News

New contract to pave the way for parking meters in downtown Palo Alto

City Council prepares to commission Dixon Resources to implement paid parking, abolish existing color zones

Parking in downtown Palo Alto can be a befuddling experience, requiring visitors to negotiate confusing color zones, residential parking-permit districts and garages that — depending on location — might be filled to capacity.

The only consolation to drivers is the fact that parking remains free for those who only need to visit for two or three hours.

That, however, is about change.

In an effort to create some order and bring in some revenue, the City Council is preparing to approve a contract on Monday to revamp downtown's parking system and switch to paid parking. The $285,126 contract with the firm Dixon Resources will require Dixon to orchestrate the city's switch to paid parking, a transition that has been recommended by several studies and that has been criticized by some downtown merchants.

The council, for its part, has been generally supportive of the switch. Earlier this year, it enthusiastically endorsed a report from Wayne Tanda, a consultant with the firm Municipal Resources Group, that included 35 recommendations for improving parking downtown. A key recommendation is the development of specific steps to transition from what Tanda called "a parking program built around a rigid system of pre-paid permits" to one built around "dynamic monitoring of usage and the application of pricing."

Dixon, which in 2016 conducted its own review of downtown's parking system, similarly recommended paid parking as "more efficient and convenient for drivers." The new system would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the amount of time drivers have to cruise to look for parking spots. The parking revenues would support the Palo Alto Transportation Management Association, the nonprofit charged with getting people to stop driving solo.

This wouldn't be downtown Palo Alto's first brush with parking meters. Downtown had parking meters for about 30 years before abandoning them in the 1970s out of concern about competition from Stanford Shopping Center and other shopping areas where parking is free.

The 2016 study acknowledged some existing concerns that installing parking meters would discourage people from visiting downtown, but argued that there will also be a segment of the population that will be more likely to visit because parking would be easier and quicker to find.

"It is important to recognize that parking is a limited and expensive resource, especially in a vibrant downtown like Palo Alto, and paid parking can help maximize this resource through strategic rate structures and technology enhancements," the Dixon report stated.

In its earlier report, Dixon recommended a tiered structure with higher rates at the more centrally located garages. Rates would vary from $1.50 to $2.50 per hour under the proposed scheme.

Under the new contract, Dixon would shepherd the installation of garage equipment that would enable the city to collect revenues and track occupancy rates. Dixon would then evaluate the performance of the new downtown system and potentially expand it to other parts of the city.

Dixon will also put together a "Parking Action Plan" that incorporates the 35 suggestions from the Tanda report and make recommendations on enforcement, parking district boundaries and a new "wayfinding program" aimed at directing drivers toward vacant parking spaces.

The action plan will also consider strategies to encourage alternative modes of transportation, including walking, biking, public transit and ride-sharing services, according to the contract. It will also involve the creation of an advisory body to help improve long-term management of parking strategies and support the transportation demand management programs.

"The success of a parking program is often dependent on the supporting alternative modes of transportation being available, accessible and affordable," the contract states.

The proposed switch to downtown parking meters is part of Palo Alto's broader shift on parking strategies. Palo Alto's newly established Office of Transportation is also planning to revamp the city's network of Residential Preferential Parking programs. The goal is to both standardize and simplify the five existing RPP programs and make it easier for residents and, in some cases, employees, to buy permits.

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Comments

18 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 23, 2019 at 4:42 pm

I don't mind paying for parking if that helps to free up spaces so I can actually park when I have business to attend to. I hope these are the digital parking meters that I see in other cities that tell me exactly when my time expires.


11 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 23, 2019 at 5:56 pm

"Somebody's gotta go back and get a ***load of dimes!" (Blazing Saddles, 1974)


33 people like this
Posted by Thad
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2019 at 5:58 pm

Inevitable result: You still won't be able to find a parking spot during lunch, but in the super rare case you get lucky it now costs you money.


6 people like this
Posted by biker
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 23, 2019 at 6:29 pm

when will left turns be abolished on university in the downtown


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2019 at 7:25 pm

With meters (which I strongly approve of), we will have a great need of 20 minute parking. If people are parking for a couple of hours, then someone needing to drop off dry cleaning, tax documents, or pick up a prescription, are going to need to be able to do these things without too much trouble. We don't want to have to drive around in circles looking for parking for a 5 minute chore.


