Menlo Park's trial run of pay-by-space meters starts this week as part of a new range of options offering people the choice of dashing into a 15-minute spot for a quick errand, or parking up to nine hours at a time for a more leisurely day.
Offering the longest-term options are Plaza 1 (off Oak Grove Avenue near El Camino Real) and Plaza 5 (off Crane and Evelyn streets between Santa Cruz and Menlo avenues). The first two hours of parking would still be free. The third hour would cost $1; the fourth, $1.50, with additional time costing $2 per hour. Drivers can add time by credit card or cell phone.
The city also converted two-hour parking along Santa Cruz Avenue and several intersecting streets to one-hour parking, then added 15-minute spots at strategic corners such as the intersection of Chestnut Street and Santa Cruz Avenue.
Enforcement remains in effect Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to the city.
The City Council voted unanimously in July to pay Parkeon $53,364 for six solar-powered pay-by-space meters -- four for Plaza 1 and two for Plaza 5. The meters provide a way for the city to test whether the capability to pay to park longer than two hours will resolve the unhappiness expressed by downtown merchants and their customers, who complain that the current two-hour limit doesn't leave enough time to run errands and enjoy a meal.
At the time of the council vote, Mayor Rich Cline noted that the biggest feedback came from businesses losing customers because they were unable to park for long enough without getting ticketed.
An email sent to the City Council as recently as Oct. 27 bolstered that argument, as a woman notified officials that her next weekly lunch with a friend would be held in Palo Alto after she got a $45 ticket for parking in Plaza 5 twice in one day, even without exceeding the two-hour limit on either stay.
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