BERKELEY -- Hoping to tackle its notoriously difficult parking problem and cut down on greenhouse gases at the same time, the city is offering 1,000 free AC Transit passes, increasing downtown street parking rates and making more car share services available.
The program, called goBerkeley, started June 27, and Mayor Tom Bates claimed it is the most comprehensive of its kind in the United States.
"No one has done anything like this," Bates said. "We're looking at everything from parking to bus passes to more car share cars and even free cab rides home for people who ride the bus to work but who may have an emergency and need to get home."
The program is focused on the downtown, the south side of the UC Berkeley campus, the Telegraph Avenue area and the Elmwood district near the intersection of College and Ashby avenues.
The 1,000 free one-year bus passes will go to employees of downtown businesses as an incentive to get them to stop driving to work and taking up street parking.
"We'll be able to monitor the number of bus passes people request so we can tell how the program is doing," Bates said.
At the same time, the city will adjust its 1,700 parking meters to charge more in areas around parking garages, up to $2.50 an hour, to try to dissuade area employees from parking on the street all day.
The hourly rate inside the city-owned garages will go down possibly to $1 an hour to get people to use them more.
At the same time, City CarShare will add seven cars to its Berkeley fleet of 52, Bates said.
Finally, any downtown employee participating in the bus pass program can get a cab ride home reimbursed by AC Transit in an emergency, he said.
For more information visit www.goberkeley.info
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.