goBerkeley parking rules get final public review (for now)

How parking rate changes work: Block A is full while nearby Block B has plenty of spaces. If one vehicle is sensitive to the rate and moves from Block A to Block B, there is availability on both blocks. Image: goBerkeley

How parking rate changes work: Block A is full while nearby Block B has plenty of spaces. If one vehicle is sensitive to the rate and moves from Block A to Block B, there is availability on both blocks. (Click the image for the full goBerkeley presentation given Monday night.) Image: goBerkeley

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.”

These recommendations are slated to go into effect in October. (Click the image for the full presentation from Monday night.) Image: goBerkeley

These recommendations are slated to go into effect in October. (Click the image for the full presentation from Monday night.) Image: goBerkeley

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.

A city study found that some blocks never seem to have metered parking spaces available, while others sit empty. (Click the image for the full goBerkeley presentation given Monday night.)

A city study found that some blocks never seem to have metered parking spaces available, while others sit empty. (Click the image for the full goBerkeley presentation given Monday night.) Image: goBerkeley

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.

Confusing and poorly marked time limits for meters can add to driver frustration. Image: goBerkeley (Click the image for the full presentation from Monday night.)

Confusing and poorly marked time limits for meters can add to driver frustration. (Click the image for the full presentation from Monday night.) Image: goBerkeley

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.

This map shows planned changes downtown and south of campus. (Click the image for the full presentation from Monday night.) Image: goBerkeley

This map shows planned changes downtown and south of campus. (Click the image for the full presentation from Monday night.) Image: goBerkeley

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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  • Charles_Siegel

    A similar program in the Polanco neighborhood of Mexico City has had the following results after one year in operation:

    — VMT spent cruising for parking decreased from 104.7 million km to 23.9 million km
    — CO2 emissions cruising for parking decreased from 23,000 tons to 5,000 tons
    — Gasoline consumption cruising for parking decreased 9.9 million to 2.2 million liters

    Cruising for parking decreased by about 75%. In addition to the environmental benefits, this is also a huge benefit in terms of convenience for people who used to waste time looking for parking – and I suspect that also means a benefit for businesses that rely on this parking.

    Oddly enough, the most recent study of San Francisco’s SFPark found that it did not increase meter rates on the average. They went up in some places and down in others, to get the desired vacancy rate, and overall, the average price went down by 1%. Everyone expected rates would have to go up to match supply and demand, but it didn’t turn out that way.

  • rich people parking

    How do Polanco’s parking meter rates before implementation of the program compare to Berkeley’s?

    Did the reduction in parking-related emissions in Polanco lead to higher emissions for other purposes and/or in other places?

  • Charles_Siegel

    You obviously did not read (or refused to understand) the entire comment you are responding to, so I will repeat:

    “Oddly enough, the most recent study of San Francisco’s SFPark found that it did not increase meter rates on the average.”

  • rich people parking

    Wasn’t the pricing algorithm chosen for SFPark designed to be to be revenue neutral? Why do you think it is odd that it did not increase meter rates? And why are you giving a non-responsive answer to rational questions about the claims you are making? Can’t you discuss these topics openly, honestly, and rationally?

  • Bob

    The plan for goBerkeley is to be revenue neutral as well.

  • testit

    Look at Palo Alto for the best solution. Parking is free, on the street and in parking garages, and it is almost always easy to find a spot. People actually plan to go shopping or seek entertainment because they expect parking not to be an issue. Free and ample parking would result in a more vibrant community, increased sales tax revenue, increased employment, increased business taxes and less stress. Note also that Palo Alto is able to make all of their schools high quality so that students can go to school in their neighborhoods which, if Berkeley did the same, would probably come close to eliminating 1,000,000 car trips to or from school for classes and extracurricular activities. Just imagine the difference.

  • Len Conly

    There were no parking meters in Polanco before this study period began. The study shows the results on congestion that occurred after the meters were installed. The prices of the meters were fixed at 2 pesos for 15 minutes.

  • Len Conly

    The goBerkeley project is not designed to increase parking revenue to the city. The purpose is to reduce “cruising for parking,” something that results when meter prices are not high enough. If bread were free, there would be endless lines of people waiting for it, and there would be no bread. The idea is to create a market for street parking.

