FutureStructure

Bay Area Parking Program to Lower Emission Rates

Several Bay Area cities are adopting new measures -- including smart meters, mobile apps and price surging -- that will hopefully decrease emissions while lowering the time wasted on searching for parking spots.

by Andrew McGall, Contra Costa Times / December 29, 2015

(TNS) -- A $6 million regional program to cut greenhouse gases will involve numerous cities around the bay setting up high- and low-tech solutions to aid drivers in the gas-guzzling search for a parking space.

Mobile apps, new parking meters, variable parking fees advertised on changeable signs and even a parking space locater that tracks every on-street and garage slot in a downtown area will be tried using grants ranging from $300,000 to $1.5 million awarded to six cities by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission this month.

"Uncertainty about where to park can lead to excessive circling by drivers and ... more greenhouse gas emissions," said MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler.

The grants will help cities "manage parking in a smart way, and give travelers the information they need to make smart decisions," he said.

Berkeley will use its $950,000 grant to give visitors more time to visit in some neighborhoods where nonresidents have been limited to two hours on weekdays.

Now, in some areas, the city will let visitors park longer, paying an hourly fee through a mobile app, phone line or website in the goBerkeley Residential Shared Parking Pilot.

The pricing would go up or down according to demand, to achieve a parking-spot occupancy rate of 65 percent to 85 percent. The overall goal is to make better use of street parking and reduce circling for parking.

San Mateo will use its $1.5 million grant to upgrade its downtown parking to smart meters that can count and report parking in real time, accept credit cards and accommodate pay-by-phone technology.

Smart meters will also be installed in the city's five off-street parking sites. Changeable signs will keep track of entering and exiting vehicles to display the available space outside the garages and at key intersections.

Hayward will use its $338,000 to try to get at a long-standing problem with downtown parking near the BART station.

It plans to install on-street parking meters in areas around the station and downtown, where parking is unmetered. It will also create a permit system to allow people who work downtown to park all day in garages without having to move their cars and circle in the middle of the day.

Oakland is getting $1.3 million to add to a parking-management pilot program in Montclair Village and expand the program to other areas of the city, including Chinatown, Lake Merritt/Uptown and Civic Center/Old Oakland.

The "on-demand" pricing program includes demand-based pricing expected to keep parking spaces at about 85 percent occupied per block, signs to communicate parking time limits and pricing.

Walnut Creek will spend $783,000 setting up a pilot "parking guidance system" to track occupancy at all parking spaces on its downtown streets and in its garages.

Signs will continuously alert drivers to parking availability.

Sunnyvale with the Valley Transportation Authority and Peery Park Rides Program will use a $1.12 million grant to launch a shuttle service linking the Sunnyvale Caltrain station to Peery Park, a 446-acre industrial business park in central Sunnyvale where older buildings are slated for redevelopment into higher-density office and tech-based industrial buildings.

The shuttle will make it easier for commuters to ride Caltrain to work by closing the "last mile" gap between offices and the transit hub.

The shuttle will also serve as an on-demand local transit system connecting nearby neighborhoods with local employment and retail businesses. Riders will be able to summon the shuttle with a smartphone app and web interface, and technology will route the service based on real-time customer needs.

Grant sponsors cite such benefits as increased parking availability in heavily traveled areas, improved customer/visitor satisfaction, reduced double parking and parking search time, fewer traffic accidents, reduced vehicle miles traveled, less congestion, fewer "cold starts" of cars (which are high in emissions) and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Better information on parking availability and the rollout of demand pricing are expected to discourage single-occupant auto travel and encourage the use of public transit.

The MTC grants cover up to 85 percent of the total project costs, with the remainder covered by other sources.

The grant money ultimately comes from federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement funding.

©2015 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.