Parking changes slated for 3 Berkeley business zones

A driver unable to find a spot in The Elmwood neighborhood parks instead in the crosswalk. Photo: Emilie Raguso

A driver unable to find a spot in The Elmwood parks instead in the crosswalk. Emilie Raguso took the photos that accompany this article.

Later this year, three Berkeley business districts will experiment with new approaches to parking aimed at reducing double parking and circling, and making it easier for visitors to find a metered spot.

The effort is part of a new campaign underway by the city — dubbed goBerkeley — and is funded by federal grants to help staff analyze data, collect input from the public and study the impact of changes to parking-as-usual; drivers can expect to see changes start in September and last for a year.

Courtesy: goBerkeley

Pilot areas in Berkeley for new parking approaches. Courtesy: goBerkeley

Wednesday night, about 30 residents and business owners came together at the Claremont branch library to learn about the program, which will affect metered parking in The Elmwood, downtown Berkeley and along part of the Telegraph Avenue corridor, from campus south past Ashby Avenue.

Two more meetings are planned, on May 29 and June 3, to continue public outreach and collect community feedback. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for details.) A City Council work session is scheduled for June 11.

To achieve the desired results — to free up metered parking in some of the city’s commercial zones — several approaches are under consideration. There’s the “progressive rate” approach, with each hour costing more than the prior time period. (Drivers pay more for the convenience of leaving a car in one spot longer.) Then there’s the “peak period” approach, where parking costs more during the hours of the day when demand is deemed highest. There’s also the possibility of “premium” and “value” areas, with higher hourly prices and shorter time limits in the premium (highest demand) spots.

As presented Wednesday, for example, in The Elmwood, the “progressive rate” could mean that meters would have a three-hour time limit, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the first hour costing $1.50, the next hour $2, and the third hour $2.50. The Elmwood parking lot, on Russell Street, would have a three-hour time limit and cost $1.50 per hour. (The concept here is that people who prioritize convenience would be willing to pay more of a premium for spots closer to shopping, while those looking for more value would be willing to park just a bit farther away, in the lot, and pay less.)

The “peak period” option could result in on-street meters — with a limit of two hours — costing $1.50 per hour from 9 a.m. to noon and 6-8 p.m. During peak hours, noon to 6 p.m., meters would cost $2 an hour. The parking lot would have a three-hour limit, and cost $1.50 per hour. The theory is that higher rates would only be in effect when parking is most scarce, and that these rates would discourage drivers from staying longer than necessary, and thus lead to increased availability.

One-hour metered parking is the norm on College. Photo: Emilie Raguso

One-hour parking on College.

“Parking’s always been a problem in this neighborhood,” said Claudia Hunka, co-owner of Your Basic Bird on College Avenue. “I want to see changes that will make this neighborhood one that’s friendly for customers that want to come here.”

Common neighborhood parking issues raised at the meeting included meters that don’t last long enough for all the activities visitors want to do; a lack of awareness about the Russell Street parking lot; and spots that fill up quickly to capacity at 6 p.m., due to employee vehicles or those of nearby residents, then don’t open up again until after businesses close.

Public feedback will help determine which approach is chosen for each pilot area, as well as the boundaries of each area, and could lead to various adjustments aimed at improving the details of how the programs are designed. (See a program overview here.)

The pilot program timeline. (Click the timeline to see the program overview presented Wednesday night.) Courtesy: goBerkeley

The pilot program timeline. (Click the timeline to see the program overview presented Wednesday night.) Courtesy: goBerkeley

The program isn’t just about parking either. It’s tied into the city’s Climate Action Plan goals, in that part of the idea is to reduce drivers circling to find a convenient spot, and also reduce the unnecessary moving of cars to thwart parking time limits; changing these patterns would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, advocates say. (One 2007 study cited Wednesday night found that 30% of traffic in commercial districts is due to drivers circling to find parking.)

There are also car-sharing and public transit promotions — such as free one-year transit passes for 1,000 people who work in the study areas — that are part of the goBerkeley program. The campaign also plans to make more information available about bike and bus routes, and secure bike parking options, to help encourage alternative modes of transportation.

Matthew Nichols, the city’s principal transportation planner, who is heading up the pilot program, said the campaign is based on similar efforts in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. The idea is “demand-responsive pricing”: that the price of parking should reflect demand, and therefore cost more in places with high demand, and less in other locations.

