One Last Parking Deal In Our Village

Ever since the meter rates increased, we have made a habit of using the Montclair Village garage, sandwiched between Medau Place and La Salle Avenue.  After all, the City of Oakland charged only $1.25/hour there!

This week, the City inevitably got around to raising the rate which now matches the $2.00/hour meters.  I still believe the garage is very handy because you don’t have to futz with time limits.  Plus that cashier with the cool, long fingernails is very nice.  Is that enough?

Monthly Parking Only

Well, there’s one last parking deal in our village. Our garage offers a monthly rate, though I don’t know how many people take advantage of this flexible deal.  If you spend at least 45 hours parked in Montclair, then it makes sense to plunk down $90/month.

We like the idea of paying for nearly unlimited hours, but don’t spend sufficient time to achieve break-even.  However for “parking flakes” who forget the time and get nailed with fines, this $90 monthly fee might be a better kind of ticket.

Parking Meters Rolled Back To 6pm

“I have directed staff already to roll back to 6pm,” declared City Administrator Dan Lindheim at last night’s Oakland City Council meeting.  We’re not exactly sure when the city parking meters will get adjusted, but believe it will only take a week or two.

The City Council just voted six-to-one to rescind their summer decision that extended hours through 8pm, as well as to study parking at retail district levels.  Their projected $1.3 million revenue gap would primarily close from new billboard revenues.  If these revenues don’t materialize, then the Council would revisit the matter next January.

Grand Lake Marquee, Parking Changes

What’s interesting is that every single Council member admitted they were too hasty, and offered mea culpas.  Rep Ignacio De La Fuentes claimed, “We made a mistake not checking, not checking in.  Our common goal is to restore the confidence.”  Rep Jean Quan added, “I know there are a lot of bad feelings.”  And Rep Pat Kernighan, who sponsored the roll-back measure, explained that “people don’t want to feel like we’re balancing the city budget on their back.”

Kernighan pointed to coverage by Parking Today about Oakland’s challenges:  “Oakland is attempting to raise parking rates.  They have done some good things in the face of the recession, but can’t seem to get any respect.”  The industry pub also acknowledged that parking is always super-sensitive:  “Screw with a person’s taxes and you have a heated discussion; screw with their parking, and you have a revolution.”

Last night, there was a long parade of speakers who demonstrated that sensitivity:

  • The Driver: Montclarion Janette MacKinlay declared, “I wanted this measure to have as much support as possible.  For every one person here, there are thousands who are really irritated.  It’s just one thing after another.  I’m just asking you to have heart.”
  • The Rabble-Rouser: Alan Michaan, who’s gotten attention from his Grand Lake Theater marquee, apologized a little for his behavior at the last Council meeting.  At his movie house, Michaan said that “business is off by 50%.  I know what my numbers are.”  He was clear that parking has been impacting his neighbors, too.
  • The Urbanist: Several speakers argued to keep the longer meter hours.  Jonathon Bair explained that we need “to resolve conflicts between users…workers, residents and shoppers.  Shoppers are less sensitive to meter rates.  Most cities do implement parking meters to 9pm or later.”
  • The Old Guard: Former Oakland City Manager Henry Gardner felt that parking changes were bad but the all the budgeting challenges were terrible too.  He said that “what we have attempted with the parking enforcements is the worst [alternative]…but it’s better than the others.”

Clearly Oakland’s parking policies aren’t fait accompli.  At-Large Council Rep Rebecca Kaplan said, “I’m grateful that we’re now going to do parking studies [as there are] differences by parts of the city.  I don’t believe that early is always better or later is always better.”

So what about the idiosyncratic needs of each retail district?  From all of the speakers tonight, it does seem like Grand Avenue was hit, while College Avenue wasn’t suffering nearly as much.  Over in Chinatown, the merchants registered high concerns with parking changes.  Here in Montclair, the merchants have been clear about their challenges.  And so we’ll stay tuned for studies – and further parking policy adjustments.

October 8th update:  The meter hours were rolled back yesterday.  Montclair Village Association’s Roger Vickery said, “we are delighted our concerns about the adverse affect the night time rates were having on business have been heard.”