    It will also reduce vehicle pollution in the downtown areas since it is expected that VMT (vehicle miles traveled) will drop by up to 60%. It this occurs, it will be safe to walk and ride a bike in downtown areas.

    Also if the vacancy rate on any metered block drops below 65% the meter prices will go down.

  • Len Conly

    The meter prices will be set to ensure that a certain number of parking spaces are vacant on each block. Donald Shoup, an urban planner and economist at UCLA, recommends a vacancy rate of 15% to eliminate cruising for parking. A business owner who sees that 85% of the parking spaces are filled with cars should have no grounds to complain that meter prices are driving away customers.

    Personally I am disappointed that the program did not extend meter hours. If I go downtown for any reason in the evening in Berkeley it is often hard to find a curb parking space.

    Palo Alto is a different city. What are the meter prices there? The density of the city is also a factor.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Free food and free housing as well as free parking!!! Why not free gasoline also!!! Gimme, gimme, gimme!!!

  • Emily Becker

    The problem on College Ave in Elmwood on the weekends isn’t parking so much as it is congestion. I live on College and on Saturdays the street is a parking lot. This is due in large part to the numerous streets that are blocked off, forcing drivers to use College and create jams. I know it is unpopular, but the real conversation should be about improving flow of traffic, then parking.

  • Charles_Siegel

    No, the price algorithm chosen for SFPark was designed to create an occupancy rate of 85%. Everyone expected initially that it would not be revenue neutral, as I say above.

    It is a waste of time to try to discuss an issue rationally with someone who does not bother to learn about the issues before commenting. You could have read the paper I linked to see that Polanco had no parking meters before the program began, rather than asking me about it. And you could have read a bit about SFPark to learn what its pricing algorithm is before asking about it.

    Can’t you discuss these topics rationally and honestly?

  • rich people parking

    You compared the impacts of a “similar program” in Polanco when really the Polanco study was about going from not having meters to having meters. I pointed that out.

  • Guest

    I would equate pontificating at great length and setting yourself up as
    THE BS parking/traffic congestion expert when you (proudly) don’t own or
    operate a motor vehicle to a bloated, white haired politician
    bloviating about what options young women should or shouldn’t have to
    control their own bodies and reproductive choices…

  • testit

    There are no meters in Palo Alto, parking is free. The city made a conscious effort to provide adequate parking by adding parking garages (also free). If Berkeley had this goal, it could probably achieve it.

    Yes, Palo Alto is a different city, but what’s wrong with learning from someone who does things better. We don’t have to become like someone else to recognize that one aspect of them lives better than we do and just emulate that part.

  • testit

    It seems unlikely that all the spaces would fill up with commuters. What do you base this claim on? Where are they parking now. Plus, all the spaces in downtown are already taken. Do you know how long the average car occupies a downtown parking space? How about how much time elapses between a car leaving and the next car taking the space. It’s pretty clear the steady removal of parking spaces over the past 20 years has made it unpleasant to park. We need more parking spaces, not charging more for the existing spaces.

    It’s not a matter of knowing how to make our schools high quality, it’s deciding that doing so is our goal.

    Instead, Berkeley has a goal of diversity with a higher priority than other things (like the social benefits that come from friendships developed closer to home, and the impact of an enormous amount of additional traffic). Why should the person who sees that there may be a better way to do things also be the one that both has the skills to implement it and actually do it?

    Not to mention that what’s being asked here is not only knowing how to make schools high quality but the political skills to even get the chance to try.

    Finally, I would point out that our school experiment has not achieved its goals. Kids at our enforced diverse schools (and it sounds like a good idea) still mostly socialize with other kids in the same socio-economic class. Perhaps if the schools had thoughtful programs to bring kids together at younger ages and engage in activities together the schools might actually be better (instead of leading to Berkeley High’s Yale or jail reputation). In the meantime, there are no periodic publish reports of how the schools are really doing, both academically and socially.

    And the parking “experiment” will never end because, despite the claim that its success will be measured, there are no stated criteria that will be measured and no published baseline (or methods) to compare as the “experiment” progresses.

