News

Parking-permit program launches in downtown Palo Alto

City kicks off Residential Preferential Parking program with four-week warning period

After years of pleading and planning, downtown Palo Alto's long-awaited parking-permit program officially kicked off this morning – though it will be more than a month before any tickets are actually issued.

The decision to delay enforcement of the new program was prompted by underwhelming permit sales to downtown employees, who under the new program would need to buy the permits to park on downtown's residential blocks for longer than two hours.

As of the end of last week, only 379 permits were purchased by employees through the city's online system – far fewer than the city had anticipated. Residents in the permit area – which stretches from Alma to Guinda streets and from Palo Alto to Lincoln avenues (with a section between Alma and Bryant streets going further south, to Embarcadero Road) – have bought 2,269 permits. By Monday, the number of overall permit sales had climbed to 3,345, said Jessica Sullivan, the city's transportation planning manager.

Based on the number of parking permits, "We suspect that there are folks who still don't know about the program and/or have had trouble purchasing a permit," Sullivan told the Weekly.

"We want to make sure these people aren't penalized," Sullivan added.

This means that the city's warning period, initially slated to last two weeks, will now stretch for four weeks. It also means that citations won't be handed out until at least Oct. 19. In the mean time, the city has scheduled in-person assistance for residents and employees seeking to buy permits.

Sullivan stressed that the program isn't being delayed. Covers have recently been removed from the roughly 800 signs that were planted throughout downtown neighborhoods. The signs notify drivers about the new two-hour time limit for those without permits. Sullivan said the streets will be patrolled and people without permits will be receiving warnings. She called it "a typical practice when we create a new parking district to give a few weeks of warnings."

"In this case, we are just making the period of warnings a bit longer than usual so we can be sure everyone has had enough time to purchase permits," Sullivan said in an email.

The city will also have two representatives from its customer-service contractor on hand in the City Hall lobby, near the Utilities Department's customer-service window, today, Sept. 15, to help guide people through the permit process, which requires either proof of residency or proof of downtown employment. By limiting permit sales to these two groups, the city hopes to remove from the residential neighborhoods cars belonging to Caltrain commuters, Stanford University students and others who officials believe use the neighborhood streets to avoid paying parking fees at other lots and garages.

The city's enforcement contractors will also be putting notices about the parking program on the windshields of cars parked downtown. The hope is that "both the informational notices, as well as the in-person assistance will generate additional registrations over the first two weeks of the program."

While city officials say that the program remains on schedule, the delay of the enforcement component has caused concern among some of the residents who have helped shape the program.

Richard Brand and Neilson Buchanan, who are part of the stakeholders group that helped design the new program, expressed surprise and frustration over the weekend about the fact that the group had not been notified about the latest change of plans.

One concern is that by not issuing citations, the city has no way of accurately gauging the effect of the program on drivers' behaviors. Because the first six-month phase of the program is aimed primarily at gathering data, the extension of the warning period means that it will take longer for the city to get the information it needs to design the second phase of the program.

"What this really means is that data collection doesn't really start until behavior has really changed," Buchanan told the Weekly. "My guess is that the real parking patterns aren't going to emerge until two weeks after people start getting fined."

Comments

11 people like this
Posted by Bruce Heister
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 15, 2015 at 10:48 am

The City may be disappointed in the low nonresident parking permit sales. However, since the 2-hour parking limit signs were unveiled last week, the parking density along Emerson Street and Palo Alto Avenue has decreased by a third. This intersect has been GROUND ZERO for the parking overflow from the commercial district. The former nonresident parkers may not be buying permits but they have sure read the parking signs.

Observation from a Downtown North resident living at the intersection of Emerson Street and Palo Alto Avenue.

Bruce Heister


7 people like this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 15, 2015 at 11:12 am

I can confirm Bruce's observation with data. Last week there were clearly 100+ fewer parked vehicles in Downtown North neighborhoods. Normally there are 1150 to 1200 parked vehicles on 1700 possible resident parking spaces. So there has bee about an 8% improvement with the mere threat of fines on Oct 19. However, most of DTN is still jammed at 90+% parked vehicles. A small corner of DTN never has had an intrusion problem.

Where can the reduction be easily observed?
1. Alma on the train track side
2. Palo Alto Avenue 200 and 300 block
3. Bryant/Emerson Street 100 block
4. Boe Street

Resident will conduct midday survey of 100% of DTN streets next week to confirm.


2 people like this
Posted by Hawthorne Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 15, 2015 at 11:31 am

I agree that extending the grace period is not a good idea. Human nature is to put things off to the last minute and once the word gets around, the cars will come back. THEN people will be buying the permits. The word HAS gotten around and the street is amazingly clear. Previously, the street is parked absolutely solid by now (11:30 AM) Now it is down amazingly 80 - 90 percent.


3 people like this
Posted by Train commuter
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2015 at 11:34 am

I understand and sympathize with residents about the issue of cars parked in residential areas, but then either Calera in or the city has to provide more parking for train commuters. All the parking lots are full at 8:00 am already.

