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Why Berkeley will not learn from European transportation solutions

Dean Metzger Berkeley, Ca. Transportation Commissioner District 8
Saturday January 19, 2002



Hank Resnik’s excellent description of Montpellier in the south of France and his question of why can’t we do it in Berkeley should be considered by all Berkeley citizens. Being a member of the current Transportation Commission for the last year and attending many meetings concerning transportation issues in the City of Berkeley, it seems there is a good reason for our transportation problems. Any discussion concerning the automobile in Berkeley brings out all those who hate the auto industry and what it has done to our society.  

The only proposals heard are – get rid of cars. What to do with them and how to help those who depend on them is ignored. If Hank, the bicycle coalition, and pedestrian organizations want to make Berkeley into a car free City, I would support them.  

The catch is, they must come-up with a plan or solutions on how to solve the problems this would create. The narrowing of streets, barricades, one ways and restrictions on parking will not solve any of the problems. These things have only made matters worse.  

Like Hank and many Berkeley citizens, I have traveled in Europe and experienced the car free city centers and enjoyed them. Venice Italy is a great example of how to avoid cars. Of course the city is small enough to walk everywhere. But the key to success is the huge parking structure outside the city. As Hank points out in his commentary on Montpellier France, you can park your car in one of the many large garages on the periphery of the city.  

This is true of all the cities I have visited. Each has accommodated the automobile by providing large parking areas within walking distance of the city center or provided public transportation to reach it.  

When all of those who want the citizens of Berkeley to get out of their cars come-up with a plan similar to that described by Hank, maybe some progress can be made. Where in Berkeley should we build the large parking structure? How about the Berkeley marina? Is anyone willing to give up the bay views and land for it? Are there any other large open spaces in Berkeley we are willing to create for this purpose? Of course we could discuss the real reasons for the traffic congestion in Berkeley, but no one seems to want to. For instance, what effect does the University of California, Alta Bates Medical Center, and other institutions have on our streets? Anyone notice how quite our streets were during the University holiday season? Was parking a problem? What has happened to the TDM study – anyone heard or seen how it will impact our city? This study was paid for by the City of Berkeley and the University of California. It was to be used as a guide to solve the parking and circulation problems in the downtown and southside areas. Instead it has been put a-side for lack of City staff. What it can do to help solve the problem depends on how willing the University is to make the right decisions.  

It is another example of our lack of leadership and unwillingness to work on the hard problems we face, if we are to reduce car usage in Berkeley. Until the University of California and other institutions decide that Berkeley should be a bicyclists and pedestrian city, Hank and all the rest of us can keep on wondering where the vision and leadership is. 

Why do students at the University need to bring their cars into Berkeley? You can walk to any part of the downtown or the University campus.  

Why do the employees of the University need to drive their cars into Berkeley?  

Shouldn’t the University provide periphery parking and free shuttle service to the campus?  

How about the other institutions doing the same. The City government has taken a first step with the Eco-pass on AC Transit. The actual effects on traffic in Berkeley remains to be seen. If other institutions would follow the cities lead – it may have an impact. It probably won’t help much until we make a car free zone out of our downtown area. I have lived in Berkeley since 1963 and experienced the city when it was a quite college town. It would be nice to see it return, but unless we are willing to make some hard choices it won’t.  


Dean Metzger  

Berkeley, Ca. Transportation Commissioner  

District 8