On February 13, the Bay Area Rapid Transit Board of Directors held their annual workshop to discuss a variety of topics which included possible parking increases.
Staff is working on a proposal that would increase parking from the $3 rate to something more dynamic based on demand and time of day as parking lots typically fill up by 8:00 am. BART staff is calling it Market Rate parking fees as parking lots near BART stations charge $7 to $15 for a spot each day.
The move came after directors are seeking to raise rates because they do not charge enough which is why the lots are filling up before 8:00 am.
During the presentation, Ryan Greene-Rosel, BARTS Parking Program Manager, admitted paying for parking can be difficult and confusing due to the amount of methods but noted in March they will have a new mobile app to pay for parking. They will also using a carpool app which offers access to prime permit areas.
Greene-Rosel also highlighted how they estimate 10-15 percent of people are not paying for parking and they are going to be working on doing a better job to bring that number down while they are working on license plate readers that should be a tool to help them in the future free up space for paying customers.
She explained that most stations fill up before 8 am at 9-stations while all but two stations are 95% full while 40,000 people are on a monthly permit waitlist. She also explained how the price for parking was set in 2013 which was capped at $3 per day
“The only other tool we have available to manage parking for available is the parking price,” said Greene-Rosel “We think by updating this policy, by returning to a market-based approach, we can bring some benefits to our customers and support our station access policy goals.”
Those goals included ensuring some parking availability most of the time, spreaders demand across stations and time to maximize ridership and encourage biking, walking and taking transit.
She continued by explaining that there are 20% of riders who live within 2 miles of a station and through a policy change, want to nudge them to change habits through market based parking pricing that if the price goes up, perhaps they get dropped and free up parking for people who arrive later in the morning.
“What we want to try to do with market based pricing is make sure the parking is available for the people who have the fewest options and nudge the people with options to take advantage of those,” said Greene-Rosel.
Greene-Rosel also noted the proposed rate adjustment is conceptual at this time but would come back to the Board with a formal proposal in the future—which include daily fees, single day, and monthly. She noted that there would be a proposed up to 50% one-time adjustment and a 10-33% adjustment thereafter.
“The reason for the 50% adjustment, from what I’ve learned from my colleagues that were here in the past in 2013-14, the old policy was implemented, a lot of our customers perceived that as a burden and if they were going to see that, they would want to see fewer adjustments to avoid the situation of a death by a thousand cuts,” said Greene-Rosel.
According to Greene-Rosel, in low to medium demand stations, the price may never reach the new cap due to fill times of parking lots being later and its easier to find parking. Meanwhile, at high demand parking stations, the price caps out at $6.
This price range scenario would occur over a 3-year period.
Director Mark Foley expressed concern over the change of market-based parking pricing.
“I don’t believe you should use price to change behavior, especially when we do not have any underlining infrastructure to enable a behavior change,” said Foley. “We need more buses more frequently. Just simply saying you are going to pay twice as much and good luck with that in a community that lives way out in Antioch because they cannot afford to live anywhere closer, we are now putting an additional financial burden on them.”
Foley asked if they had worked with Tri Delta Transit or County Connection to add any additional buses.
“If we are not adding any additional bus lines, the frequency in which they currently arrive, does not meet most folks use of our system,” said Foley who noted the number of people who arrive at stations in cars versus buses outweigh one another. “We haven’t done our work to sort of put that structure underneath to say you can choose to pay more or you can take the bus.”
Director Janice Li explained how their parking policy was not meeting ridership needs noting she was in Antioch and realized how “crazy” the situation was.
“There cannot be an assumption that things are working because a lot of it is broken,” said Li.
Li then highlighted the constrained versus unconstrained and how they would pursue a policy and then have to revisit it in 3-5 years. She suggested a hybrid policy which created some boundaries which limited the increases which would offer a compromise. She also highlighted how you cannot compare parking at different stations because each station was different.
Director Debora Allen highlighted how the revenue projections were not sustainable long-term noting they have programs that are taking up parking spots that are eliminating parking opportunities. She also reminded the board they were tearing up parking lots which reduced the amount of parking at some stations.
“We keep tearing up these parking spots that are worth some $80k per space, the last pricing I got, you are doing that in search of some new revenue that is then going to go away when you tear up the next parking lot and then you reduce the amount of parking supply,” explained Allen. “We are not serving ridership if we keep decreasing parking, we keep increasing parking rates.”
She agreed with Director Foley that they cannot change behavior when they do not have the busing system in place or reliable way for people to get to the station.
Director Liz Ames explained the integration with the bus networks needs to support people not driving to BART noting that she had a conversation with a lady from Antioch who would not take a bus to the Antioch BART station so she would continue driving.
“I don’t want to add more burden to the rider to add another fee and I’d rather see congestion fee for the off-peak ridership. That is the way to increase our revenue through increased ridership. Not increase revenue through an increase in parking fees,” said Ames who wanted to look at increasing ridership in off-peak and on the weekends. “We are rewarding our dedicated users and we are giving people a perk on the weekends. That is how we should build our ridership and increase our revenues.”
Director Rebecca Saltzman said they should look at this proposal as demand based and not market based because she agreed with Director Allen saying not all stations are the same.
“I am in support of demand-based parking, but I think it needs to be done with some of the things that have been suggested. I think we need to look at this as not a big cash cow for us, but we need to look at devoting a substantial part of the revenue to connecting bus services. I would completely okay with prioritizing those stations that have the worst bus service today.”
Saltzman also suggested that if they are going to be raising the fees, that they look at offering the low income discount. She did add that by having congestion based parking fees it could open up spaces for off-peak ridership.
Director Robert Raburn said he was supportive of an equity-based solution but pushed back on going to Clipper for a solution. He also suggested referring this to “demand based” parking.
“There is a lot of good data available for what the market will bear, those lots at $7 have been filling,” said Raburn. “I can see creating a hybrid program being created.”
According to General Manager Bob Powers, staff will take all the feedback and bring back a proposal at a future meeting. He called this the first step in the topic. No timeline was given when the proposal would be brought back for discussion.