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A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) smart parking system encouraged 30 percent of surveyed travelers to use transit instead of driving alone to their place of work.

Experience with smart parking in Oakland, California

Date Posted

Smart Parking Management Field Test: A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District Parking Demonstration - Final Report

Summary Information

In December 2004, a smart parking system was implemented at the Rockridge Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station in Oakland, California. The overall goal was to improve parking and encourage commuters to take transit instead of driving in congested traffic conditions.

The system used underground sensors to count vehicles entering and exiting the parking area’s reserve lot. The data collected were relayed to a central computer system where vehicle counts were processed and information on parking availability was posted on an Internet website and displayed on two portable dynamic message signs (DMS) located on Highway 24. Travelers were able to view the number of spaces available in real-time and decide to ride transit based on prevailing traffic conditions or make advanced reservations via the Internet.

A centralized intelligent reservation system permitted commuters to check parking availability and make reservations via telephone, mobile phone, Internet, or PDA. Travelers en-route who used mobile phones to reserve parking spaces were charged an extra $1.00 for the service while travelers who made advanced reservations using the Internet were charged an extra $4.50. To maximize participation in the smart parking test a single user was only allowed to make three parking reservations within a two week period. The service operated from 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM Monday through Friday.

The system was evaluated from December 2004 to April 2006. Fifty of 920 total parking spaces were available for smart park testing. Fifteen of the smart parking spaces were made available to travelers who made advanced reservations on the Internet and the remaining were made available to travelers who decided to smart park en-route.

The evaluation was based on 177 survey questionnaires completed by participants in February and March of 2006. Volunteer test participants who used the system more than once were sent an email requesting that they complete an on-line questionnaire. Survey results captured respondents’ demographic, employment, and travel attributes and patterns.


The smart parking project found that more efficient management of transit station parking lots improved parking space utilization rates and increased BART ridership.

The following were key findings from the user response analysis:
  • Most respondents used smart parking to travel to their on-site work location one to three days per month.
  • Most respondents used the advanced reservation service via phone or Internet to access the smart parking system.
  • 37 percent of respondents had seen one or more of the DMS on Highway 24 with smart parking information, but only 32 percent of those used this information to decide whether to continue driving or take BART instead.

The following were key findings from the analysis of participant survey travel results:
  • Increased BART modal share (30.8 percent of survey respondents indicated that smart parking encouraged them to use BART instead of driving alone to their place of work; 55.9 percent indicated similar motivation to commute via transit to an off-site work location, for example, to attend a meeting.)
  • Decreased carpooling and bus modes due to smart parking (16.8 and 6.6 percent of respondents were diverted from these modes for commuter travel to on-site and off-site work locations, respectively.)
  • Increased driving to the BART station (without smart parking 14.3 and 15.3 percent of respondents would have taken a bus or a non-motorized mode to the BART station for on-site and off-site work commutes, respectively.)
  • Decreased average commute time by 2.6 minutes (47.5 minutes with smart parking and BART, and 50.1 minutes without smart parking.)
  • Reduced total vehicle miles traveled (on average, there were 9.7 fewer vehicle miles traveled per participant per month.)