News


Editorial: A parking 'miracle' in Palo Alto

After years of frustration and false starts, parking restrictions in downtown neighborhoods finally begin

The much-anticipated and long-delayed launch of a broad strategy for alleviating parking problems that have plagued neighborhoods adjacent to downtown Palo Alto for many years had a bit of an inauspicious "soft launch" this week.

While some 800 parking signs throughout downtown neighborhoods were unveiled, notifying drivers they could not park for more than two hours without a permit, problems with the online system for purchasing permits led city officials to extend a planned two-week grace period for enforcement through at least mid-December.

Lower-than-expected permit sales, which totaled only 379 issued to employees as of the end of last week, suggested to program managers that there had either been inadequate outreach to local businesses or glitches in the permitting system, or both. By Wednesday, employee permits issued had risen to 900, but that's still far below the estimated number of cars that have been parking on residential streets. More than 2,800 permits were issued to residents within an area of approximately 4,000 housing units, according to City Planning Director Hillary Gitelman.

Though the glitchy start-up was disappointing and embarrassing, pushing out the enforcement date was a wise decision with little downside, especially given how long downtown residents have already had to wait.

The success of the program, which received final City Council approval last December, depends on finding the appropriate balance between permits issued to downtown workers and to the residents of the adjacent neighborhoods as well as determining the appropriate ultimate geographic boundaries and permit price points for the program.

During the first phase, which is focused on gathering data and is set to run for six months, residents will be able to get up to four permits for free, with an option of purchasing additional visitor permits for $25 each. For employees of downtown companies, the permit costs will be either $233 or $50, depending on their income level. Cars that don't have permits will be subject to two-hour time limits; violators will be fined $53.

In the second phase, the city will set limits on the number of permits sold to employees. It will also give each household one free permit and begin charging residents $50 per year for each additional permit. Employees in the second phase will also have their permits restricted to particular areas within the downtown district with the aim of dispersing vehicles evenly within neighborhoods.

In the first few days after the parking restriction signs were uncovered this week there was a noticeable decrease in cars parked within the restricted neighborhoods but also indications that some employees were simply parking farther out in unrestricted areas. One resident described the change and open parking spots as a "miracle," while another just outside the permit area said her block on Kingsley Avenue was "deluged" with cars.

The problem of pushing the current parking problem out into other neighborhoods has been a concern since the downtown permit-parking system was first proposed and one that will need to be addressed as data is gathered during the initial phase.

Residents outside the restricted area, which stretches from Alma to Guinda streets and from Palo Alto to Lincoln avenues (except for a small section between Alma and Bryant that extends all the way to Embarcadero Road), have the option of signing a petition to establish a similar parking program in their area, but we trust city officials will also take action if significant problems develop.

A key part of the program, and perhaps why the program during the first few days seems to have had the desired effect of opening up more spaces, is that permits are only available to residents who can show proof of residency within the restricted area and to employees with proof of employment downtown.

Other drivers who are suspected of having a significant impact on parking downtown, including Stanford employees and students and Caltrain riders, will not be eligible to buy permits and will be forced to use pay lots or find other parking solutions outside of downtown. How this works will be a major test for the new program.

It will be easy for residents, business owners, employees and Caltrain commuters to find things to complain about in the early weeks of this program and there will surely be a need to recalibrate some of the program's features. But for now, we can celebrate the launch of a system that should bring not only an improvement in the parking situation but also increased incentives for using alternatives for commuting.

Correction: The article has been edited to state that in phase 2 of the parking program, residential households will receive one free permit and be charged for additional permits.

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Comments

7 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 18, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

"In the second phase, the city will set limits on the number of permits sold to employees and will begin charging residents $50 per year for each permit."

That is incorrect! In the second phase, the first permit is still free for residents. This kind of misinformation is causing resistance to expanding the program. Please correct it!