62 people like this
Posted by Bad for Retail, Bad for Neighborhoods
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2019 at 6:21 am

Reintroducing parking meters was voted down unanimously by the Planning and Transportation Commission. It will kill retail and push more cars into clogged nearby neighborhoods. It will likely cost more than it brings in. We already had this once before, decided it was a terrible idea, and tore out the meters.

So why are we doing it again?


56 people like this
Posted by Regular Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2019 at 7:46 am

Oh great, yet another thing to remind me that the billionaires are pushing me out, and that downtown doesn’t belong to residents like me anymore. Not that I am able to go much anymore because of the traffic .

This is for the sake of the big companies who have taken over downtown. I would much rather see a progressively heavy tax on large companies misusing what is supposed to be our central civic downtown, so that they move somewhere more appropriate. We would have plenty of parking again, and to top it off, we’d have a downtown again too.


27 people like this
Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 24, 2019 at 8:35 am

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it. Dumb then, dumb now, and much more expensive, I assume, to install 21st century high tech meters.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2019 at 9:13 am

Parking in 21st century Silicon Valley is a commodity and no longer a perk.

This means that providing parking as a service is required to the consumers, but should not be viewed on as a freebie or a given but a necessary quality of life expectation that should involve a cost.

The questions of course have to be asked as to how high the cost should be, how should it be paid for and who should be paying? Should a small restaurant provide free parking benefits for its staff? Should a dentist provide free parking for its staff? Should a start up high tech company provide free parking for its staff? And what about the customers to the restaurants, the patients at the dentist and those going for interviews or business meetings with the high tech start up?

What would the alternatives be to having meters and sensible parking rules? If someone wishes to pay for a meter at least they should have the expectation of being able to find one available where it is close to the final destination. If someone is reluctant to pay then why are we not investing in satellite parking lots for them? We have free shuttles but why are they free and who are they designed to serve? Why can't these shuttles be designed to get children to secondary schools and all day workers from the satellite parking lots to their places of employment?

I think parking should be viewed as some type of perk in Silicon Valley. If a company provides free parking for its employees, be it some office with a large parking lot, or a company that pays for parking permits, it should be taxed to the employee as a perk, like tips.

I think also that this parking issue is a regional issue not just Silicon Valley or Palo Alto. Parking in Palo Alto should be treated the same as Mountain View, Redwood City or Burlingame. Validated parking for customers of dentists, retail and restaurants or even someone going for a job interview at a start up should be available, but those who look to see downtown Palo Alto returning to free and easy parking outside whatever place they are proposing to visit should accept that there is no longer a possibility of that being the case.


31 people like this
Posted by Enough is Enough!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2019 at 10:10 am

Enough is enough! If the City forces me to pay .25c-.50c to park my Maserati in downtown Palo Alto while I get my Parfait I will be forced to drive 10-20 miles roundtrip to another town with free parking! Hmpf!


4 people like this
Posted by Barbara
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 24, 2019 at 11:54 am

Yes! Yes! Go for it. Parking meters would be a tremendous help for shoppers and people needing to drop by the cleaners, bank, whatever! Super idea! Let's do it and the sooner the better.


20 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2019 at 12:03 pm

>> This wouldn't be downtown Palo Alto's first brush with parking meters. Downtown had parking meters for about 30 years before abandoning them in the 1970s out of concern about competition from Stanford Shopping Center and other shopping areas where parking is free.

Still an issue and it isn't always about money per se. There are a lot of security issues on all sides associated with parking meters. As a "customer", I don't like having to deal with change, and, I don't like sticking a credit/debit card in an unknown insecure device. And, over the years, meters with actual money in them have proven to invite crime.

Why can't we just require all office employees to have paid parking somewhere in a lot/garage instead? Parking problems will disappear.




28 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

Definitely staying away from downtown now. I can get most of the things I need at the Town & Country shopping center at Embarcadero and El Camino.


8 people like this
Posted by Paul C.
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2019 at 12:39 pm

Be more progressive! Remove all parking spaces. Just use Lyft/Uber/bus or bike/walk. Don't turn the clock back to the last century.


6 people like this
Posted by Fraxinus
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 24, 2019 at 4:44 pm

Fraxinus is a registered user.

