UC's Parking Predicament, 2000


A Report by the Berkeley Division's Transportation & Parking
Subcommittee of CAPRA
27 April 00


UCB's Parking Predicament is not an old matter. The campus faces new conditions and developments, some of them unique to the land-poor UCB campus. They include the currently decreasing availability of affordable housing, the far scattering of faculty, staff, and student domiciles, and the increasingly costly and inconvenient access to the campus. These fresh developments urgently require new approaches, new solutions, and changes in policy.


  1. It is the present judgment of the Academic Senate's Subcommittee on Transportation & Parking (T&P) that the tax paid by faculty and staff for access to the campus by way of auto transport has reached levels that impinge upon the campus' academic mission.
  2. It is also the judgment of the Subcommittee that the present funding policies for the campus' parking and transportation system are inequitable, as well as damaging to the campus' academic mission. It may be fair to require those who must drive to campus in order to do their jobs to pay user fees that cover operational costs, including some portion of transport operations that serve to reduce the need to drive. But user fees become unjust taxes when those who must drive are required to pay for capital costs; including costs incurred by capital improvements that displace parking facilities without compensation to the parking system, plus costs incurred by the need to replace the lost parking facilities. It is also inequitable to require those who must drive to pay a $36 permit application tax for "alternative transportation" devices that provide conveniences mostly for those who would not be driving to campus in any case and appear to serve minimally to reduce auto traffic.
    1. The Chancellor should rescind the discriminatory $36 annual "New Directions" transportation fee charged to parkers. The fee pays the campus' traffic mitigation obligations, part of a general mitigation arrangement between UC and the City of Berkeley, designed to offset external costs to the City caused by campus activities. The campus uses the fee to finance "alternative transportation" for campus commuters and visitors, a desirable convenience for those who don't drive but with no demonstrable effect as a deterrent to auto use. There is no just reason why those who must drive to campus to do their jobs should bear the entire cost of the mitigation requirements for which the entire campus is responsible.
    2. The Chancellor should immediately fund a comprehensive Survey of faculty and staff through the planning office to gather more precise data on present and foreseeable access needs. More precise data on the degree to which current funding policies impinge and will likely impinge on the campus' academic mission can facilitate the policy changes that the Subcommittee believe to be urgent.
    3. The Chancellor should initiate an effort to have rescinded the Regents¹ 40-year old designation of Parking as an "Auxiliary," a designation that puts it in the same category as recreational and intercollegiate sports, dining facilities, and similar activities that bear only the most remote relationship to the campus' academic mission.
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      The Parking & Transportation Department (P&T) has confirmed longstanding plans to raise parking fees again by another 10 percent. This is part of a 5-year fee-raising program that began two years ago. There are scheduled two more years of 10 percent increases. These will lift costs for Central Campus and Faculty/Staff permits to over $1200 and $1000 respectively.

      The ostensible purpose, as was announced two years ago, is to raise the money needed to issue bonds in order to finance construction of parking facilities to replace some of the more than 1100 spaces lost to the construction of buildings on campus parking lots in the past two decades. The 1990 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) called for a net addition of about 1100 parking spaces by 2005. As of 1999, even counting some 640 new spaces built in outlying areas unusable by those who need access to the central campus, consultants found that "the campus remains more than 1000 spaces below this projection."


      Great institutions like U.C.-Berkeley do not decline suddenly. They deteriorate over time incrementally as the result of many diverse factors. The high cost and increasing difficulty of access to the campus could be an important contributing factor.

      Decades-old rules and regulations that were designed to minimize traffic on and around the campus were not intended to place undue physical and financial burdens on those who must drive to do their jobs in furthering the University's academic mission. In light of the soaring cost of housing within miles of the campus, and the prospect of no relief on the horizon; in light of the consequent dispersal of faculty, staff, and students to distant housing; in light of the costly removal of well more than 1000 parking spaces during the past two decades and the need to finance replacement, it is time to reconsider some of the old constraints.

      The 1999 Report by the consulting firm of Wilbur Smith, hired by the campus to study its transportation and parking problems, found "widespread concern among faculty and others that the highly constrained parking supply is having a deleterious impact on the quality of everyday life and discouraging the interpersonal contacts needed for a productive, collegial community of scholars. Parking difficulties are frequently cited as barriers to holding seminars or meetings on campus. Security concerns also discourage some from parking in more remote locations or using transportation alternatives, especially at night."

