City parking garage fees up downtown, down on Telegraph

The Telegraph Channing garage will be free for the first hour beginning Dec. 2. Image: Google Maps

The Telegraph Channing Garage will be free for the first hour beginning Dec. 2. Image: Google Maps

Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council voted to change parking rates in three city-owned garages, downtown and near the Cal campus, as part of its goBerkeley effort to change driver behavior and make it easier for visitors to find street parking.

The multi-pronged campaign has been underway since earlier this year, and has included the promotion of alternative modes of transportation — via the distribution of car-sharing memberships and free transit passes — as well as adjustments to parking meter rates and time limits downtown, south of the UC Berkeley campus and in the Elmwood.

The pilot program aims to reduce pollution, congestion and drivers circling for a spot by using what’s known as demand-responsive pricing, which sets parking rates based on a supply-and-demand philosophy. The most convenient spots tend to be the most expensive and are available for shorter amounts of time, while spots further away, which are in less demand, are cheaper and can be used for longer periods.

The city launched its new parking meter rates Oct. 15, and now plans to adjust the pricing in city-owned garages as well, effective Dec. 2. The desired outcome is to create 65-85% (“just right“) parking availability throughout the pilot areas by using rate changes — both on-street and in garages — to transform driver behavior.

Matt Nichols, principal transportation planner for the city, told the council that the street meter changes have “gone very well” so far, and that the garage rate changes are an important piece of the puzzle.

Added Willa Ng, the city’s project manager for goBerkeley: “We want to encourage people to go right into garages rather than park on street.”

That objective has been hampered up to this point because two of the city’s garages have recently been operating at near-capacity, while a third often has room to spare but little driver interest or awareness. (See more detailed parking data in a staff report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting.) The city hopes raising garage rates will make room in the more crowded structures, which in turn could free up space on surface streets and improve availability in core areas.

City staff believe that making garages more attractive to longer-term parkers — such as employees of downtown or Telegraph Avenue businesses who may be feeding the meters and taking up spots in key commercial zones — could have a significant positive impact on the status quo. Nichols told the council that part of the press to change garage rates now is a desire to free up short-term street parking for shoppers during the holidays, when activity increases.

The city’s General Plan, he added, supports discouraging commuter parking and encouraging shorter-term visitors to commercial districts, as commuters tend to have more flexibility in terms of travel options.

Part of the goal with goBerkeley, said staff, is to simplify garage rates so people know what to expect; the current rates vary per hour depending, in some cases, on time of entry, day of week and length of stay.

The goBerkeley pilot program requires uses rate changes on the street and in garages to try to change driver behavior and free up space in core zones. (Click to view larger). Image: City of Berkeley

The goBerkeley pilot program requires uses rate changes on the street and in garages to try to change driver behavior and free up space in core zones. (Click to view larger). Image: City of Berkeley

As of Oct. 15, metered street parking outside city-owned garages costs $2.25 per hour in “premium” zones with a two-hour time limit, and $1.25 per hour (with a four-hour limit) in “value” zones that are a bit further away from the main drag. See a map here.

City offers “first hour free” parking near Telegraph

The Telegraph Channing Garage, at 2450 Durant Ave., currently has the most open space. To encourage drivers to use it, the city will offer free parking for the first hour, and do away with a confusing validation system that relied on merchant verification. Parking will then cost $1 per hour through the fourth hour (a significantly cheaper rate than what currently applies), with a $15 daily maximum.

The city plans to change rates in the two busier garages, at 2025 Center St. and 2165 Kittredge St., to improve availability. Drivers will pay $2 an hour for the first four hours, and a day-rate of $17 beyond that. (The day rate is currently $15.)

City staff had proposed a $20 day rate at the two more crowded garages, but Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner said many of his members felt a 33% hike was too steep. Caner asked council members to take a more gradual approach and see what happens. He said the association would not be opposed to a $17 day rate, which the council ultimately voted unanimously to approve. (Mayor Tom Bates and council members Max Anderson and Kriss Worthington were absent.)

Caner also suggested that the city consider getting rid of its early-bird rate if it wants to increase capacity, but City Manager Christine Daniel asked the council to hold off on making a change that drastic. In all three garages, the early-bird rate (in before 9 a.m. and out before 6 p.m.) will increase a buck to $9.

