The final recommendations for a new program aimed to curb carbon emissions and improve the “parking experience” in three commercial districts around town were presented in several community meetings this month.
goBerkeley is a three-year pilot program designed to reduce emissions and parking congestion; as part of the program, the city will adjust its parking rates in three business districts — the downtown, the Telegraph area south of campus, and the Elmwood. The changes are slated to go into effect in October, and to last for at least a year.
“It’s truly a pilot,” Willa Ng, the city’s project manager for the goBerkeley campaign, told a small group that assembled Monday evening in Berkeley’s central library to hear about the plans. ”Let’s see what happens. And if it doesn’t work, it can go away.”
goBerkeley hopes to improve the parking experience by instituting “demand-responsive” pricing, so that prices reflect the demand in several congested areas around town. The hope is to free up one or two spaces per block, by raising or adjusting the price structure in a way that will encourage people currently using the spaces to move elsewhere. The city has been studying current parking demand, and plans to analyze how the upcoming changes affect parking behavior.
The city has tried to use a systematic approach to learn about the current parking situation. The process has involved speaking with hundreds of local merchants and employees; holding open houses and public meetings from May through August; and completing hour-by-hour car counts over a seven-day period to get an accurate picture.
The city found a range of problems to try to improve: some blocks seem never to have available parking, while other metered spaces sit empty much of the day; on-street rates are lower than those in many garages, which discourages garage use and encourages circling for a spot on the street; the mishmash of time limits for meters is confusing for drivers, and many of the time limits don’t seem to match consumer needs.
Another issue Ng noted was that many city garages don’t fill up, even though there’s plenty of available parking. She said many drivers are unaware of the city’s garages and lots, which goBerkeley hopes to change.
In the Elmwood, goBerkeley worked to balance longer time limits with the need for more driver turnover.
In the Southside area, goBerkeley hopes its adjustments will shift some drivers from areas with full meters over to those with available metered parking, in particular the Underhill Facility.
The approach in the downtown was similar, to move some drivers from areas with full meters to blocks that have more space.
Under the new rules, parking downtown would cost $2.25 per hour, with a two-hour maximum, in the premium (closer-in) areas, and $1.25 an hour, with a four-hour max, in the value areas that are a bit further away. The same would be true for Telegraph, though there would be an additional extra value option in the Underhill facility, where drivers could park for up to eight hours, and pay just $1 an hour.
During the data collection period, goBerkeley found that, while too many blockfaces in the downtown premium zone are “parked up,” downtown value areas have availability. In addition, many blockfaces in the Southside premium areas are full, but there is ample parking in the value areas. (See more of the data here.)
In the Elmwood, goBerkeley has suggested a “progressive” rate structure, with metered parking from just north of Russell Street to just south of Webster Street, on College Avenue, costing $1.50 for the first hour, $2 for the second hour, and $2.50 for the third hour, with a three-hour maximum.
Ultimately, the city hopes to adjust its 1,700 parking meters to charge more in areas around parking garages, which would encourage longer-term parkers to use garages rather than surface streets. The hourly rate inside city-owned garages could eventually go down to $1 per hour to spur people to use them more, but that depends in part on the city’s loan commitments for the garages.
The Berkeley City Council has already voted to give city staff the authority to put the changes into effect. A Sept. 10 information report is scheduled before the council to present the final changes, and a public notification campaign will begin that month.
The parking rate and time limit changes are scheduled to go into effect Oct. 15. Ng said the city hopes to install new signage that day or quickly thereafter.
In October and November, city staff will collect sample data for a one-month “snapshot” about parking occupancy and residential spillover to see if the changes are having the desired effect. A more detailed data collection period will take place in February, with potential adjustments to come in May 2014 if needed. Another detailed data collection will take place in June 2014, with an in-depth review of the pilot to come in September.
The program is funded by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Climate Initiatives Program ($2 million); the Federal Highways Administration’s Value Pricing Pilot Program ($900,000), and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District ($100,000).
For more information, visit www.goBerkeley.info.
2 goBerkeley public meetings on parking coming up (07.31.13)
Details unveiled on proposed metered parking changes (07.03.13)
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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