      The Report further found that "the UC-operated supply of about 7400 spaces is insufficient to serve the 30,000 to 40,000 faculty, students, staff, and visitors who come to campus on a typical weekday." (By contrast, UCLA operates about 21,000 spaces.)

      These findings were made before the news that UCB is expected to accommodate an additional 4000 students, with (one hopes) commensurate increases in faculty and staff.

      The Report concluded: "Improving campus access is critical to fulfilling the academic mission."

      There is an EQUITY as well as a practical dimension to the parking predicament.

      Raising the cost of driving no doubt helps to reduce auto traffic; that is, assuming cost-centered elasticity. But who among the faculty and staff serving the academic mission of the campus are likely to be most affected by increased costs of access?

      When the use tax for parking increases, two groups will most likely accept the new costs, one voluntarily, the other under duress:

      (1) One group includes those for whom the marginal increases are of little financial consequence, whether or not auto transport is necessary. In other words, those with high incomes will continue to drive.

      (2) The other group includes those who, regardless of income, are physically frail, or have child or elderly care responsibilities, or have other household or professional imperatives, for whom public transit or car pooling is not a reasonable alternative. In other words, those who enjoy no practical alternatives to reaching campus will be forced to absorb the rising costs and will continue to drive.

      For both of these groups, demand for parking is virtually inelastic.

      Other faculty and staff, those who find the new parking rates financially unbearable, will face two different options, neither of which from either a practical or equitable standpoint is wholly acceptable:

      Option 1: Minimize campus presence (not available to most staff).

      Faculty in this category likely will attempt to park in the city streets, or purchase cheaper permits that provide less convenient access, or attempt to use the Bay Area's badly flawed public transit system. These faculty will do all they can to minimize their presence on campus, staying away except on class days, minimizing availability to students, as well as attendance at departmental or campus meetings, visitors' presentations, and similar activities that enrich university life. Like the Wilbur Smith consultants, the T&P Subcommittee has independentkly received plenty of evidence, "anecdotal" so far to be sure but substantial nonetheless, of faculty and staff who have already adopted this practice because of the cost and inconvenience of campus access. The prospect of growing computer usage may well accelerate the deterioration of the interpersonal contacts already noted in the Wilbur Smith Report.

      Option 2: Accept lower quality of life.

      Staff members who have no option but to work 8 to 5 jobs at least five days each week on campus are impelled to use alternative transportation modes that can add an hour or more to daily commute time, seriously affecting the quality of their lives. The same situation will affect faculty who also must be on campus regularly to use research equipment and facilities. For them, time lost in transit is costly personally and also to the academic community.

      When campus access costs were modest, the inequitable distribution of the financial burden on those who must drive to do their jobs aroused little concern. Now that faculty and staff face costs at or substantially in excess of $1000, the equity issue demands attention.

      As determined by the 1999 Wilbur Smith Report: "About half of the faculty and staff use alternatives to driving alone. Use of alternative modes is much higher than for most Bay area workplaces or institutions."

      This speaks to the current inelasticity of demand. Inelasticity of current demand is reinforced by the increase in parking permit applications this year despite the current fee increases.

      It suggests also that the faculty, student, and staff diaspora caused by housing costs and/or preferred living environments (e.g., re public schools) has already contributed to an inelastic demand for parking.

      Not much more can be squeezed out of the supposed pool of "unnecessary" driving by raising costs. There may be some way to increase use of carpools and vanpools, but otherwise Berkeley has an outstanding traffic demand management record for an enterprise of its size. Meanwhile, increasing costs jeopardizes UCB's academic mission.


      1. Chancellor Robert Berdahl has agreed to reimburse P&T for future parking spaces that are sacrificed to new non-state funded building construction at the rate of $20,000 per space. The funds would go toward financing capital replacement for the parking system. This is a departure from previous campus administration policy. It represents the administration¹s acknowledgment that the parking system should not have to subsidize capital improvements on the campus.
      2. Vice-Chancellor Horace Mitchell this year reaffirmed the Chancellor¹s promise that the "$20,000" would be indexed to inflation, to account for the lag in time between the loss of parking spaces to capital improvements and the construction of replacement. This was included in the policy when it was originally approved, but not understood to be confirmed.
      3. This year, too, VC Mitchell moved $250,000 for support of the Night Shuttle, a campus safety measure, from Parking & Transportation back to campus funds.