How about designating some parking revenue for a bike parking area that is monitored by security?


14 people like this
Posted by CGPA
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 24, 2019 at 5:36 pm

CGPA is a registered user.

Why not put one meter in front of every dry cleaner, of which there are what, 3, and leave the rest of the system alone. The Stanford students will stop coming downtown and will just go to the shopping center, which is why the meters were pulled out.

Even putting one meter in front of the dry cleaners will probably do nothing but keep that one space from ever having anyone park in it. Dumb idea, just dumb.


3 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2019 at 6:08 am

Finally!! Hitting the wallet is the best way we can slowly transition from a car-centric society to a public transite, and bike-oriented society! Next steps: remove parking spots, build separated bicycle tracks, enlarge sidewalks and parks, and turn University Avenue in a pedestrian street!


14 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 25, 2019 at 6:30 am

Anyone who has been to downtown Burlingame knows parking meters do not deter drivers. I always have an awful time finding a space there.


18 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 25, 2019 at 10:48 am

I don't get it. There is already a 2 hour limit per day on using a parking space within the downtown zone - so to the prior posters that talked about tieing this to business employees - how does having meters impact business employee behavior? They already cannot park downtown all day without a permit...

I see this as mostly as a revenue grab by the city that simply makes it more expensive and annoying to live in Palo Alto - not unlike red-light and speed cameras. Hire an outside contractor who covers the cost of installation and administration, and then the city gets a portion of the resulting revenue. So it's another revenue stream for the city born by us, the citizens.

To the folks who want to transition our downtown to walking and biking everywhere and becoming car unfriendly - well that's your choice, get on your bikes! The traffic calming througout the city that the same people also promoted has already pushed many cars onto my street, which parallels middlefield - cars now cut through our block and speed and create hazards. I totally get it you are well meaning, but what happens in reality when introducing schemes such as purposefully making parking expensive and driving undesirable without thinking through the non-utopian consequences of how real humans will react to such changes results in a lowered quality of life and less affordability for everyone in Palo Alto.


8 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 25, 2019 at 11:29 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@John, you do realize that University Ave is one of only 3 access roadds in PA to/from 101 and Stanford (which hopes to shove its massive expansion) onto our existing roads? Where do you expect all the current traffic -- and planned traffic -- to go? Embarcadero's already jammed, thanks.


6 people like this
Posted by What a bargain!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2019 at 11:50 am

What a bargain! is a registered user.

$1.50/hour is an incredible bargain. Parking is one of the many externalized costs of driving. Tax dollars heavily subsidize driving habits. Consider the value of land per square foot in downtown Palo Alto and then the cumulative value of the land we dedicate to parking cars in downtown on public streets, lots, and garages for free.

Maybe we could use some of the funds generated from drivers renting this valuable space (parking fees) to support less environmentally impactful transportation, like transit and bicycling. The city currently is spending $50 Million of our total $281 Million infrastructure budget to build one auto parking garage on California Avenue.

The vast majority of transportation infrastructure spending in Palo Alto (and most anywhere else in the US, for that matter) supports cars. The costs are scattered across budgets so it is very difficult to see the total externalized public costs of driving.

In addition to redesigning roads with expensive signal systems and more capacity to handle increasing congestion, cars and trucks create a huge amount of wear and tear on transportation infrastructure that necessitates more frequent and more expensive maintenance.

Then there is the enormous environmental cost of gas-powered vehicles that will encumber our children and grandchildren if we do not start making more responsible choices.

Paying for parking is a good first step, and I hope we will spend those revenues wisely--that is, to support infrastructure that will make it easier for people to choose alternatives to driving solo.


9 people like this
Posted by Biking Senior
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Biking Senior is a registered user.

I live near the Mountain View border. It takes, on average, 21 minutes to get from my home to downtown bicycling at a leisurely pace. It's a flat, shady route on quiet, lovely Bryant Street--a really pleasant bike ride.

It's especially nice to do this with friends when we go out to dinner. We get a little light exercise before and after our meal--burning some calories.

When I broke my ankle (not a bicycling injury), I would take the city's free Shuttle. It's just not that hard.


