Berkeley council weighs in on parking pilot program

Parking changes to begin in September are slated for three of Berkeley's business districts. Image: goBerkeley

Parking changes to begin in September are slated for three of Berkeley’s business districts. Image: goBerkeley

The Berkeley City Council held a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss proposed changes to parking pricing in three of the city’s business districts.

The temporary changes are part of a new pilot program, called goBerkeley, designed to link metered parking pricing to supply and demand, and free up spaces for customers downtown, on Telegraph Avenue and in the Elmwood District.

The council has yet to vote on proposed changes, which would use a range of approaches to free up one to two spaces per block in the affected areas. Strategies include a “progressive” rate, to make parking more expensive the longer a driver parks; a “peak period” approach, which would result in more expensive rates when demand is highest; and “premium vs. value” areas, which would offer higher rates in more convenient spots and lower rates in areas, such as parking garages, that are further away.

According to a report presented to the council Tuesday, changes in the Elmwood would have the goal of balancing longer time limits with the need for more turnover. Staff recommended either a progressive rate or peak period approach. In the progressive rate scenario, parking could cost $1.50 for the first hour, $2 for the second, and $3 for the third. The “peak hour” approach would cost drivers $2 from noon to 6 p.m., and $1.5o at other times. Staff has recommended extending parking meter hours until 8 p.m.

In the area south of campus, around Telegraph Avenue, council will consider a premium vs. value approach or a peak period approach. In the first scenario, parking on or closer to Telegraph would cost $2 an hour; further away, meters or garages would cost $1-$1.25. A peak rate approach would cost $2 from noon to 6 p.m., and $1.50 at other times. The goal would be to shift some drivers from areas where meters tend to be full to areas with more availability, such as parking garages.

Downtown, the goal would be the same, to encourage drivers to move from areas with full meters to more available areas, such as garages and lots. Staff has recommended either a premium vs. value approach, or a progressive rate approach. In the first case, some “premium” areas — those that are more convenient — would have a two-hour limit and cost $2.25 an hour. Value areas — those slightly further away — could have a four-hour limit and cost $1.25 an hour. In the progressive rate approach, parking could cost $1.25 for the first hour, $2 for the second, and $2.50 for the third.

The council may consider a combination of the approaches outlined above to come up with the best formula to ensure that one to two spaces per block would generally be available in the pilot areas.

City staff said many of the people surveyed about the program thus far have advocated to extend parking time limits in the pilot areas. Staff noted that many people surveyed also said they didn’t think the rate changes are drastic enough to change behavior; but staff said they’d rather take an incremental approach to changes than go too far.

Public workshops in July

A series of public workshops will take place in July to lay out the recommended options to members of the public and collect more feedback. Stay tuned to the goBerkeley website for details. City staff have held three workshops already in the affected areas. Changes would take effect in September, and last for at least one year.

Numerous members of the public who spoke said they support the pilot program, and that changes to the city’s approach to parking are long overdue. They said they are happy to see the city taking a data-oriented approach that would make parking prices more sensitive to supply and demand.

Council members spoke about the need for clear signage, as well as the importance of extensive public outreach going forward.

Councilman Gordon Wozniak called the pilot program “ambitious,” and said the city needs to make sure members of the public understand that the different pricing levels are due to the varying demand in different areas. He said it would be important to build strong alliances with merchants in the pilot areas to help them understand how the program could help business.

Parking policies described as “insane and irrational”

Councilman Kriss Worthington called the city’s existing parking policies “insane and irrational.”

“They are a conflicting mixture of multiple well-intended directions that are sort of contradicting each other and contradicting common sense,” he said. “It’s exciting that we’re trying to get a rational policy that’s thought out.”

He said low-income and middle-class drivers tend to get hit with a disproportionate number of parking tickets, and that he hopes to get a better sense in the coming months of the economics of the pilot program and how it will affect the city budget.

Councilwoman Linda Maio called the potential changes “pretty complicated,” and said she thinks it may be difficult for some people to understand the program. City staff said they have extensive systems in place to inform people about the program via a range of outreach types, which will include street teams, new signage, a dedicated website and the like.

