Free transit parking for tech bus workers?

The Santa Cruz Transit District (“Santa Cruz Metro”) Board of Directors will discuss the issue of “tech” employee buses using Santa Cruz County transit facilities at their monthly meeting on Friday.

Corporate commuter coach

The new-ish CEO for Santa Cruz Metro visited his agency’s transit center in suburban Scotts Valley, California last October to get the lay of the land and was surprised to discover the lack of parking in the transit center’s parking lot and a conga line of tech workers waiting to board the large commuter buses provided for employees of Apple, Google, Netflix and Yahoo. Santa Cruz Metro counted these tech bus workers and discovered they use more than 35% of the Scotts Valley transit center parking lot, which can store 220 cars.

Scotts Valley Transit Center parking lot

With Facebook’s recent introduction of employee bus service from Santa Cruz County, Clifford is concerned that these private shuttle users will push away Santa Cruz Metro customers. The CEO would like the Board to consider a motion to begin a discussion with the city of Scotts Valley, Caltrans, and the various tech companies regarding use of Santa Cruz Metro’s facilities. CEO Clifford would also like to identify sources of funding to expand parking at the Scotts Valley transit center.

I ride a bike or walk to the bus stop, so I have no use for the parking lot, but there are interesting public policy issues to consider.

  • All parking in Scotts Valley is free. Is this a reasonable policy? Will pay parking solve some of the issues with private transit and other issues listed below?
  • Santa Cruz Metro paid most of the cost to acquire and build the Scotts Valley Transit Center and its parking lot, and is responsible for its maintenance and security. The parking lot is frequently used as overflow parking in the evenings and weekends for the adjacent shopping center, weekend farmers’ market, and nearby park. Should these public funds dedicated to a transit district be used to benefit all members of the public, including those ride private employee buses instead of the public transit system buses?
  • Because housing far outstrips jobs in Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz is largely a bedroom community for employment centers in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and San Francisco Counties. The CEO signaled his desire to expand parking at this Scotts Valley transit center. People drive from all over Santa Cruz County to park in Scotts Valley and catch a commuter express bus “over the hill” to destinations in Santa Clara County. Should a transit district encourage “park and ride” style transit with expanded parking? Should Scotts Valley residents support efforts to increase traffic in their bedroom community?
  • Until fairly recently, the standard 72-hour parking limit applied at the Scotts Valley Transit Center. People could park in Scotts Valley and ride a bus or bike for a weekend trip. After completion of a transit-oriented residential development immediately adjacent to the transit center, condo residents began using the transit center parking to store their vehicles. The transit district quickly prohibited all overnight parking. Can overnight and weekend parking be reinstated, perhaps with a mechanism to discourage condo resident parking?

The Santa Cruz Metro Board will consider this topic on Friday, January 22, 2016 at 8:30 AM. The meeting takes place in the City of Santa Cruz council chambers at 809 Center Street, Santa Cruz, CA. Read the full board agenda here [534 page PDF].

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