City eyes new technology for downtown parking

System would aid search for parking, upgrade enforcement

As the number of cars being parked downtown reaches unprecedented levels, on Tuesday, City Council members considered the use of electronic signs to alleviate traffic caused by drivers hunting for parking.

Downtown garages may soon get electronic signs so drivers can see whether parking is available in either of the downtown's garages, saving drivers the hassles of driving into the garages to find a spot during busy lunch and dinner hours, and coming up short.

Environmental Planning Commission chair Robert Cox said he had studied the issue and found that such a system was "one of the most significant public benefits we could provide to people" as it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and and reduce downtown traffic.

City Council members voted 6-1 at the May 20 meeting, with member John Inks opposed, to request bids for such a system. The city would also create an online service for people to buy and keep track of parking permits and develop a plan to use sensors to help enforce time limits, which police began to do for the first time earlier this year.

The signs would be placed near the main entrance to each garage and use sensors to track space availability. The sign would also show parking availability at the other downtown garage, as well as directions to it. The data would also be available on a city web page.

An engineer at Google, Evan Krosky, urged the council ensure that parking space data is made available to to the public so it can be integrated into various parking apps for smart phone users.

"If someone is trying to sell you a website or app for helping residents or visitors find parking, you need to make sure they have a mechanism for others to access that data," he said. "Make this data available to apps your residents and visitors are already using."

As for enforcing time limits with the new sensors, city officials say they hope it will equal higher turnover in city parking lots, allowing more people to visit downtown.

Enforcement efforts "can cover so much more ground with vehicle detection" than the old tire chalk method, said council member Mike Kasperzak. "We are still getting complaints from people, despite enhanced enforcement. Too many people are staying."

Funding for the system would come from $185,000 the city has already budgeted towards parking technologies. According to a city report, costs for the wayfinding signs "can range from $75,000 per occupancy sign showing total spaces available at the entrance of a parking facility with the vehicle detection technology, to over $200,000 for a more integrated system consisting of a sign at the garage's entrance, a sign at each level, and vehicle detection technology in each individual parking space." The website for buying parking permits and tracking space availability could cost as much as $36,000.

There are some privacy concerns, however, as the city decides between types of sensors for enforcing parking time limits and tracking space availability. There are cameras that record license plate numbers (a $60,000 system) and sensors that simply record a car's size and color (a $100,000 system). License plate cameras, while perhaps raising privacy concerns, would save parking permit users from printing permits to place on their car's dashboard, as the permit would simply be associated with their license plate number.


Like this comment
Posted by Parker
a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 23, 2014 at 10:10 am

"We are still getting complaints from people, despite enhanced enforcement."

The enhanced enforcement began less than 2 months ago. Most people haven't even figured out it's happening yet.

The enforcement sensors the article refers to are automated license plate readers which look at every license plate downtown and build a database of what cars are where and when.

Like this comment
Posted by Privacy
a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 23, 2014 at 10:26 am

What is the data retention policy on this licence plate reader? The current leaders can say its for parking only and there is no intent to use it to keep track of peoples whereabouts but new leaders in a few years can change their minds to take advantage of this tool "we already have but haven't been using to it's fullest extent".

Like this comment
Posted by Crimminal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 23, 2014 at 11:17 am

I am very worried such a system will be able to track my criminal activities.

Oops, I mean I have privacy concerns. Uh....

Like this comment
Posted by @Crimminal
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on May 23, 2014 at 12:00 pm

People are not just concerned about privacy with respect to criminal behavior. Do you have curtains? Do you share your bank statements with others?

Like this comment
Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on May 23, 2014 at 2:12 pm

@@Criminal (since you didn't use a unique handle)

I cannot fathom ANY reason I could care why anyone in the city had data that I had been downtown. I don't show my bank statements, true. But I don't care if the city knows I parked there.

Like this comment
Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on May 23, 2014 at 2:13 pm

So my only issue with the parking space sensors in the garage is that the ones in Santana Row work pretty poorly.

Like this comment
Posted by Joel Lachter
a resident of Slater
on May 23, 2014 at 3:46 pm


While part of me is okay with the new "no privacy", "I have nothing to hide" world; it is pretty easy to fathom why people wouldn't want other people to know where they are. Suppose you had a restraining order out against someone or stopped on the way home to buy your spouse a surprise gift.

Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 23, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Strange.... none of the above comments seem to care about BIG BRO coming further into their lives.

For god's sake...wake up..... It is not worth the dollars, nor the invasion.. Is our tiny city so huge now that we need to do these draconian things ?

So let us drive downtown, let us find a spot to park... Better than spending these absurd funds and lose our privacy

Like this comment
Posted by Worried
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 23, 2014 at 10:16 pm

I'm worried that this will make it easier to enforce parking regulations in downtown MV. Wake up people! :)

Like this comment
Posted by Parking Woes?
a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 24, 2014 at 5:55 am

yet another thing i don't have to worry about on my bike

Like this comment
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 24, 2014 at 8:25 am

@Ron: The sensors at Santana Row have been fixed and now work almost perfectly.

Like this comment
Posted by MVResident67
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 24, 2014 at 10:16 am

Food for thought:

Web Link

Web Link

"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you." ;)

Like this comment
Posted by Mr Adviceo
a resident of Bailey Park
on May 26, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Only Google employee's should be allowed to park down town as a courtesy for making MV what it is.

Like this comment
Posted by Some guy
a resident of Whisman Station
on May 27, 2014 at 10:36 am

Santana Row parking technology works people. It's great how it displays the amount of spaces before entering the parking structure, also there are red & green lights over EACH parking space which designates if it is taken or not. This helps when looking down the long aisles and seeing at a quick glance if something is available or not. Go check it out, you'll be impressed...

Like this comment
Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 27, 2014 at 2:33 pm

We have a high expectation of privacy in our homes but we willingly agree to an electronic search at airports. Our streets and businesses (banks, 7/11 etc.)are full of video surveillance devices. When you are out and about, you are constantly being photographed.

Tiburon has cameras that photograph all car license plates for cars coming or going. I visit Sam's Rsstauarant and Corinthian Yacht Club without concern.

Mountain View taking pictures of my license plate when I park is not a big privacy concern. Just keep the cameras out of my home, car, boat, etc.

Like this comment
Posted by DC
a resident of North Whisman
on May 27, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Sunnyvale mall has them they work great 269 open space out of 300.

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