How about selling monthly permits for train commuters to park in the city lots?


Like this comment
Posted by Train commuter
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2015 at 11:39 am

Of course it was supposed to say "Caltrain" not "Calera"... spell checker :-(


5 people like this
Posted by Buy one today
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 15, 2015 at 12:13 pm

Ugh...You can buy a monthly parking pass for city lots today. Is there some problem, Train Commuter?

The expected changes in behavior are that people will go buy those permits in the garages, I'd get yours fast before they are gone.


Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 15, 2015 at 12:21 pm

I too have noticed that Caltrain lots that formerly had empty spaces are now full.

I don't know how much of the change is due to RPP. Other possible reasons are the end of summer/week after Labor Day and the huge Dreamforce meeting going on in SF this week.


2 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 15, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Buy one today,

My understanding was that you had to work in the downtown assessment district to buy a monthly parking permit in the garages.



Like this comment
Posted by Keith
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2015 at 12:32 pm

I registered our two cars. Will I be receiving any in the mail that identifies my cars as being registered, or will the identification be paperless, ie based on license plates wanded by the parking enforcement?


1 person likes this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 15, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Keith,

After you register and get approved, you go back to your online account and print out a paper permit.


2 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2015 at 2:26 pm

So another version of Whack a Mole. Let me see, do I pay $233 every 3 months or walk a bit farther? So far people are voting with their feet. For the downtown folks this may be good enough.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2015 at 2:37 pm

This shows me that people want flexibility rather than a monthly commitment.

I think the cost is high particularly when you think that many who work downtown may only want or need a permit on certain days of the week or month. Why should someone who rides a bike 3 days a week or uses Caltrain 3 days a week but only uses a car to drive to work 2 days a week buy a monthly or annual pass? Why should someone who often carpools, buy a monthly pass?

This ridiculous system does not allow any type of occasional all day parking. It does not allow two people to alternate cars when carpooling. It does not allow someone who often drives their spouse's car for convenience. It does not allow for someone who only visits their office a couple of times a week and telecommutes the week. It does not suit a large number of people and these people are showing that they do not want the commitment to a monthly permit that does not give them flexibility of occasional all day or even regular 2 days a week parking. It does not even allow them to use a loaner car while their car is in the shop!

Get rid of these fancy color zones in both the lots and garages. Get pay per hour machines in all lots and garages. Get a comprehensive signage system to show which garages and lots have spaces. Get 30 minute free parking outside retail. Get parking meters in downtown.

Get a comprehensive, efficient, flexible system in place and see what happens.


16 people like this
Posted by Edge of DT
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 15, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Yes, but now the edge of the permitted area is experiencing the same issue as the permitted districts had before. Streets that were never parked on all day just past the permit boundaries are being filled up by cars. The problem has just been pushed back a few blocks.


5 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 15, 2015 at 3:23 pm

>Streets that were never parked on all day just past the permit boundaries are being filled up by cars. The problem has just been pushed back a few blocks.

Of course. The RPPP is a great idea (we have it over here in College Terrace...at least on those streets that signed up for it). However, in order to prevent the spillover, it needs to go city wide. If it doesn't go city wide, then it will creep out one block/neighborhood at a time.


Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 15, 2015 at 3:33 pm

Edgeand Craig,

If workers start to fill up a neighborhood, it can petition to join RPP.
I doubt it will go too far beyond the current borders.


Like this comment
Posted by change the system
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2015 at 3:35 pm

Yes, they need to change the model now and proactively survey streets. Any street outside the area that is over 75% full during the day gets surveyed if they want to "opt OUT". If most of the responses want to opt out, then it doesn't get added, otherwise they are automatically included.


3 people like this
Posted by StillFull
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 15, 2015 at 4:42 pm

First day and Everett Avenue was packed with cars as usual. I don't think anything will change for the streets closest to downtown, at least for the first six months until the city distributes the employee parking to different parts of the neighborhood.


4 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2015 at 4:57 pm

The problem downtown is very simple: too many people, not enough parking spots.
I am amazed that the solution you folks came up with is providing LESS parking. Where are all these people gonna go? Think they'll all magically decide to ride their bikes now? Or take a shuttle?

Drill underground and create a new parking garage. We need MORE parking. This is so, painfully, simple.

I'm kind of shocked and saddened by the world. This almost reminds me of that refugee crisis.

I hope it's worth it to you residents who now get to stare at broad empty stretches of unused curb. Much more peaceful now huh. Space is good. I bet you love the peace and quiet. To hell with all those blue collar workers who need to park and get to work. Or those stupid partying kids. I truly empathize. Life is unfair, inequality thrives, and there's simply not be in space for everyone! Overpopulation is slowly destroying the character of Palo Alto!


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 15, 2015 at 5:07 pm

>If workers start to fill up a neighborhood, it can petition to join RPP.
I doubt it will go too far beyond the current borders.

