There is a limited amount money and space to be used for housing, options for getting to and from BART, on-site BART parking, and community amenities. BART must decide how to use these limited resources for the developments, in collaboration with the cities, other service providers, and communities. Housing is a top priority. BART and the cities are prioritizing sustainable and low-cost options for getting to and from stations. That said, there will be some amount of parking in the station area available for BART riders who must drive and park.
Some of the factors that BART and the cities are considering as part of developing the Corridor Access Plan are described in these sections.
One of the goals of the Corridor Access Plan is understanding who parks at BART stations and their options for getting to and from BART. This will help us determine how much parking to replace for BART riders. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, about 26% of BART riders accessing the stations where housing will be built got to BART by driving and parking.
BART survey data from El Cerrito Plaza in 2019 indicated that a minority of BART riders rely on driving and parking. Those who relied on parking listed various reasons why, such as running errands, transporting children to school and activities, living in the hills, mobility impairment. The majority of BART riders who park, however, indicated that they would be able to access the station other ways.
Parking takes up space that could be used for other purposes, like housing and community amenities. It reduces the number of homes that can built, requires larger or taller buildings, and/or limits opportunities for active street-level uses like shops, restaurants, and homes with stoops. More parking contrasts with other community desires for the development, such as less traffic, buildings that best align with the neighborhood context, and more vibrancy.
2 parking spaces = 1 home
Parking requires a lot of land: Each parking space requires about 425 square feet to account for the parking stall, driving areas, and equipment in the lot or building. This means two parking spots is about the same size as a one-bedroom home!
BART rider parking would be built in a garage in order to make the development align with locally adopted goals for housing and community amenities. Each parking space costs $60,000 to $80,000 to construct. Money is also needed annually to operate, police, maintain, and repair parking structures.
Historically BART’s replacement parking for its developments was funded by:
- City-directed redevelopment funds, which is no longer available because the state dissolved this function in 2011.
- State and county grants, which are more limited than before and very competitive. Plus, many state programs supporting transit-oriented development prohibit use of funds for parking.
- Ground lease revenue from the development.
Grant funding options and priorities
The Infill Infrastructure Grant (IIG) is the only known source that will fund parking as part of the development. The maximum amount per development is $30 million. Some challenges to consider:
- This money can fund other aspects of the development, such as affordable housing, sidewalks, bikeways, lighting, and so on. Any money spent on parking means less funding available for much needed housing and improvements to sustainable station access.
- This competitive grant is funded directly from the annual state budget, so its availability will vary each year depending on the fiscal health of the state and priorities of the legislature.
BART and the cities of Berkeley and El Cerrito need to weigh priorities for these limited funds. More money for parking means less money for housing, transforming the Adeline corridor into a safer, more vibrant space, Ohlone Greenway improvements, or better pedestrian crossings on San Pablo Avenue.
Revenue from developments
Any revenue that BART receives from its development is invested directly back into BART’s operating budget as guided by BART’s policies and priorities to keep the system safe, clean, and reliable. This is critical for ridership recovery following COVID-19. Recently, the BART Board has also adopted policies to allow for discounts in its land revenue to support affordable housing to address the regional housing crisis. In the past, the BART Board negotiated discounts on its land revenue in exchange for developers to construct BART infrastructure (including parking, transit plazas, and police substations).
Consistent with the regional goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, BART’s goal is to increase the number of people who ride BART through developing housing near BART stations. Recent UC Berkeley research found that TOD is achieving many of its intended goals: residents of transit-oriented development (TOD) take BART, walk and bike more, and drive less than people who don’t live near a BART station (residents who live between 1 and 2 miles from a BART station).
Findings of the UC Berkeley study
Some specific findings show that TOD residents:
- Took BART 2.5 times as often as non-TOD residents.
- Drove alone 37% of the time while non-TOD residents drove alone 50% of the time.
- Walked nearly three times as often as non-TOD residents.
- Generally walked to the BART station if they rode BART to get to work, and over two-thirds of TOD residents walked from their destination station to their workplace.
- Increased their walking and biking by seven times over the past 25 years near the Pleasant Hill BART station while decreasing car usage by over one-third.
- Increased walking and biking by nearly double over the past 25 years near the Union City and South Hayward stations while decreasing car usage by over one-quarter.
- Made nearly half of their commute trips by transit compared to about a quarter of non-TOD residents.
Example: the New Californian
Transform’s GreenTRIP parking database summarizes how much parking is used at developments near transit. For example, roughly 50% of parking spaces are used at the New Californian development in Berkeley, which is located between the Downtown Berkeley and North Berkeley BART stations. Built at 1.05 parking spaces per unit, the result is over 23,000 square feet of unused space at a total loss of $5.5 million ($71,000 per parking space).
BART wants to provide safe and secure station access options for people of all ages, abilities, and income levels, focusing on serving people who are most dependent on transit. Most people do not drive to the stations. Parking benefits a small share of riders (26% across these three stations) and it favors people with higher incomes, many of whom have more alternatives to get to and from BART.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the deeper need to focus on serving the riders who rely on BART the most as more people will be offered the ability to work from home. A recent 2020 Customer Satisfaction Survey showed only 17% of people who rode BART during the pandemic drove to the station. This is down from 29% in 2018. The majority (51%) of riders during the pandemic do not own cars.
These development projects won’t be completed for several years. People have different and changing needs, and it is hard to predict how BART riders’ needs may continue to change. Plus, each year there are technological advancements that offer alternatives to needing to drive and park, such as e-bikes, cargo e-bikes, electric scooters, and shared autonomous vehicles.
Options for getting to and from the station need to provide flexibility to riders at different times of day and days of the week. Parking lots tend to fill up weekday mornings, encouraging commuters who drive to BART to ride on the most crowded trains. It’s important to invest in options that provide sustainable and flexible station access throughout the day.