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By Steve Levy

How to Find The Big Payoff in Reducing Traffic and Parking Challenges

Uploaded: Feb 27, 2016

This blog is based on a public comment at council and public memo to council members.
The council has asked staff to develop an additional Comp Plan scenario that goes more aggressively at specific traffic/parking and housing challenges.

I urged the council to design an alternative that goes further than the existing alternatives in developing policies and plans to reduce the traffic and parking challenges created by existing workers who drive to work in Palo Alto.

I do understand that the council has also asked staff to examine the impact of further reductions in job growth.

But simple math says that any big payoff will come from influencing the behavior of existing workers. There are simply far more existing workers who drive and park in Palo Alto than the number of new workers that can be changed legally by policy, especially since we do not control much of Stanford’s activity.

I was pleased that Mayor Burt emphasized the evolving common interests of businesses with the goal of residents in reducing the driving and parking behavior of existing workers and the Mayor’s support for the TMA efforts.

When I spoke to council I mentioned several ideas for a more aggressive push to change the behavior of current workers who drive here. Let’s ask the consultant to look at these options AND offer us other options to go big on influencing the behavior of existing commuters into the city.

Scenario 4 includes testing the idea of better transit service along El Camino and grade separation along the rail corridor.

Let’s have scenario 5 test the idea of better Caltrain service to California Avenue combined with an employer run shuttle service.

Scenario 4 includes implementing paid parking in the downtown and California Avenue areas. Let the consultant go big and test higher permit prices in addition—with some provision for low wage workers.

Scenario 4 incudes free transit passes for PA residents in transit accessible areas. Let’s have the consultant go big and test free or very low cost transit passes for low wage workers and perhaps all workers not now covered.

Scenario 4 includes two new parking garages. Let’s have the consultant go big and test additional new parking facilities perhaps underground or part of mixed use developments with extra parking for the public.

And let’s test the impact of letting residents sell their parking permits and letting businesses sell their extra parking spaces.

And finally, and perhaps the really important next step, is to fully fund the TMA as Neilson Buchanan has been persistently suggesting.

We know from the draft EIR that small changes in the amount of new jobs and housing do not move the needle much on traffic and parking.

Let’s follow the Mayor’s more optimistic and forward going approach and go big on getting existing commuters into the city to change their behavior. Then we can compare the impacts of those policies to what happens if the number of new jobs changes by 5 percent one way or the other.

I am sure also that readers can share other ways to go big for reducing the single occupancy car commuting of some/many current workers in PA.