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Palo Alto considers parking measures

Downtown Palo Alto is known for its diverse assortment of restaurants, and retail stores, but as the area continues to attract more people, it is becoming increasingly characterized as a difficult place to find parking.

In response to this issue, the city of Palo Alto funded a study conducted over several months that looked at parking habits. The results of the study were released on April 11 and are expected to heavily influence the City Council who are looking to impose changes regarding parking downtown over the next several months.

Most notably, visitors of downtown Palo Alto should expect to have to start paying for parking spots as the study suggests the implementation of parking meters throughout all downtown areas. This would mean replacing the time restrictions on parking currently in place, with monetary incentives, both giving parkers more flexibility and generating income for the city.

In addition, the study further looked to address congestion in Palo Alto by suggesting the implementation of programs aimed at reducing reliance on private automobiles. The Palo Alto Transportation Management Association (PATMA) is a nonprofit organization tasked with this goal. While a clear course of action is decided on, the PATMA will likely receive a portion of the parking revenue in efforts to fund a find a way to reduce automobile reliance in Palo Alto.

The study suggests a three-tiered system that would break up the downtown and surrounding areas into separate zones with different rates. Rates will likely vary between $1.50 and $2.50 per hour.

The overall goal of this study was to find ways to make going to downtown Palo Alto a more efficient experience.

In trying to make further improvements to parking in the future, the study suggests a system that would track the times each parking spot is taken throughout the day. This information could be used to alter pricing of meters in efforts to respond to certain areas being empty and others being full.

During the study’s outreach, some business owners “expressed their concern that paid parking may discourage people from visiting downtown because there are other nearby shopping destinations with free parking.”

The study states that, “While this may be true for some consumers, there is a segment of the population that may be more likely to go downtown and pay for parking if it means that parking is easier and quicker to find,” the study continues, “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 structure and technology enhancements.”

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