Existing & Future Downtown Parking

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Both residents and visitors frequently complain about parking time limits downtown and $45 parking citations, and office workers and retail employees constantly move their cars to avoid them – or the cost of daily parking permits. Menlo Park’s Specific Plan assumes two future downtown parking structures will be needed to handle projected future growth and civic improvements downtown, and three possible locations were identified. Is it time for Menlo Park to start planning to build the first one?

A series of posts will deal with “parking downtown”. This initial one reviews current parking and the Specific Plan.

Parking Today

There are currently about 1600 short-term public parking spaces downtown including 1200 in the parking plazas. Public Parking is MOSTLY free – as it is in nearby Palo Alto and the Stanford Shopping Center – and is limited to two hours per parking plaza per day. Drivers are allowed to re-park in a DIFFERENT parking plaza.

There are 685 fee-based, daily downtown parking permits sold each year (57% of the total spaces) so about 500 parking spaces (43%) are available for short term parking during normal work hours.

The current demand for parking varies greatly by day and time of day. Midday parking Monday thru Friday can entail a long walk to one’s destination; on weekends it seems to vary by plaza. In the evening parking spaces are readily available all week in all public parking plazas.

The demand for parking space comes largely from retail employees, residents and small office workers. Downtown Menlo Park is NOT a popular destination for visitors.

Specific Plan

The future demand for public parking spaces will depend on a few primary factors including the relative appeal of going downtown versus other places nearby, the convenience of parking options and the cost, if any, of parking and violations.

The City’s Specific Plan provides a number of informative high-level perspectives on how Menlo Park could provide additional downtown parking with either one or two parking structures. Figure 1 shows the potential sites of parking structures. Figure 2 shows the amount of additional parking that might be provided.

The addition of one parking structure is shown to increase downtown parking by about 440 spaces (from 1200 to 1660) or about 35%. However, if the amount of daily downtown permits were limited to say 800 – an increase of 115, the amount of short term public parking could increase by 325 spaces (from 500 to 825) or 65%!

(Note: A smaller structure would reduce the amount of parking by about 120 space per level. Perhaps, the initial cost of the structure could be reduced with a modular design that added some levels as they were needed.)

Anyone who is interested in this issue should carefully read the Downtown Parking section of the Specific Plan. Here is a link to that section.

Figure 1 – Potential Parking Structure Sites

parking structure sites

Figure 2 – Potential Downtown Public Parking Supply

parking supply downtown

Short Term Solutions

Can Menlo Park figure out how to better manage its the current supply of public parking spaces? One option is to change the current limits on maximum parking times in different locations. This will be explored in a future post.