[Published: Sept. 3, 2019]

As commuters, residents, and others head into the new fiscal year as of Sept. 1, some are wondering about parking permit rates and how rates are set. Parking pricing is key to an effective and efficient parking system and to Stanford’s commitment to reducing drive-alone and peak-hour commute trips. 

Stanford’s approach to parking management and pricing

Stanford’s parking permit system reflects a number of factors, with a goal of serving the interests of the Stanford community as well as the priorities of the university and hospitals.

  • As the campus population grows and services become increasingly more expensive to provide, the costs associated with these and other Transportation Demand Management programs also grow.
  • Parking fees are key to effectively managing parking demand. In other words, our parking rates and permit system help ensure sufficient parking availability where and when commuters, residents, and visitors want and need it.
  • Research shows that parking fees are critical to reducing the drive-alone rate, which continues to be a top priority under the university’s General Use Permit and the hospitals’ entitlement commitments.
  • Revenues from parking permits help fund parking maintenance and sustainable transportation programs, such as the free Marguerite shuttle service and Stanford Commute Club Clean Air Cash program.

In reading these points, some may question how funding sustainable transportation at Stanford benefits permit holders. The answer is found in increased parking availability on campus. Imagine how far away you would have to park if Stanford’s 10,000 Commute Club members decided to drive to Stanford on the same day!

Maintaining a more affordable option for 2019-20 permits

How does Stanford balance affordability concerns with other factors that affect parking rates? For years, we have structured Stanford’s parking permit system to provide the ‘C’ permit as a more affordable option for commuters who are able and willing to park in areas that may be less convenient or more distant from their destinations.

For those who want or need to park closer to their destinations and expect convenient parking throughout the day, the ‘A’ permit provides this option at a premium.

Consistent with this approach and recognizing the challenges around affordability in the Bay Area for the 2019-20 fiscal year (FY 20), we worked with university leadership to minimize the increase for the ‘C’ permit—maintaining a lower-cost option for those who want or need it—while the ‘A’ permit increased at a higher amount to reflect increases in transportation-related expenses.

For FY 20,  the annual ‘A’ permit is $1,392, versus last year’s rate of $1,164. The annual ‘C’ permit is $420 per year, versus last year’s rate of $408. On a monthly basis, these changes represent an increase of $1 per month for ‘C’ permits and $19 per month for ‘A’ permit holders.

In the Bay Area, Stanford’s rates are in keeping with or lower than other universities’ rates. Since not all 2019-20 permit rates are available for comparison, we are comparing 2018 rates for consistency. Stanford’s ‘A’ permit rate in 2018 was $1,164, while the cost of UC Berkeley’s ‘C-Central’ annual permit is $1,860 and UCSF-Mission Bay’s ‘AMB’ or ‘MBR’ permits are each $3,000 a year. Our ‘annual C’ permit rate at $408 for 2018-19 is in keeping with San Jose State University’s annual permit at $384 and Santa Clara University’s parking rate of $400 a year.

Why the increase for Stanford permits?

Since parking revenues fund our transportation programs and operational costs, rates must keep pace with increased costs to enable us to deliver effective, reliable, and safe transportation programs for the Stanford community.  

Some of the same affordability issues that are a concern about permit rate increases factor into increased costs for our programs. For example, labor and operational costs for the free Marguerite shuttle service have increased in recent years, reflecting the higher cost of living in the Bay Area and highly competitive market for bus services and operators as we compete with tech companies for these resources.

Parking revenues also help to fund maintenance for parking garages. This cost has increased as the university has built multi-level parking garages to meet the needs of commuters, residents, and visitors. Parking garages are a more efficient use of land and increases capacity to better serve our permit holders and visitors, but they do come with higher maintenance costs.

Stanford incentives and savings options

We realize that understanding the “why” of parking rates and costs isn’t enough. We want to help you find ways to save.

Stanford offers one of the nation’s leading university Transportation Demand Management programs. Our commuters benefit from generous incentives and subsidies for choosing a sustainable commute, such as biking, carpooling, vanpooling, taking transit, and walking.

We would be glad to help you identify ways to save on your permit and commuting costs. We can help you join thousands of your peers and colleagues who are taking advantage of Stanford’s generous commute incentives—even if you can only do it on a part-time basis.

If you are currently an ‘A’ permit holder, here are some options to consider.

  • If your supervisor and work responsibilities allow it, consider telework options, including alternative worksites, which may enable you to purchase a combination of daily ‘A’ permits, at $16.25 each, with daily ‘C’ permits, at $5.45 each, instead of purchasing a long-term ‘A’ permit.
  • Could you consider a long-term ‘C’ permit as a more affordable option, while continuing to use monthly ‘A’ permits when you need them? For example, switch to a ‘C’ permit for a few months to reduce your cost without giving up your ‘A’ permit for the full year. If you plan to switch between permits, please contact us at transportation@stanford.edu, so we can help you avoid overlapping charges.
  • Another option might be to purchase a long-term ‘C’ permit ($420 a year), and buy daily ‘A’ permits ($16.25 each) only on the day(s) you need to park closer.

With our virtual parking permit system, you have real-time flexibility to switch permits by month or purchase a different daily permit when needed, since you no longer need to exchange or purchase a physical permit. Virtual permits are available the moment you place the order for the start date you select.

If you have questions about parking, please contact us at transportation@stanford.edu. If you would like help exploring your sustainable commute options, please contact us at commuteclub@stanford.edu or check out our free commute planning service.

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