Details unveiled on proposed metered parking changes

New parking meters with credit card payment options are part of the goBerkeley program. Photo: Steer Davies Gleave

New parking meters with credit card payment options are part of the goBerkeley program. Photo: Steer Davies Gleave/goBerkeley

In a presentation before the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night, city staff presented their suggestions for upcoming metered parking changes designed to make some parking spots available on every commercial block in three of the city’s business districts.

Downtown, Telegraph and the Elmwood neighborhoods are slated to see changes to metered parking starting in September as part of the goBerkeley pilot campaign underway by the city to cut down on carbon emissions and encourage alternative transportation. The changes would be in place for at least one year, with minor adjustments possible along the way.

The idea is to “improve the parking experience” for visitors coming to these areas, which would encourage economic activity. The changes also aim to cut down on drivers who are circling the block to find a good spot, which would in turn cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and help the city meet its Climate Action Plan goals.

So far, city staff have held community meetings in the three affected neighborhoods, and have been collecting feedback via an online survey. Council members asked for more outreach to other Berkeley neighborhoods to make sure city residents are aware of the proposed changes. Three more community meetings will take place at the end of July, with changes tentatively set to begin Sept. 30. (Stay tuned to the goBerkeley website for details.)

Staff proposed changes to metered parking in three neighborhoods. Council members said they aren't likely to extend parking in the Elmwood to 8 p.m. (Click the chart to see the full goBerkeley presentation made Tuesday.)

Staff proposed changes to metered parking in three commercial districts that are part of the pilot program. Council members said they aren’t likely to extend parking in the Elmwood to 8 p.m. (Click the chart to see the full goBerkeley presentation made Tuesday.)

Willa Ng, the city’s project manager for the goBerkeley campaign — which is regionally and federally funded and relies on partnerships with a range of transportation agencies — outlined the proposed changes for the council. The suggestions are based on the philosophy of “demand-responsive pricing” developed by Donald Shoup, and took into account feedback from Berkeley residents and business owners who have weighed in on the process so far. Ng said about 100 people have attended community meetings about the campaign, and others have taken an online survey.

In the Elmwood, the metered time limit would increase to three hours — a change many business owners have said would be beneficial — with rates getting more expensive the longer one parks, from $1.50 for the first hour up to $2.50 for the third hour. Elmwood business owners had been largely in support of extending metered hours until 8 p.m., but council members said Tuesday they did not favor taking this approach in a single district.

Changes in the downtown and Telegraph are based on the idea of “premium” and “value” areas. Premium areas would offer shorter time limits and cost more, and be located closer to shopping destinations. The idea is to use higher rates and shorter time limits to encourage turnover in the premium areas.

Rates downtown would cost $2.25 in premium areas (2-hour time limit) and $1.25 in value areas (4-hour time limit). On Telegraph, rates would range from $1 (8-hour time limit) up to $2 (2-hour time limit). Hours of operation would not change.

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 2.18.12 PM

Image: goBerkeley

Ultimately, the city’s paid parking policy also may include reducing rates in city garages to make those more attractive to drivers. But at this point, said City Manager Christine Daniel, that’s still up in the air due to debt repayment requirements related to the garages.

Councilman Max Anderson asked city staff to do more to spread the word about the proposals in other city districts, particularly so people can prepare for the changes and have time to weigh in before anything is set in stone.

Matthew Nichols, the city’s principal transportation planner, who is heading up the pilot program, said he heard that loud and clear.

“This has to be done with the support of the public, with an understanding of the public,” he said. In addition to the three meetings planned for late July, goBerkeley staff plan to hand out postcards and put up posters around the city to raise awareness.

Any money raised from the program would need to go back into the program, to pay for signage, street meters, enforcement and the like, said city staff.

“This is not a revenue-making operation,” said Mayor Tom Bates. “This is to try to get people to change their behavior. This is not to make money.”

Added Councilman Laurie Capitelli: “We are trying to get people to change their behavior. That’s difficult…. So it’s going to be a really interesting experiment.”

Capitelli said he wasn’t sure the price differential was enough to encourage people to change their behavior. Nichols said city staff are bound by the existing parking ordinance, which limits parking meter rate changes to 50 cents at a time; council members could alter this provision if they wish to.

Throughout the campaign, goBerkeley staff plan to monitor and track parking conditions to determine how to move forward. Parking availability, spillover into residential areas, community feedback, and congestion and emissions related to circling all will be considered. A full evaluation of the program is planned for September 2014, with data collection, “snapshots” and potential adjustments throughout the year.

Learn more on the goBerkeley website. Read the full staff report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting, as well as the updated agenda item.

City sets goBerkeley transportation program in motion (06.27.13)
Berkeley council weighs in on parking pilot program (06.12.13)
Parking changes slated for 3 Berkeley business zones (05.23.13)
goBerkeley answers frequently asked questions (City of Berkeley)
Take the goBerkeley parking survey (goBerkeley)

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  • Charles_Siegel

    Looks like the downtown merchants killed the proposal to extend the program into the evening.

