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Palo Alto to shift to virtual permits for parking enforcement

Original post made on Oct 5, 2021

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.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 8:45 AM

Comments (11)

Posted by Doug Kreitz
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 5, 2021 at 8:59 am

Doug Kreitz is a registered user.

I would like to know if hang tags (for occasional visitors who will be parking in front of my home) will still be issued once the electronic system is implemented.
Was this discussed?


Posted by Avery Logan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2021 at 10:12 am

Avery Logan is a registered user.

Will this measure result in the termination of parking enforcement officers (aka meter readers)?


Posted by BobH
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 5, 2021 at 10:42 am

BobH is a registered user.

How does this work exactly? I have many questions:

Is a "virtual permit" you sign up for online that says that a car with a specific license plate number can park in a residential area or parking garage? Or is it some sort of RFID tag you add to your car? How does it work if you have two cars?

Will parked cars will be scanned periodically to verify they can park there legally? How is this data protected? There are many privacy concerns here, do we need the City tracking us where we park? How will they protect this data? Who will it be shared with? Immigration authorities? Will the location data be sold?


Posted by CC
a resident of University South
on Oct 5, 2021 at 10:44 am

CC is a registered user.

How are you going to address misused permits.

Currently Channing House is using the hanging tags for many of their employees and construction workers.

The resident tags are meant for our guests. By Channing House using these for their employees, we have no parking and the program is failing. They are abusing the program!

It was my understanding that employers were allotted a certain amount of employee permits. To limit their parking.

Well. Clearly not working now. So curious if the new virtual program will address this!


Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 5, 2021 at 12:07 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

How will this affected cars with valid handicapped license plates or hang tags?


Posted by Paly02
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2021 at 12:26 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

I, too, have privacy concerns and concerns about data security. Agree that we cannot share this data with immigration officers and we need safeguards so that people cannot use the system to stalk ex-lovers.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2021 at 12:49 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Hmm. Lots of potential problems particularly for those who don't always use their own car but use another, or carpool, or even buy a new car.

From a city that can't even give us electronic signs for parking that we have been told are coming, I can't see this system being problem free.


Posted by Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Oct 5, 2021 at 1:46 pm

Gennady Sheyner is a registered user.

Thanks for the great questions.

@DougKreitz: The report from transportation staff acknowledges that the issuance of residential guest permits "is of considerable interest to RPP customers" but doesn't detail exactly how this will be handled. The report states that "staff plan to phase in virtual permit options over the next two fiscal years to ensure the guest permit program meets customers’ parking needs." I should note that the Monday action was limited to changing the municipal code to make virtual permits legal. Now that this has been done, I presume staff will be hashing out details relating to guest parking in RPP zones. Stay tuned!

@AveryLogan. Currently, RPP parking enforcement is done by an outside company (in contrast to enforcement in city lots and garages, which is performed by PAPD). The new license plate reader will, according to staff, reduce costs because the city will no longer have to rely on an outside contractor for RPP enforcement. Staff estimates cost savings in RPP enforcement to be about $267,000 in FY 2022.

Regarding privacy concerns, the city had adopted a policy that calls for data from license plate readers to "only be utilized for legitimate parking management efforts, for parking enforcement efforts, to log parking stay information and data, to communicate parking availability, and to quantify parking occupancy rates." The city also has policies pertaining to retention of data (generally, a maximum of 96 hours for data relating to cars not cited and five years for records relating to citations). And while some data relating to parking occupancy will be made publicly available, that data will never include specific license plate numbers.

More information about the city's policies on license plate readers is available here:
Web Link


Posted by Carol Scott
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 8, 2021 at 10:34 am

Carol Scott is a registered user.

Mr. Sheyner: I believe you are mistaken about the enforcement with virtual parking permits. First of all, you are correct that the PAPD enforces parking limits in the City-owned garages and lots. But, the PAPD ALSO enforces parking limits in College Terrace. My understanding is that, because of union agreements, the enforcement in there areas will continue to be done by PAPD. Surveillance of the virtual permits will be done only for information collection purposes, and not enforcement.

Further, it is my understanding through OTT presentations and conversations, that enforcement in all areas will continue to be done by a contractor, i.e., Duncan Solutions, the same, generally inept contractor that has taken years to try to create an online permit purchasing system. It will be less expensive because it will be faster and easier.

There are other issues with the virtual permits that are not mentioned. The biggest for those of us who have been active in parking issues for the last several, tedious years, is that there will now be no indicator on a car as to whether it has a permit or not. So, if a car is parked in front of your house all day (or several days), you will have no idea whether it is there in violation of parking limits or not, i.e., residents will have no way of determining what is going on. Effective enforcement depends on frequent scans to determine whether or not a car has been parking longer than two hours. If only one scan a day takes place, or only one in the morning and one in the evening, there effectively is no enforcement. Lost in this debate is how frequently cars will be monitored. ‘The downside of almost continuous monitoring, of course, is that residents’ parking behavior will be recorded in quite some detail.

The City is determined to do this for cost reasons. Better data collection depends on frequency of observations. A better idea is an electronically readable tag that is visible. This would provide efficiency, but also some visible accountability.


Posted by Carol Scott
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 8, 2021 at 10:38 am

Carol Scott is a registered user.

For those of you who are concerned about virtual permits and the issues that need to be resolved, I urge you to write the Office of Transportation and Traffic (managed by Philip Kamhi), the director of parking (Nathan Baird), AND the City Council. Too often, no residents speak up, and thus the few activists are dismissed as luddites and cranks.


Posted by Virginia Smedberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 12, 2021 at 3:09 am

Virginia Smedberg is a registered user.

Just want to acknowledge a batch of VERY good comments and questions (my first reaction was - what about guests?!). Since I don't live in a affected area, I'm not a good person to speak out, having no experience. So I hope those of you who are affected, do as Carol Scott suggests.


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