  • whatev

    the enforced diverse schools will never achieve a goal of community building because so many of the kids come from outside the community.

    The 2020 vision will not succeed unless we concentrate on Berkeley’s students.

  • tor_berg

    Your comparison to Palo Alto leaves out a number of important caveats. Berkeley’s population is twice that of Palo Alto, with a much larger downtown and economy. Stanford has about 16,000 students, while Cal will have over 36,000 this year. Cal is also adjacent to Berkeley’s downtown, whereas Stanford is some distance from downtown and is physically separated from the city by a railroad right-of-way. Stanford students cannot park downtown and walk to class, but Cal students can (and do).

    Further, most, but not all, parking is free in downtown Palo Alto. There are several private lots that are quite expensive (at least one is $27/day). Public parking may be largely free, but it is heavily regulated. There are no free parking spaces that can be occupied for longer than two hours, after which you must move your car to another zone or face a fine. Most spaces in the downtown core have a 30-minute limit. Palo Alto’s tax base is much wealthier than Berkeley’s, enabling the city to provide free shuttles serving downtown, which likely has a much greater impact on traffic congestion than the free parking.

  • guest

    If I came from out of town and meter pricing was different on every block I would be pretty pissed off.

  • guest

    I wish I could thumb this comment up a million times.

  • tor_berg

    For someone demanding facts from others, you offer a lot of conjecture. I think an informed and in-depth discussion of Berkeley’s schools is well off-topic here, but I would like to say that my family’s experience with Berkeley’s schools does not square with your assertions at all. My kids’ elementary school performs among the top 1% in the state, academically, and my kids’ cohort of friends come from throughout the city and represent a broad spectrum of socioeconomic status and ethnicity. If they went to a neighborhood school with only kids from the neighborhood, they would have less opportunity to socialize with those from different backgrounds.

  • Tired

    I agree Charles. Most of my coworkers would drive and leave their cars parked on the street all day if they could. Meters force needed turnover of parking spaces. That’s not to say there are already plenty of people who work in Berkeley who park over the meter time limits by illegally feeding the meeter. I see this often with employees from neighboring businesses.

  • Name

    Thinking that socializing with those from different backgrounds is a crucial goal of schooling is why American children are so far behind compared to their international peers.

  • Charles_Siegel

    What do I base the claim on? There are lots of commuters already parking at the meters, going out every hour and feeding the meter. The main effect of this program will be to move those people to parking garages, where there are free spaces, opening the on-street parking for customers.

    Many cities across the country have the goal of making their schools high quality. For example, it has been one of Mayor Bloomberg’s biggest crusades in New York – but he hasn’t had much success.

    Maybe making all schools high quality is not quite as easy as you seem to think.

  • Charles_Siegel

    If you have no facts to cite, and if you have nothing to say about the message, it is always easy to attack the messenger.

    This is one of the more over-the-top attacks I have seen, since this issue has nothing to do with reproductive choice. Maybe we need a corollary to Godwin’s law to cover this case.

    I will let the facts speak for themselves, as the city gathers more data.

  • The_Sharkey

    Great points RE: the BUSD social experiment of busing.

    The students it was supposed to help are still failing out of school at the same rates as before and test scores have actually been getting worse, not better.

    Despite ample proof that what we’re doing isn’t working we’ll continue plowing ahead with it because anyone who challenges the feel-good policy of busing will get attacked with accusations of racism/classism and shamed out of the discussion.

  • The_Sharkey

    The most direct way of solving the problem of Cal commuters taking up meter spaces would be for the city to insist that Cal build more parking garages and set the rates for those garages at rates equal to or lower than street meter parking.

    Making the schools high quality can be as easy as implementing educational tracking, but Bloomberg and the majority of the Nation would rather sacrifice the quality of education for public school students on the altar of political correctness and the illusion of equality.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I have never seen Cal commuters feeding the meters – though they might well do it.

    I have often gone to stores or banks in downtown and seen their employees go out to feed the meter. Because they get there early in the morning, they can park right in front of their stores and easily feed the meter all day.

    PS: The city can insist all it wants, but it can’t make Cal do anything.

