Starting Oct. 17, visitors of certain Southside blocks are expected to pay for up to eight hours of parking as part of a pilot program launched by the city of Berkeley to improve parking conditions within residential areas.
Included in a grant-funded study called goBerkeley SmartSpace, the program aims to improve parking availability and reduce emissions on Piedmont Avenue between Bancroft and Dwight Way as well as on the adjacent blocks of Durant Avenue, Channing Way and Haste Street between Piedmont and College Avenue.
The new policy comes as a result of data collected in October 2021 regarding parking duration and permit holdings of parked vehicles in Elmwood and Southside/Telegraph areas, which informed the selected pilot area.
“Vehicles that did not have an annual parking permit were considered visitors and constituted a majority of the total number of vehicles observed over the course of the day,” said Gordon Hansen, Berkeley’s senior transportation planner and goBerkeley program manager, in an email.
Given this finding, the program aims to alleviate what Hansen called a “two-hour shuffle,” in which frequent re-parking occurs when visitors without residential permits relocate to avoid overstaying the two-hour limit.
Hansen described a two-fold approach in studying these issues, including the use of demand-responsive paid parking to increase availability and longer time limits to reduce the “two-hour shuffle.” Residents and visitors alike are expected to reap the benefits of this program.
“More parking availability means it’s easier for residents with Area I permits or visitors to find a space when they need one,” Hansen said in an email. “Fewer people searching for available parking or re-parking every two hours should also reduce emissions caused by the search for parking in congested areas.”
Hansen noted that those who hold annual or visitor “Area I” residential parking permits will not be subject to the new fares. These include residents of the Southside pilot area and nearby, which consists of a majority of UC Berkeley fraternity and sorority members.
Since most residents already have lots to park in, they are not expected to be affected by the new parking prices. However, some residents believe that the program will have its pros and cons.
“I think it will definitely reduce general noise and make it easier for nonpermit holders to find parking, but it will be more expensive, especially for students,” said Caelin Sutch, president of campus’s Sigma Chi fraternity, who recalls his own experiences of obtaining a residential permit. “It can be difficult to get parking permits or transfer them to college, especially if the vehicle is still under a parents’ name.”
Sigma Chi, which sits just one street down from the pilot area of the program on College Avenue, is already metered and sees the project’s effects to be costly, especially for nonresidential student drivers, Sutch said.
According to Hansen, as data continues to be collected and analyzed, the hourly rate may be adjusted based on the difficulty of finding parking. If parking availability consistently improves over the evaluation phase, Hansen said the project will be considered a success.
The pilot is expected to continue into mid-2023.