[Published: June 20, 2022; Updated: August 8, 2023]

Why does Stanford charge for parking?


The university charges for parking for two main reasons. First, there are a limited number of parking spaces on the Stanford campus to service our large population of university affiliates. Second, charging for parking provides a disincentive for those in the Stanford community to drive to campus. This is vital because, as stated in our Annual Cordon Count article, as part of the university’s No Net New Commute Trips, the university is obligated to not exceed the number of vehicles that entered and exited the university during peak hours in 2001.

Where does the revenue go?

Revenue generated from parking helps Stanford Transportation manage, operate, and enforce our parking lots and structures. It also helps fund the Marguerite Shuttle and our many sustainable transportation programs which save commuters money, help ease Bay Area traffic, and lessen our Stanford community’s carbon footprint.

Why does Stanford need to increase the price of parking permits?

Parking revenues fund transportation programs and operational costs; therefore, rates must reflect the university’s cost increases in offering effective, reliable, and safe transportation programs.   

Some of the same national affordability issues factor into increased costs for these 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 the highly competitive market for bus services and operators as the university competes 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 and residents. Parking garages are a more efficient use of land and increase capacity to serve permit holders better, but they do come with higher maintenance costs. 

How are parking permits priced?

The long-established parking permit prices are designed with specific goals in mind. The ‘A’ permit is designed as a tool for university affiliates who need mobility throughout the day. The ‘A’ permit provides additional flexibility on arrival time and proximity to their work location. The ‘C’ permit is designed as a less expensive alternative to the ‘A’ for university affiliates who come in and/or leave early and who don’t have to use or move their cars during the day.

Why do I see empty ‘A’ spaces? Shouldn’t those be converted to ‘C’ spaces?

To justify the cost, the University ensures ‘A’ parking is always readily available, which might explain why you may see empty ‘A’ spaces when driving through a campus parking facility. It’s imperative to ensure affiliates who purchase an ‘A’ can always find a space. Stanford Transportation continually monitors parking space inventory and adjusts available permit type inventory based on the parking demand.

Does anyone park for free at Stanford?

No. Everyone pays to park on campus – including students, staff, faculty, hospital employees, and visitors.

What Makes Sense for Me – a Daily or Monthly Permit?

To help you decide whether it makes sense to purchase a daily vs. monthly permit, we’ve created a Permit Picker.