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2015 at 10:12 pm

So have the garages been more full? Have the garages sold more all day permits? Have more tickets been issued to vehicles overstaying the street, garage and lots maximum?

Has anyone thought to look?


5 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2015 at 11:39 pm

Behaviors that we have seen are that people will favor free parking farther out rather than pay for a permit. Even if the city builds additional parking garages, if it costs money to park, the commuters parking in the neighborhoods will not use them if there is free parking 8 - 10 blocks away.

Another observation is that Caltrain commuters & Stanford employees were users of the neighborhood parking, rather than pay the $5/day to park in the Caltrain lot, or the more exorbitant parking rates that Stanford University charges.


2 people like this
Posted by gsheyner
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2015 at 6:54 am

gsheyner is a registered user.

Slow down,

To clarify: You are correct that in the second phase, residents would be able to obtain one permit free of charge (currently, they can get four).

The editorial is correct in that permits in the second phase will cost $50 for residents (up from the $25 in phase one).

Anyone interested in a full breakdown of the differences between the two phases can consult this page:

Web Link

Hope this helps,

Gennady


16 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 19, 2015 at 10:13 am

Let's not call it a miracle. The downtown neighborhoods did need this program to relieve the absurdly dense parking situation, but now many non-residents who parked there are simply moving further out and parking in other neighborhoods. As one of the commenters above said, as long as there is free parking somewhere, that's where many will go.


6 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 19, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Now that the "Rinconada"Library a/k/a as "Main" is finished and the parking lots open, it's back to Square One in that area. Commuters park at the library and tennis courts and invade "Community Center" and "Duveneck" neighborhoods and take a bus downtown. Why are Stanford labeled buses starting bus runs from the Baylands office area on Embarcadero? When did this start? Do those buses stop on Embarcadero? Yes indeed, the problem is being pushed farther and farther north and east. It appears that already parking is expanding in Crescent Park and Community Center neighborhoods One of the mandatory solutions is for businesses to run buses over the Dumbarton Bridge from the East Bay and get heavily fined if they do not.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 19, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@gsheyner - you are objectively wrong. the editorial says "will begin charging residents $50 per year for EACH permit." (emphasis added). "Each" means every permit, that is incorrect, they are giving away 1 free permit, and charging for additional permits.

It is clear from comments on every thread that many people believe that will have to pay for even one permit, and Palo Alto Online has gotten the information wrong multiple times, and is responsible for some of the misinformation in the community. Why not err on the side of clarity??


10 people like this
Posted by Merry
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 19, 2015 at 2:52 pm

A miracle would be free garage parking!


15 people like this
Posted by redplanet
a resident of Addison School
on Sep 19, 2015 at 9:15 pm

The miracle would be to end this micromanaging of our lives before it gets worse. I dislike the program and the website. More hassle, more intrusion. Since 1974 I've lived here without complaining - but between the new garbage idea, the rules for putting refuse outside, and this parking fiasco, not to mention of incessant letters with smilies and frownie faces from the utility department I feel like the City is channelling my parents.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 20, 2015 at 6:05 am

The Stanford buses go to the Stanford eye institute on the corner of E Embarcadero and E Bayshore.


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2015 at 7:27 am

We have a terribly archaic, unfair, parking system now.

Most downtown garages and lots have no machines and so paying for all day parking is complicated.

Even if somebody wants to pay to park it is very costly for those who want to have lunch and see a movie.

Free parking for 3 hours and if you want to park for any longer you pay $17.50. How can that be considered affordable for seniors who want to have an afternoon out?


12 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2015 at 10:02 am

Years ago I was part of a parking committee addressing some of the needs of businesses downtown.

I asked a simple question, why couldn't the city put in a parking meter like in the caltran lot where someone could pay for a day pass right in the lot.

The city's answer was that it was too involved. They would have to evaluate alternative meters and worried about fraud, misuse, etc. I asked why if it was good enough for caltran why it wouldn't be good enough for Palo Alto. They answered that I didn't understand, that Palo Alto has special needs and a through investigation would be needed.

