There is very little that is free in this world, and that is especially true of parking. Somebody had to build the structure, somebody had to pay off the loan and somebody has to pay to clean and police the place as long as it’s in use.
A new 1,547-space parking garage opened in Pleasant Hill June 30, next to the existing garage and ostensibly a substitute for surface parking that will be developed into a “transit village.”
Parking is free there, but that may soon be remedied.
I’ve always straddled the fence on the issue of parking at BART stations. On the one hand, hardcore transit advocates don’t want any parking at all at them. One reason is that they’d like everyone to get rid of their cars, stop polluting and stop fueling “oil wars.”
Another reason is that when transit agencies build parking, people who pay for the system, both riders who pay fares and taxpayers to pick up the remaining cost, end up paying for that parking.
I was at a meeting of the AC Transit Board of Directors recently where the board’s president, Chris Peeples, said a park-and-ride lot that the agency had built was going to cost nearly $20 a day per space. He wasn’t happy about that, and wanted to know why the agency staff couldn’t even charge drivers $3 a day to use it.
On the other side of the hill, so to speak, are those who believe that the only way you can get many drivers out of their cars is to provide convenient parking at mass transit stations.
I sort of agree with that, but I’ve discovered that there’s a much more effective way to get people out of their cars.
All you have to do is charge people $5 a gallon for gasoline.
The bottom line in this world turned upside down is that people want to ride BART. People need to ride BART. Soon people will be pushing and shoving to get onto BART.
The old paradigm of begging people to change their ways is no more. Now all we need to do is provide alternatives beyond what’s available, and for that you need money.
And raising money isn’t the only reason.
Consider the commuting patterns of the average American family. Take Stuart Cohen, executive director of the Transportation and Land Use Coalition. He tells me his wife could never find parking at the North Berkeley BART station between 8:30 and 9 a.m.
Then they started charging for parking. It’s only a dollar, but now she can find parking.
“At many parking lots, they were filling up very early in the morning and forcing anybody who wasn’t able to get there often to keep on driving and drive all the way to work,” Cohen told me, explaining why his coalition lobbied BART to begin slapping a charge on their lots.
I can relate to that, because I have tried to park at Pleasant Hill, burned a bunch of gas trolling the lots and garage and ended up driving to Oakland.
One thing that Cohen noticed in his own neighborhood, the early risers drove to BART and the later commuters were forced to come up with other ways to get to work and perhaps even to the BART station. Since pay parking was instituted, some of those early risers have taken alternate ways of getting to BART, such as biking or taking a local bus.
The reality check I like to bring up is that there are lots of people who have no other way of getting to BART but driving. Most of them would be happy to pay a reasonable fee to do that.
Gail Murray, president of the BART board and the Pleasant Hill area’s rep, noted that the price of parking at transit stations has a much smaller affect on commuting choices than the price of parking in San Francisco, at Bishop Ranch and other employment centers.
Lucky for us, $5 a gallon gas will soon make those choices much easier.