Can permit parking zones keep up with parking congestion in neighborhoods? Paid parking and outcome measures thought to be key.

May 5, 2019 – Palo Alto Matters

The general, yet imperfect success of Palo Alto’s Residential Preferential Parking permit program has brought some relief to neighborhoods overrun by all day commuter parking, but not without considerable conflict, frustration, cost and effort. Pressure and pushback about gradual reduction of commuter permits has been steady across most RPP districts, complaints about the permit processing, monitoring, and enforcement system have been relentless, and staff turnover has been frequent, largely due to burnout and frustration.

Meanwhile, neighborhood demand for RPP protections continues to grow. A petition to evaluate an RPP district at the east end of the California Avenue underpass received the Planning Commission’s endorsement in late March and is likely get council’s green light on May 13. Another petition, from the Green Acres neighborhood, is waiting in the wings, as are requests to annex additional street parking into the Evergreen Park-Mayfield RPP district and to modify the days and hours that parking is controlled in both Evergreen Park-Mayfield and the Downtown RPP zones.

A newly released RPP study has produced a far reaching recommendation including 35 changes to the city’s parking services designed to make the overall RPP program “more effective, sustainable, and efficient.” The recommendations include council action to contract for an improved permit management system and a study of how to move from pre-paid permits to a system featuring dynamic monitoring and pricing, creation of a new city Parking Manager position, and a dedicated community engagement effort to consider modifications to the RPP program, either through the Planning and Transportation Commission or a small working group including both business and resident representatives. Nine specific issues have been teed up for consideration through that engagement effort.

Other recommendations target improved management, processing, payment mechanisms, enforcement, and user interface for parking permits both in RPPs and in city lots and garages. The study also calls for an evaluation of the policy, administrative, and legal implications of giving “neighborhood serving businesses” preference in getting employee parking permits.

Notably, the study’s recommendations seem to implicitly concede that RPPs alone are insufficient to manage the city’s parking congestion problems – a challenge that may well intensify due to recently reduced on-site parking requirements for new residential and mixed-use developments. Study recommendations that reach outside the box of parking permits include:

  • Develop a plan to initiate paid hourly parking in the city’s garages and parking lots.
  • Evaluate use of services like Uber and Lyft to reduce the demand for parking as well as the impact on traffic.
  • Use outcome-based measures to assess the effectiveness of Transportation Demand Management initiatives in reducing the number of commuters and business patrons who would otherwise need parking spaces.
  • Institute a performance-driven system based on user-perception to measure quality of service and identify areas where corrective action is needed.

On May 13, beginning at 6:45 pm, City Council will discuss the study, direct staff to develop a work plan, and identify the preferred mechanism for community engagement tasks outlined in the recommendations. Click here for the staff report.

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