So to get a day pass, you have to go pay at city hall and then come back to the lot and put the card in your car. So much simplier and easier for the user :^).

/marc


7 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 21, 2015 at 10:39 am

Special. Iconic. Bucolic. Anyone who crosses town by any means of mobilization can undoubtedly think of a few other adjectives that describe this place. I think it is time for Palo Alto to function like what it has become: a city with urban problems. If it did, solutions of the sort Marc suggests might at least get serious consideration.


Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2015 at 10:39 am

Stanford Hospital occupies most of the Palo Alto Technology Center (over 150,000 square feet) on Embarcadero.

That is the main reason for the the Marguerite TECH shuttle.


8 people like this
Posted by Jeff Keller
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 21, 2015 at 10:50 am

Jeff Keller is a registered user.

Our city leaders want to show the world how advanced Palo Alto is with electric car chargers in every garage, "gateway" office buildings, and so many other things but they can't manage parking meters either on streets or in parking garages... Maybe retail would return to downtown if people could put a dollar into a meter and park for two or three hours.

I love the effect of the RPP. No more block long multiple trips carrying bags from car to house! Guests can actually park near who they are visiting.


4 people like this
Posted by bignose
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2015 at 10:55 am

Why not make the garages/lots free with no overnight parking? Do we get significant revenue from them? If we find that they are then always full, build more.

The parking signs have definitely brought relief to my neighborhood even with only future enforcement. However, if that means that the mess just moves to other neighborhoods that isn't a solution.


6 people like this
Posted by Geezer
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 21, 2015 at 11:13 am

As I have commented before, the part of my neighborhood, Professorville, that is outside the restricted area is now totally choked with parked cars during the day. That's the reason the city isn't getting much revenue from the program. People can still park all day for free within an easy 10 minute walk to town.

My suggestion would be a city wide program where residents can park for free (free permits for any car registered at a Palo Alto address) and non residents would either pay for a yearly permit or pay for timed parking within a two mile radius of any commercial district.

The city doesn't even have to install meters, per say. The pay station system seems to work well for many cities. Another thing Palo Alto should look at is demand driven pricing. That would tend to spread the parking out more evenly.


20 people like this
Posted by Unfair
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2015 at 11:30 am

No fair charging residents for what should be rightfully theirs: parking near their own house in their own neighborhood. The first TWO cars s/b free; after that, pay for permits for additional cars.

The people who WORK downtown should be entitled to free parking garages, since most employees elsewhere have free parking, and most downtown employees are making low wages. It isn't as if they are interlopers by any means.

This is not Manhattan, at least not yet, heaven forbid!

Incidentally, Midtown is in bad need of parking spaces.


18 people like this
Posted by CT resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 21, 2015 at 11:36 am

Can anyone tell me why we in College Terrace pay $40 for our first car permit and $40 for the second and the people with zip code of 94301 pay nothing for their first car. Or do I have it wrong. I know the city seems to favor 94301, but isn't this just a little too obvious.


17 people like this
Posted by Unfair
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2015 at 11:55 am

I used to live in College Terrace and think the residential parking permit practice is unfair. If the PAPD wants to verify residency of a car parked on the street there, they can run the plates!

Do all the Stanford employees and students who park there have to pay for permit parking?? They didn't when I lived there. Stanford still has a lot of vacant land they could and should use for parking. As it is, they burden surrounding neighborhoods ( and shopping centers) with cars Stanford should provide the parking for.


Posted by six of one
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

on Sep 21, 2015 at 12:02 pm


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Posted by six of one
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

on Sep 21, 2015 at 12:03 pm


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7 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Bignose,

Free all day parking in the garages would create a bigger mess than we have now.

