Beginning in September, three Berkeley business neighborhoods will partake in the goBerkeley campaign, a three-year pilot program designed to improve parking conditions in the city.
The campaign, partly funded by $1.8 million in federal grants, aims to improve parking efficiency and encourage the public to use alternative means of transportation. The proposals were drafted using data collected since last fall by city employees and UC Berkeley graduate students who observed parking behavior in the Elmwood, Downtown Berkeley and Southside areas.
“People want to know that when they go to an area, there will definitely be parking,” said Matt Nichols, Berkeley’s principal transportation planner, who is leading the goBerkeley program. “But when there is none, it creates a reputation that whenever you go there, you can’t park. We want to change this.”
Multiple pricing approaches are being considered in each neighborhood.
In the “progressive rate” approach, the price of metered parking would progressively increase with each hour. Another suggested proposal is the “peak period” approach, in which prices would be higher between noon and 6 p.m., when there is higher demand for parking.
For some areas, such as Downtown Berkeley, the “premium area” approach is being proposed. This proposal calls for higher prices and shorter time limits in high-value or “premium” areas. Clear signs would be available to indicate to the public whether or not the area is a premium area. Similar “demand-responsive” pricing plans for parking have been implemented in cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Councilmember Kriss Worthington agrees that the current parking system is in need of improvement.
“I believe the proposed changes have the potential to help people decide their parking plans more rationally,” Worthington said. “In theory, this should really help the businesses and customers.”
Some Berkeley residents and workers voiced concerns about the proposals.
“For some people that work in Berkeley, (the new plans) are not beneficial,” said Lillian Nelson, a Bancroft Clothing Co. employee who commutes to work. “Most of the employees in the store have to take public transportation or walk.”
Students at UC Berkeley who drive to campus will also be impacted by the parking plans.
“I know when I want to go to campus, I don’t want to park three blocks away,” said UC Berkeley senior Andrew Ochoa. “I guess I’ll just be walking more.”
According to Nichols, the popularity of the plan will be measured through surveys aimed at gauging the public’s response.
“We’ll be watching (the new plan) very carefully, because we know the system is broken,” Nichols said. “We need to tailor it to Berkeley, and that’s the task ahead.”
Southside and Downtown neighborhood businesses and residents will further discuss the proposed changes at open houses held on May 29 and June 3, respectively.