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Last Updated: Jan 22, 2017

Downtown University Avenue Parking Program


Downtown Palo Alto is a regional retail and entertainment attraction center with vibrant professional office and service commercial center.  The City actively monitors parking in and around the Downtown and is committed to work with commercial and residential interests to balance the demands of parking with measures to minimize its impacts on adjacent residential communities.  This page provides an update and an overview on Downtown Parking Projects. Check back for frequent updates.

Parking Events

  •     August 28th: SMARTER PARKING Event
  •     Leave feedback on the Downtown Residential Preferential Parking program here.

Neighborhood and Quality of Life Preservation:  Transporation Demand Management, Parking Supply and Residential Preferential Parking

The City is engaged in a three-pronged approach to reduce parking and traffic demand within Palo Alto’s downtown core and adjacent residential neighborhoods. These efforts include Transportation Demand Management initiatives, Parking Supply Initiatives, and Residential Preferential Parking. 

    Transportation Demand Management (TDM) 

  1. Free Shuttle Program: The City is looking to significantly expand its existing shuttle program (click here for current schedule and operations) to better support commuting both within Palo Alto and adjacent communities.
  2. Formation of a Transportation Management Association (TMA): The City will initiate the formation of a Downtown TMA which will manage and market alternative modes of transit in the Downtown areas, as well as collect data on modes of travel. TMA efforts will begin in summer of 2014.
  3. The City will investigate the use of Rideshare apps and other ways to encourage commuting via public transit. The City is piloting a program with Caltrain to provide a free Go Pass (24 hour, 7 day Caltrain pass) for regularly benefited City Downtown employees who turn in their parking permits.  For information on the Caltrain Go Pass and SAP TwoGo Rideshare app, click here.

If you do not work for the City but are interested in participating in the TwoGo Rideshare program for free, click here.

    Parking Supply 

  1. Garage technology: The City is exploring ways to upgrade the capabilities of its existing parking garages with revenue access controls and parking guidance systems. 
  2. Valet-Assist Pilot Program: The City has entered into a contract with Standard Parking Corporation to perform valet-assist parking operations at the Lot R – Alma/High Street garage to maximize the parking capacity of this garage. If the program is successful, the City many implement similar programs at other garages. 
  3. Satellite Parking: The City is exploring creating a satellite parking lot for Downtown employees which would provide additional parking while potential for new Downtown parking supply is investigated.

    Residential Preferential Parking (RPP)

  • Please click here for information on the City’s current Residential Preferential Parking (RPP) efforts.

Downtown Cap Study

In 1986, the City of Palo Alto conducted a Downtown Study, which examined parking, traffic and land use conditions in the Downtown area. The original study area included the Downtown Commercial area and surrounding residential neighborhoods in the periphery study area (see map in Council Report below). As a result of the Study, the Downtown zoning regulations were made generally more restrictive. A Downtown development cap policy was also adopted. This policy restricted future non-residential development (office, retail, etc.) to a total of 350,000 square feet beyond what was in existence or approved in the Downtown (“CD Zone”) area as of May 1986. CD development regulations were to be re-evaluated when new development reached 235,000 square feet. There were a number of other specific policies related to parking, traffic and growth in the CD area as well. A list of these measures can be found in the Council report below.   The legal requirement for this evaluation was recently triggered by the submittal of several Downtown development applications. The Development Cap Study will evaluate the potential development and its impacts on downtown and nearby residential areas in two phases: a “data and impacts” phase (Phase 1) and a “policy” phase (Phase 2). Phase 1 will include a detailed review of existing traffic and parking conditions in and around the Downtown area, as well as projection of future conditions based on existing zoning requirements. The RFP was recently released and the City expects to receive consultant proposals in May and select on consultant soon thereafter. Phase 2 will be released at a subsequent date, following Council discussion and direction. This overall study process would include the appointment of a Downtown Stakeholder Task Force. It is expected that Phase 1 of the Downtown Development Cap study will be the focus of a series of public meetings over a 6-month period commencing later this year.

 Main Downtown Cap Study Website

 DRAFT Downtown Cap Study RFP

 City Council Report

Downtown Parking Garage Study

The City is studying five existing surface parking lot sites for construction of new parking structures in and around the Downtown, including:  1) Lot D on the corner of Hamilton Avenue & Waverly Street, 2) Lots E/G on Gilman Street between Hamilton Avenue and Forest Avenue, 3) Lot O on High Street between Lytton Avenue and University Avenue, 4) Lot P on High Street between University Avenue and Hamilton Avenue, and 5) Urban Lane between Palo Alto Medical Foundation and the University Avenue Transit Mall.  The project also includes evaluating existing Downtown Parking Garages for use of Attendant Parking to increase parking capacity.


 Council Award

Downtown Parking Occupancy Data

The City collects parking occupancy data twice per year during the Spring and Fall to measure parking trends.  Data collection started in 2011 and data maps are provided below by count season:

On-Street Counts:

SPRING 2015 - 12am to 2am

SPRING 2015 - 8 am to 10 am

SPRING 2015 - 12pm to 2pm

SPRING 2015 - 7 pm to 9 pm

SPRING 2014 

FALL 2013

FALL 2012


FALL 2011


Off-Street Counts:

Off-Street Occupancy March, 2014

Off-Street Occupancy early April, 2014

Off-Street Occupancy late April, 2014

Off-Street Occupancy June, 2014

Off-Street Occupancy July, 2014

Off-Street Occupancy August, 2014

Off-Street Occupancy September, 2014 

Off-Street Occupancy October, 2014

Please click here to view the Downtown Palo Alto On-Street and Off-Street Parking Inventory.

Last Updated: Jan 18, 2017