Parking Management Study

Image of cars in parking lot with pay station visible


This project has two components that are inter-related and will provide opportunities for public input as both components are developed. The Progressive Parking Strategies element will look at existing parking conditions throughout the downtown, including metered on-street parking, public surface lots and parking garages. In addition, best practices that have been implemented in other cities will be reviewed. Innovative strategies will be considered that will help the City of Santa Rosa improve accessibility to parking.

With the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) train service expected to begin service at the downtown Santa Rosa station at Railroad Square by the end of 2017, and with several proposed development projects in the area, a Railroad Square Parking Management Plan will be drafted to maximize use of the existing parking supply and provide a guide for managing the parking supply moving forward.

The over-arching goal of this project is to improve the likelihood of finding a parking place close to your destination, increasing the ease and convenience of the parking experience. Examples of strategies that have proven successful in other cities include increasing or decreasing parking rates to keep 1 - 2 spaces free per block, so you can always find a space where you're going; and extending time limits, so you can complete your business without rushing or worrying about a parking ticket.

Next Steps

On June 6, 2017, the City Council approved a number of innovative parking strategies designed to improve access to parking in the core downtown, utilizing best practices that have been used effectively in other communities.  Progressive Parking is a term coined by Donald Shoup, PhD, who applied economic theory to parking management.  His philosophy uses pricing to manage parking, with the goal to set the lowest hourly rate for parking that achieves 85% parking occupancy, or one empty space per block.  This makes it easier to find an open space while reducing circling and greenhouse gas emissions.

Key changes, which will become effective January 1, 2018, include:
  • Establishment of two metered parking rate areas.  The Premium Rate Area, includes the core of downtown where demand for on-street parking exceeds 85% at peak demand.  Hourly rates for parking will increase to $1.50/hour in the Premium Rate Area.  The Value Rate Area will remain at the existing rate of $1.00/hour.  Parking rates were last increased in 2008, except for Railroad Square where rates were increased in 2010.
  • Rate adjustments -  Metered parking rates may be adjusted (up or down) over time to achieve the desired goal of 85% occupancy.  Metered rates may be adjusted no more frequently than once every six months, by not more than $0.25/hour, and with rates limitations in place that parking rates can be no lower than $0.25/hour and no higher than $3.00/hour.
  • Time Limits- Time limits in the Premium Rate Area will increase from 1 or 2 hours to 3 hours.  Time limits in the Value Rate Area will be set between 4 and 8 hours.
  • Hours of enforcement - Currently parking meters are enforced from 8 am to 6 pm Monday – Saturday.  The new hours of enforcement will be 10 am – 8 pm in the Premium Rate Area, and 10 am – 6 pm in the Value Rate Area, Monday - Saturday.  The hours of operation reflect the times when parking is in highest demand, and therefore will benefit from improved accessibility to parking.
  • Garage hourly rate changes – The first hour of parking will be free at Garage 1 and Garage 12 to encourage greater use of these underutilized facilities.  Rates at Garages 1 and 12 will also be reduced from $0.75/hour to $0.50/hour, after the first hour free.  Rates at Garage 5 (625 3rd Street) will be increased to $1.00/hour, in response to the high demand to park at this facility.
The new fee structures provide choices for the parker.  If convenience is the highest priority, there will be a high degree of confidence in finding an on-street space in high demand areas like Fourth Street.  For the more cost conscious, there are low cost options available, including one hour free offered in two of the garages.  In addition, these progressive parking strategies will: 1. Maximize the use of the existing parking supply and reduce the need for constructing additional parking, which is very costly; 2. Reduce spillover parking into adjacent residential area; 3. Support the downtown economy and its growth; and 4. Reduce circling looking for an open space, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions.