News From the East Bay Green Corridor

BTAP Aims to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Berkeley

The City of Berkeley has always been a leader in environmental stewardship.  But Senior Transportation Planner Matt Nichols believes there is much work to be done, and he wants to start in his own field.   “Transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases in Berkeley and one of the most difficult to bring down in short term,” he explained in an interview with GreenBeat.  “Transportation emissions is the elephant in the room when you talk about climate.”  Rather than tiptoeing around the elephant, Nichols and the rest of the Transportation Division are moving forward with a coordinated set of incentives they call the Berkeley Transportation Action Plan (BTAP).

Nichols says that the BTAP will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Berkeley in two key ways.  First, the Plan will decrease driving by making parking easier to find.  Real-time information about available parking spaces will allow drivers to find parking without circling in their cars.

BTAP’s second prong involves creative incentives to shift modes of transportation. In 2010, Berkeley opened the brand-new downtown Bike Station at 2208 Shattuck Avenue, the result of a partnership between the City, BART, and community biking organizations.  The Station provides secure bike parking, repair facilities, a retail store, free bike safety inspections and other amenities.

The City also plans to distribute one-year, universal AC Transit passes to participating employees and residents and to expand its Car Share program by adding cars, some of which will be pluggable electric vehicles modified by the East Bay company 3 Prong.  As an added incentive, businesses and residents will be able to take advantage of new Car Share discounts.

Another strategy will be to implement the concept of “demand-response parking” within the City. The Transportation Division estimates that approximately 21 metric tons of CO2 could be reduced per year by implementing parking strategies that reduce on-street parking occupancy rates.

The BTAP will be presented to the Berkeley community through a coordinated marketing and outreach effort so that residents and businesses see it as a comprehensive, multifaceted program.  The program was made possible by a Metropolitan Transportation Commission Climate Initiatives grant, a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and one from the United States Federal Highway Administration.  In total, Berkeley received 4.5 million dollars in order to move ahead with the Plan, which Nichols said has been in the works for several years. 

Nichols is hopeful that the City’s efforts will lead to a cleaner local transportation sector.  “We’re excited that we finally have the funding to implement our plans on a large scale in a coordinated way.  I think is the best opportunity to put our heads together and take this issue on.  It’s exciting and a big challenge.”

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