13 people like this
Posted by tired
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2019 at 3:16 pm

PLease ! stop nickel and dimming the hell out of us, this place is already a RIPOFF

More awful "pain-engineering" by overpaid politicians, why don't they spend a few million on a study? Penalized for parking?!!?


12 people like this
Posted by Michael Vilain
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 26, 2019 at 8:03 am

Personally, I'm much less likely to visit my bank in downtown and have a sandwich at The Creamery if I have to pay for parking. I also won't bother with the Farmer's Market any more. And thank god I don't work in downtown at Whole Foods or The Apple Store or any of the restaurants and coffee places. There will be no place to park for that 6am-3pm shift.

Palantir and Housz may not care, but the retail businesses do.


6 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 27, 2019 at 7:03 pm

DON'T DO IT!


Like this comment
Posted by mjw
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2019 at 8:18 am

At the same time, CPA needs to install more bicycle parking.


8 people like this
Posted by Regular Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2019 at 9:17 am

@Enough,
You wrote "Enough is enough! If the City forces me to pay .25c-.50c to park my Maserati in downtown Palo Alto while I get my Parfait I will be forced to drive 10-20 miles roundtrip to another town with free parking! Hmpf!"

Just so you know, not everyone in Palo Alto is rich, in fact the propensity of so many billionaires to want to fashion themselves like Steve Jobs and live here amongst us regular people has had a profoundly negative impact here on us regular people (as research shows income inequality more than absolute level of income has a huge number of negative impacts).

Your Maserati's glorious presence in our town does nothing to put food on my family's table, in fact, the billionaire class has done a lot to take away much of what we sacrificed decades for to put down roots here.

Losing the businesses, like Palo Alto Sport and Toy (where I could get prescriptions swimming goggles for the kids at a small fraction of what they cost elsewhere, and get help figuring out what to get/let the kids try them on in a way that is still way more difficult/next to impossible online) or losing the Art Store, losing Keeble and Shuchat (where I could once in awhile inexpensively rent really good camera equipment that I could never come close to affording myself even used and for which there is no online equal), etc etc etc, the Maserati class could care less, but losing the fabric of ordinary civic life here affects us regular folk way more.

Not everyone in Palo Alto is rich, and all over the Bay Area, people are hanging on by their fingernails, trying to stay afloat even if they do manage to get a roof over their heads. Maybe if the traffic weren't so bad, you could get out of Crescent Park and see that.


7 people like this
Posted by Please no.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 28, 2019 at 11:10 am

No, just NO, please no! There is such a psychic cost to this. Our town's population already struggles with stress and anxiety. The chance to make life just a little easier and more convenient was one of the reasons we chose to live in Palo Alto versus the city. Why create a MORE pressure-packed environment? Short-sighted.


4 people like this
Posted by Alf
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2019 at 11:20 am

Alf is a registered user.

@Regular Resident

Take a breath, @Enough was trolling you. No "rich" person would ever consider a purchasing a Maserati, only a moron would think a Maserati is a high end automobile. Looks more like a Buick. Although a Maserati owner getting a parfait makes perfect sense to a degree.



2 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2019 at 12:45 pm

About time for meters. The rainbow parking scheme is completely braindead. All this complaining about $1.50-2.50/hr reminds me of all those old folks that use to talk about going to movies for a nickel.


6 people like this
Posted by BobH
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 28, 2019 at 1:28 pm

BobH is a registered user.

I am not happy about removing free parking from downtown Palo Alto. It may cause me to go else where to shop. I hope the city council can find a better solution to the parking problem, I don't think this is it.

That said, if they have to install parking meters, I hope it is a modern system that make it easy to pay. Should have secure mobile app payment and credit card payment. The garages also need to show availability and where the open parking space are located.


3 people like this
Posted by ABC
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 28, 2019 at 2:54 pm

What is this additional income going to be used for? Can we cut costs before we essentially levy yet another tax on Palo alto folks?


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2019 at 10:17 am

Posted by Me 2, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> About time for meters. The rainbow parking scheme is completely braindead. All this complaining about $1.50-2.50/hr reminds me of all those old folks that use to talk about going to movies for a nickel.

Sure, but, what if the effect is to kill off more small businesses and service providers?

The reality is that the parking problem is not caused by residents shopping, it is caused by employees of companies commuting into town by car. Let's identify those cars at the source and require them to park in paid parking.


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