    I think that, when the program succeeds during the day, they might also want to extend it into the evening, so customers for evening events have the same easy metered parking as customers for daytime events. Since there is less demand in the evening, prices would be lower – and parking would probably remain free in the Value areas.

    They are beginning with a small step, and they will continue to fine-tune it as they see how it works.

  • Adam Sandler

    There used to be a surface lot (where the David Brower building is now, I think) that had the first hour free. It would be nice to get something like 10 or 15 minutes free on a parking meter, or in one of the downtown garages, to make it easier to do a quick errand.

  • Charles_Siegel

    That would make it cheaper but not easier. Economics 101: If you give away a scarce and valuable resource for free, you create a shortage.

    This program is meant to make it easier to do a quick errand, by setting the price at a level that eliminates the shortage of parking spaces.

  • Rob Wrenn

    Yeah. It’s a small step in the right direction. Keeping 9-6 hours for meters largely benefits people who work in downtown in the evening. They don’t have to pay anything to park. Visitors will continue to find relatively few on-street spaces, though there are plenty of spaces in garages in the evening after commuters and day time visitors have gone home. Those visitors who prefer on-street to garage parking would benefit from longer meter hours because more parking would be available on the street if it wasn’t free with no time limit after 6 p.m.

  • why not?

    Charles, in your opinion, is there any advantage to imposing regressive fees? Would it not work as well to make all of this parking free, during busy hours, but with a strict, short time limit? (Given that Berkeley has the technology to efficiently scan the license plates of parked cars, the time limit could be imposed district-wide so that people could not simply move their car every 30 minutes. As a side effect, the list of license plates could be checked against state records to generate a mailing list to help market Berkeley businesses.) ;-)

  • berkeleykev

    Good answer, but, more importantly… Adam Sandler!!

  • Tizzielish

    There is now an underground lot (partially under the David Brower building) that still belongs to the city. The first hour is a dollar — that seems pretty reasonable. And after 4 or 5 p.m., it’s four bucks until midnight, when the garage closes.

    I don’t think paying a buck to park in the garage, run a quick errand and get out in an hour is so very different than 10 or 15 minutes free on a meter — although I am supportive of having brief time free on meters provided the program could be well monitored to avoid parking abuse.

    I just want folks to realize the city only lost a handful of parking spots, gained DAvid Brower and 97 units of affordable housing when they used that surface lot. The city gained a lot with the two buildings and it still has a parking lot generating funds for the city. And it seems one of the lowest priced lots the city owns.

  • The_Sharkey

    I had no idea we had a lot in downtown that was only $1 for the first hour! If I did, I definitely would have used it in the past.

    We really need to do something about the signage for the parking lots downtown.

  • Charles_Siegel

    When the council discussed it, a movie theater owner from the Elmwood said her customers would prefer evening metering to make parking easier, and that neighborhood got evening metering.

    But the DBA said that they surveyed their members and found that they overwhelmingly supported the change in pricing during the day but overwhelmingly opposed extending metering into the evening.

    I guess they think it is a good thing for their daytime customers to have easy on-street parking, but not their evening customers. Or maybe they think the law of supply and demand applies during the day but not during the evening.

    At any rate, it is a good first step, and it says that they will continue to fine-tune pricing to reach their goal of having one or two vacant spaces on each block.

  • Julie Weeks

    The Water Boy = Adam Sandler!?

  • Angrymerchant

    Revision of the ordinance (14.52.120) just proves that the city is out of compliance
    with the way single head meters (credit card enabled) are programmed.
    They were reprogrammed to take a minimum of 12 minutes on coin
    transactions 3 months ago. They were told they were out of compliance by
    multiple merchant groups but chose to ignore it. The directions on the
    meter are hard to read since the print is so small. Since the city makes
    more money on the ticket. They don’t care if people don’t understand the
    They don’t even know how much they get in coins since they don’t count
    that money themselves, it’s farmed out to be counted.

    If you put in a quarter and wait 30 seconds (while you try read it or
    find another coin) you lose your quarter.

    Why not raise the minimum for credit card transactions ? If if cost the city between
    5 to 50 cents (or higher). I believe the answer is they would write less
    I believe the goBerkeley has some good points but doesn’t solve the core
    problem with Berkeley parking. Parking enforcement is draconian at times.

  • Adam Sandler

    Price can be more than monetary. If it was just free for a very short time, it would be more turnover. Look at the 10 minute zone in front of the post office on Allston — there is no cost there, but there is almost always a spot open. Maybe a 10-15 minute spot every couple of blocks?

  • Chris J

    God,that is a lot to read.

    Bottom line, I have an interest in seeing fewer cars on the road for the good of the city and the environment, so if this pricing structure works, good. I am attached to my car like many of us, but if you give us a reason to use the car less, then I’m for it.

    Fantasizing…fewer cars, more bike lanes and bikes than cars in Berkeley…and everywhere.

  • guest

    Remove the meters from downtown. Make all spaces 1 hour only, for 24 hours. Enforcement personnel record license numbers when chalking tires. The rich pay a penalty they easily afford.

  • Biker 94703

    During the day there is almost never a spot there because it is at least half full with disabled placard vehicles.