      1. Despite the new policy on reimbursement, Chancellor Berdahl declined to require reimbursement to the Parking System for the spaces lost to the construction of the new Public Policy building. This represents a $400,000 loss to the parking system. As of this writing, he has not responded to CAPRA¹s formal remonstration regarding this action.
      2. The approved replacement space reimbursement figure is far lower than the cost of building parking in the Bay Area. In fact, the $20,000 figure, we are now told, is barely half what replacement will likely cost even at today¹s estimates for the Seismic Replacement Building No.1 (SRB-1), and based on current estimates, the Underhill replacement project as well.
      3. Except for SRB-1, which is scheduled to be completed by 2002 and which at present is planned to include approximately 170 parking spaces, no construction is scheduled to be completed within the next five years. By that time, P&T informs the T&P Subcommittee, about as many spaces (650) will be newly lost to the parking system (because of seismic work as well as capital improvements) as are currently planned to be produced. As things stand now, therefore, for the next five to perhaps ten years, access to the campus stands to deteriorate still further.
      4. Although the Planning Office has publicly announced plans for a housing and parking project south of campus that will be designed to include 1000 parking spaces, with completion scheduled for 2007 (that includes the spaces already on the Underhill site), your committee is not aware of any assurance that that will happen. Opposition in the City remains heated, and from our experience with the SRB1 project, we expect anything can yet happen.
      5. Although the five years of fee increases that began two years ago (7 percent and then 10 percent) were explained as necessary to finance replacement of lost parking spaces, in fact, NONE of the money raised by the fee increases of the past two years so far has been saved for future parking facilities. In the spring of 1999, UCOP extracted $320,000 from the parking system to cover alleged additional but previously undetected interest costs on 10-year old bond issues that UCOP had miscalculated; and about another half-million dollars was ordered to be allotted to reserves not previously thought necessary and not included in the original budget estimates. These sums have consumed ALL of the additional funds that have come from the previous two years of fee increases.
        1. Logic tells us that if 5-years of fee increases was deemed at the start to be necessary to provide the needed parking facilities, then we must look to at least an additional two years of 10 percent raises. Unless alternative financing for capital improvements in the parking system are found , that would push CC permit costs up above $1500, and Faculty/Staff permit costs up above $1100 within the next 5 years.
        2. In fact, the 5-year program was predicated merely on plans to rebuild the Underhill lot, with perhaps some funds left over for some other projects, with a projected net increase of only about 650 spaces. What will it take to restore the additional 600 or so spaces that have been lost to the system -- with more to come?
      6. Soaring housing costs, partly the result of the recent ending of rent controls in Berkeley but also because of a straightout housing shortage, foretells of the further dispersal of faculty and staff out of public transit, biking, walking, or jogging range. Logic tells us this will increase the number of faculty and staff who must drive to do their jobs.
      7. There are signs, "anecdotal" for now, of:an increasing number of cases reported where poor availability and high cost of proximate parking has had a deterrent effect on recruiting.
    5. WHICH GETS US TO THE ACADEMIC MISSION: Or, Why Capital Improvements for Parking Facilities Should Not Have To Be Self-Financing

      1. More than 90 percent of American employees enjoy free parking provided by their employers.
        1. That includes much of the workforce at Berkeley City Hall.
        2. It also includes the workforce at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where more than a thousand parking spaces contribute nothing to the UCB parking system nor to the transportation mitigation charges borne by auto-bound faculty and staff down the hill.
        3. The nearly universal practice outside the university of providing convenient and low cost automobile access says something about the importance placed by employers on the value of assuring unharried and timely attendance by employees for the performance of their jobs.
      2. In some significant cases, the UCB administration acknowledges the importance of automobile access for the Academic Mission:
        1. Our committee has had occasional requests in the past from the Chancellor¹s office for dedicated parking spaces on behalf of individual faculty members whom the administration has sought to recruit or retain.
        2. The administration granted a waiver on all parking fees for faculty and staff who work in the Marchant Building (6701 San Pable Avenue) because employees were angry at being moved there. Costs for administering and maintaining the facility, though currenty minimal, nevertheless falls on the Parking System.
        3. There are other settings, on and remote from the campus, in which University employees do not pay for parking.
        4. Although (according to a 10-year old Long Range Development Plan report) part of the policy of preempting parking lots on the central campus was directed toward producing a "pristine" vehicle-free pedestrian environment, in fact vehicular traffic on the campus has increased greatly from service trucks and "go-carts" that transport campus workmen from place to place. This suggests acknowledgement by the administration of the money/time saving value of vehicular traffic when it comes to moving service employees around the campus.
        5. Construction vehicles have also added to central campus traffic; and in addition increasingly occupy central campus parking spaces. We can expect to have them with us for the next five to ten years. Construction managers had the option of requiring construction workers to park in remote lots and be shuttled to the work sites, but that was rejected because of the estimated time/money costs.
        6. Many campus departments and schools purchase dedicated Central Campus parking spaces at premium prices for some of their faculty and staff.

