Park and ride

Park and ride facilities are locations for people to park their personal vehicles and transfer to higher occupancy modes for the remainder of their trip. The availability and location of park and rides improves access to transit. The design of park and rides contributes to the safety and security of the people who use them.

Key characteristics



WSDOT regions

Other names

  • Incentive parking
  • Park and pool

Strategy description

Park and rides provide a place for people to park their personal vehicles in order to use higher occupancy modes of travel such as bus, rail or carpool to reach a final destination. Park and rides enable communities with lower population densities to take advantage of the benefits of transit services by concentrating transit riders and services. As a result, park and rides are typically located in the suburbs or the fringes of urban areas and service people heading to urban centers. 

Demand for park and rides increases with the availability of frequent transit service and multiple routes serving high-demand destinations. Safety and security features for people and for personal vehicles is a requirement for park and ride facilities to be effective. Park and pool lots, with limited or no transit service, are intended as gathering places for carpool and vanpool riders. 

Planning for park and rides includes:

  • Understanding travel patterns and potential demand at a park and ride 
  • Transit service planning and operations
  • Security features such as lighting, security cameras, and fencing
  • Transit passenger enhancements, including sidewalks, ramps and handrails, platforms, restrooms, and bus shelters
  • Traveler information systems offering transit users real-time information and mobile device access
  • Land use  

When to use this strategy

Park and rides are useful in a number of contexts, though must be strategically integrated into a broader transit strategy to be effective. Park and rides can be effective in concentrating passengers in lower density suburban and rural areas, where most people are not within walking distance of a transit stop or where transit service is not frequent or serves few destinations. Park and rides are also associated with bus rapid transit lines, express bus service, and rail stations, allowing people to conveniently access these high quality transit services. Park and pools are associated with carpools and vanpools, serving as parking for those meeting up. 

Park and rides can be exclusive facilities owned by a public works agency, or a shared use space, such as a lease for use of a church parking lot on weekdays.

The most common benefits of well-designed and located park and rides include:

  • Increased transit ridership
  • Improved safety and security for transit riders
  • Reduced travel times and increased travel time reliability for transit vehicles and potentially for all vehicles 
  • Reduced fuel consumption
  • Eased congestion by reducing the number of trips for people driving alone
  • Long-term and specific benefits may include: 
  • An established transit infrastructure that supports more permanent transit-oriented housing and business development
  • If successful in moving people from single-occupancy to high-occupancy vehicles, well designed and located park and rides may result in reduced congestion

What you need in order to implement

Locating and designing park and ride facilities requires agency coordination, planning, and operations, and infrastructure.

Agency coordination needs:

  • Construction and/or expansion of park and rides requires collaboration with transit agencies and various city/county divisions, which may be numerous for routes that span jurisdictions
  • In some instances, park and rides may employ incentives (e.g. preferred parking for carpools or electric vehicles) and/or tools (e.g. reservations, fees), which may require agency coordination based on relevant rules and regulations. 
  • Any land use strategies may require city, county, and/or state collaboration for rule-making and regulations
  • Planning needs:
  • Tools to understand travel demand and land use patterns and to forecast the optimal locations for park and rides in order to serve as many people as possible
  • Operations & infrastructure needs:
  • Safe and convenient roadways and circulation in and out of the park and ride facility
  • Sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, bus shelters, lighting, etc. enable transit riders to safely and securely access transit facilities from the adjacent park and ride 
  • Right of way acquisition may be necessary 
  • Infrastructure and operational needs for the associated transit facilities 

About key characteristics

Technology notes:

Technology needs are highly variable, depending on the systems and components used. Lighting, security features, and real-time information on transit schedules require technology systems and communications networks.

Collaboration notes:

Substantial collaboration may be necessary, including within a transit organization, with various city/county divisions for roadway improvements, traffic signal operations divisions for signal priority systems, and regional and state collaboration for rule-making and regulations.