Posted September 28, 2017 in Articles
Author: Kevin Kelly
After learning that a 2015 initiative to get commuters out of cars and using transit saw marked improvements in the past year, Palo Alto’s elected officials have stepped the plan into high gear.
Members of the Palo Alto Transportation Management Association (TMA), whose mission is to find ways to reduce single-occupancy vehicles to and from downtown, told the City Council at its Sept. 18 meeting that the overall number of solo drivers has dropped from 57 percent to 53 percent in the past two years.
The association, which is managed by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation until it receives its 501(c)(3) exemption from the IRS, has so far received $200,000 from the city’s University Avenue Park Fund, which is replenished by downtown garage and parking lot permit fees that were increased in June. The association said it has received an additional $50,000 from membership fees and a few small grants to run the program.
The council authorized an additional $480,000 in the 2018 fiscal year for the association, which plans to hire a permanent executive director next year and push for an additional 10 percent reduction in solo drivers.
“I think tonight you’ve proven yourself,” Councilman Adrian Fine, said, noting that the association’s data also show the city’s residential parking permit in the downtown area is working. “Twenty percent used to park in neighborhoods and it’s down to 7 percent.”
The association reported that service workers accounted for the biggest reduction in solo drivers the past year — 10 percent — through such incentives as free Caltrain Go Passes.
“In the past year, focusing on service workers, we have made it possible for them to take transit,” said Wendy Silvani, the association’s acting executive director. “It used to be one of the most expensive ways for them to get to work … if you could park for free on a neighboring street instead.”
“Transit is up 2 percent overall (in the past year) and 6 percent among service workers,” added Rob George, the association’s board chairman. Overall, the tech sector has the lowest rate of solo drivers at 30 percent and the service sector the highest at 70 percent.
Additional incentives that could further cut that percentage include charging for parking and limiting parking “to get people to use alternative transportation modes,” Silvani added.
Councilman Cory Wolbach suggested that a business license tax could provide additional revenue for the association and other programs.
“We want Palo Alto residents to say the TMA has made Palo Alto a better place to live, that’s the goal,” Wolbach said.