As Palo Alto prepares to shift to automatic license plate readers to enforce parking regulations, hangtags and decals that signify ownership of a parking permit will soon be going out of style.
The city is turning toward virtual permits, which can be bought online and which city leaders believe will give them more flexibility to find and cite violators. The City Council endorsed this move on Monday, when it voted unanimously to amend the zoning code to make virtual permits permissible.
The process of rolling out virtual permits for residents and employees who park in Residential Preferential Parking (RPP) districts will begin next year, with the goal of having everyone transitioned to the new program by 2023, Nathan Baird, the city's parking manager, told the council Monday.
"This allows us to roll out and phase in virtual permits as we adopt the license-plate enforcement and other process improvements," said Nathan Baird, the city's parking manager.
The technological shift also will spell the end of the city's historic practice of having parking enforcement officers chalk tires. Chief Transportation Official Philip Kamhi said that with virtual permits and automatic license plate readers, the city's enforcement team will be able to do its work more quickly and more efficiently.
"They don't have to slow down to chalk. It just becomes a more efficient enforcement tool," Kamhi said.
The council generally supported the move, though some members urged staff to make sure that residents and employees who aren't comfortable using technology have a way to get assistance in purchasing their permits. Mayor Tom DuBois also urged staff to clearly indicate how the city plans to use the data it gathers from the new license plate reader, consistent with the city's policy on surveillance technology. Otherwise, members agreed that the change will make the city's parking programs easier to use and to enforce.
"I think this is a common-sense cleanup and moving in a direction toward a more sustainable place, a better place," council member Greer Stone said. "Everything is moving into the direction of a more virtual world."
The shift to virtual permits in residential areas is just one small component of broader changes that the city plans to make to its parking regulations in the coming months. The council's Finance Committee will discuss tonight staff's plan to slash the number of permits that the city will sell to employees for parking in the Evergreen/Mayfield neighborhoods, restricting them to one small zone.
The city also plans to significantly raise fees for parking in city garages, including the newly built 636-space structure on Sherman Avenue, which more workers will now rely on as they lose their ability to buy RPP permits.