And of course, to help manage the growing workload of the new streamlined system, the city created two new positions for the Office of Transportation: a parking manager and a transportation engineer. To fund the new positions, residents would now have to pay $50 (plus an administrative fee) for the permits, which previously were free.
Parking management provider Duncan Solutions was paid to roll out the residential permit program. On March 1, the opening day when the new program kicked off, I applied for a virtual permit, as well as two old-fashioned hang tags for my visitors. According to Duncan Solutions, approved permits are processed within 72 hours and should arrive in the mail no more than 14 business days later.
As of April 13, I was still waiting for the hangtags, which I paid for sometime in mid-March, and I had no idea whether my virtual permit was active — though I did get a sign to print out and put on my car dashboard with a virtual permit number on it.
As I mentioned earlier, I applied for my vehicle permits on March 1. The process was torture: First, I went to the city website and was redirected to another site for my neighborhood parking area. All other visitors, I noticed, were directed to "Duncan Solutions Permit Portal." After going to the specific site for my neighborhood, I was then redirected, once again, to Duncan Solutions like everyone else.
Once on the Duncan Solutions portal, I signed in and signed up for my permits, uploaded my driver's license and registration as instructed, and filled out one very weird form. After 10 days, nothing, so I emailed Duncan for a response. Within one week, I received an account number. What a great verification of my existence, which I was beginning to doubt.
I have gotten parking permits in Palo Alto before, so the city and the Department of Motor Vehicles know that I live in the Downtown neighborhood even though my driver's license still has me listed on Sand Hill Road. Duncan Services didn't know this, so I sent the company a copy of my rental agreement. I finally was able to pay for two hangtags.
In my exuberance, I called Duncan Solutions to check on my virtual tag. When I offered my name and account number, I was told by a very nice service rep that they had no record whatsoever of my name or my account number. Aggghhhh!
I told the service rep, "Thank you so very much," and gently hung up the phone.
What an unfortunate, unforgivable and pathetic mess.
Who is responsible? The city of Palo Alto, of course. Despite the fact that we have more employees per population than almost any other city in California, Palo Alto decided it needed to contract out this key process to an obviously unprepared group.
Since that incident, the situation has seemed to improve:
* The city website now directs everyone to Duncan, including residents in my area;
* Duncan has now posted a simple 15-page guide on how to apply for permits;
* it's my understanding that the city temporarily postponed ticket enforcement until it transitioned to the new permit program;
* and the city now coaches frustrated people like me who have been obliterated from the system but never had a previous problem securing a residential permit.
The city also apparently verified my existence and instructed Duncan Solutions to allow me to pay $50 (plus the processing fee) for a virtual permit, proof of which, as I said, is now pasted forever to the dashboard of my car.
This story contains 660 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a member, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Membership start at $12 per month and may be cancelled at any time.