Last week we talked about the challenges business face in parking: If metered rates and time limits are too high, consumers don’t park in front of their stores, or they park only to run an errand and don’t spend time browsing and end up making lucrative impulse purchases. If metered rates and times are lower than the alternative, such as garage parking for employees and nearby residents of mixed-use developments, then those non-customers take up all the available parking.

 This week we’ll discuss one city’s innovative solution to this challenge. The city of Berkeley launched a pilot program called goBerkeley in 2013 in some of their key downtown areas, with goals that included improving the economic vitality of those areas and decreasing congestion. The program used a variety of methods, including discounts for employees working in those areas to use public transit or carpool, and demand-based variable parking fees in key areas could make more efficient use of the parking space, with the goal of between 65% and 85% parking occupancy in on-street areas during business hours.

 The results: The goBerkeley program achieved some stunning results. Parking in areas with lowered rates increased by 38%, while parking in areas with higher rates decreased by 5%. A survey of visitors parking in this area found that 41% more respondents rated parking in those areas as not difficult. More drivers began parking in an underutilized parking garage. Employees and residents reported paying less than half of what visitors paid for parking on a weekly basis. The city of Berkeley was able to create wins for businesses, visitors, employees and residents by making smart parking decisions and setting good policy that drove a more efficient allocation of resources. Of course, demand-based pricing requires highly reliable information on parking occupancy, which is why Streetline has made reliable data such a priority. Good parking needs good policy, and good policy needs good data!