Berkeley to vary parking meter rates in Telegraph area, Downtown, Elmwood

Nathaniel Solley/Staff

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In an effort to improve access to key business districts, the city of Berkeley will implement changes to its parking policies Tuesday.

The changes include varying meter rates based on the demand for parking in particular areas and raising time limits for street spots. The city seeks to address frustration over congestion and businesses’ concerns that customers don’t have enough time to shop.

Parking meters Downtown, in the Telegraph area and in the Elmwood district will use a demand-based pricing model, said Matthai Chakko, a spokesperson for the city.

“By increasing the price in the high-demand areas and then lowering (it) in places where parking is more ample, you hope to encourage people to be parking in different places and to not have as much congestion in one spot,” Chakko said.

Parking in popular areas near shopping destinations on Southside and Downtown will cost $2.25 per hour, while parking in less frequently used areas will cost $1.25 per hour, said Matt Nichols, principal transportation planner for the city.

Current parking rates across the city are $1.75 per hour Downtown and $1.50 per hour elsewhere, according to Nichols.

Elizabeth Deakin, a UC Berkeley professor of city and regional planning and urban design who appeared before the City Council as long ago as 2006 to discuss demand-based pricing, emphasized the importance of promulgating information about the new prices and time limits. It could take several months for shoppers and visitors to adjust to the new system, she said.

“If it works well, it will be a little easier to find a parking space if you really want one and you’re willing to pay a little more,” Deakin said.

In the Elmwood district, near College and Ashby, one-hour street-parking limits will increase to three hours, with an increasing hourly rate.

That came as a relief to Melissa Hatheway, the director of marketing and communications for Rialto Cinemas, which operates a theater in Elmwood. Patrons often struggled to find sufficient parking for two- or two-and-a-half-hour films, she said.

“We’re delighted,” Hatheway said. “We’re hoping this parking solution takes off a layer of anxiety and stress from everybody so they (can) come and spend money.”

UC Berkeley senior Max Jason said he would pay more for parking if it resulted in longer time limits and better availability.

“When I’m going and driving around the city, it’s been pretty difficult (to find parking),” he said.

The new rates are the latest in a series of projects in a three-year transportation pilot program funded by federal and regional grants called goBerkeley, Chakko said.

Nichols said it is unclear how the program will affect city parking revenue, but officials will present a detailed revenue report to the City Council in March.

Contact Connor Grubaugh at [email protected].