New parking meters with credit card payment options are part of the goBerkeley program. Photo: Steer Davies Gleave/goBerkeley

In a presentation before the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night, city staff presented their suggestions for upcoming metered parking changes designed to make some parking spots available on every commercial block in three of the city’s business districts.

Downtown, Telegraph and the Elmwood neighborhoods are slated to see changes to metered parking starting in September as part of the goBerkeley pilot campaign underway by the city to cut down on carbon emissions and encourage alternative transportation. The changes would be in place for at least one year, with minor adjustments possible along the way.

The idea is to “improve the parking experience” for visitors coming to these areas, which would encourage economic activity. The changes also aim to cut down on drivers who are circling the block to find a good spot, which would in turn cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and help the city meet its Climate Action Plan goals.

So far, city staff have held community meetings in the three affected neighborhoods, and have been collecting feedback via an online survey. Council members asked for more outreach to other Berkeley neighborhoods to make sure city residents are aware of the proposed changes. Three more community meetings will take place at the end of July, with changes tentatively set to begin Sept. 30. (Stay tuned to the goBerkeley website for details.)

Staff proposed changes to metered parking in three commercial districts that are part of the pilot program. Council members said they aren’t likely to extend parking in the Elmwood to 8 p.m. (Click the chart to see the full goBerkeley presentation made Tuesday.)
Staff proposed changes to metered parking in three commercial districts that are part of the pilot program. Council members said they aren’t likely to extend parking in the Elmwood to 8 p.m. (Click the chart to see the full goBerkeley presentation made Tuesday.)

Willa Ng, the city’s project manager for the goBerkeley campaign — which is regionally and federally funded and relies on partnerships with a range of transportation agencies — outlined the proposed changes for the council. The suggestions are based on the philosophy of “demand-responsive pricing” developed by Donald Shoup, and took into account feedback from Berkeley residents and business owners who have weighed in on the process so far. Ng said about 100 people have attended community meetings about the campaign, and others have taken an online survey.

In the Elmwood, the metered time limit would increase to three hours — a change many business owners have said would be beneficial — with rates getting more expensive the longer one parks, from $1.50 for the first hour up to $2.50 for the third hour. Elmwood business owners had been largely in support of extending metered hours until 8 p.m., but council members said Tuesday they did not favor taking this approach in a single district.

Changes in the downtown and Telegraph are based on the idea of “premium” and “value” areas. Premium areas would offer shorter time limits and cost more, and be located closer to shopping destinations. The idea is to use higher rates and shorter time limits to encourage turnover in the premium areas.

Rates downtown would cost $2.25 in premium areas (2-hour time limit) and $1.25 in value areas (4-hour time limit). On Telegraph, rates would range from $1 (8-hour time limit) up to $2 (2-hour time limit). Hours of operation would not change.

Image: goBerkeley

Ultimately, the city’s paid parking policy also may include reducing rates in city garages to make those more attractive to drivers. But at this point, said City Manager Christine Daniel, that’s still up in the air due to debt repayment requirements related to the garages.

Councilman Max Anderson asked city staff to do more to spread the word about the proposals in other city districts, particularly so people can prepare for the changes and have time to weigh in before anything is set in stone.

Matthew Nichols, the city’s principal transportation planner, who is heading up the pilot program, said he heard that loud and clear.

“This has to be done with the support of the public, with an understanding of the public,” he said. In addition to the three meetings planned for late July, goBerkeley staff plan to hand out postcards and put up posters around the city to raise awareness.

Any money raised from the program would need to go back into the program, to pay for signage, street meters, enforcement and the like, said city staff.

“This is not a revenue-making operation,” said Mayor Tom Bates. “This is to try to get people to change their behavior. This is not to make money.”

Added Councilman Laurie Capitelli: “We are trying to get people to change their behavior. That’s difficult…. So it’s going to be a really interesting experiment.”

Capitelli said he wasn’t sure the price differential was enough to encourage people to change their behavior. Nichols said city staff are bound by the existing parking ordinance, which limits parking meter rate changes to 50 cents at a time; council members could alter this provision if they wish to.

Throughout the campaign, goBerkeley staff plan to monitor and track parking conditions to determine how to move forward. Parking availability, spillover into residential areas, community feedback, and congestion and emissions related to circling all will be considered. A full evaluation of the program is planned for September 2014, with data collection, “snapshots” and potential adjustments throughout the year.

Learn more on the goBerkeley website. Read the full staff report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting, as well as the updated agenda item.

City sets goBerkeley transportation program in motion (06.27.13)
Berkeley council weighs in on parking pilot program (06.12.13)
Parking changes slated for 3 Berkeley business zones (05.23.13)
goBerkeley answers frequently asked questions (City of Berkeley)
Take the goBerkeley parking survey (goBerkeley)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...