  • Charles_Siegel

    FYI, here is the article where Shoup says he was surprised that SFPark turned out to be revenue neutral, because the algorithm is not designed to be revenue neutral, as you thought.


  • The_Sharkey

    Completely true. I thought about adding a line about the city not being able to make Cal admit the sky is blue but decided it was too clunky.

    The city government doesn’t use public shaming enough when it comes to dealing with Cal. If they made plans that seemed very reasonable and common sense and then made a big show of it when Cal refused to capitulate they could probably get the students on their side and put pressure on Cal from both sides.

    Maybe that’s already been tried though? I’m just thinking out loud here.

  • guest

    Do any of the expert commentators here have an facts regarding the affect on business revenue where schemes like this have been implemented?

  • rich people parking

    Here is the comprehensive and detailed project summary book from 2011 where they say very little about revenue but mention that there might be “possibly a small net increase in revenue”. It’s not surprising that it is roughly neutral. It’s in keeping with the expectations at the outset.


    When Shoup says in 2013 that people thought it was “just a way to jack up prices” he isn’t talking about the people that implemented the project.

  • Guest

    To add to this (with the understanding that, as stated below, the City can’t actually do a thing): requesting that the campus provide basic maintenance/upkeep/modernization in its parking areas so that students can and will actually USE them.

    I used to park in Underhill only when I absolutely couldn’t find street parking.  There were only two pay machines in the entire facility (on separate ends and separate floors), and one of them was broken for the entire semester.  The one that worked took cash/coin only, exact change only.  I once put in all my money only to realize that I didn’t have enough cash on me and would have to go find street parking instead (this was after meter hours).  When I pushed the button for a refund, I received a slip of paper that I was supposed to bring to an entirely different building somewhere on campus so I could get my money back (the building was, of course, closed).  And then there’s the fact of the garage stairwells being used as public toilets…

    I recently parked on a very poorly marked edge-of-campus street that I mistook for a city street — I thought parking was free because it was after 6pm and I didn’t see any signs, but it turned out that a campus permit was required until a few hours later.  I received a[n astoundingly high] ticket.  Parked there again a few days later, scrupulously read the signage, went to pay…pay machines totally broken, no one in the booth.  Come on, Cal.

    This all just to say that there are reasons beyond unavailability that students avoid campus parking.  As much of a headache as city parking can be, it has almost nothing on the ridiculousness of campus parking.

  • Charles_Siegel

    So, if it is not a way of jacking prices, why do you use the name “rich people parking”?

    And if the algorithm was not specifically designed to be revenue neutral, why did you ask “Wasn’t the pricing algorithm chosen for SFPark designed to be to be revenue neutral?”

  • rich people parking

    It’s “rich people parking” in the sense that it raises rates on the most desirable spots at the most desirable times. It allocates access to a public resource in an explicitly regressive way. “Rich people parking” is a short-hand for that concept.

    “Rich people parking” might be good economic policy or it might turn out to be terrible economic policy. It might or might not succeed in having some congestion impacts.

    We should not call it an big environmental policy, though, unless its proponents have been hiding away some really good evidence of that somewhere. We shouldn’t make unsupported claims that this will, overall, net a reduction in emissions. We can really only guess how this will impact local businesses. About the one thing of which we can be safely certain is that it introduces a regressive pricing scheme. “Rich people parking.”

    Also, I say that SFPark was “designed” to be revenue neutral for two reasons. (1) Proponents were under a political constraint not to put forward a system that would be expected to yield a substantial increase in revenue; (2) Rates float between a fixed floor and ceiling to try to spread out parking density — unless there were a sudden large change in the number of cars simultaneously parking the only way for a large jump in revenue is if a lot of people decide to start paying more for parking which, on average, people don’t seem to do.

  • AnthonySanchez

    Our Council is deferential to Cal, and only expresses mild disappointment with Cal when the public is looking.

  • Jim

    Only in Berkeley do meters have a 30 cent minimum, for 12 minutes. Run to the meter, plop in a quarter, and you get nothing. You need a quarter and a nickel, and as a local merchant advised me, if you put the second coin in too fast, it will not register. I live and Oakland, and I really hate to shop in Berkeley because of the parking enforcement and the greed that 30 cent minimum demonstrates.