfall in the sales tax collection,” said community transit lobbyist Davor Gjorasic. “(This bill) is a creative way to add services to park-and-ride lots, so we support that.”
WSDOT also supports the bill and feels the presence of vendors on lots will increase security for lot users.
There are 336 park-and-ride lots in Washington, with 117 of them directly operated by WSDOT. The majority receive some form of state money, making them eligible for the new arrangement if the bill is passed.
The incentive for local transit agencies to contract with private vendors is that it frees up agency money that is currently spent on maintenance and operation for higher priorities, said Mark Eldridge, regional mobility program manager for WSDOT.
Agencies will instead be able to direct the revenue from leases with vendors toward those costs.
That and the increased security that comes from having more pairs of eyes on site at park-and-ride lots are the two main benefits from this bill, he said.