Councilwoman Susan Wengraf said she hopes to get a better sense of the relationship between parking pricing and its effect on retail revenue and the city’s economic vitality.

“We are struggling with this issue,” she said. “We’re trying to encourage success in all of our commercial areas. I think this whole thing’s very sensitive.”

Parking changes slated for 3 Berkeley business zones [05.23.13]

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  • Charles_Siegel

    Automobiles are the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in California. Recognizing this fact, the state legislature passed SB375, which mandates regional planning to reduce emissions by encouraging walkable, transit-friendly development.

    Creating successful shopping districts that are accessible by pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit as well as by cars is an important part of urban planning to reduce emissions. The alternative to this sort of shopping district is shopping malls that are accessible only by car.

    If these policies make Berkeley’s shopping districts more successful, they will be a model showing other cities how to shift from auto-dependent malls to shopping districts that work for all forms of transportation – which are much less polluting.

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    Because why?

  • guest

    The relation between such details of parking policy in Berkeley and total emissions is impossible for even you to predict no matter how many times you handwave about what “environmentalists” “generally agree” about, as you sometimes put it. What we know more certainly is that the large sources of greenhouse emissions that we desperately need to curb lie elsewhere in the economy and tinkering with parking policy in Berkeley contributes approximately nothing to solving the crisis unless you want to count the false contribution of greenwashing.

  • Charles_Siegel

    The state government passed SB375 because it believes that urban planning can make a significant contribution to reducing GHG emissions.

    The regional planning required by this law is meant to shift development to walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods – but people can live in these neighborhoods and still drive to the mall to shop. Cities have to adopt better parking policies to help these neighborhoods become successful, and Berkeley can provide a model for these policies.

    Remember that your initial question was “What is it that you hope Berkeley will model for the world?” Though Berkeley’s parking is not a major source of GHG emissions in itself, these policies could provide a model for other American cities that would make it easier to transform cities in the way SB375 envisions – and this would be a very significant contribution to controlling global warming.

    I agree that it is more important to deal with other sources of GHG emissions: the number-one issue nationally is shifting to clean energy. But if we want to control global warming, we need to work on all the major sources of emissions. Automobiles are certainly a major source, given that they account for 40% of all emissions in California. And the state has passed a law showing that it believes urban planning can help significantly to reduce these emissions.

  • Mfox327

    To encourage the use of public transit, so as to prevent the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. That’s the main reason. There are plenty more. I suggest taking courses on environmental studies and urban planning for more information. They offer them at Cal. You can get there easily using a number of public transit options.

  • fran haselsteiner

    Not driving around and around looking for parking will help.

    Yes, I agree that overpopulation is a huge issue, and it’s rarely discussed anymore. I hope immigration reform will come about and be effective.

  • Charles_Siegel

    We have a chicken-and-egg problem here:

    — We don’t have a good transit system, as we did in the 1930s, primarily because transportation planning since then promoted automobile dependency – partly by requiring lots of free or cheap parking at most destinations.

    — We have trouble reducing automobile dependency, because we don’t have a good transit system.

    It is very possible that planning under SB375 will break this vicious cycle over the next couple of decades. That is a long time, but we can start now to move in the right direction.

    For now, I find that bicycling is the most convenient and healthiest alternative for most trips. Though not everyone can bicycle, many people who drive everywhere could benefit bicycling for some trips – improving their health and saving their money. Transit is currently more expensive than driving, but bicycling is much, much cheaper.

  • Len_Conly

    The city council made it clear that this was an opportunity to improve signage, and that they expected it.

  • Len_Conly

    According to an MTC study which was cited by Berkeley staff on Tuesday night, 60% of driving in the downtown areas results from “cruising for parking.” The proposed policy sets meter pricing so that 1-2 spaces will be free at any time. This will reduce “cruising for parking.” If too many spaces are empty, meter prices will go down; this solves the problem of driving people away because prices are too high. Furthermore, the plan calls for garage parking to be cheaper than curb parking, which will free up parking on the street and discourage store employees from “feeding the meter” to get cheaper parking near their job.

