Mountain View downtown access recommendation: consider paid parking after efficiency steps

On Tuesday at a meeting starting at 6:30pm, Mountain View City Council will review recommendations on how to manage and improve downtown access and parking. After study, the staff and consultants recommend city council to explore paid parking for visitors – after taking several more steps to use current parking space more efficiently, help people find the available parking, and help workers get to downtown without driving. 

Council will also weigh in on whether to explore new parking garages, although staff’s assessment is that these would likely stand empty most of the time.  In recent years, last in 2016, City Council has been periodically checking on the status of parking, and recommending improved efficiency over new parking supply – so far.

Recent studies of parking in Downtown Mountain View show that most of the time there is parking available for people who drive – although the spaces are clustered in some of the garages and drivers might not know where to look. The report observes that “Based on the data, there are only brief periods where parking demand exceeds the 85 percent threshold… At this percentage, there are enough vacant parking spaces to minimize congestion from drivers searching for spaces without creating an oversupply of parking.”

The highest parking demand occurred at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday, as well as 12:00 noon during all weekdays.   Even on Wednesday, when parking use is highest, there is one parking structure and 5 lots that have room for more cars.

The study found that valet parking, an earlier step to make more efficient use of the current parking space, has been successful. “The Valet Parking Pilot Program at Parking Lot 11 increases the lot’s capacity by approximately 30%, Thursday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., by allowing a valet service to stack cars beyond the designed parking spaces.”

The study also found that tweaking the program for downtown worker parking permits has good potential to help with availability. “Weekday parking demands that exceed the 85 percent desired capacity are concentrated in parking facilities that allow permit parking—Parking Structure 1 and Parking Lots 6 and 7… Therefore, staff believes that modification of the Downtown Parking Permit Program needs to be a key component of the parking strategy.”  Logically, moving some permits to structures that aren’t full could help visitors access the structures and lots that currently fill up.

Overall, the study recommends a suite of strategies to use parking space more efficiently and encourage access to downtown using modes other than driving. Paid parking is in the mix – after a set of other strategies to improve efficiency.

Time FrameMeasure
OngoingMaximize utilization of current valet parking pilot program at Parking Lot 11.
Pursue shared parking agreements with private landowners.
Review the current Residential Parking Permit Program.
1-2 yrsProvide parking occupancy information to the public throughCity website and apps.
Pursue the expansion of parking technology into public parking lots
Use parking management software that facilitates data gathering for data-driven policy making;
Review current Downtown Parking Permit Program, including increasing the permit fee and reducing the number of permits issued.
Explore a transportation management association study, including program options, funding, and governance.
2-5 yrsReview on- and off-street time limits to create more parking options.
Explore Paid parking
Require all new downtown development projects to enter into a shared parking agreement.

The options presented to Council include considering more parking, but the staff and consultants do not encourage this approach: “if adding net-new public parking supply (particularly stand-alone facilities specifically for public parking) is used to address the brief times of peak demand, then the City could be creating significant excess capacity for the nonpeak hours. Excess capacity could also have the unintended consequence of encouraging automobile travel and disincentivizing shifts to alternative modes of transportation.”

What do you think? You can comment at the meeting on Tuesday – it is the study session item in a meeting starting at 6:30pm. Or send thoughts to city council via city.clerk@mountainview.gov