The concept of FREE is what is driving the current parking problem. Parking is a scarce resource that should be allocated by pricing. The fact that people are parking on the other side of Lincoln to get free parking makes this crystal clear to anybody who hasn't been paying attention.


4 people like this
Posted by Michael
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2015 at 2:48 pm

"Can anyone tell me why we in College Terrace pay $40 for our first car permit and $40 for the second and the people with zip code of 94301 pay nothing for their first car. Or do I have it wrong. I know the city seems to favor 94301, but isn't this just a little too obvious."

That's the teaser rate.


2 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Unfair,

Parking near your house is not a right (for free).

Parking near your house should be a preference for a reasonable fee.


Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Unfair,

Before you comment on College Terrace, you should understand the program.

Stanford employees and students are not allowed to buy permits or park in the CT RPPP.

Stanford provides substantial amounts of parking, but you should be aware that the City of Palo Alto and the county do not allow Stanford to accept any additional car trips to the campus (no net new car trips).


5 people like this
Posted by Michael
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2015 at 3:26 pm

"Parking near your house is not a right (for free)."

If you don't care to park in front of your house, would you please post your address so someone else can use the space?

Thanks in advance.


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 21, 2015 at 4:15 pm

Calling it 'a miracle' is a stretch. Miracle for some maybe, but not for others. Hold the applause for a year until it all gets tested and adjustments made. Let's not elevate all the hard working city servants to get it this far to being saints or miracles workers. They were just doing their jobs and so far it looks like they've done it pretty well.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2015 at 5:04 pm

All this does is tell people where not to park. It doesn't provide anywhere for displaced parkers to park.

What a waste of time, effort and money.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 21, 2015 at 7:45 pm

We live just outside the permit area and now our block is jammed all business days. When my husband returned home from a business trip last week he had to park a block and a half away. That said, in no way do I blame employees for choosing to park for free and walk to their jobs. I would have had to do the same when I had a wonderful, yet low paying job. Also, for my friends now in the permit zone, their access to parking has greatly improved. It is my understanding that this is a trial period and I'm hopeful that some creative person will have a new idea to address this growing parking problem. Many people in Professorville, including me, live in a house over 100 years old where there are not garages or driveways which adds to the challenge.


2 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2015 at 10:21 pm

resident,

you need to work with your neighbors who voted against including the streets in your area in phase one of the RPP


Like this comment
Posted by Michael
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2015 at 11:29 pm

"you need to work with your neighbors who voted against including the streets in your area in phase one of the RPP"

No sweat. They surely see the light by now and either

1) want in, or

2) demand the RPP be abolished--until the new workers in the new office developments start parking in front of their houses, whereupon they will miraculously see the light and demand to be let in.


11 people like this
Posted by Unfair
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2015 at 8:22 am

Chris: What you say does not change the fact that Stanford students, med students, and employees park in College Terrace, Stanford Shopping Center, and Town and Country--displacing resident and customer parking.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2015 at 11:01 am

I think we'll eventually see this program expand beyond the current permit boundaries. Wouldn't bother me to see it expand all to Alma, the creek, Edgewood and Embarcadero. And then it would probably have to go to Oregon Expressway and to the other side of 101.


3 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 22, 2015 at 1:49 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Sigh.

I've said this before: Offer a $3.50 per day EARLYBIRD rate in the City Parking Garage to employees that work downtown. Have them drive to the TOP DOWN. That works for Downtown Denver which has an acute parking shortage ( except for $10.00/3hrs lots with towing scams ). It worked for me when I had to do IT jobs downtown.
Boulder has a similar system and they HATE having any cars downtown. Boulder got rid of parking meters and have kiosks that allow the rates to change with no meters to upgrade. Put the ticket on the inside of your windshield or you will see a new ticket OUTSIDE your windshield. They will also perform a public service by charging you for any " fixit tickets " and will run your plates, as you are an obvious scofflaw that maybe doing much more than illegal parking.
It's far easier to ride a bike into Downtown Boulder.


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