I doubt that it will stop at some predicted edge. Bike racks will allow them to park out in the far neighborhoods, and cycle in (that's what happened in Davis).

When I say that it should go city wide, I don't mean that every resident will need to pay for a permit...that may not be necessary (don't know for sure, due to fraud issues). High tech scanner equipment/technologies, based on license plate numbers, might make it very efficient to enforce. If it goes city wide, then it would become a budget item, and sufficient fines for scofflaws will pay a big chunk of it


3 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 15, 2015 at 5:13 pm

i'm an occasional Caltrain commuter. All of the lots at University Ave. been full. When I contacted the city about where to park, they suggested I buy a 1 day pass at the city garage for $17.50. As a retiree, that amount for parking is more than I care to spend. I have tried taking the free shuttle to Caltrain but after waiting 40 minutes I gave up and called my husband to give me a ride.
I have seen construction workers parking at the Caltrain lots in the past ($5 is a better deal than $17.50).
Any suggestions? I have used Calif. Ave Caltrain but not every train stops there so that doesn't work all the time either. I don't own a bicycle.


Like this comment
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 15, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ Resident -"This ridiculous system does not allow any type of occasional all day parking."

Employees can get $5 daily parking permits. Please check out the FAQ. Most objections have been considered and solutions offered. There are daily permits, there are shared permits, there are subsidized permits, there are visitor passes. This is not a draconian program. Web Link

@Chris - it is a problem that the city is charging $17.50 for an all day pass for visitors and residents, but $5 for employees. There should be one price regardless of who you are, and it should be coordinated with the caltrain lots.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Yes, it is draconian, it is complicated and it is totally unnecessary.

Who on earth looks for this when going somewhere unfamiliar to park?

If I plan to go somewhere unfamiliar I drive there, look for parking directional signs or press parking on my GPS. When parked I look for somewhere to pay.

Why does Palo Alto make it so difficult?


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 15, 2015 at 6:49 pm

@Slow Down, I assume employees pay only $5 because their employers pay the other $12.50 (through various assessments). Maybe I'm wrong. But there is often a valid rationale for differential pricing.


Like this comment
Posted by Keith
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2015 at 7:04 pm

Does anyone know if the parking garages are filling up?


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 15, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ musical - That could be, but the problem the $17.50 unsubsidized rate creates is that the $5 Caltrain lot becomes the parking lot of first choice, displacing train commuters.


3 people like this
Posted by Jus Wondrin
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 15, 2015 at 10:54 pm

Will the Marguerite buses begin roaming Crescent Park, Professorville, and Old Palo Alto to get the Stanford employees who will now park there to work on time?


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 16, 2015 at 12:08 am

@Slow Down, correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought non-Caltrain-riders parking in the Caltrain lot are trespassing. Perhaps a crack-down and some car-towing is in order here, but would require some fancy surveillance.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2015 at 7:45 am

Musical, how do they know if a parker is trespassing as they have to pay for the parking on the Caltrain platform. The last time I used Caltrain and took my time working out how to pay for parking at the machine, a friendly regular helped me and told me that she often sees people paying for parking and then walking back into downtown area.

Parking at Caltrain is $5. How the garages can charge $17.50 per day in Palo Alto is beyond belief. No wonder people try to park for free or at Caltrain.


3 people like this
Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 16, 2015 at 11:31 am

Resident, re:

>Why does Palo Alto make it so difficult?

That was rhetorical, right?

Certainly the best response in the thread...so far.


2 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 16, 2015 at 11:36 am

Now that the Caltrain lots are full, they may need to step up enforcement.
Before they were full, it was an extra source of revenue.

A few hefty fines will dissuade non-Caltrain riders from parking there.


4 people like this
Posted by sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 17, 2015 at 11:23 am

Neighborhood parking permits are one of the worst ideas ever generated by the Palo Alto City Council.
Just as I expected, the areas in the permit zone are now nearly empty. I hope those residents on Waverly and some other streets who have large lots, 2-4 car garages, and large driveways are enjoying the 100 ft plus of open space in front of their homes. There are a few homes, most are near University and near Alma or High, that have no place to park without the permit program. Unfortunately this ill-conceived idea has resulted, as expected, in many available spaces that cannot be used by residents of neighborhoods outside the zone who want to spend an afternoon downtown shopping, having lunch, going to a movie. Many of us who have tie time to do this are older and should not be expected to walk, ride a bike, or take the bus (one of the most unreliable forms of transportation ever invented, at least as provided in this area.).
Downtown University Ave and nearby businesses should not be reserved for the young and able who happen to work there. Remember, we pay the taxes.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Mademoiselle Colette opens second location in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 10 comments | 5,339 views

I AM THE GOD OF HELL FIRE AND I BRING YOU
By Laura Stec | 21 comments | 1,362 views

Are We Really Up To This?
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 751 views

Couples: Initiators and Implementors
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 704 views

Joe Simitian talk: Listening to Trump's America: Bridging the Divide
By Douglas Moran | 6 comments | 428 views