City sets goBerkeley transportation program in motion

Five members of the city of Berkeley team who have been working to develop goBerkeley over the past year. From left to right: Warren Logan, Amy Anton, Willa Ng, Matt Nichols and Fatema Crane. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Five members of the city of Berkeley team who have been working to develop goBerkeley over the past year. From left to right: Warren Logan, Amy Anton, Willa Ng, Matt Nichols and Fatema Crane. Photo: Emilie Raguso

City officials and several regional transportation agencies held a special event in front of the Berkeley City Hall on Thursday morning to announce the launch of a new program — called goBerkeley — designed to alleviate traffic congestion, pollution and parking problems.

Berkeleyside has previously covered the part of the program that will result in temporary metered parking changes in three of the city’s business districts: downtown, Telegraph Avenue (Southside) and the Elmwood. Thursday morning was the public launch of the campaign. 

The thinking behind the two-year pilot program is that making it easier to park and promoting alternative transportation will reduce congestion and air pollution. The idea is to test the combined effects of transit passes, car-sharing, demand-responsive parking and programs to encourage bicycling and walking.

The city of Berkeley is working with a wide range of partners, including AC TransitCity CarShareTransForm the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Federal Highway Administration and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to develop goBerkeley.

“We sort of dreamed it[the name] up in my office right after we had a few glasses of wine, for lunch,” said Mayor Tom Bates, with a laugh, in his public remarks Thursday. He noted that the program is ambitious and comprehensive, and said he is excited about the broad partnerships and possibilities of goBerkeley. The Berkeley community, he continued, is the ideal place for innovative practices. “This is a community that really cares, a community that’s interested to find alternatives to driving.… And it’s a community that not only cares but does something about it.”

Thursday morning, AC Transit Board President Greg Harper said Berkeley often serves as a “proving  ground” for innovative programs, because the city thinks holistically about how to solve problems. It’s a place, he said, where ideas that sound “nutty” can be shown to work, and used as an example for other areas.

In his remarks before a group of about 50 people who gathered Thursday for the launch, Brent O’Brien, member experience director with City CarShare, echoed Harper, saying Berkeley is a place where best practices can be developed and demonstrated to a wider audience. City Carshare has partnered with the city of Berkeley for about 10 years, and O’Brien said programs like it are effective in fighting congestion and pollution because every vehicle in its fleet serves essentially to get 10-15 other vehicles off the road.

A large group gathered Thursday morning to celebrate the launch of goBerkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

A large group gathered Thursday morning to celebrate the launch of goBerkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

As part of goBerkeley, City CarShare is adding more locations and vehicles, and providing up to $200 in annual discounts to interested businesses, as well as other incentives for local residents. The organization has set a goal to take 20,000 cars off Bay Area roads by 2020, and O’Brien said programs like goBerkeley will be important in meeting that goal.

The city will also give out 1,000 free one-year AC Transit passes to employees of businesses in the downtown area, Southside and the Elmwood, as part of goBerkeley. Representatives from some of those businesses — La Méditerranée on College Avenue, the Tibetan Aid Project, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Copy Central and Earth Island Institute — attended Thursday’s event to pick up their passes as part of the presentation.

Harper of AC Transit, said after the event that, to get people out of their cars, “you have to do a dozen things right” — from incentives to ease and frequency of transportation options. “To get all those things right is really hard.”

He credited Mayor Bates with having the vision to bring together all the partnering organizations to make that possibility a reality.

Willa Ng, the city’s project manager for goBerkeley, said it had taken at least a year of “working behind the scenes” to get goBerkeley off the ground. She too credited the mayor with his leadership and vision.

“Even though he has given up his car and walks everywhere, or takes public transit,” she said, “he’s been the ‘driving force’ behind the goBerkeley program.”

Learn more about goBerkeley on the program website.

Berkeley council weighs in on parking pilot program (06.12.13)
Parking changes slated for 3 Berkeley business zones (05.23.13)

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 »
  • Charles_Siegel

    To repeat two things I have said before:

    — This is a great program that will make Berkeley more successful economically at the same time it protects the environment.

    — If they really want to support “programs to encourage bicycling,” they should stripe a bike lane to make the Milvia Bike Boulevard into a safe route to downtown. There is now a constant danger of being doored on Milvia, and Berkeley cannot claim to have a half-way decent system of bike routes, as long as it does not have a safe route to downtown.

  • David D.

    From which neighborhood? I live near N.B. BART and bike downtown on a regular basis. I am either on a bike path, bike lane, or bicycle boulevard the entire way. That’s pretty impressive in my book!

  • Charles_Siegel

    Well, you can bike on the bike lane up Hearst as far as Milvia. Then you can turn on Milvia and bike on a safe bike boulevard as far as University. Then, when you cross University and enter downtown, you get on an unsafe bike boulevard on Milvia.

    Milvia in downtown should have bike lanes, according to the SOSIP, and should have many other improvements to increase its safety, according to the city’s bike plan. Bike advocates have been trying to improve it for many years.

