It’s a question most drivers have asked: “Where can I find parking?” And whether you’re taking a long commute to school or work, living far from transit routes, or even preparing to hike an unfamiliar trail for fun, it can be difficult to answer. Thanks to park and rides, though, motorists can find easy ways to transfer to transit or travel on foot.

A park and ride is a public parking lot where commuters park their cars to board a bus or other public transit or to carpool. These lots may or may not allow general parking to access businesses or natural areas, and some require permits, while most others are free.

Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) operates park and rides that connect to public transit from populated areas of Bellingham and surrounding towns. Per their rules, WTA stations and other lots are free for commuters but do not permit general parking. Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) operates park and rides in many natural areas within their statewide map. Their lots typically permit free 48-hour parking with connections to Interstate-5 and hikes off the beaten path.

Knowing where to find Whatcom County’s park and rides can open up new spots on the map to convenience and recreation.

Cordata Station and Park and Ride

With its striking lettered sign and clock, Cordata Station at 4194 Cordata Parkway? is a familiar landmark to Whatcom Community College students and nearby Bellingham residents. The station services WTA’s 3, 4, 15, 24, 26, 27, 48, 71X, 232, and 331 buses.

Cordata Station’s park and ride offers an information booth, public restrooms, and 70 spaces. WTA permits free parking for commuters boarding the buses and carpoolers, but not visitors to WCC and nearby businesses. However, WCC does offer free parking immediately north of Cordata Station. From there, visitors can access the college, businesses, and trails adjoining Juliana Park and Cordata Park.

Cordata Station at the north end of Bellingham primarily services students at Whatcom Community College, which provides free parking to all community members. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

Lincoln Creek Park and Ride

Western Washington University operates Whatcom County’s largest park and ride, which has approximately 530 spaces off I-5 exit 252 and requires a student permit. Students who live off-campus park there to access Western and other destinations on the 80X, 80S, 190, 190S?, 196?, 197, and 533 routes.

Lincoln Creek Park and Ride is historically notable as the site of the Samish Twin Drive-In theater. From 1972 to 2003, Seattle’s Sterling Recreation Organization operated the drive-in for generations of residents’ enjoyment. Western acquired the property for $2.65 million in 2006.

South Bellingham Park and Ride

WSDOT operates one park and ride in two parts on either side of I-5 exit 250 in South Bellingham. The west park and ride offers 24 spots, the east offers 29, and both allow free 48-hour parking. The west lot is a short walk to bus stops on 30th Street and Old Fairhaven Parkway for the 105.

From the west, visitors can access businesses at Fairhaven Plaza and Connelly Creek Nature Area from Old Fairhaven Parkway. From the east, visitors can access Padden Gorge Trail south of the Stair Step Streets.

Many park and rides, such as South Bellingham Park and Ride (pictured), are available immediately off the freeway and provide an easy return to the onramp. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

Lake Samish Interchange Park and Ride

North of I-5 exit 246, WSDOT-operated Lake Samish Interchange Park and Ride offers 18 free parking spots for 48 hours. This popular spot for hikers, bicyclists, and other recreationists adjoins several roads and trails before the lake.

Immediately to the northeast, an abandoned stretch of Samish Way offers a mile of flat road and links to logging roads near Cougar Ridge Trail and Lookout Mountain. Running southwest on a left turn from Lake Samish Drive, Old Samish Road links to private timberlands leading to Lake Samish Park.

When visiting private timberlands, always heed rule signs at the entrance gates.

Lake Samish Interchange Park and Ride is among the WSDOT lots with access to trails that provide stunning nature views. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

Ferndale Station and Park and Ride

At 1671 Main Street, commuters to WTA’s Ferndale Station can find 131 spaces for buses on the 27 and 7?5 routes. The station offers sheltered buildings and easy walking or commuting access to Ferndale’s businesses along Main Street.

Ferndale Station (pictured) and Lynden Station offer parking and shelter to commuters going to and from Bellingham. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

Lynden Station and Park & Ride

Lynden’s own park and ride at 1945 Front Street offers parking for 89 cars and roofed shelters like Ferndale Station. Route 26 starts at Cordata Station, connecting the two park and rides for easy access to Lynden’s businesses within walking distance.

Birch Bay Square Park & Ride

WTA also operates a park and ride at 8115 Birch Bay Square Street off I-5 exit 270. As part of a mall plaza, this park and ride offers 10 parking spaces for commuters on route 75. Bellingham Station lies at the opposite end of route 75, which also takes commuters through Ferndale Station.

When visiting park and rides, always read the signage to review all rules and hours. Stay safe by locking your vehicle and keeping any valuables out of plain sight. With the right considerations, park and rides make the journey smoother.

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