City considering parking changes

City considering parking changes

Michele Ellson
Alameda parking

Planning a drive to Park or Webster streets? The city is considering changes that they say could make it easier for you to park.

Drivers visiting either of Alameda’s Main Street shopping districts could soon be met by signs directing them to available parking and a fleet of “smart meters” that will allow them to use credit cards to pay.

Parking rates – doubled to $1 an hour on Webster Street and tripled to $1.50 an hour at meters on Park Street last year, to help fund the city’s budget – aren’t slated to rise now, though city staffers who conducted a workshop Tuesday to discuss potential parking improvements said the city could someday consider a demand model that would base rates on the demand for parking in different areas.

One change the city has already made: boosting enforcement to discourage scofflaws from overstaying their welcome in parking spaces.

The workshop was part of an effort to make it easier for drivers to park in the Island’s two small business districts and to reduce greenhouse gases generated by drivers who are now circling for parking. The city’s first wave of recommendations for achieving those goals could be considered by the City Council in June; additional changes could be before the council in 2015.

Residents and business owners who answered surveys about rates and potential parking improvements said they think the $1.50 an hour they’re paying to park on and around Park Street is too high, though the current charges of $1 an hour for Webster Street and 75 cents an hour in the garage were okay. City staffers said they’d like the rates to drive more long-term parkers into the city’s lots and garage.

Survey-takers liked the idea of single-space smart meters that take credit cards, over the multi-space kiosks the city has piloted on Park. The city is planning pilot smart meter programs on single blocks of Park Street and Webster Street this summer.

City staffers said that the kiosks are also costlier than single-space smart meters and much more difficult to maintain; drivers who park in the city’s garage are sometimes ticketed as they’re walking to the garage’s two ground-floor kiosks to pay.

The city’s current, state-standard signs are green and white, on a green pole, next to trees, assistant engineer Alan Ta said. The city could default to more-visible blue signs that would be easier to see.

City staffers also suggested an electronic sign at the Civic Center Parking Garage letting drivers know how many spaces are available and another sign at Park Street and Central Avenue letting drivers know how many spaces are available in nearby lots.

Ultimately, they said they’d like parking areas in the business districts to be between 66 to 85 percent occupied; during crunch times, metered spots are often full, while lot and garage spaces are more widely available.

The handful of participants in Tuesday’s workshop said they liked the idea of using smart meters instead of kiosks, though opinions about raising and lowering rates were mixed. Participants liked the idea of directional and electronic signs, but another suggestion – that garages and lots get gates – was opposed by participants who said those would cause congestion and other problems.

Cyclists said they’d like to see more bicycle parking in both business districts. Ta said the city is working on a grant to purchase eight bike lockers to install at the intersection of Webster Street and Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway, and is also looking at adding parking next to Fire Station 1 on Park Street at Encinal Avenue.

But cyclists criticized the parking proposals, saying they don’t do anything to get cars off the streets.

“What I don’t see is a real strategy of having someone bike or walk,” said Lucy Gigli, president of Bike Walk Alameda.

Robb Ratto of the Park Street Business Association said that while diners and moviegoers could walk or bike to Park Street, shoppers may find it difficult to do that.

“Retailers want people to come downtown, park in the garage, put all their purchases in their Cadillac and drive them home,” Ratto said.

Updated recommendations are to be considered by the Transportation Commission on May 28.