          All this is evidence of the relevance of parking to the academic mission.

      In sum, access facilities such as parking space are entirely comparable to other features of the campus' infrastructure. The campus provides office space, computers, telephones, and the like to faculty and staff in order to facilitate the academic mission. Access facilities differ from these, to be sure, but their relevance to the mission remains significant.

      Our committee concludes that parking is NOT an "Auxiliary" but a need directly related to the campus¹ Academic Mission.

      Parking is significantly different from other designated "Auxiliaries," e.g., dining facilities, intercollegiate sports, and recreational facilities, whose relationship to the academic mission is remote at best.


      1. The $36 "New Directions" transportation fee levied on nearly all permit applicants finances alternate transportation subsidies and promotion. As a service to those who endure public transit to reach the campus, it is humane. It may also serve the campus generally by freeing up some indeterminate number of parking spaces. But there is no justification for taxing those who must drive to campus to do their jobs in order to provide the service or the general campus¹ benefits.
      2. Financing replacement parking wholly out of faculty and staff parking permit fees amounts to a subsidy to capital improvements paid almost entirely by those who must drive in order to do their jobs in fulfilling the Academic Mission. It may be reasonable to expect users to pay for the operational costs of parking facilities. It is unreasonable to expect them alone to pay for capital costs.
        1. Staff and junior faculty salaries can least cope with annual parking fees in the range of $800 and $1100 that they are now and will be if current policies prevail.
        2. Women faculty and staff are particularly affected by current parking policies. They are the ones who are most likely to require central campus or near-in parking permits because of child and elderly care obligations. They are especially at risk when campus access for them requires parking in remote facilities; especially in the late afternoon and early evening darkness.

      1. The Chancellor should immediately fund a comprehensive Survey of faculty and staff through the planning office to assess access needs, and to determine:
        1. how many faculty and staff now live in areas from which access to the campus cannot be gained within reasonable time and cost by walking, biking, or public transit.
        2. how many faculty and staff need to leave, or be prepared to leave, campus one or more times each day or week for (a)professional needs (b) child care (c) elderly care (d)personal care purposes.
        3. how many faculty now spend less time on campus, and/or decline to attend noon time or late afternoon meetings, visitors or colleagues lectures, or seminars because of the parking costs and hassles.
        4. how heavy a burden has the policy of financing capital improvements from parking fees imposed on staff and especially young faculty?
      2. The Chancellor should rescind the discriminatory $36 annual permit application fee charged to parkers for the benefit of nonparkers.
      3. The Chancellor should initiate an effort to have rescinded the Regents¹ 40-year old designation of Parking as strictly an "Auxiliary."
        1. The Regents¹ now-ancient ruling arose at a time when surface parking in the central campus area was plentiful, and funding was needed merely to maintain those simple facilities. It clearly did not contemplate the current predicament, nor that the land-poor UCB campus would be especially impacted. (E.g., replacement costs at UCD where surface parking can be readily obtained are estimated at $3000-7000 per space; at UCB, the current estimates range between $30,000 and $40,000.)
        2. The Regents¹ ruling surely did not intend to finance capital improvements from the pockets of those faculty and staff who must drive to do their jobs. By building on existing open parking lots, and leaving access to faculty and staff without adequate provisions, the capital program is subsidized by parking fees when new spaces are required to be built. User fees should be reserved for operating costs.
          1. More nearby housing, especially for students, can reduce the need for parking.
          2. More housing in itself can help reduce housing costs in Berkeley, thereby helping to alleviate the problems caused by the faculty and staff diaspora.
      4. The Chancellor should initiate an effort to have fines from parking violations transferred to the Parking System. Currently (we are informed), the vehicle code limits how those funds may be used, with parking not among the options.
        1. P&T pays for administering enforcement of parking regulations from permit revenues, but the receipts by mandate go to the campus¹ transportation operations. Revenues from fines could cover the costs of enforcement and adjudication, thereby freeing parking fee revenues for replacement of lost parking facilities.
        2. Funds would have to be found from sources other than the pockets of auto-bound faculty and staff to support the campus¹ transportation system.

      Presented for the Transportation & Parking Subcommittee of CAPRA--Richard M. Abrams, Chair