    Also a survey of downtown shoppers found that only 17% drive and 9% carpool; many business owners are not aware of this, and, as Charles Siegel mentions, they believe the number of drivers is much higher.

  • Len_Conly

    I should have written “…so that 1-2 spaces will be free at any time in every block face.

  • Len_Conly

    The program is not designed to “…force people to stop driving.” It is designed to eliminate the need to “cruise for parking.” This will result in less congestion downtown, less pollution, and increased safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and people in wheelchairs.

  • Susan Priano

    Get rid of all the meters! If they were truly there to pay for parking a more equitable civilized system would be in place. But meters are there to allow the City to profit at the expense of human shortcomings, now how is that Civil. Go to $%&! I say with this new plan. I for one will continue to honor businesses with available free parking and since downtown remains inaccessible to me by walking, biking, and the non existent public transit I will simply have to get my services outside of Berkeley rather than be on a stopwatch while I shop.

  • Fran Haselsteiner

    Sounds like you got one too many parking tickets.

  • Charles_Siegel

    As I said in an earlier comment, the people who criticize this plan because they insist on free parking are people who will not come to shop in downtown Berkeley no matter what we do.

    If we got rid of the meters, all the spaces would be filled with employees first thing in the morning, and they would complain just as bitterly that they can’t find parking.

  • fran haselsteiner

    I’m just so tired of the entitlement. Like downtown parking is the most important issue in the universe.

  • fran haselsteiner

    Actually, Berkeley voters did support BRT, but then Telegraph Avenue merchants threw huge fits about losing parking on Telegraph (as if anyone actually is able to find spaces on Telegraph) that the council withdrew its support for BRT. Correct my memory if I am wrong. Not we’re talking parkets, which will take away parking.

  • You’re right only in the strictest sense that Berkeley is a smallish place in a big country, and so a change here doesn’t change the world. But charging appropriately for parking means fewer people driving. Fewer people driving means fewer carbon emissions (not to mention a nicer city for everyone). This is not tough stuff.

  • “If you want to increase income for the city, make parking easier and cheaper,and business will increase and pay more taxes.”

    This is the Wal-Mart economic model, and it has never, ever been true for any city ever.

    I agree with you about high-frequency inexpensive transit service, by the way.

  • Don’t buy a car, and you can afford a lot of upscale underwear.

  • One voice amongst many

    Charles, downtown does not attract people to come and shop. We live in Berkeley and do go downtown for restaurants but that is about it. I used to go to Shattuck weekly to shop but I got fed up with aggressive panhandling, hard to find parking (barely found the lot behind the cleaners on University) and a host of other things covered by other posters. I don’t go to Albany and Emeryville because I love to buy cheap stuff at malls. I shop at places that give me easy access, a relatively pleasant shopping experience and one where I don’t feel harassed by passers by.

    Just my feedback from someone who used to patronize a number of shops and now only hits the dining scene, Please don’t discount shoppers by belittling them as “the Walmart” crowd. What has been created (or allowed to fester) downtown drives shoppers away.

  • The_Sharkey

    What if the car being parked is an electric car? Checkmate! ;-)

  • The_Sad_Sharkey

    The fact that we’ve been having this discussion for 15 years is depressing as all hell.

  • Mfox327

    Well…unless that electric car was charged entirely by electricity generated by a renewable energy source (or I suppose even nuclear), that energy had to have been generated using fossil fuels, and GHGs were emitted somewhere. According to PG&E’s website ( ), just over 20% of their electricity is generated by fossil fuels, and another 23% from “unspecific sources” (whatever that means).

  • Charles_Siegel

    You seem to have missed a couple of points.

    You write:”hard to find parking,” but you didn’t notice that this plan would make parking easier to find.

    You write” “Please don’t discount shoppers” but you didn’t notice that, in the comment you were replying to, I said “I would really like to see a department store in downtown, like the old JC Penney, so people could buy underwear.” If you could figure out some way to convince the department stores to open in downtowns rather than near freeway exits, I would be very happy about it.

  • Susan Priano

    One parking ticket is too many. But mostly I don’t tick on the same clock and prefer not to be nickeled and dimed while I try to live peaceably in the world.