Parking is one of those things everyone in Berkeley complains about (ironic for a city that is supposedly environmental). Merchants especially have complained about parking “deficits” in downtown and southside areas. And yet whenever city planners measured parking occupancy, they found empty spaces even during peak hours.
What was going on here — was there or was there not a parking crunch? As it turns out, both sides were right. Due to inefficient pricing, the prime on-street spaces were monopolized while garages and other areas went under-utilized. Drivers would typically drive in circles hunting for the cheap on-street parking, avoiding more expensive garages.
Could market-pricing strategies correct the parking imbalance, and result in more efficient utilization? The city received a 3-year Federal grant to test that hypothesis. The transportation department analyzed parking occupancy rates in three neighborhoods, continually adjusting parking hours and pricing based on demand. Price and time limits were set with a goal of always having 65-85% occupancy on each block. Where parking exceeded the 85% threshold, prices went up and time limits went down. Where parking occupancy dropped below the 65%, prices were reduced and time limits increased. Clear signage was installed to inform drivers their pricing options.
The results of the program are quite impressive:
Here is another survey result:
But the most surprising result is the large number of blocks where price and time limits were relaxed due to minimal parking demand (remember: price and time limits can go up or down depending on parking demand). On the map shown below, these are are indicated in green; i.e. the Max Parking Zones. It is interesting that areas that were thought to have very high demand, such as 2 blocks from campus, actually don’t have very high demand at all.
The program is on-going. One of the next challenges will be automating the collection of real-time data. It is currently done manually, which doesn’t scale well. The city is exploring technological solutions to automate the process, such as the use of parking sensors or license plate readers.