City to Use License Recognition Software to Increase Parking Turnover

(KATE RANDLE)   In response to growing complaints from residents in areas drawing excessive visitors and parked cars, the city of Berkeley will implement a pilot Residential Parking program to increase the rate of turnover parking in the North Willard and Bateman neighborhoods within the next few months.

The program will outfit parking enforcement vehicles with license plate recognition software in lieu of the current system of chalking cars to monitor parking in two-hour zones. The program targets the two neighborhoods as they house two of the city’s largest employers – UC Berkeley and Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.

Using chalk as the only two-hour parking enforcement has been ineffective, as some people tend to wipe it off or just move their cars forward a few feet instead of permanently leaving the area, according to Councilmember Kriss Worthington. He added that the new program would prevent such action.

“Instead of the meter people having to chalk the tire, they would take a picture of the license plate,” he said. “When they come back around and scan it in again they can see you’re in the same place.”

According to the city’s Transportation Manager Farid Javandel, funding for the license plate scanning technology will come from a $2 million grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commisson – a program that oversees many transportation projects in the Bay Area. He said the program will only use a portion of those funds.

Javandel also said the program will allow the city to analyze parking trends in the areas.

“The RPP program up till now has been traditionally low-tech,” Javandel said. “We want to know how many people are just moving their cars around. We know people are doing this, but we don’t know the magnitude.”

The city’s Department of Public Works will conduct studies of the parking situations in the affected areas as well as surveys both before and after the program’s implementation to gauge its success, Worthington said, adding that public opinion will be a huge factor in deciding whether or not to expand the program to other areas of the city.

According to Julia Shearer, a member of the Bateman Neighborhood Association, residents have been dealing with high density parking issues near the hospital for years, making it difficult for residents to find parking near their homes.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of impact from parking from visitors who would rather not pay for the garage and employees who have the same goal of free parking,” she said. “We’re hopeful that this program will solve the parking situation that Alta Bates exceeds.”

In addition to the new license plate recognition strategy, the City Council hopes to make affordable parking options for employees in the impacted areas.

“At the same time we’re making it harder for people to cheat, we’re also making it easier for employees to park in other places,” Worthington said. “If you go to a city parking garage, you can get an early bird price and pay a far lower price. Some people think we’re trying to get money from giving tickets. We’re not. It’s about getting parking turnover.”

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