The high demand for parking spaces in Berkeley has prompted city officials to consider extending parking meter hours to increase space availability during the evening, a change that could go into effect later this year.
Parking in metered spaces in Downtown Berkeley, in Elmwood and on Southside is free after 6 p.m. But the staff members at goBerkeley, a transportation pilot program aimed at improving city traffic flow, are exploring a proposal that would keep parking meters running until 8 p.m.
“Revenue is not a part of our picture,” said goBerkeley program manager Willa Ng. “Our goals are to make sure parking is available and that people can go without circling to look for a space.”
Changes to city parking policies were introduced in fall under this program, which increased prices of spaces in high-traffic areas and lowered prices in less busy areas to free up about one to two open spaces per block. According to Ng, however, additional measures need to be introduced to counteract traffic in the evening, which is when demand for parking is at its peak.
John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, said he sees the need for improved parking policies but noted its potential impact on businesses and employees would need to be thoroughly vetted first.
“We need to efficiently use what we have, but we also need to increase parking supply,” Caner said. “For a lot of people, if we don’t provide available parking, they’ll go someplace else.”
Caner noted the supply of parking spaces has decreased in recent years, especially after University Hall garage was torn down — a problem he said needs to be addressed to adequately meet the increased demand for parking.
Berkeley residents Aaron Hubbard and Carlei Owens said the current meter hours should not be changed, voicing that the additional fees would likely deter them from venturing downtown as often.
“We always get excited when it’s free after a certain time, because it gives us a chance to explore nightlife,” Hubbard said, with Owens adding that they go out more when they know parking is going to be free.
UC Berkeley graduate student Mohammad Ghahri Sarabi was also concerned the extended hours would be an increased hassle for him.
“Sometimes I have to change parking spaces every two hours to avoid getting a ticket,” Sarabi said. “If the hours were extended until 8 (p.m.), it will make it worse for me.”
It is not yet clear how these new policies would impact students who park near campus, as Ng said the program is still gathering feedback from local businesses to determine in which areas these changes should be implemented.
Though goBerkeley plans to put forward new policy recommendations to the City Council at its April 29 meeting — including increased meter rates and time limits in busy areas — it does not plan to formally propose extended meter hours until at least June.