I’ve been hearing a lot of foolishness and hypocrisy about parking in Berkeley.
The most notorious example is the recent sneaky agreement between the city and UC. It “settles” the lawsuit about the Long-Range Development Plan by letting UC get away with building a vast amount of new parking to support UC’s expansion. Oh, UC claims they will cut back new parking plans by 45 percent, but it turns out this is “by 2015,” a decade away.
UC will continue to expand, and the cars driven by the additional staff will clog the streets of Berkeley and befoul the Bay Area’s air. Our foolish city has effectively signed off on 2,060 new spaces at UC, even though doing this directly conflicts with city policy. The university itself has made absolutely no commitment to reduce automobile trips and traffic, and the pollution that goes with them.
Stanford, when it grew, committed to no net increase in peak hour auto trips. There is no similar commitment coming from UC.
There’s nothing being done to reduce driving to the Berkeley campus. Adding more parking spaces increases driving. I guess the student Class Pass will keep going, so UC students will still throng the buses, but it looks like UC is considering dropping the recently introduced “Bear Pass” for staff. Why doe s UC “Parking and Transit” want to spend $65,000 per parking space but less than $100 per transit rider? UC Berkeley’s efforts to reduce congestion look pretty poor when compared with what’s been done at Stanford, or University of Washington, or even UCLA.
I heard some more parking foolishness last Thursday (May 26). I arrived for the Zoning Adjustments Board meeting while someone from the DBA was calling for ZAB to require an extra level of underground parking at the proposed Brower Center. He wailed ab out the “precedent” that would be set if the Brower project didn’t have enough parking. He said that Berkeley’s General Plan calls for more parking. Well, it doesn’t; the transportation element of the General Plan calls for shifting people away from drivi ng cars; it calls for people living and working downtown to make use of public transit.
A few years ago, the city and UC jointly funded the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) study. The two main TDM recommendations called for better signage about lot space and to motivate all-day parkers to ride the bus and quit taking away short-term spaces from shoppers and visitors. As far as I know, city staff is currently only looking at the signage, paying no attention to making all-day parking into short-term.
We need to stop the onrush of cars, slow our consumption of non-renewable oil energy and do something to hold back the approaching disaster of global warming.
Both the city and UC should put a cap on parking, and give priority on spaces to people who m ust use their car during the day, or really can’t use public transit. Public money should be spent on public transit, not parking lots.
It seems that the “parking lobby” (largely downtown business people) has been engaging in a little hypocrisy. At a rec ent Transportation Commission meeting, UC Professor Betty Deakin showed that parking-metered spaces are regularly filled by employees of downtown businesses. Those same businesses that claim more parking is needed, have employees feeding meters and owners parking in front of their own businesses. Some Berkeley businesses are shooting themselves in the foot.
At that same TC meeting, somebody in the audience declaimed to the effect that perception is reality. His idea was that if people think they have a right to drive for all purposes, then they have a right to a parking space. He was asked why we should build more parking spaces when we don’t make use of all the spaces we have; he didn’t have an answer.
We really should stop this foolish self-defeating promotion of parking. The Brower Center doesn’t need any more parking. Neither does UC. What we need is fewer cars and more use of public transit. There are really very few people who “must” drive and “can’t” use public transit. The reason why so many peo ple drive is that they know they can find a parking space.
Let’s stop being hypocritical. Let’s stop bypassing the General Plan. We need to limit parking and to motivate people not to use cars to commute to work. Two good places to start are with the people who work at the UC Berkeley campus and with the people who will work at the center named for the great environmentalist David Brower.
Steve Geller is a Berkeley resident.