    Currently, it is so narrow that you have to ride in the door zone, which is a safe bike route. Just painting the words “bike boulevard” on the pavement does not make it safe.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Sorry, I obviously meant:

    the door zone, which is NOT a safe bike route

  • David D.

    Milvia Street is a bicycle boulevard south of University, so I am perfectly happy to take the full lane. You should be too. It widens out between Center and Allston, but I usually stay in the center/left of the lane anyway because I turn to go to the YMCA.

    It sounds like there may be an enforcement issue with impatient drivers. Striping an actual bike lane here would be less “safe” unless parking was removed from the narrow blocks, which isn’t practical since downtown parking is so limited. A sign that says bikes are entitled to full use of the lane may help, as not everyone driving around downtown is from Berkeley (and therefore not as familiar with bicycle boulevards).

  • bfg

    So far it is completely unclear to me what this program actually does and I can easily believe it is something thought up after several glasses of wine. Given the current traffic slowing mechanisms in use in Berkeley which increase drive time and, therefore, pollution, I remain quite skeptical.

  • Woolsey

    If you get the opportunity check out Holland – bike paradise, Bike lanes everywhere, physically separated from roadways. The train station in Amsterdam looked like it had 10,000 bikes parked in front of it. Holland is a country on bikes – no reason Berkeley can’t move in that direction.

  • guest

    How much altitude variation is there in Amsterdam, compared to Berkeley?

  • Cammy

    That’s all nice and well, but really most people just want the area spruced up a bit (no pun intended)

  • Charles_Siegel

    Read Donald Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking.

    When Harvard gave this program an award, they did not think it was something that someone dreamed up after several glasses of wine.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I was almost run down by an angry driver when I took the lane briefly to make a left turn, and this driver was clearly from Berkeley (from Berkeley High, in fact).

    The idea of bike boulevards is to promote a mode shift by encouraging more people to bicycle. You and I are experienced enough to feel comfortable taking a car lane, but most people are not.

  • Charles_Siegel

    There is a bit of a climb when you cross each canal in Amsterdam that makes it a bit harder to bike there than in the Berkeley flatlands, at least in my experience. But they are both very easy.

  • Charles_Siegel

    No one ever complains that it is hard to find a parking space downtown?

  • guest

    Mayor Bates quipped to the press, Charles, that the “goBerkeley” umbrella was something he and others thought up one afternoon, in his office, after several glasses of wine. Looking at the web site for “goBerkeley”, it is not hard to believe. This is not just about a popular book by Shoup.

  • Rob Wrenn

    The name goBerkeley may have been dreamed up in an afternoon, but the content of the program are things that have been under discussion for years. I have personally been at many meetings where transit passes for downtown, car-sharing, parking pricing reform and programs to encourage biking and walking have been discussed. All these ideas were discussed as part of the downtown planning process from 2005-2007. It’s good to see that the City is finally implementing policies they have supported on paper for years.

  • guest

    Rob do you happen to know how the city will be measuring the effectiveness of this effort?

  • emraguso

    Not sure if you read our two prior stories but those have more on the background and approach to parking meters. I missed that it was the NAME of the effort that Bates was talking about when he made that comment, so I added that in, in brackets.

  • emraguso

    I believe they have collected a lot of baseline data this summer, and will be comparing it to the situation in the months after the changes take place. They’ve said they plan to take a very data-oriented approach.

  • guest

    emraguso, that’s a confusing statement because “goBerkeley” is about more than the changes in parking meter rates. (See its website.)

  • Guest

    I read them and i confess I didn’t sit down and work through all the details but the it was pretty confusing and didn’t make me think i would want to be spending more time downtown. I do find it a little scary when planners decide to alter all the variable simultaneously. It almost always leads to unintended consequences.

  • bfg

    Thanks Emily, I did read them and it was rather hard to visualize how all this would work. It didn’t make me feel like I would want to be spending more time in downtown Berkeley. I always think it’s scary when planners decide to alter all the variables at the same time. There are almost always unintended consequences.

  • emraguso

    A large part of the program as I understand it is the changes to parking in the three identified neighborhoods. There’s also the transit passes and carshare piece of it, which we’ve noted. There will be another series of public meetings coming up after staff make their recommendation to council, so I encourage you to try to attend one or more of those. We’ll continue to report on it as more details become available.

  • david vartaboff

    Something Bates COULD do to make Telegraph more transit friendly, have the PCO’s ticket double parking vehicles. It is particularly annoying to see UPS, Fed Ex and others parked in the traffic lanes when there are empty spaces in the commercial parking spaces immediately adjacent. The other flagrant violators are the side walk vendors who slso park in the traffic lanes to load/unload.
    All of this delays EVERYONE trying to get somewhere. (When I asked a PCO why he wasn’t ticketing these violators, he replied “Mayor’s orders”.

  • justin

    “The thinking behind the two-year pilot program is that making it easier to park and promoting alternative transportation will reduce congestion and air pollution.”

    Doesn’t making parking easier *encourage* people to drive, making it a more attractive option than alternative transportation? If someone knows there is a parking spot waiting for them at their destination, why would they take the bus?