When I moved here in the 1960s parking was not a major problem or headache for residents. I suspect this was true up and down the towns in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
But, over time, we have fit more people into mostly the same physical space and each family has more vehicles. The demand for parking spaces has outrun the supply and that is certainly true in Palo Alto. There have been some space utilization responses to this challenge such as multi-story parking structures such as in the city and Stanford Shopping Center and the Stanford shuttle system has helped on campus.
I think it is time to treat parking as the scarce resource it has become and institute more pricing approaches. It does not seem fair to me to allow employees of businesses occupying spaces owned by property owners to occupy neighborhood streets and inconvenience homeowners.
I am not sure of the best mechanics but user pays should be the guideline. If we want to encourage people to park in multi-story garages or at newly built off-site parking areas with shuttle service, make a large parking fee differential. That is what airports have done regularly for some time. If you want to park close in you pay more than in a long-term parking lot where you take a shuttle back and forth.
The Palo Alto annual parking fee of $420 works out to less than 25 cents an hour for a full time worker. Compared to parking in downtown SF or San Jose this is a good deal.
I also think new developments should provide parking or substantial in lieu fees.
We should view these changes to “free parking” as a needed long-term move that will have some bumps along the way but will fall quickly from our radar much as you don’t see protests about airport parking.
As Jay wrote in a recent column, the peninsula is getting denser and will grow even denser. While transit may take a small bite out of car travel, we must deal with the “what comes with” of more car travel in our denser cities.