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Add pay-by-phone parking to downtown RPPP

Original post made by Steve Raney on Dec 10, 2013

This is a simple-to-implement variation on the Downtown Residential Parking Permit Program (RPPP) concept (Web Link). This variant has downtown workers pay-by-phone for access to parking spaces on each weekday they park downtown, while residents park based on annual permits. This variation reduces more worker trips to downtown.

San Francisco (and other cities) uses a pay-by-phone parking system for select parking spaces. These spaces have unique numbers and signage every few spaces directing people to call pay-by-phone to pay for parking. (Stanford is studying similar advanced parking systems.) With pay-by-phone, there are three ways for a downtown employee to pay for a workday worth of parking:
1. An automated voice response phone system that can take credit cards and the unique space number.
2. An easier-to-use smartphone app has an account associated with a credit card. Within the app, workers enter the unique space number.
3. Given an account with a credit card in the cloud, users can text their unique space number.

The SF pay-by-phone system coexists with meters and is integrated with the meters, but a PA implementation would not need meters. Parking enforcement in SF is integrated with the pay-by-phone cloud database.

For managing PA downtown spillover parking challenges, a meter-less pay-by-phone worker parking system could be implemented simultaneously with a residential permit program. Because no meters would need to be added, the capital cost for pay-by-phone will be low, just parking space striping/numbering, signage, and a possible upfront payment to a smart parking vendor. By-the-day worker parking charges have a higher trip reduction impact that annual employee permits. Pricing can vary based on the parking zones and by the proximity to downtown and Caltrain, allowing lower-income workers to walk farther to save money.

Pay-by-phone for workers combined with permits for residents allows for a very flexible, responsive system. Rates can be adjusted rapidly to better wrestle with demand.

If permit and pay-by-phone prices are set to an efficient level, then convenient parking spaces are always available. This will reduce "cruising for parking," a phenomenon that generates 30% of local traffic volume in certain situations (according to UCLA parking guru Donald Shoup).

Details: Web Link

Comments (2)

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2013 at 7:29 am

Like this idea, but for one thing. Do lower paid workers have smart phones and credit cards?


Posted by Steve Raney, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 11, 2013 at 8:37 am

If the City decides to study implementation of a pay-by-phone system, then there should be a focus group with some downtown retail workers. I know WFM has a place at the table within the downtown parking process - the system has to work for those workers. Some baristas and wait staff should participate in the focus group. These workers arrive at various times, so managing demand to keep convenient spaces open for them is important. If someone arrives downtown 10 minutes before work and becomes late because they are cruising for parking, that is bad.

In general, a downtown pay-by-phone system will have some PA customizations, so the study needs to identify key user groups and then validate that the design meets their needs.

The penetration of cell phones is high in the US. Low income workers find cell phones essential to manage their lives, so there is no income disparity.

If a low income worker doesn't have a credit card, there are other ways to link funds in the cloud, such as paypal accessing a checking account. But there are foreseeable scenarios where a few low income folks are stumped by such a system. For them, a parking meter would work well. But my sense is the city doesn't have near-term budget for parking meters. Today's high-tech parking meters allow a good set of payment mechanisms.


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