Attendees Wednesday learned about parking management strategies. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Attendees Wednesday learned about parking management.

“It is a new concept but it’s showing real successes and is kind of a new way to manage parking,” he said Wednesday night. These programs have been shaped by the work of Donald Shoup, who wrote the book The High Cost of Free Parking to argue for a market-based approach to parking that is sensitive to supply and demand. “When you have a very high demand, ‘free’ isn’t working. You need to manage that demand,” Nichols said.

Nichols said the city’s goal is to find “that magic price and time limit” by testing out approaches using data-driven strategies, and adjusting the programs to refine them over time.

“I think the key difference compared to the status quo is that we’re trying to base this program on information rather than putting up a single price and leaving it alone,” he said. “Cities know surprisingly little about how much people park on what street and when.”

A public meeting to discuss parking changes planned on Telegraph south of campus will take place Wednesday, May 29, from 4-6 p.m. at the Trinity United Methodist Church, 2362 Bancroft Way. A meeting about changes planned in downtown Berkeley is scheduled for Monday, June 3, from 5-7 p.m. at Central Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Three more workshops will be scheduled in July to refine the details. Learn more here about goBerkeley.

Follow Berkeleyside on Twitter, and on Facebook. Email us at Would you like to have latest Berkeley news in your email inbox once a day? Click here to subscribe to Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing.

Print Friendly
Tagged , , , , , , , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • The_Sharkey

    If you need to do that and can’t, you should get a different car.
    We own two automobiles in my household, a Prius for around-the-town trips and distance drives, and a truck for carrying loads.

    But I’ve also transported 100-odd pounds of 8-10′ lumber in a tiny sedan before so maybe you just need to be more creative about loading your car.

  • The_Sharkey

    I think the city needs to add better signage about the garages. There’s usually parking in them, but visitors just don’t know they’re there.

  • The_Sharkey

    Short version: we’ve allowed hardly any new construction in Manhattan (and San Francisco, and etc) since the mid-sixties…

    Have you been to San Francisco in the last few years? Did you miss the explosion of new high-rises and condo buildings in the China Basin and South Beach areas?

  • The_Sharkey

    Why should someone on Street A suffer having traffic diverted down their road so that someone on Street B can have a calmer street? Should the person on Street A be compensated for the increased traffic that is diverted down their street? Should the person on Street B somehow pay for the added convenience on their street?

  • See the chart about a quarter of the way down the page: (By the way, I think they’ve switched the labels on the gray and purple lines. The peaks in permitting should precede the peaks in construction instead of lagging.) There was more construction in the decade of the 2000s than in the previous decades, but not by very much — 25% or 30% more.

    Since 1970, the average number of new units looks like 2000 or so (being fairly generous), with substantial variations. Most new apartment construction will house about 2 people per unit, so this corresponds to space for ~4000 or so more people, allowing for a ~0.5% population growth. Furthermore this assumes that previously constructed units last forever, and that none were removed to build the new units.

    This does not constitute an explosion of growth! This is just what it looks like when you shunt growth to one area by blocking new construction in most of the city.

    Really, we can short-circuit this argument a bit. The simplest evidence for my claim — that very high housing costs are mostly due to restrictions on development — is that the population of San Francisco has increased about 12% overall over the last 40 years, 0.27% annualized, while inflation-adjusted property values and rents have increased much faster than that. Can’t find any great data with a quick Google, but this page suggests that home values have risen ~50% inflation-adjusted just since 1987, about 1.6% annualized:

    Another way to look at it: in order for supply to keep up with demand over the period since 1987 — that is, for housing costs to stay constant, inflation-adjusted — we would need to house a population increasing at a rate of 1.6% annually. 1.6% of the current population of SF is 13,000 people, so we’d need about 6500 new units a year. Again, this assumes that old housing never goes away, so in actuality we’d have to adjust this number up a bit — say, 8000 units. You can check the SPUR chart above to see that even in peak years, we’re not anywhere close to this figure.

  • Charles_Siegel

    If the person on street A should be compensated and the person on street B should pay, then I should certainly be compensated for not owning a car.

    I make life more convenient for car owners, by reducing their congestion and parking problems. I make life safer for residents of all Berkeley streets (those with diverters and without), by not driving on their streets. I emit 5 tons of CO2 less than the average driver.

