SurveyMonkey, the incoming tenants at a new office building being built at 101 Lytton in Palo Alto, across from the downtown Caltrain station, have less than a third of their employees driving to work, according to Becky Cantieri, VP Human Resources.
The developer of online survey tools allows its employees to choose from a Caltrain GoPass, cash on a Clipper card usable on multiple transit services, a bike voucher good for bicycle commuting gear and maintenance expenses, or a parking pass. Cantieri says that the location near Caltrain and the transportation benefits help attract employees in a competitive recruiting market. The location across the street from Caltrain was a major requirement in choosing a new headquarters location for the company (which also has employees in Portland and Seattle).
Last Spring, Palo Alto City Council approved a controversial 52,000 square foot office building at 101 Lytton, with 173 parking spaces, plus in-lieu fees for the city to construct 22 additional parking spaces. Residents of nearby neighborhoods expressed serious concerns about the amount of parking, since there has been an increasing influx of downtown workers parking on nearby neighborhood streets. The development got a 20% credit on required parking because of the location near Caltrain.
Fortunately for the neighbors, the building found a tenant that seems unlikely to cause parking overflow problems any time soon, since only 60 workers – less than a third – have parking passes. Update: But, will the plentiful free parking hamper SurveyMonkey’s performance in the future? After SurveyMonkey moves into its new building, employees will still need to identify their primary mode in order to get the transit or bike benefits. But they will also have free parking without a pass. Time will tell whether plentiful free parking will change SurveyMonkey’s exemplary performance to date.
Given Palo Alto’s current policies, though, the success of SurveyMonkey is largely a matter of luck. Palo Alto does require developments to provide Transportation Demand Management programs to reduce vehicle trips. But there have not been requirements to report on the performance, to see if tenants are actually reducing trips, or any consequences if the goals aren’t met.
Palo Alto is considering policies to make its transportation demand management policies more rigorous and more transparent. This could reduce opposition to development based on parking concerns, and spare developers from having to build more parking than they need.