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Implementing Paid Parking in Union City’s Station District

Union City, California
Firm Role
Parking planning and implementation, financial analysis, data collection and analysis
2008 – 2009, implemented 2010
190 acres with up to 1,500 residences, 1,100,000 ft.² of office, 100,000 ft.² of retail, and 3 acres of public parks and plazas. Additionally, a curb parking management plan for all on-street parking within a 10-minute walk of the Station

Union City is transforming 190 acres of abandoned, polluted steel and pipe yards adjacent to its Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station into a new downtown. To help realize the dream of building a truly transit-oriented district, the city retained a team led by Nelson\Nygaard to analyze the potential for paid parking. Patrick Siegman directed the project, while a principal at Nelson\Nygaard.

Charging for parking was a radical departure from Union City’s recent history as an auto-dependent suburb, where minimum parking laws hide the cost of parking in the cost of other goods and services. The move was spurred by BART’s decision to introduce fees in its park-and-ride lots. If the city failed to act, nearby on-street parking would soon be overwhelmed by motorists avoiding BART’s fees. Requiring ample “free” parking also would have badly undermined the financial feasibility of creating a genuinely compact, walkable, urban neighborhood.

To help the city establish paid parking, our project team completed parking occupancy counts for the district and all curb parking within a 10-minute walk; reviewed best practices in peer cities; and built a financial model to forecast parking supply, demand, revenues, and costs. We then proposed a flexible, long-range plan for introducing, operating, and managing a fiscally responsible and user-friendly paid parking district.

To help the city implement the plan, we wrote Requests for Proposals for purchasing parking pay stations, and for a contractor to operate and maintain the system. We also advised the city through pre-bid meetings, proposal analysis, and vendor selection.

Paid parking began in 2010. Demand-based prices have succeeded in balancing parking supply and demand, preventing spillover parking into neighborhoods, generating revenue to support the district, and increasing bicycling, walking, and transit ridership.

Images courtesy of the City of Union City