FAQs of the Recent RPP Updates

Published on December 07, 2021

This FAQ provides background and context for recent changes to the RPP employee programs related to transitioning to License Plate Recognition and Virtual Permits. Please also visit Council Approved Pricing and Program Modifications to Parking Programs for additional context. 

Regarding recent constituent feedback on Duncan security processes: The City requires that Duncan Solutions facilitate permit purchases in a manner compliant with standard security procedures. 

Regarding the personal information and documentation requested and collected, Duncan Solutions is only allowed to use this information to confirm residential eligibility for permits, and to coordinate with affiliates in the course of their contracted permit management duties. This documentation is not allowed to be used for any other purposes. 

Have questions about parking? Need help with your parking needs? Appointments are available at City Hall with Parking staff.

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Why are we transitioning to Virtual Permits?

The transition to vehicle-specific digital permits has been in development in Palo Alto for several years. Multiple City-retained parking consultants have emphasized the elimination of physical permits as an important step to improve program efficiency, permit issuance accountability, and enforcement effectiveness (for a summary, see ID# 12134, packet page 43). Following the initial reports, the Office of Transportation developed a Parking Work Plan, and is now implementing a Parking Action Plan (or Policy Implementation Plan, with Prioritized Implementation Strategies) to address items identified and prioritized by Council Action.

Why has the City eliminated free residential permits in the districts that had them?

While Residential Preferential Parking does not generate income for the City, permit fees help partially offset program costs, including signage, enforcement, and administration.


Why is the City decreasing availability of employee permits on-street and increasing the availability of off-street employee permits?

In 2019, the Palo Alto City Council approved the Parking Work Plan (ID# 1046), which included the following work plan items:

  • Develop a “quid-pro-quo” approach to reduce RPP employee permits where the addition of “employee spaces” in garages and lots triggers the reduction of RPP employee parking permits. (#28)
  • Consideration should be given to increase the cost of an RPP employee parking permit so that it is greater than the cost of a reserved space in a garage or lot, in order to incentivize parkers to choose off-street parking over on-street parking. (#31)

Why is the City adopting virtual permits now, and eliminating transferable permits?

On May 26, 2020, the City Council, approved the Operating Budget (ID# 11376), which included the following: “RPP Parking Administrative Program Revisions - This action will require significant program changes phasing the administration of this program to allow for License Plate Recognition (LPR), virtual permits, and other modifications to allow for cost control… This General Fund savings reflects the elimination of the current General Fund subsidy to ensure the RPP Fund remains financially solvent.”

Implementing license plate recognition in order to transition to virtual permits city-wide was supported during multiple meetings with the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC) and City Council in the past year and was approved by Council on February 22, 2021, for use in RPP zones (ID# 11492). The rollout of these changes, paired with the rollout of a new parking permit management vendor, Duncan Solutions, provided an opportunity to also address other prioritized RPP adjustments.

The RPP program was not intended to allow a single permit for multiple customers. A transferable hangtag permit also brings the effective cost of the RPP permit to lower than that of the garage employee permit, which achieves the opposite effect of wanting to incentivize off-street parking over on-street parking (Parking Work Plan item #31). The transition to the ‘one permit, one customer’ model will give the City the much-needed data to help make thoughtful and efficient transportation decisions as we strive to reduce single-occupancy vehicles and promote green transportation.

What can I do if the garages and lots do not serve my business well?

We understand your concerns and the difficulties these adjustments present. While not an exact replacement, additional permit capacity has been provided in City-owned garages and lots, at lower rates than RPP parking rates, and staff will be working to expand commercial parking opportunities where possible in the near future. There are also day permits available in the garages and lots. In addition, Staff is also working to expand Zone G (El Camino Real) in the Evergreen Park-Mayfield RPP district, and to develop additional permit types for different uses in all of the parking programs. Please let us know if you would like to be involved as these discussions take place. See Parking Work Plan for more information.

Should you or your employees have difficulty securing an employee RPP permit, City staff are available to discuss potential alternatives. In addition, if your business qualifies, the Palo Alto Transportation Management Association (TMA) may be able to help your employees commute to Palo Alto via other travel modes using subsidized transit fares, shared ride discounts, and an upcoming bicycling incentive program. Get started with the TMA.

What is the City doing about parking?

The City is working on several Parking Implementation Strategies (updated from Palo Alto Action Plan). The following are in progress:

  • RPP improvements and community engagement efforts
    • Continue to develop and implement Parking Work Plan identified Residential Preferential Parking improvements and community engagement efforts. Community engagement efforts prioritized MRG Recommended Items’ inclusion and prioritization in the Parking Work Plan for community engagement. These efforts led to the prioritized RPP recommendations #28 and #31.
  • Implement Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) enforcement, data collection, and virtual permitting
    • Implement ALPR enforcement, establish parking availability rates, and begin virtual permitting in select RPP districts
      • ALPR enforcement in select districts to begin Winter 2021, priorities
        • Downtown, Evergreen Park-Mayfield, and Southgate RPP districts to transition to virtual permitting
        • Establish a recommended approach to RPP guest & commercial permitting through consensus building community engagement
        • Downtown (DT), Evergreen Park-Mayfield (EPM), and Southgate (SG) employees to purchase digital permits December 6, 2021
    • Winter 2021 through Fall 2022 permit cycles - initial parking availability data to be collected
    • Summer and Fall 2022 - community engagement to establish parking availability rates in select residential districts
  • Develop and pilot new commercial parking regulations
    • Develop and pilot new commercial parking regulations, to potentially include mobile payment options, virtual permit options, and/or hourly performance pricing rates in select popular parking locations
      • Fall/Winter 2021 - Initial community engagement and municipal code review to scope out options
        • Only recommendations directly related to moving forward with virtual recommendations endorsed for moving forward in favor of additional outreach
        • Next Parking Office Hours (TBD)
    • Community engagement through Spring 2022
    • Present options to Finance Committee March 2022
    • Present refined options to PTC and then Council with a more developed recommendation




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