City to implement technology to track vehicles’ license plates

Karen Chow/Staff

Related Posts

The city of Berkeley will implement a new form of technology that records cars’ license plates in order to optimize parking availability and reduce traffic congestion.

The Automated Data Collection and Enforcement System, part of the goBerkeley program, has been a topic of  discussion within the city for at least four years. The goal of this new $450,000 system is to maximize the use of all parking facilities that are available in the city, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.

“We have plenty of parking space and weren’t using it efficiently,” Chakko said.

In order to achieve this goal, the city has decided to raise parking prices as demand for parking increases. According to Chakko, the parking space prices will be higher in areas that are more popular; in contrast, the parking space prices will be cheaper in areas that are less popular.

He added that the program offers public safety benefits, including the improved ability of police to find stolen cars faster.

The technology also collects and analyzes information about Downtown parking occupancy. By using an automated reader that scans license plates, the process of collecting data regarding how frequently a specific parking area is occupied will become faster and more efficient, according to Chakko.

“To make something like this work, it has to be data driven,” Chakko said. “(In) this system, you can have data that is extremely fast.”

The old system took months to evaluate, according to Chakko. Under the former system, parking enforcement officers would chalk tires, which was labor intensive and a less accurate method of tracking vehicles.

Some residents have concerns about the new technology interfering with their levels of privacy.

“(My license plate) is one (part) of my personal information,” said Jiyoung Lee, a UC Berkeley student. “(Scanning it) feels like an invasion of my privacy.”

Jude O’Campo, a third-year student at UC Berkeley, said he trusts the government with the information.

To assure that license plate information will not be leaked to the public, the records can only be viewed by the Berkeley Police Department’s Parking Enforcement and Traffic Unit.

“We see it as confidential information as well and have no intention of sharing or allowing it to be shared,” said BPD Sgt. Andrew Frankel.

He added that a number of other cities, including San Francisco, also use similar technologies.

Ultimately, the city wants to figure out how to bring people to the Downtown district using a variety of transportation methods, not just by car.

This program offers a solution in response to residents’ demands for greater accessibility to the Downtown area, according to Chakko.

“This is the most cost-effective way to achieve (the) goals of community,” Chakko said.

Contact Stina Chang at [email protected].