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How much parking for BART stations? Less parking, more homes, less pollution

BART is starting to implement the parking and station access policies they adopted in 2016, and is now seeking feedback regarding access and parking management for the three station sites at El Cerrito Plaza, Ashby, and North Berkeley as part of the Berkeley-El Cerrito Corridor Access plan.  

Read on, and take BART’s survey by August 20th to provide your feedback. 

At the June 24th BART Board of Directors Meeting, staff presented an informational item about replacement parking at transit-oriented development (TOD). In the presentation, staff provided background on BART’s traditional policy to build copious amounts of parking. Parking is the most land-intensive use to support access to transit. It is also very costly, with TOD developments not able to fully cover the cost. Providing more car parking limits the amount of housing that can be built near stations. Staff also mentioned an uncertainty in parking demand. Due to evolving remote-work trends, it is possible that parking demand could fall.

Parking constituted a large swath of land value investments, and was costly to build.

When addressing housing, it is critical to understand how increased parking physically and financially limits the number of units that can be built on a lot.

In recognition of the deficiencies of the traditional approach, BART updated its station access policy in 2016 to emphasize TOD to increase ridership, prioritize sustainable access options, and also improve conditions for the riders with the fewest station access choices. 

Station access choices have implications for equity – the agency’s studies show that the lowest income riders have the least driving mode share in terms of accessing BART. 

Figure from BART board presentation illustrating that lower income riders are less likely to drive to stations

Staff said they will be returning to the board in the fall to ask them to define the range for how much replacement parking should be included at the El Cerrito plaza station, and will return to the board early next year for the range for Ashby and North Berkeley stations.

In public comment, Hayler Currier, policy advocacy manager at Transform and a member of the BART TOD community advisory group, mentioned that reducing replacement parking at BART stations could help accommodate thousands of units of housing, and that there are ways to bring riders to stations in more sustainable manners.  

Dave Campbell, advocacy director for Bike East Bay, urged BART to advocate for cities where the stations are located to reduce parking on corridors such as San Pablo Avenue. Other commenters also lended support to reduced or eliminated replacement parking and mentioned the ability for BART to work with cities to implement priced parking, and street parking permit programs for commuters who still choose to drive, as well as residents, around stations.

The BART Board Directors were generally supportive of lowering replacement parking requirements. 

Director Saltzman mentioned this was an opportunity to tackle the housing affordability and climate crisis, and emphasized that these decisions would have impacts for decades to come, given that parking garages from earlier developments are dotted around BART stations throughout the system. Saltzman spoke about ensuring station access for those who may have difficulty accessing transit from the El Cerrito/ Kensington/Berkeley Hills, but also mentioned that increased remote work may very well mean that existing parking spots will not fill up, and that it makes sense to not replace as many parking spots.

Saltzman also mentioned that it would be useful to revisit parking pricing, given that parking is generally priced lower at BART than in other jurisdictions. Saltzman was supportive of working with neighboring cities to expand their bike networks and address concerns of safety of using transit or active transportation to access BART stations.

To advocates, Li said, “We [The policymakers]… are leaning on advocates and folks locally to really engage, speak up, educate folks on what is going on,”

Director Li praised the outreach conducted in developing the station access plan, and also thanked Transform for helping push the conversation with their report on TOD. To advocates, Li said, “We [The policymakers]… are leaning on advocates and folks locally to really engage, speak up, educate folks on what is going on,” which helps the directors accomplish their role. Li also mentioned her support for better access to stations via alternative modes, but agreed with other directors (such as director Ames, who mentioned interest in a shuttle system at stations in her district) that different land use typologies at different stations may require different access plans.

Director Raburn was also supportive of reducing replacement parking, and quoted Melanie Curry from a Streetsblog article about a recent TransForm report: The report compared two development scenarios at El Cerrito Plaza, one that would replace half of the current parking and another that would replace only five percent of them. The study found that “replacing less parking would allow more homes and more affordable homes to be built, and lead to less traffic and fewer emissions.”

Director Foley expressed concerns that reduced parking may reduce ridership at stations if other alternatives are not provided “on paper” as opposed to in verbal agreements. Foley also was concerned that transit-oriented development could reduce revenue, which could harm what he sees as the BART core mission of affordable, reliable, clean, safe service. Foley mentioned that he would like to see how we know that TOD brings in additional revenue and ridership, and how we know that ground leases are offsetting expenses in order to add value with a TOD project. It is important to note, as well, that staff indicated that parking is an expensive land use and generally requires subsidy from other revenues, which are being directed at BART operations and other station access improvements per the staff report.

What do you think? Fill out BART’s survey by August 20th.

And, if you are interested in participating in advocacy, check out and join Plaza for the People, a group that is working together for less parking, and more housing, transit, and better bike networks around in the Berkeley-El Cerrito Corridor Access plan. 

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