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parking reforms for the downtown area

From: domainremoved <Bob>
Date: Mon, 16 Nov 2015 14:58:55 -0800

Dear City Council members:

As you proceed with your review of the downtown specific plan, I'd like to
share several lessons that I have learned as a steering committee member of
Palo Alto's Transportation Management Association. (Please note that, in
this letter, I am speaking as an individual and as a resident of Menlo Park
and not in any way speaking on behalf of that association or of my
employer.)

I'd like to recommend two changes regarding parking:

   1. Please consider encouraging developers to satisfy parking
   requirements with in lieu fees in a city parking fund.
      - Menlo Park would be better off with shared parking in a garage
      which could be used by both customers and workers across downtown, rather
      than underground spaces which would be available only for the workers
      within a single building.
      2. Please consider allowing the money in this parking fund to be
   usable both for increasing parking supply and also for reducing parking
   demand.
      - Providing transit subsidies to workers or improving bicycle and
      pedestrian infrastructure for customers can free up parking spaces very
      cheaply compared to new construction, especially when combined with
      increasing supply.

First, in Palo Alto, the TMA survey found that only 55% of downtown workers
commuted by driving alone - a number that was even lower among newer
businesses such as tech companies at 33%. Since employment density is
likely somewhere between 4 and 5 per 1000, with some surveys such as the
business registry indicating even less density, the actual amount of
parking required for office workers in a new building in Palo Alto is
likely between 2 and 2.5 per 1000 square feet - substantially less than the
3.8 spaces required in Menlo Park.

Second, if our Downtown Specific Plan is successful, we hope to see a much
more vibrant downtown in Menlo Park, with more and more active retail and
restaurants. This will naturally result in increased demand for parking.
As a recent example, consider downtown's new Mademoiselle Colette, which
has customers dropping by every few minutes and a staff of perhaps a dozen,
compared to Sugar Shack, which had much less foot traffic and substantially
fewer employees.

If we succeed in creating a vibrant downtown that attracts more foot
traffic, we will necessarily see more demand for parking by both customers
and retail and restaurant workers. This has definitely occurred in Palo
Alto over the last 10 years, and it resulted in many service workers and
restaurant customers parking in residential neighborhoods near the downtown.

These two facts suggest a solution: the city currently demands that
developers build office buildings with more parking than is necessary, but
with all that extra parking literally locked up beneath the building.
Instead, the city could trade single-use parking for amenities such as a
garage that could be shared between those office workers and the new
customers and retail workers that we hope to see in our downtown over the
next 15 years.

In addition, with the rising popularity of Caltrain, walking, and biking,
it is now the case that several approaches to reducing parking demand are
much, much more cost effective than building additional parking. For
example, the yearly bonded interest on a single parking space could provide
Caltrain GoPasses to 15 employees each year!

By allowing in lieu fees to be used to reduce demand as well as add supply,
the city will be able to make more effective use of its money and net more
customer parking. It doesn't make sense to waste expensive garage parking
on workers who would be happier taking transit if given a modest subsidy.

In short, please consider reforming downtown parking requirements to center
around investing in shared rather than single-use parking and in providing
inexpensive alternatives to driving and parking rather than only
constructing more spaces.

Thank you,
Bob McGrew
Menlo Park resident
Received on Mon Nov 16 2015 - 15:01:01 PST

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