Councilman Gordon Wozniak asked city staff to take a look at reducing garage parking fees on Sundays, when supply is at its peak, due in large part to free street parking. Staff said they would investigate but noted it would be a challenge to compete with free street parking.

Craig Becker, owner of Caffe Mediterraneum and president of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, said merchants in his area are looking forward to the change. The validation system has been “problematic,” he said, and the campaign can only help increase awareness about where to park south of campus.

“We still have people driving around with the false impression that there’s no parking on Telegraph,” he told the council.

City staff are regularly collecting data to see if the rate changes are having the desired impact. They are allowed to change the rates every 60 days, with 30 days of public notice required.

The goBerkeley 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).

The pilot program will last for at least a year, with more data collection and reviews scheduled in 2014.

[Correction: The city approved a new maximum day rate of $17 for the Oxford and Center Street garages. The article has been corrected to reflect that.]

Related:
Many Berkeley parking meters now accept most coins (10.23.13)
Metered parking changes launch Tuesday in Berkeley (10.15.13)
Telegraph Channing Mall merchants ask city for relief (09.18.13)
goBerkeley parking rules get final public review (for now) (08.08.13)
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

    It is interesting to see them trying to fine-tune pricing. I see one possible problem:

    Donald Shoup points out that parking in off-street garages should be cheaper than on-street parking, so employees have an incentive to park in the garages rather than feeding the meters at on-street spaces, which should be left open for customers.

    But in downtown,
    –the parking garages are $2 an hour for the first four hours, and a day-rate of $17.50 beyond that.
    –on-street parking is $1.25 per hour (with a four-hour limit) in “value” zones

    It seems that employees will keep parking on-street in value zones, and go out once during the day to feed the meter, rather than parking in garages. They can save maybe $5 per day by doing this.

    Maybe our demand pattern is atypical, and we can reach the goal of 85% occupancy with this sort of pricing. We will see.

  • jonathan

    Merchant validation of parking fees should be matched with merchant validation of bus tickets and Bart tickets. How about a 25 cent discount for shoppers in bike helmets! That will get folks out of their cars. For my wife and I to take the bus to downtown Berkeley and back home again is $8.20, or $4.70 if we can do two hours and use the transfers. I don’t mind the bus, but some help with the fare would be appreciated. In my mind, I balance the cost of parking, and the difficulty of finding street parking, against the bus fare, and the garage fees.

  • rlauriston

    Palo Alto limits parking to three hours in a particular “zone,” so people who work in the area can’t get around limits by moving their cars. If you want to park all day, you need to buy a monthly pass, and the city limits how many of those are available so as to have spaces available for shoppers and other short-term visitors.

  • Guest

    It seems to me that if the city is serious about getting folks who work in the area to park in the garage instead of the street, they need to work on promoting monthly parking passes for those garages. I just looked up the monthly rates at the Telegraph-Channing garage (http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=16058), and it works out to about $7.15 per day–assuming 21 working days a month–to get a monthly pass there. That’s already quite a big savings over the $10/day feeding a meter would cost. The break-even point is 15 8-hour days a month. Maybe a part of this effort should be to aggressively promote the monthly option to employees of the retailers in the area, or even offering a discounted weekly or monthly rate to those employees?

  • EBGuy

    Hopefully we’ll see big FIRST HOUR FREE parking signs with arrows on Telegraph and Shattuck (directing drivers to the Telegraph Channing garage). Otherwise “We[‘ll] still have people driving around with the false impression that there’s no parking on Telegraph”. Or better yet, how about placards for merchants to put up in their windows. Nice to see the city moving forward with the final piece to the parking puzzle.

  • emraguso

    The new maximum day-rate at the Oxford and Center Street garages is actually $17; the article has been corrected to reflect that.

  • Ruth

    Yeah! for one hour free parking. It really irked me that the last parking lot change eliminated the free first 20 minutes, which meant that I have had to pay for parking just to donate books at the Friends of the Library Bookstore.

  • FosterBoondoggle

    Does anyone know where to find information about the earthquake safety of the city-owned garages? Every time I’m in one of these cement monstrosities with apparently unreinforced columns I think of the Cypress Freeway.