This is one of several interviews in a series about the changes we can expect at the Lab during 2024.

The two topics that are most often on the minds of those who come to the Lab’s hill site are the availability of parking and coffee. While he can’t supply the coffee, Transportation and Parking Demand Senior Manager John Chernowski can discuss new and revived commute options for the Lab.

Q: John, what are the Lab’s major transportation projects for 2024?

A: There are several projects. We will continue to partner with our shuttle vendor to improve shuttle service. We plan to re-do the route timing as traffic changes in the area continue to impact our posted schedule. This will make the listed arrival times more reliable.

We will continue to stress micro-mobility as a commute option. About half of our employees live within a few miles of the Lab’s hill site or near a shuttle stop. If we can help people move away from single occupancy vehicles and use options such as sit-down scooters and e-bikes, we can continue to manage our parking challenges brought about by construction and infrastructure upgrade projects. 


Q: What financial incentives are available for some of these micro-mobility options?

A: The incentives are impressive. For e-bikes, our vendor, Ride Panda, offers monthly leases at a reasonable price. This is a good option for those wanting to try an e-bike. For those who are ready to buy, UC has just finalized agreements with several e-bike providers to offer discounts on purchases. There are also rebates available from local governments. 2024 is the year of the e-bike as options increase, prices decrease, and more people see e-bikes as a good transportation alternative. 


Q: What options are available for those who are not candidates for e-bikes or scooters?

A: Our ride-share vendor, Pave Commute, currently offers ride-share matches among those associated with the Lab. In 2024, we aim to expand the pool of potential ride-share matches by including those who are in the UC Berkeley community, including students and postdocs. That means our pool of potential shared riders would grow from approximately five to six thousand to 40 thousand riders. It’s easy to see your potential matches using the matching option on their website. 


Q: There were a lot of changes in 2023 to the Lab’s parking policy. Will there be more parking changes this year?

A: There will be a few changes. We will be piloting time-limited spaces. In our parking survey, we heard that people who need to come to the Lab for a few hours later in the day are discouraged because convenient parking is gone in the morning. With time-limited spaces, you can reserve a space like EV reservation parking runs now. This will allow a space to be used multiple times in a day. Look for more information on that as we work on the logistics of reserving a parking space.


Q: How were the parking policy changes in 2023 received?

A: The changes went surprisingly well. It flattened the parking hierarchy. I’m proud of the working group of representatives across the Lab who worked on the policy. We partnered with the IDEA office to develop a parking policy that integrates stewardship and IDEA principles and aligns parking with our culture. 

We still have about 50 orange circle spaces out of our 1,700 spaces given to those holding specific job titles that need to be mobile during the day. By the way, the orange circles in the spaces will be painted green in 2024. 


Q: How does transportation advance the Lab’s research mission? 

A: Transportation supports the Lab’s mission by providing different options for people coming on site. When we surveyed people on our parking policy last year, we took that approach by asking how we could support those who needed to come on site. Our parking supply is fixed at about 1,700 spaces. The spaces are not all just steps from your building or where you want to be, but they are there. Many employers in densely populated urban areas, such as the Bay Area, don’t offer parking. Not only do we have parking at the hill site, but it is free, which you cannot find at most other employers in the area. 


Q: What are the challenges you expect to face in 2024?

A: We will always have challenges in transportation, but there is one universal rule: if you offer free parking, people will drive. Our greatest challenge is creating attractive options besides single-vehicle commuting.

The reality is that the Lab has several large construction projects continuing over the next several years. We partner with those projects to reduce their footprint in parking lots. In one case, Old Town, building demolition has resulted in cleared land. That area will be paved soon so it can be used for parking until it is ready for scientific use.

And people ask, why not use that land and build a parking garage? Garages are very expensive to build, and UC and Lab management prefer that our funding requests to the government be used for science. Besides, with the limited amount of buildable land at the Lab, the land needs to be used in a way that is consistent with our mission. Our mission is not parking; it’s science.


Q: What else should we look for in 2024?

A: We last did a comprehensive commuting survey before the pandemic and will do one this year. We want to learn how people get to the Lab and understand the different modes of commute to help us decide on additional commute options in the future. For example, we could increase the midday shuttle services if people now commute during different hours. 

Our goals are to expand and drive micro-mobility options in tandem with shuttle growth. Our shuttles now serve over 100 off-site locations and five BART stations. We are also changing the schedule for the blue route, with a shuttle at every stop every 10 minutes. 


Q: What have you learned about the people of the Lab? 

A: There is no shortage of ideas and opinions regarding commuting, and almost everyone is willing to help. They get it and want to make it better. They recognize parking is a challenge and are generally interested in working together to offer other options. The Lab is the birthplace of team science, and it is reflected in how we address transportation. Transportation is a community challenge and requires a team science approach to solve it. 


  • Pat Tura says:

    Why would you spend money to change the paint color of current orange spots to green? Orange is a highly visible color under all weather conditions.

    • John G Chernowski says:

      Thanks for your question, Pat. We changed the permit color to address the dozens of legacy orange circle permits that currently ineligible staff still possessed. Changing the space colors to align with the new permits will eliminate any confusion in the long term.

  • Andrea Ricci says:

    Idea: Expand shuttle service down Grizzly Peak.
    Expand shuttle service down University Ave.

    • John G Chernowski says:

      Thanks, Andrea. While we’d love to expand our shuttle routes, we are limited by funding requirements to only run routes between Lab facilities and locations of routine Lab operations. We’re always looking for ways to expand these services while complying with our funding requirements.