    Unfortunately, life is not fair, so I am not going to hold my breath while I wait for people to pay the full cost of their driving, and for the money to be used to compensate others for the problems caused by their driving.

    I know this is going to get Sharkey mad (and he may respond with a personal insult), but the obvious answer to your question is:

    “Why should a subsistence farmer in Africa suffer from desertification and drought because of your CO2 emissions? Should those who emit CO2 pay him for the immense hardship they cause him?”

    Let’s focus on the big issues of global fairness, rather than petty issues of fairness within Berkeley.

    We can actually do something about the global issue, by pushing for a global agreement to control ghg emissions in 2015, so talking about it could be productive. We are not going to do anything about removing diverters or about making people pay for the convenience, so talking about it is just a matter of griping.

  • The_Sharkey

    You know it’ll make me mad because it’s stupid logic, Charles.
    Ignore small local injustices that we have the power to do something about because there are bigger injustices somewhere else? Because, what, we can only worry about one injustice at a time?

  • The_Sharkey

    PS: You are compensated for not driving a car, to some extent. Unless you’re still buying car insurance and registering a car even though you don’t own one?

  • Charles_Siegel

    I am not saying we should ignore local injustices because there are bigger injustices elsewhere. I am saying we should not adopt solutions to local injustices that prevent us from dealing with bigger injustices elsewhere.

    In my earlier comment, I say that diverters help us deal with global warming in two ways:
    –Making bicycling safer.
    –Making it safer for people to live in walkable neighborhoods

    Environmentalists generally agree that it is necessary to promote alternative transportation and walkable neighborhoods to deal with global warming. When people talk about eliminating diverters, they are talking about removing a small local injustice in a way that worsens a much greater injustice.

    I am assuming that your talk about charging and compensating people was just meant to illustrate the injustice involved and to imply that the diverters should be removed, since it will obviously never be instituted in practice.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I am doing well enough that I don’t have to worry about being compensated. How about the subsistence farmers worldwide who are suffering from drought? They are the ones who need the compensation, and who should be paid by those who are causing the problem.

    As I said, we should not let local injustices make us forget about this much larger global injustice.

    Again, this system of payments is obviously not going to happen, but we can do something to deal with this injustice by backing strong measures to control global warming. They say there is a chance the world will adopt a strong treaty in 2015.

  • The_Sharkey

    Making driving shittier doesn’t promote bicycling.
    it just makes driving shittier.

    If we want to promote bicycling we need more and better bicycle-only routes.

  • The_Sharkey

    So we should ignore small-scale local injustices because oh, the poor starving kids in Africa?

    So, just doubling down on the red herring, then?

    Charles says:

    I am doing well enough that I don’t have to worry about being compensated.

    Charles says:

    I should certainly be compensated for not owning a car.

    I make life more convenient for car owners, by reducing their
    congestion and parking problems. I make life safer for residents of all
    Berkeley streets (those with diverters and without), by not driving on
    their streets. I emit 5 tons of CO2 less than the average driver.

  • Charles_Siegel

    You seriously believe that having all those safe streets to bicycle on doesn’t promote bicycling? That is very strange.

    You don’t even mention having safe, walkable neighborhoods to live in.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Once again, I did not say we should ignore local injustices because of starving people in Africa. I said we should not remedy local injustices in ways that create a much worse global injustice by hurting those people in Africa.

    The supposed contradiction in the quotes misses the points that the first was conditional:
    “If the person on street A should be compensated and the person on street
    B should pay, then I should certainly be compensated for not owning a

    If the moon is made of green cheese, then I should be compensated.

  • The_Sharkey

    Both of your “arguments” are just exercises in truthiness.

    There was no dramatic decrease in pedestrian deaths when Berkeley added most of these traffic diverters, it just concentrated the locations of the deaths. There has been no great increase in bicycling as a result of the traffic diverters.

    If you really want to significantly increase cycling there need to be more bicycle-only routes running between major local destinations, or from concentrated housing areas to major retail/leisure areas.

  • The_Sharkey

    Tripling down on the black&white and red herrings, now.

    Compensating people who live on sacrifice streets, or charging those whose streets are made calmer by sacrificing other streets, does not hurt people in Africa.

    Removing traffic diverters does not increase the number of car trips, it simply changes the routes of those trips.