Council Says Pay ‘Til 8pm

Last night, the Oakland City Council decided that we’ll have to continue paying for parking until 8pm.  The howls of protest weren’t enough to sway the Council, who had extended meter hours as a revenue-producing move earlier this year.

Parking Meter-Machines

We know from our parking suvey that Montclarions are quite ticked-off by the extended hours, with 59 percent giving the move a resounding thumbs-down and another 6 percent saying it wasn’t okay.  We’re accepting the rate increases and even the newfangled meters lately, but residents say that longer hours have changed the Village zeitgeist.

Last night, the City Council split over the matter of meter hours.  In the roll-back corner were District 4’s Rep Jean Quan, as well as Reps Jane Brunner, Pat Kernighan and Larry Reid.  The other council members abstained, including Desley Brooks, Rebecca Kaplan and Nancy Nadel.  Ignacio De La Fuentes wasn’t at the meeting.

It’s all about the city coffers.  The roll-back (to 6pm) contingent have come up with alternative ways to earn revenues, but not the full $1.3 million take from this extra two hours’ meter time nightly.  Other council members seem to be folding their arms until that entire amount can be delivered elsewhere.

According to the Tribune, the matter will return to the City Council in two weeks.  Local citizens and merchants have not been able to sway the group yet.  It will come down to showing the money…from where?

Montclarions Care About Meter Hours

While Oakland parking meter changes have been in the news lately, we didn’t have a complete read on how Montclarions felt and decided to launch a parking preference survey.  Now we can report that locals seem particularly bothered by extended meter kiosk hours and are less concerned about the rate increases per se.

Most survey takers visit Montclair frequently and will continue to run errands around the village.  Some respondents said they may increase their trips to neighboring cities, due to the hassles of extended hours and kiosks.  Over time, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Parking Meter-Machines

Meter Hours Really Matter

We learned that extending the meter kiosks to 8pm was the biggest irritant, with 59 percent giving the move a resounding thumbs-down and another 6 percent saying it wasn’t okay.  Having a three-hour ticket option, starting at 5pm, has helped to ease the pain – some 24 percent gave it a thumbs-up and 41 percent said it was okay with them.

Of course, Montclarions do have unlimited daytime hours at the local parking garage.  While parking up on La Salle solves the meter hour problem, over 31 percent report they never even use this garage.  Based on the results, we believe that respondents like to drive right up to their store or restaurant of choice.

Fewer Montclarions were ticked off about the $2 per hour rates imposed by the City Council, with only 29 percent who gave it thumbs-down and 18 percent who said it wasn’t okay.  If the garage charged $2 per hour, then just 18 percent were thumbs-down and 18 percent were not okay with this rate.

Montclarions Speak Out

Montclarions have reacted strongly to the combination of later meter hours and fees.  “If I am dining out, I would much prefer to dine in Berkeley or Emeryville to save an extra $6 or a pricey parking ticket,” explained one survey taker.

Another Montclarion declared that parking changes impact “the laissez-faire feeling of the Village after 6pm – to park free, time to walk, get coffee, a drink, get dinner, schmooze with friends.  Doesn’t quality of life mean anything anymore?”

A different respondent echoed that sentiment:  “The extended hours on the meters…l don’t like it.  [It’s] revenue to the city, but a big drawback for our local restaurants.  Would I eat at Crogan’s and shop in the village or make the long haul elsewhere?”

One parent expressed frustration with the parking system itself, because “kiosks are hard for people with small children and babies to navigate.  I would rather pay more and avoid the kiosks.”

Others are more circumspect about the parking situation.  “I gripe about parking as much as the next person,” admitted one survey taker.  “Actually, in my experience, parking in Oakland is not so bad; it’s definitely better than parking in Berkeley.”

“Parking fees have very little effect on where I shop,” stated another local.  “I go for convenience, and nice places.  Parking is a small fraction of the costs/decisions I make, though I do look for free spots when available.”

Where Montclarions Shop

We also asked Montclarions where they shop, and confirmed that everyone depends on the village.  A whopping 50 percent said they make more than ten visits/month and 8 percent said they make 6-10 visits to the village.  Some 44 percent spend over 10 hours and 17 percent spend 6-10 hours parked monthly in Montclair.

