Tell BART and the City of El Cerrito: Take action to minimize the need for replacement parking

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:

  1. Bicycle infrastructure should be improved on surrounding city streets
  2. Abundant secure bicycle parking should be made available at the station (including space for e-bikes, cargo bikes, bikes with car-seat attachments, etc).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

9 thoughts on “Tell BART and the City of El Cerrito: Take action to minimize the need for replacement parking

  1. >”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).”

    It seems like marking spaces can lead to more inefficient parking. Spaces have to be marked for the largest possible vehicle. So one stretch of curb, which might be able to hold just two small vehicles, might be marked for only one vehicle.

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    1. Hi Nick, I looked at Laura’s thesis linked in the blog post. She discusses this issue on pages 42-43 and elsewhere if you want to see the detail. She found on one particular block for example, based on measuring the length of available / “parkable” curb and assuming 18 feet per space, 25 parking spaces should have been possible. Instead only 22-23 cars were parked there with gaps left that weren’t quite large enough to fit another car. The pattern repeated on other blocks. It may be possible (though I don’t know the exact law) that you could delineate compact spaces on certain stretches of curb to fit the two small vehicles as you suggest. I think that would be a great idea.

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      1. Thanks Dan for doing the work that I failed to do – read the thesis. 🙂 I am still a little skeptical as I had heard about studies that came to the opposite conclusion, but I will accept this for now and look for those other studies as I have time.

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  2. Interesting article on the benefits of bike share:

    https://usa.streetsblog.org/2021/07/23/study-bike-share-saves-the-u-s-36-million-public-health-dollars-every-year/#new_tab

    Study: Bike Share Saves the U.S. $36 Million Public Health Dollars Every Year

    More than 40 percent of the savings accounted for by the study ($15 million) were thanks to the Big Apple alone.

    By Kea Wilson Jul 23, 2021

    Image: Patrick Leitner, CC The long-term health benefits of using bike share vastly outweigh the short-term risks, even in the most polluted and car-dominated U.S. cities, a new study finds — and cities who invest in reducing those risks by loosening car dominance can save even more lives and millions in precious public health dollars.

    In what its authors believe to be the first study to quantify the public health benefits of U.S. bicycle sharing systems, epidemiological researchers at Colorado University calculated that on an average year, users of the mode saved the national healthcare system more than $36 million, despite the fact that there are only about 100,000 shared bikes in the country and many are located in dangerous, car-dependent cities. Riders themselves were saved a collective total of 737 “disability adjusted life years,” or years spent living with debilitating health conditions such as cancer, dementia, and ischemic heart disease, thanks to the preventative power of active transportation.

    Perhaps the best case study of the public health benefits of bike share is New York City, whose robust Citi Bike program is home to almost a fifth of the shared two-wheeled vehicles on U.S. streets today. More than 40 percent of the savings accounted for by the study ($15 million) were thanks to the Big Apple alone, and the researchers estimated that putting 100,000 New Yorkers onto bike share would result in 15 fewer deaths, 2556 fewer disability adjusted life years, and more than $111 million fewer public health dollars spent annually.

    “People don’t necessarily think of transportation policy as a tool to improve public health,” said David Rojas-Rueda, an assistant professor of epidemiology and a co-author of the study. “And there are people out there who question whether bike share is a good investment at all, just because there’s so much pollution on our streets and so much danger from traffic fatalities. So we decided to quantify it.”

    Comparison of premature deaths avoided annually between modes based on exposure to various risks. Image: Rojas Public Health Lab  Of course, the life-saving potential of bike share is limited by the deadly reality of car dominance.

    The researchers found bike share users had a marginally higher risk of dying in traffic crashes or from pollution-related ailments compared to drivers or transit riders, although they also had a much lower risk of dying from diseases related to physical inactivity than their inactive counterparts. (Pedestrians, meanwhile, had a higher risk of dying from all three causes compared to their counterparts who biked.)

    In real numbers, those risks aren’t as big as you might think: famously, zero American residents died on bike share vehicles from 2007 through 2014, and deaths on the mode are still rare, a fact that experts attribute to many cities’ efforts to plan bike share networks in tandem with bike infrastructure improvements.

    Still, Rojas-Rueda emphasized the remaining risks of bike share can be mitigated through good Vision Zero planning. But the public health risks associated with sedentary modes such as driving are baked in.

    “The more [bike share] users we attract, and the more we improve the street environment, the more we increase the public health benefits,” he adds. “And if you increase the risks [to cyclists,] of course, the public health benefits [of cycling] will reduce.”

    Image: Rojas Public Health Lab  Even less bikeable U.S. communities are experiencing the public health benefits of bike share — which they could easily amplify by investing in the mode whileinvesting in safer streets for riders.

    “I think the message to cities is that bike share — and biking in general, though that’s harder to quantify in the way we do in this study — can contribute a lot to their long term goals,” said Rojas-Rueda. “Most cities want to improve quality of life, the economy, the climate, and their public health outcomes. Bike share does all those things.”

    >

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