Strong Start for ‘goBerkeley’ Pilot

goBerkeley’s aim is simple: to improve day-to-day travel in three of Berkeley’s most lively districts—downtown Berkeley, Telegraph/Southside, and the Elmwood. The four-month-old pilot program is testing ways of reducing traffic congestion through promoting transit, cycling, and walking and improving parking conditions in these neighborhoods.

And so far, initial feedback looks promising.

“goBerkeley is a cutting-edge program that provides more travel and parking choices to residents, businesses, and visitors,” says MTC Commissioner and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. “With our partners, Berkeley is showing that we can protect our climate and strengthen our local economy at the same time.”

Funded in part with a $2 million Climate Initiatives Grant from MTC, the $2.75 million goBerkeley program focuses on freeing up parking in busy neighborhoods. By doing so, it reduces the pollution generated when drivers circle around looking for an available spot. Removing cars circling neighborhoods in search of parking also will free up the streets for bikes and buses, and make them safer for pedestrians.

To accomplish this goal of reducing traffic congestion, goBerkeley has taken a two-pronged approach. The first phase—the transit pass and carshare program—was launched in late June 2013 with the aim of getting drivers to leave their personal cars at home. Residents and businesses in the pilot areas were offered discounted City CarShare memberships, and 1,000 free AC Transit passes were distributed. These offers were devised to support goBerkeley’s campaign to educate the public about the host of transportation options, ranging from taking transit and riding a bike to walking and carsharing, that are available to them.

The program’s second component, parking management, seeks to improve the likelihood of drivers finding an open parking space. Launched on October 15, the goBerkeley model is based on the concept of demand-responsive pricing, which charges drivers more to park on busy blocks and less to park farther away. The pilot also has extended parking time limits, simplified rates in parking garages, and implemented a system in which drivers pay more for each additional hour that their cars remain parked in the same spot. The overall idea is that, by setting parking fee rates higher or lower on specific streets, parking availability will increase on individual blocks. And by increasing parking availability, Berkeley hopes to see decreases in traffic and pollution.

According to Willa Ng, a principal planner with Berkeley’s Parking and Transportation Demand Management division, the pilot already has “received many compliments on standardization of longer time limits in the pilot areas and the simplification of rates at the city’s garages.” But program managers are holding off on drawing any conclusions about the program until data is collected and evaluated. The program’s initial findings will be released this month.

The goBerkeley pilot program will be in effect until 2015. During this period, vigorous data collection and review will be conducted to evaluate the program’s success. In addition to receiving a $2 million Climate Initiatives Grant from MTC, the goBerkeley is funded by BAAQMD and the Federal Highways Administration.

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