Emeryville residents second in Car-free Commuting, 80% still driving into our city

Published On February 6, 2017 | By Rob Arias | News & Commentary, Transit

Emeryville residents deserve a pat on the back after a recent data study by the MTC revealed we were second in the region in using transit. The data on Commuting into our city was less encouraging as over 80% are choosing to drive into Emeryville with over 70% doing so alone.

The Top Ten Cities for taking Transit

While nearly one-quarter of Emeryville residents are taking some form of public transit, around half of us are still driving alone. The “other” transit categories comprise bicycle, motorcycle, taxi, and other modes of transportation. San Francisco remains the regional leader in the percentage of residents who take public transit to work at 33 percent.

  1. San Francisco: 32.9%
  2. Emeryville: 24.8%
  3. El Cerrito: 23.9%
  4. Albany: 23.8%
  5. Berkeley: 20.8%
  6. Daly City: 20.4%
  7. Oakland: 19.1%
  8. Colma: 18.5%
  9. Lafayette: 17.5%
  10. Walnut Creek: 16.0%

Regional transit trends of note:

  • 5% of Bay Area commuters shifted away from driving since 2000
  • 12% of Bay Area commuters relied on public transit in 2014, the highest share since 1960
  • Approximately 6 of every 10 people who either live or work in San Francisco commute without a car
  • San Francisco County has the highest rate of transit use, walking, biking and telecommuting
  • The Bay Area has the second-highest rate of non-auto commuting of any major metro area

Emeryville Commuter Data by Neighborhood Tract

Emeryville does not and probably never will have a BART Station – but we do have our Emery Go-Round, an Amtrak station, Transbay Bus lines and a private ferry service (with a second on its way). All of these were contributing factors in our high transit use rank. The Emeryville data was broken up into four neighborhood “tracts” that provide an interesting comparison of different areas of our city.

Some notable figures about Emeryville commuters:

  • Nearly 15% of “Christie Core” residents walk to work
  • The combined Park Ave/Triangle neighborhoods had the highest percentage of telecommuters at around 10%
  • Bike to work data was relatively low across our city at 2.9% (by comparison, 7.1% of Berkeley residents commute by bike)

Emeryville has crafted policy to further encourage the use of transit by reducing the amount of parking required for development projects and “unbundle” spaces from units. This is said to help residents better realize the cost of building parking (and theoretically lower the cost of housing) and encourage more one-car, or even car-less households. Critics of the strategy question if forcing residents to pay for parking will push more of them to turn to on-street parking and exacerbate the problem. Much of this policy was guided by former Councilmember Jennifer West through her work with TransForm, a transportation advocacy nonprofit. West is currently the GreenTRIP Senior Program Manager with them and works on GreenTRIP certifying low-traffic residential projects.

80% of commuters into our city still driving

While residents look to be doing their part, there’s clearly room for improvement for commuters into our city. According to the MTC data, 81.1 percent of those coming into our city are choosing to do so by car (10.7% by Carpool) with less than 10% taking transit. By comparison, only 60% of commuters into neighboring Berkeley choose to drive with 10% of these by carpool.

Many blame the relatively ample amount of free/inexpensive lot & street parking within our city as a draw for car trips and the emissions that come with them. Encouraging more commuters into our city to take transit and discouraging solo driving is slowly getting more attention as residents and businesses compete for increasingly scarce on-street parking.

“I concur that free or low-cost parking is a key factor in the rate of driving” noted MTC Senior Planner Dave Vautin. Vautin referenced a recent study showing that 77% of commuters with free parking drove alone, while only 39% of those who had to pay drove alone. Vautin also noted a key driver in Emeryville residents ranking so high may be their commute pattern into SF and Oakland where parking rates tend to be higher.

Discouraging Solo Drivers and Mitigating Parking Issues

Implementing more metered and green zone parking is a tool that has been recommended by West and other transportation studies for curbing solo driving. These measures also encourage parking turnover and help ensure spaces are more readily available for our local businesses and encourage patronage. Managing on-street parking requires some capital investment and enforcement, but this can be offset by the revenue stream it creates. This revenue can in turn be used for things like enhancing walkability/bike-ability or improved streetscaping. Issues with enforcement are being solved today through technology such as apps that can extend time without punitive measures like ticketing. Parking models such as those in Santa Cruz implement a tiered scale of payment that increases with every hour parked to encourage short-term parking and discourage “all-day” parkers.

“Emeryville has been a pioneer in implementing GreenTRIP standards into residential projects” West noted when contacted, “but they’ve been a bit slower to embrace these policies for on-street parking for visitors and commuters. Just as private parking owners have figured out in Emeryville, paid parking is the best way to manage this valuable public commodity – the curb – so that people can actually find a parking spot when they want one.”

A common site around Plum Organics where sidewalks are routinely blocked by overflowing vehicles.

Encouraging Emeryville employers to provide free transit passes to their employees is another tool that would encourage transit use according to West. Businesses that purchase transit passes in bulk can receive a substantial discount as high as 90% in some cases. Businesses like Plum Organics and TubeMogul have been cited by neighbors I’ve personally chatted with for rapidly expanding without mitigating their employee parking.

Many of these transit policy recommendations were outlined in a this 2008 Parking Policy and Management Implementation Plan but never fully implemented. The City of Berkeley recently implemented a three-year transportation pilot program called goBerkeley. Read More about the methodology of the MTC’s study and the performance of other cities on MTC’s Vital Signs.


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About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

5 Responses to Emeryville residents second in Car-free Commuting, 80% still driving into our city

  1. Anonymous says:

    > Encouraging Emeryville employers to provide free transit passes to their employees is another tool that would encourage transit use according to West. Businesses that purchase transit passes in bulk can receive a substantial discount as high as 90% in some cases. Businesses like Plum Organics and TubeMogul have been cited by neighbors I’ve personally chatted with for rapidly expanding without mitigating their employee parking.

    I’ve read that making employees pay for parking is more effective than giving them free transit passes, though they’re not mutually exclusive. One recent story that might be applicable to Emeryville businesses https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/how-changed-commuting-culture-company-parking-lyft

    • Anonymous says:

      Before trying to ‘stick-it’ to people for driving, consider that many who drive on their commutes do so because they need to drop off young children, and finding transit or carpool solutions that accommodate all their stops and provide the security of a child restraint system isn’t an option. Also, not everyone can commute into Emeryville. Making things harder on someone just because they are working parents or live in, say, San Rafael, doesn’t seem like a fair way to push people to stop driving.

      • Rob Arias says:

        Thanks Anon. 5:22. This is a valid point. There are clearly people where taking public transit is less of an option and I didn’t mean to imply this applies to everyone. I do think lowering both of these figures would make our city more livable and something we should aspire to. In terms of the “big picture”, incremental measures to encourage this is in everyone’s best interest.

  2. cynthiaarmour says:

    I’m really curious to see what the impact of bike share will be on commute patterns in Emeryville. I think it has the potential to make BARTing + Biking to Emeryville way easier. Here is the map of planned stations: https://bikeeastbay.org/sites/default/files/documents/Full_Extent_East_Bay.pdf

  3. bluefelt says:

    This topic is of great interest to me, as I moved to Richmond a year ago and my commute back and forth to Emeryville takes 30+ painfully slow minutes to go 8 miles. I’m a huge fan of public transit and hate driving. Having lived in Oakland for years, I could get anywhere easily by walking, taking the bus or BART. I used to walk or take the bus to BART into SF every day for work. I loved not driving and I miss it so much, but to get to Emeryville from Richmond, I’d have to take a bus (or walk 15 mins in the rain right now), to BART, then the Emery-go-Round to work. It takes an hour+ each way with all of the stops. I’d rather work in downtown Oakland, which is a straight shot. How do I justify doubling the commute time? I would also argue that cheap parking in not the issue as we pay at least $180 to park here in the Wareham lots. I can take public transit for much less. It’s a tough choice.

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