Downtown Palo Alto Transportation Management Association


The Palo Alto Transportation Management Association (PATMA) is a non-profit organization composed of local businesses and institutions working collaboratively with the City of Palo Alto. Established in 2015, the PATMA is responsible for reducing single-occupant vehicle trips, reducing congestion and demand for parking, and improving the quality of life in Palo Alto by mitigating transportation-related emissions. It operates independently from the City and is currently focused on transportation demand management (TDM) measures in the Palo Alto downtown area. The PATMA receives funding through various sources, including the City of Palo Alto, board member dues, and the private sector.


The PATMA currently offers three programs for downtown employees:

  1. $2 Carpools. Employees can pay $2 per carpool trip using the Scoop or Waze mobile app for trips to and from downtown Palo Alto.
  2. Free Transit Passes. Employees that earn less than $70,000 per year and commit to taking transit at least three days per week qualify for a free transit passes. They can chose either a Caltrain, SamTrans, VTA or Transbay monthly pass.
  3. Lyft for short trips. The Palo Alto TMA will pay up to $10 per ride for up to 15 rides per month for employees using Lyft to and from downtown Palo Alto. The incentive is offered during all times of the day, including off-peak commute hours (before 6AM and after 8PM). Employees must earn less than $50,000 per year to qualify and the trip must occur within the “Greater Palo Alto Area Zone” as defined by the PATMA.

Employees can use more than one of the incentives if they meet all of the qualifications. For example, if an employee has a free VTA bus pass but needs to leave work early they can use a subsidized Lyft ride for the trip home. The PATMA also provides general resources on parking and transportation options, such as bus schedules and parking garage locations, to residents and employees in Palo Alto.


As of September 2018, there are 149 employees participating in the transit subsidy program, 297 active users of the carpool apps (Waze and Scoop), and 15 active users of Lyft. In 2017, the PATMA conducted a mode-share survey of employees at businesses located with the TMA area. A random sample of worksites was surveyed within each worksite size category of small, medium and large businesses. The survey results show that service industry (restaurants, retail, salons, etc.) had the largest reduction in SOV rates from 2016 to 2017, decreasing from 80 percent to 70 percent.

In general, light office (law firm, insurance, dentist, realtor, etc.) and service employers are the least likely to offer transit benefits independent from the TMA. Therefore, the PATMA believes that if it continues to target employees in these industries, SOV trips will consistently decrease.

The success of this effort and its potential to expand to other areas of the city will depend on securing ongoing funding and on the committed participation of employers who face parking and traffic challenges in downtown.

Lessons Learned

The transit pass subsidy program is uniquely labor-intensive and requires significant staff time. PATMA staff regularly work with employees to resolve issues such as when a transit pass doesn’t load, clipper card is misplaced, card is mischarged, etc.

To form a TMA, there needs to be support from stakeholders, committed seed funding, and a board of directors. Given these starting conditions, the TMA can potentially implement programs within three months. It is important for TMAs to share resources and collaborate with other neighboring TMAs, especially during the start-up phase.