Many of us share high hopes for transit-oriented development at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station. We envision many badly-needed new homes for households of all types. We also envision a new downtown for El Cerrito, where residents and visitors alike can have fun, interact, eat, drink, shop, and more. Lastly, we envision the most accessible station in the BART system, with abundant and safe bike parking, safe and well-lit pedestrian access, and easy access to public transportation. Much of this we’ve written about previously. However, in order to maximize all of these benefits to the community, we need to be able to utilize all of the available space on BART’s property for these benefits, and minimize the need for space to be taken up by vehicle parking spaces.
A recent report by Transform also articulates the need for minimizing replacement parking at the BART station in order to achieve BART’s goals for transit oriented development. We encourage everyone to read the report to understand their methodology and conclusions.
We believe that BART and the City of El Cerrito should take action to minimize the need for replacement parking at the station. In fact, we believe that, apart from some handicap and station agent parking, the goal should be for zero replacement parking spaces to be built at the site.
That said, we understand that some of our fellow community members are concerned about how they will access the station without available on-site parking. This is where we believe our transit agencies and city leadership should come together and deliver solutions. The first set of solutions should focus on making it as safe and convenient as possible to get to and from the station without needing to drive and park:
- Bicycle infrastructure should be improved on surrounding city streets
- Abundant secure bicycle parking should be made available at the station (including space for e-bikes, cargo bikes, bikes with car-seat attachments, etc).
- Agencies should consider subsidies for e-bikes and other “last mile” solutions. Conta Costa County currently has a rebate program in place that can be used as an example.
- Transit agencies and the City should coordinate to determine the feasibility of additional bus service from the station to the communities that surround the station.
- The design of the station area and surrounding streets should leave room for the possible future use of autonomous shuttles and other emerging types of transportation that will exist in the decades to come.
All that being said, we understand that for some, there may be individual circumstances that make driving to the station more of a necessity. For these individuals, they may be asking, “but where am I supposed to park”? Luckily, local resident Laura Maurer studied this very issue for her master’s thesis while earning her degree at San Jose State. While we highly encourage everyone to read her thesis for themselves, Laura found that if we can optimize the available parking on city streets that surround the station, people can still reliably park by the station if that is a necessity. The key recommendations were as follows:
- Parking space delineation on surrounding streets. Many of the streets that surround the station do not have parking spaces marked with paint. This leads to inefficient parking of cars, and missed opportunities to fit additional parked cars into the available curb space. Delineating parking spaces would increase the supply of parking spaces, and the cost is minimal (e.g. paint).
- Shared on-street parking with the use of BART parking permits, allowing for dedicated on-street parking for BART riders. These permits could be based on zones, with blocks closest to the station differentiated from those further away. BART commuters could have permits giving them the ability to park on specific blocks, knowing that the quantity of permits was regulated to make sure they would be able to access parking on the block and would not need to circle residential streets in search of available spaces. This would also offer a revenue-generating opportunity for the City of El Cerrito, with those revenues used to benefit the affected neighborhoods.
- Changes to the El Cerrito residential parking permit program. Laura’s research found that many of the residential parking permit blocks are currently underutilized. By using precise parking zones similar to recommendation #2, and incentivizing residents to park in their driveways and garages, the right balance can be struck between residential permit parking and BART commuter parking.
- Demand-based pricing. Currently, BART charges only $3 per day to park at the station. If recommendation #2 were implemented, pricing for BART on-street permits should be dictated by the demand for those spaces. Blocks closest the station should cost more than those further away. This demand-based pricing again manages demand to ensure that those who truly need to park will have a space available and encourages people to park further away from the station or change transportation mode all together (also benefiting public health). This also generates the most revenue for making neighborhood improvements.
- Shared parking lots. There are several other parking lots near the station, linked to banks, churches, and other organizations (even the Plaza shopping center) whose usage may not be very high during commute hours. Portions of these parking lots could be incorporated into the BART parking permit program, or the parking lot owners could manage it themselves.
While not mentioned in Laura’s thesis, another option is for local homeowners and renters to rent out their driveway space to BART commuters. I’m sure someone in our Bay Area tech community could develop such an online marketplace.
The solutions are out there — it is possible to maximize the benefits to the community on the BART site itself, with BART riders able to access the station without circling cars through residential neighborhoods. We need the will of the people and leadership from our transit agencies and elected officials to make it happen.
Want to get involved? There are many ways to do so:
- BART is running a Berkeley / El Cerrito corridor access study. Please make a comment on their website with the suggestions listed above.
- Contact the City of El Cerrito, asking them to optimize the parking on the streets that surround the station, per our suggestions above.
- Mayor Paul Fadelli: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mayor Pro Tem Gabriel Quinto: email@example.com
- Councilmember Janet Abelson: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Councilmember Lisa Motoyama: email@example.com
- Councilmember Tessa Rudnick: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Community Development Director Melanie Mintz: email@example.com
- Public Works Director Yvetteh Ortiz: firstname.lastname@example.org
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