Parking issue is our problem, too

Apr 28, 2010

Right now, some 40-45 Whidbey Island commuters are scrambling to find spots to park their cars overnight night after June 1, when the city officially ends the years-long practice of leasing space in Lighthouse Park.

A total of 75 received eviction notices Friday, 30 of which will hopefully luck out with interim parking solutions.

The rest? Nobody knows.

It's easy for some to shake their heads, toss the paper aside and say, "It doesn't affect me, so I don't care."

But guess what - it is our problem.  Aside from the most basic human courtesy of looking out for one another, these Islanders shop in our stores, fill their vehicles at our gas stations and eat at our restaurants.

Some, unfortunately, also clog up limited street parking spots in the north end of town, against city code that prohibits overnight parking. Residents complain of blocked driveways and no room for visiting guests to park.

Some of those being displaced from Lighthouse Park will likely find spots on the side streets of Old Town, legal or not. Others will hopefully find a willing resident from whom to lease driveway or even yard space.

Still others will take their vehicles back into the long ferry holding lane, backing it up SR-525 and causing all kinds of confusion for those for whom reading signs is a struggle.

During the peak times – starting with Memorial Day weekend in late May – the traffic backs up past the holding lane's capacity, forcing Washington State Patrol troopers to convert the northbound lane to ferry holding and the center two-way turn lane to a northbound-only through lane.

Businesses along the mid-section of SR-525 lose customers when left turns are made impossible.

There is a solution, one not nearly as convenient as parking on the waterfront, but one some Islanders say they are more than willing to embrace - a combined commuter and park and ride lot in Harbour Pointe, east of SR-525.

The pilot project – the first in our state – initially would provide about 100 spots, for which commuters would pay a monthly fee. During the day, when they drive their cars to their workplaces, local residents could park there and commute to their own jobs.

We commend Mukilteo city and Snohomish County staff for coming up with a solution that could solve two problems at once. We commend Whidbey residents for their willingness to compromise, even at their own inconvenience, to make this work for both sides of the water.

We urge our elected representatives on both sides - Rep. Marko Liias, (D-Edmonds) and Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island) to do whatever they can to find the money to untangle this mess.

One last plea for clear thinking and common courtesy: If you don't like the plans public officials are making, please don't take your frustrations out on the businesses that have nothing whatsoever to do with the decision-making process.

Contact your elected representatives at each appropriate level and put the pressure on - preferably in large numbers - to come up with and carry out a sensible solution.

Meanwhile, let's work together to make this a win-win for Mukilteo and for Whidbey Island residents.

After all, if one side loses, we all do.

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