Op-Ed: BART parking – One size does not fit all

BART Director Joel Keller. Photo from BART.gov

By BART Board Member Joel Keller

At age 17, after interviewing hundreds of renowned thinkers, Nikhil Goyal wrote a book called, One Size Does Not Fit All.  It offers a prescription to transform the American educational system.

I don’t claim to be as smart as that young man. But I’d like to borrow the title to his book and apply it to BART parking.  Here’s why.

As a BART Director in Contra Costa County, most of my constituents depend on their cars.  They have a very different commute experience than my colleagues whose constituents live in more transit and pedestrian friendly areas.  Consequently, the solutions to help my constituents connect with BART may be different than those of some of my colleagues.

In January, BART staff made a presentation to the Board entitled “BART’s Parking Program: Update and Discussion.”

We board members learned that BART’s revenue from parking has increased from under $5 million in 2003 to $35 million in 2017. BART has a total of 48,000 parking spaces at 34 parking facilities. We have a systemwide waitlist total of 38,000 customers.   Staff presented some possible solutions to dealing with easing the overcrowding in our existing lots.  Those ideas included demand based pricing and variable pricing.  These are fine ideas for consideration, but what about parking expansion?

So, I decided to do what young Nikhil did and speak with some pretty smart thinkers in my district.  I contacted several local business owners about parking at BART.  They asked, “Why is BART just trying to manage the overcrowding, and not capturing the revenue that could be generated by creatively accommodating the people whose names are on the waitlist?”

As a director who represents auto dependent riders, I think they are right. Let’s assume that the 38,000 names on the waitlist contains duplications, and that there are, say, 16,000 potential riders who are willing to pay parking fees to get a spot. That could increase our parking revenue to as high as $54 million, or a $19 million/year increase.

So why aren’t we looking at solutions to find more places to park and charging for those additional spots along with better managing the existing spots that we have now?  Why not create satellite parking lots served by free shuttle buses?  Why not partner with area businesses, local governmental agencies and others to use adjacent and existing parking more efficiently?

I believe each of these ideas merits further discussion and I look forward to a robust exchange of ideas when this item returns to the Board. I am sure that there are other ideas that we should explore, but as I said at the Board meeting, the solution to overcrowded parking cannot be a “one size fits all.”

The needs of auto dependent stations are different than the needs of stations in more urbanized parts of the District. While the solutions may be different, the differences should be respected.

Director Keller represents the BART District 2, which includes Antioch, Brentwood, Concord (partial), Oakley, Pittsburg, Bay Point, Byron, Knightsen, Bethel Island, and Discovery Bay.

2 Comments to “Op-Ed: BART parking – One size does not fit all”

  1. Terry Ramus says:

    For years, the Transportation Gurus have tried to force people “out of their cars”. Just look at the lack of people in local buses to understand the massive failure in this decades long approach. The many flaws in this strategy were not hard to see for simple working people traveling to and from work, but the ideology of the Transportation elite were sure that they were right. Refreshingly, Joel is now actually representing us, the people for which cars are a part of our daily solution. The difference is that Joel is now armed with a new weapon in this battle, money! The revenue that can be generated from cars could be massive and the State government is constantly in financial problems. But watch-out as the Transportation Elite have now discovered that they can just charge us to death. Eventually, California will charge people for parking in all kinds of places, implement tolls everywhere, and charge for cars by the miles driven. Under the current thinking, the Elites will just makes cars too expensive for the average person to use and operate. So get ready to pay, and pay, and pay!

  2. Brett Kuntze says:

    What about Uber and Lyft and the likes that can pick commuters up and drop them at Bart stations ? This is a very flexible way as commuters may not always be 9 to 5 paper pushers, you know? many workers are flexible with work schedules and can use smartphones to make reservations with drivers on the fly. It may be cheaper than parking in Bart or building five level parking lots.. Our public bus transporation is enjoying monopoly too much ? I got on the bus and the bus driver is having half hour break… walking around puffing cigarettes before proceeding .. My time is more important .. isn’t it..?? Bus routes ought to be straightend out instead of “gerrymandering” around.. West Pittsburg to Brentwood is a narrow and long stretch of development and the last thing bus riders need is a turn to nowhere fast!

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