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Research Park TDM within a free parking context

Sent: December 9, 2013
Subject: Dec 9 TDM Study Session

Dear Council and Planning Commission,

Topic: Research Park TDM within a free parking context

1. Almost every US job site that provides free employee parking has SOV commute mode share of 75% or higher. In the entire free-parked US, there are only five companies (with exemplary TDM programs) below 75% SOV:


  • Google: 52% SOV
  • Genentech: 58%
  • Facebook: 59%
  • Microsoft Redmond: 60%
  • Apple: 72%


It will be game-changing if Council can increase the adoption of such exemplary TDM programs. The reason these programs are not widespread is because the annual cost-to-employer for an employee to undertake green commuting is $2,500 or more. (Details available upon request.)

2. Combinations of parking charges and green commute incentives have proven effective. Stanford campus is a stellar example. Please consider collaborating on a "charges + incentives political viability study for major job centers" with Menlo Park, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale. Unilateral action by PA will produce a local commercial real-estate disadvantage. Collaboration avoids this issue.

91% of our 102M US commuters are provided with free parking. A bold local collaboration could then spread country-wide, creating 23M new green commuters eliminating 50M annual GHG tons.

Charges + incentives will reduce Research Park SOV mode share from 77% to 54%, yielding 6,000 fewer cars per weekday!

Charges + incentives can be structured to be zero cost to employers and zero cost per GHG ton reduced. But employee parking charges create inconvenience for SOV commuters (who will still be in the majority). To avoid significant political backlash, implementations should be carefully designed for gradual employee behavior change.

2A. Support from MTC, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Menlo Park, VTA, and San Jose

MTC: "There is no question that the provision of free parking is a huge incentive for people to drive to work. A 2000 survey of Bay Area commuters found that while 77 percent of commuters drove alone when free parking was available, only 39 percent drove alone when they had to pay to park. Additionally, among commuters with free parking, only 4.8 percent commuted by transit. By contrast, among commuters without free parking, 42 percent commute by transit." While at MTC, James Corless stated "Eliminating free workplace parking is the Holy Grail of TDM."

Within the ongoing discussions over Google campus expansion and the Mountain View North Bayshore transportation study (includes LinkedIn, Intuit, and Microsoft job sites as well as Google), MV Council is asking for an extraordinary 45% SOV commute mode share. MV Council has discussed capping the number of car trips into this area. Paid parking has been discussed as a potential strategy to ease traffic congestion. "Such a strategy may also be necessary to drop the drive-alone rate to 45%" said Councilmember Mike Kasperzak, adding that "paid parking has worked elsewhere." (San Jose Mercury News, March 27, 2012.) In addition, Sustainable Silicon Valley held a Jan 2012 North Bayshore Workshop to help contribute innovative solutions.

The July 2002 Draft Moffett Research Park (Sunnyvale) Transportation Demand Management Plan (by Nelson Nygaard Associates) was an ambitious, early attempt to eliminate free workplace parking. "There will be no free parking on site during weekdays. At project build-out, true-cost daily parking charges will range between $3.40 and $4.20."

In the March 2012 City of Menlo Park Facebook Campus EIR (Appendix 3.5G - Revised TDM Plan), Facebook promises a 59% SOV commute mode split, based on previous results in Stanford Research Park.

Kudos to PA Council for: Sept 18, 2013, PA Daily Post article ("City Takes Aim at Cars") and Oct 4 2013 PA Daily News article ("Council Pursues Traffic Solutions"). "Council is talking about putting the onus on employers to reduce solo car trips by 30%. Mayor Scharff: ‘Traffic and Parking is the Number 1 Palo Alto issue.'"

Kudos to Stanford University for charging SOV-to-campus commuters $3.60 per day (based on $79 per month "A Lot" parking), resulting in 42% SOV mode share and 31% transit mode share.

<UPDATE> At Transform's February 2014 Let's Get Moving Summit in Palo Alto, VTA's new General Manager Nuria Fernandez (previously New York MTA COO) stated  "Silicon Valley is insane. We charge for parking in New York, so we should consider charging here."

<UPDATE> San Jose's Envision 2040 General Plan adopted an objective: "40% less VMT via regional congestion pricing policies. The City supports regional adoption of pricing solutions to encourage a high level of mode shift." Unilaterally, San Jose will strive for 20% VMT reduction.

2B. Support from Governor, Sierra Club, SVLG, VTA, SamTrans, Transform, and ACT.

The Governor's Office of Planning and Research, Sierra Club, SVLG, VTA, SamTrans, Transform, and the Association for Commuter Transportion will support a collaboration. Each has ALREADY provided a letter of support.

California Senator Lowenthal: "Eliminating subsidies for parking has enormous potential to reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas and other vehicle emissions by reducing vehicle miles traveled. If drivers must pay the true cost of parking, it will affect their choices on whether or not to drive. In the short term, changes to parking policy can reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions more than all other strategies combined, and they are usually the most cost-effective."

The 100-member MTC/ABAG SB375 Sustainable Communities Strategy Advisory Panel achieved a strong consensus that driving pricing / parking charges are needed to attain GHG targets.

2C. High tech job creation and the sharing economy

The growing smartphone mobility ecosystem includes: Google Maps Transit Directions, Relay Rides, SideCar, Ridepal, yet-to-be-launched self-driving vehicle services, NextBus, ZipCar, Avego, ZimRide, Carticipate, Piggyback, NuRide, Lyft, Uber, City Carshare, Car2Go, DriveNow, Buzzcar, iBART, iCaltrain, Pocket Muni, etc. This ecosystem suffers from too-few customers. Charges + incentives brings critical mass to this ecosystem.

3. Charges + incentives versus incentives-only

Parking charges + incentives policies were implemented twice in the late 1980's, at Twentieth Century Corporation in Los Angeles and at CH2M Hill in Bellevue Washington. SOV mode share decreased from 89% to 64% as a result of these policies. Both locations had poor transit options, resulting in carpooling gaining the most mode share from SOV.

UCLA Professor Donald Shoup (author: The High Cost of Free Parking)
• In 1994, the Clinton Administration adopted Shoup's proposal for applying parking cashout (incentives-only) to 100% of US employer-leased parking spaces. An implementation issue took 5 years to resolve, into the Bush Administration, where the policy did not advance.
• "Incentives-only (cashout) is perceived as a huge new cost to employers, so employers fight it vigorously."

Jeff Tumlin (Author: Sustainable Transportation Planning)
• "The cost problem with incentives-only (cashout) is that you have to grandfather in all the existing green commuters before you can entice new green commuting. Cashout is a very expensive TDM measure."

4. One detailed example (of many possible alternatives) of a charges + incentives program can be found here:

Good luck. We are all counting on you!