The Daily Californian Online

Transportation Grants to Revamp City Parking Systems

By Madeleine Key
Contributing Writer
Monday, November 8, 2010
Category: News > Parking and Transportation

UC Berkeley and the city of Berkeley plan to provide the public with more information about their transit options after being awarded two transportation grants, allowing funding for programs and systems that will provide real-time data on the availability of parking spaces in the city.

The city has received a recommendation to be awarded $2 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and has been awarded an additional $1.8 million from the Federal Highway Administration to improve parking and transportation systems in Berkeley. Although UC Berkeley was not awarded either of the two grants, the Federal Highway Administration named it the city's project partner for their grant.

City and campus transportation departments - which worked closely to develop the two grant applications - will also work together to implement proposed changes, said Billy Riggs, the principal transportation planner for the campus, adding that the two grants complement one another well.

A portion of the federal grant will be used to create and install a "wayfinding" program, a new type of smart technology that pairs sensors with real-time information systems - like cell phone applications - allowing drivers to see where and when parking spaces are available on the street or in parking lots, Riggs said.

"This saves the driver time and reduces the frustration of hunting for parking, and cuts down on unnecessary miles of driving in circles," said Elizabeth Deakin, a professor in the department of city and regional planning who will evaluate the effectiveness of the new program, in an e-mail.

It would also result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions, lessened energy use and reduced traffic congestion, she added. The city of San Francisco has begun to pilot a similar dynamic parking program.

"The ultimate goal is to provide people with options so that they can be more flexible," Riggs said. "If they have all the information, they can a more informed decision about whether to drive or take transit."

Smart parking technologies can help improve parking management systems because they are more easily able to collect data on occupancy and turnover and enforce parking rules, Deakin said in the e-mail.

According to Riggs, the earliest equipment will be installed is spring 2011, and the earliest the public can expect to experience the impacts of the grant is the middle of 2012, after a study has been conducted to determine if and how the program actually influences behavior.

The city plans to use funds from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission - which awarded grants worth $33 million to promote improved transit throughout the Bay Area - to provide transit subsidies for residents that work downtown to encourage the use of public transportation, according to Riggs.

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