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City considers parking restrictions near Richmond BART station

on December 3, 2013

The Richmond BART station has plenty of spaces in its new garage, but many people are still choosing to avoid the $1.50 garage fee by parking for free on nearby city streets. Taxis are also using city streets as an overflow parking area.

Area resident Raven Brown is frustrated with BART riders parking all day on neighborhood streets instead of using the BART parking garage. Many of her neighbors are also concerned about not being able to park in front of their own homes.

But it’s the taxis that really have Brown incensed. She says the taxi drivers line up on 16th Street, littering and urinating near homes. Brown adds that she even saw drivers set up a makeshift break area with a circle of milk crates around a tree. “They were there daily like it was a park bench,” she said.

Rohit Sharma, who has been a taxi driver in Richmond for two years, said there should be more designated parking for taxis.

“Either BART should have a special place or the city of Richmond,” he said.

Sharma feels that having a designated taxi area will allow the city to hold drivers responsible for how they use the space. “If you have a separate area for taxis to park, then you can hold them accountable,” he said.

There is currently a designated taxi area within the BART station with enough space for three cars, but sometimes 15 cabs line up along the curb.

On a Wednesday morning, a few cabs were parked on the east side of 16th street. Drivers wearing Bluetooth earpieces mingled on the sidewalk, where food wrappers and other garbage were strewn. The cabs moved up the block toward the station as cars departed with passengers. When the east side of the street filled up, drivers parked with the rear of their vehicles sticking out off the corner of the block.

“It’s abuse,” Brown said of the taxi drivers’ behavior.

Brown brought the situation to the attention of the city’s Public Safety Committee. In response, city staff is considering limiting or eliminating the taxi parking on 16th Street and implementing a time limit and residential parking permits on Livingston Lane.

Eliminating taxi parking on 16th would leave taxis with less spots to park, but Sharma suggested BART could convert some empty bus loading areas into more parking spaces for taxis.

If the city decides to issue residential permits, it will be the first time for Richmond, according to Steven Tam, a senior civil engineer for the city. The city does not have a system in place for residential parking permits. “The police department is running that program, and as far as I know, it’s not [happening.]”

City Councilman Corky Booze said starting a new program might be what’s needed to ensure residents can park in front of their own homes.

“I think we have to try to think outside the box and be fair to our citizens,” said Booze, who sits on the Public Safety Committee. Furthermore, he said, many other cities already have permitting programs in place.

Most cities set up a parking limit of around four hours during the daytime near BART stations, said Alicia Trost, BART spokeswoman. She said the rider parking problem is not a matter of overflow, because the new garage is not filling up.

Trost added that some cities have also implemented a permitting process. “Each city makes their own decisions,” she said. “We’re of course willing to work the city to come up with a plan.”

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