Despite the fears of village proprietors, few Montclarions said they would make wholesale changes in shopping and dining destinations based on these parking changes.  The survey asked about many alternative destinations, how often they shopped there, and whether the parking rates would impact their behaviors:

  • Rockridge – This district is popular with Montclarions, with 100 percent reporting at least one visit monthly and 33 percent making six or more visits.  Given the parking rate increase, 39 percent said they would go there more often for free parking spots.
  • Other Oakland – Some 88 percent reported at least one visit monthly to Glenview, 61 percent to downtown, and 92 percent to the rest of Oakland.  Under 25 percent reported six-plus times monthly visits, and there were no plans to shift shopping to these other Oakland districts.
  • Emeryville and Berkeley – Montclarions already drive to Emeryville (83 percent) and Berkeley (96 percent) at least once monthly.  Now 33 percent said they would visit Emeryville more often and park free, while 22 percent said the same about Berkeley.  Under 20 percent would consider visiting more, even if they paid there.
  • Orinda and Lafayette – Some 35 percent of Montclarions visit at least once monthly.  Survey takers said they would drive to Orinda (22 percent) or Lafayette (18 percent) more often and park free.  They also would consider going more often, even if they fed meters.

At the end of the day, Montclarions are trying to take things in stride but are clearly disappointed by the later meter hours and restrictions.  We see an attitude shift because locals are willing to drive more frequently to other cities for shopping and dining.  However they (we) remain devoted to Montclair Village, and no one is abandoning ship.

How Do You Really Feel About Parking?

Well, there has been a lot of hoopla and reaction over Oakland parking changes and rate increases.  It’s not bound to stop for Montclarions, who will soon see village garage fees raised to $2/hour.  We just picked up on this ordinance amendment, which we believe confirms the City Council’s decision to increase fees in city parking garages.

We know there’s grumbling out there in the hills.  The Town Crier asked whether the new parking rules would drive away Montclair business, and some 90 percent said the tunnel’s looking more appealing to them!  With this response in mind, we wanted to know more – and have seven quick questions for you.

Survey Guy

In this parking preference survey, it’s pretty much a multiple choice affair.  Where do you park in Oakland and nearby burgs, and how often?  What are your attitudes towards the different Montclair Village options?  And finally, do you really intend to alter your shopping habits and locales?

Keep in mind that parking kiosk irritants will get fixed soon.  If you buy a ticket from a kiosk, then it will be good for the full time even if you are parked elsewhere in the village or city.  If you buy a ticket after 5pm, then you will have the option to buy three rather than two hours’ time.

Still with the rate increases overall, we are very curious about your collective reactions.  There’s nothing like sharing results from a scientific survey, skewed by whomever wants to vote.  Thanks in advance for your opinions, all.

Holiday Parking All Year Long

Remember those great holiday days, when you could park free in Montclair Village?  Unfortunately, the world has reverted back to its ugly self.  If you manage to arrive back at your car after meter time has expired, then be prepared to cough up a whopping $75 fine – I know first-hand.

Time for confession: Well, I headed to the Village with only an errand or two in mind, and ignored the garage option.  Instead, I pounced on a coveted LaSalle spot.  After quickly cursing the new-fangled meter, it produced a receipt which I gently placed on the dash.  This should be a fast one, I thought.

Parking Meter-Machines

The problem begins: My errands included minor visits to UPS and the ATM, and yours might be equally riveting.  Mission accomplished, I wandered over to both bookstores because they were calling my name.  Yes, the meter was completely forgotten.

When I ventured back to the car, the “envelope of doom” was tucked under the windshield wiper.  The ticketing officer seemed to be quite efficient and clearly won this round.

No real winners: I understand that meters are an income source for the City of Oakland and our dollars can help the cause.  At the same time, these time constraints also mean we have to shop quickly and get out of Dodge.  This doesn’t feel like the right way to attract business and support our local shop-keepers during a recession.

By encouraging and rewarding loitering, we surely would spend more shekels in the Village.  Let’s return to holiday parking – or at least move beyond free Sundays for starters.  What do you think?