The City of Alameda Creates a New Parking Enforcement Program
Last May, the City of Alameda, California, launched a new parking enforcement service that moved most enforcement activities from the Police Department to the Public Works Department, enabling it to focus more closely on transportation and clean water goals. The enforcement program aims to increase compliance with parking rules in order to ensure spaces are available for visitors, crosswalks and bike lanes are clear, accessible parking zones are reserved for people with disability placards, and street sweeping keeps debris out of its waterways.
…these citation revenues will help the Parking Fund recover from pandemic revenue losses…
Increasing Parking Management Needs
Alameda is a small, growing city on the San Francisco Bay, with a population of 80,000. Parking and curb management is an increasingly important part of achieving city goals related to transportation management, economic development, climate change, and traffic safety. Two downtown areas have parking meters, three city-run surface parking lots, and one parking garage.
New housing developments are being built, especially at Alameda Point, a former Navy base where long-term planning includes 4,000 new public parking spaces with paid parking. To help accommodate this growth, a second ferry terminal opened at Alameda Point last year, and the city plans to introduce paid parking at two of its three ferry terminals in 2023, with rates that shift periodically depending on parking occupancy.
In addition, last year Alameda updated its zoning to align with parking management goals and now has parking maximums rather than parking minimums. In the future, this may necessitate more parking management in residential areas, such as residential parking permit programs (Alameda currently has one small residential parking permit area near a ferry terminal).
Also in 2021, Alameda adopted a Vision Zero commitment to eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries by 2035. To do this will require a multi-layered approach to increasing traffic safety, including reducing the number of drivers double-parking and circling for parking. In 2023, the city plans to begin implementing demand-based parking pricing with an 85 percent parking occupancy goal, reducing congestion and allowing drivers to find parking faster. With that in mind, the City Council updated Alameda’s municipal code in 2020 to make parking rate changes easier.
The code now allows the Public Works Director to adjust hourly parking rates between $0.00 and $5.00, consistent with the goal of achieving the 85 percent occupancy target. Staff are currently considering options for collecting parking occupancy counts next year.
The city’s COVID-19 pandemic response has also increased the need for parking management. Alameda’s Commercial Streets program, which reduced driving lanes to make space for businesses to build parklets in 2020, reduced on-street parking spaces in core commercial areas by about one third. (The percent reduction is lower when off-street parking options are included, particularly in the garage, which is currently underutilized.)
Alameda will update this road striping next year, including new zones for ADA parking and short-term parking zones to meet the increased use of food delivery services. The final configuration of these streets will be decided at the end of 2023, in conjunction with Active Transportation Plan implementation.
New Parking Enforcement Service
Parking management does not function without enforcement, so Alameda focused on that first. The new Alameda Parking Enforcement Service, run by the Public Works Department, is poised to grow with increasing needs. The program includes Alameda’s first-ever full-time parking enforcement technicians and part-time staff, who will soon be using the city’s first Automatic License Plate Reader parking enforcement system. Before taking on parking enforcement, Public Works was already responsible for maintaining the city’s parking meters, collecting parking meter revenues, and maintaining city-run surface parking lots and its parking garage.
The new parking enforcement service has been rebranded and refocused. Alameda’s Police Department parking technicians used to wear police uniforms, drove vehicles with police markings, and underwent background checks to obtain clearance to access the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS). When needed, they also helped with traffic control after crashes and occasional other department needs.
With the new program, vehicles and uniforms feature a new Alameda parking logo used in signage and decals across the parking program. Public Works is not seeking CLETS clearance for personnel, simplifying hiring and training.
Public Works parking technicians’ responsibilities are more focused on transportation and street sweeping, and only issue parking tickets to vehicles violating restrictions for parking meters, time limits, street cleaning, various color curb zones, and similar parking restrictions. They coordinate with the Police Department when vehicle towing is necessary, as towing requires CLETS access. This model is common in cities where parking enforcement is not in the Police Department. The Police Department retained part-time technician positions to manage towing, traffic control after vehicle crashes, and police needs.
New Budget Structure & Additional Staffing
In addition to new parking enforcement program personnel, Alameda has increased staffing dedicated to parking planning. In fall 2021, the city hired a new Senior Transportation Coordinator who spends about 30 percent of their time leading parking policy and planning. Alameda now prioritizes parking management in its budget structure, as well.
In winter 2021, the City Council approved creation of a new comprehensive parking fund comprising all revenues and expenses related to parking, including the parking citation revenues that used to go into the general fund. Consolidating revenues into a single fund will allow the city to better evaluate program effectiveness and ensure that the program becomes financially self-sufficient without the need for annual General Fund support.
In the short term, these citation revenues will help the Parking Fund recover from pandemic revenue losses and help the program invest in equipment and staffing to meet growing parking needs across the city (the fund is not yet revenue positive, but is improving). In the long term, the Parking Fund should generate excess revenues that the City Council can allocate as part of the budget process.
With the new budget structure, enforcement service, and plans for curb management, demand-based parking pricing, and paid parking at its ferry terminals, Alameda is poised to meet its parking and curb management needs as it moves into the future. This small city is furthering its connections between parking management, parking enforcement, and its broader transportation system.
Lisa Foster is Senior Transportation Coordinator for the City of Alameda, CA. Learn more at www.AlamedaParking.org.