What’s Berkeley like at rush hour? Traffic on Shattuck Avenue. Traffic on Ashby Avenue. Traffic on University Avenue. Berkeley’s major streets are at capacity, and are already clogged with traffic. This also affects commuters who take the bus, who are stuck in the same traffic.
Now imagine almost 2,900 new commuter parking spaces constructed in Berkeley’s downtown and Southside. Berkeley’s traffic nightmare only gets worse. Not only are more cars caught in stop-and-go traffic jams getting through the city, but Berkeley will be less of a friendly place to live, work, go to school, and shop as the time to get in and around Berkeley increases. People getting to campus by bike and foot will travel to campus in clouds of car exhaust as 2,900 cars rest parked in the middle of major streets.
This will be the future if UC Berkeley proceeds with its Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) as currently envisioned. The plan also proposes 2.2 million square feet of new classroom and office space and 2,600 additional beds of student housing (less than what may be needed) by 2020. However, the head count of faculty and staff is only increasing by 22 percent compared to the 41 percent increase of parking spaces, which includes the new Underhill parking garage.
UC Berkeley should pursue a Transportation Demand Management approach to improving access to campus. Given the high rate of parking increase compared to the faculty and staff head count increase, it is apparent that this increase in parking will increase the faculty and staff drive-alone rate of 51 percent. At the same time, 1,060 faculty and staff who hold parking permits live within a mile of a bus stop and have a 20 minute bus ride to campus, according to UC Berkeley Parking and Transportation.
UC Berkeley could reduce the demand for parking by providing a free transit pass to its faculty and staff, and pricing parking appropriately to encourage transit use. UC Berkeley should also actively maintain negotiations with BART to expand the class pass and a faculty/staff Eco-pass for BART. Especially in light of AC Transit’s planned Bus Rapid Transit on Telegraph, where one lane in each direction would be dedicated for a rapid bus every five minutes, UC Berkeley’s current course is set to collide with a preventable traffic jam for Telegraph. UC Berkeley should work with AC Transit’s planned improvements rather than make the situation worse.
This strategy also perpetuates an increasing commuter campus mentality for UC Berkeley. The plan calls for the creation of 2,600 new beds of student housing in a “housing zone” located within a 20 minute bus ride to Doe Library. Though the campus has not specified specific sites, the plan should prioritize locating new undergraduate housing within the Southside and Downtown.
The housing plan is also 1,150 beds short. The economy will not be sluggish forever, and only four years ago 2,100 students were ‘couchsurfing.’ Seven percent of students reported on the 2000 ASUC Housing Survey that they were homeless—-living at someone else’s place rather than their own. UC Berkeley identified a need for 3,200 new beds in the 1990 LRDP but only constructed 1,100 in the Underhill Area Projects. Given the 1,650 new students expected, UC Berkeley needs to plan for another 1,150 beds to provide enough housing.
UC Berkeley can choose to strangle the streets of Berkeley, and starve the students of adequate housing, or take reasonable steps to improve the quality of life for students and the community. Let’s imagine paradise instead of the parking lot.
Andy Katz and Brandon Simmons are the student representatives to the UC Berkeley Long Range Development Plan Steering Committee. Jesse Arreguin is the ASUC city affairs director.›