Page One

Try transit first, the balanced approach

Wendy Alfsen
Friday December 14, 2001


Here are some of the alternatives suggested by the Transportation Demand Management Study which can be implemented for a small fraction of the cost of new parking: 

Commuter Check gives a tax break to employees who use transit. Employers even save money as their payroll tax contribution decreases. 

More frequent, attractive bus and BART service with night time hours would help many gain access to downtown. The $35,000 cost of building one parking space could provide 500 hours of additional bus service. When some take public transit, it leaves ample parking for those still driving. At present, all day owner and employee vehicles fill spaces meant for shoppers. 

The Class Pass used by UC Berkeley students works well. An Eco-pass for all city, UC Berkeley and downtown employees would encourage many to consider switching from driving and parking. The Downtown Berkeley Association could sponsor an Eco-pass program for members’ employees. The city’s Eco-Pass has been instantly popular. Each time one Eco-pass works (there is one less parked car) $35,000 of our tax dollars can go to sewers, streets and sidewalks, affordable housing or the arts – not to parking. 

Free parking to van and car pools reduces the need for parking spaces, freeing spaces for people who truly have to drive and park.  

An arts and entertainment nighttime parking pass program would assure the prime parking for Arts District events. Anyone could pay to park; arts pass holders park for free. Arts passes could be purchased when ticket holders order tickets.  

Better signs telling people where parking and transit connections are located reduces search congestion, better using our present resources. 

Incentives to existing parking garages to remain open to the public at night creates more parking spaces without the costs of construction. There are more than 1,000 such spaces currently underutilized in or near downtown Berkeley.  

Moving all day and monthly parkers out of existing garages and onto transit or remote parking frees those spaces for shoppers and visitors. 

It’s only prudent to determine what our true resources and needs are before we spend money on a presumed gap between need and supply. This is how we “solved the energy crisis” we lowered peak demand by conservation not by new construction.  

That’s the orderly process T-35 proposes for downtown: 1. Conservation of our existing parking resources for those who need them most by switching some who don’t to other travel modes, lowering peak demand; 2. Assess visitor access and the remaining demand as compared to the supply; 3. Spend scarce tax dollars to build more parking garages only if still needed. TDM predicts that if a modest 3 percent of all day parkers switch, we will have an adequate supply. 

T-35 is the balanced approach. The draft General Plan’s Policy T-35 is also a sensible tax-saving approach – move some all-day commuters out of parking spaces downtown while continuing to accommodate the business, shopper, and visitor short term parking.  

Wendy Alfsen