Mayor Newsom Still Opposed to Extending Parking Meter Hours

3670817354_0733e09db6.jpgFlickr photo: KayVee.INC

Mayor Gavin Newsom has been quietly pressuring MTA Chief Nat Ford to delay or prevent proposals to extend parking meter hours on weeknights and Sundays, despite a looming mid-year MTA budget deficit and studies that show it’s good policy, Streetsblog has learned.

A study on the parking management and revenue implications of expanded meter enforcement, which Ford promised within 90 days, was initiated as part of a "compromise" in late May to prevent the Board of Supervisors from rejecting the MTA’s 2009-10 budget. It has now been more than 120 days and the study has not been made public, although Streetsblog has spoken to sources who have seen a summary of the draft.

"The Mayor thinks it’s the wrong time to make these moves," said Nathan Ballard, Newsom’s communications director. "Right now, with the economy where it is, the burden on ordinary people for city services is already stretched to the max, and so he hasn’t seen anything that convinces him otherwise. He’s open to arguments, but he’s still where he was."

Ballard said the study "is nearing completion" and would eventually be made available to the public. Judson True, the MTA spokesperson, said the agency is working to finalize it. "[It] will be a thorough effort based on sound parking-management ideas and extensive stakeholder outreach. We hope that it will elevate some of the recent discussions on parking."

The delay, however, is troubling, considering the pledge made to the Board of Supervisors, particularly BOS Prez David Chiu, who rescinded his motion to reject the MTA budget after receiving assurances from the Mayor the study would be forthcoming.

In an interview, Chiu pointed out, as he did during the budget crisis, that working class families and Muni riders were forced to bear four times the burden of what drivers were asked, in the way of fare increases and service cuts.

"Everyone agreed that a parking study would be done to figure out the fairest way to have car owners carry their fair share," said Chiu. "Given that it is highly likely there will be a more significant mid-year budget deficit, we need to consider all options before we consider service cuts to Muni and other public transit options."

After that exhaustive supervisors meeting May 27, Ford was asked by Streetsblog how he could promise serious consideration of extended meters given Newsom’s adamant opposition. His response?

"I think that’s premature at this point to assume that. I think, if we have a reasonable plan that takes into account all the impacts, I have found with the Mayor, as well as the Board of Supervisors, that they’ve been supportive of some of those suggestions we’ve made and in this case we need a little bit of time."

According to our sources who’ve seen the summary, the study affirms that extending meter hours is good parking management that will improve driver convenience and create turnover for businesses. The agency is said to have compared more than twenty commercial streets on Wednesday and Friday nights, and Sunday during the day, and apparently found that commercial districts across the city are seeing occupancy rates near 100 percent not long after meters are turned off. Streetsblog has been informed that the study found the problem is especially acute on Sundays, when commercial streets in the study areas see near total occupancy while the majority of the businesses on those streets on average are still open.

Cities all across the country leave their meters on much later than 6 p.m., regardless of the current state of the economy. Take Los Angeles: Santa Monica, Old Pasadena, and West Hollywood leave meters on until 2 a.m. New York City, Milwaukee, and Miami Beach, run meters until midnight. Denver, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC, run meters until 10 p.m. How is San Francisco going to be the most innovative parking demand-management city and implement SFpark if it can’t even get the nerve to keep meters on as long as Bethesda, Maryland (10 p.m.) or Park City, Utah (8 p.m.)?

In a city with a stated Transit First policy and an MTA with the power to apply parking revenue directly to transit operations, there is no excuse to throw good money down the drain. According to our sources who have seen the MTA study’s summary, increasing parking meter hours in targeted commercial districts would generate a significant amount of money for an agency that desperately needs any source of revenue it has available for transit operations.

Not only would killing the proposals amount to bad parking management, it wouldn’t be responsive to the public’s stated priorities. According to surveys from the recently finished SFCTA On-Street Parking Management and Pricing Study, respondents ranked price of parking spaces behind parking availability, flexibility, proximity and safety. While the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce has not been supportive of extending meters on weekdays, they would like the city to extend meter hours on Sundays. The Port recently extended meter hours until 11 p.m. and there is no indication businesses are hurting.

If the Mayor is nervous about a fallout similar to what has happened in parts of Oakland around parking meter times and fee increases, he should take the lead on the issue by brandishing a study based on substantial data and make the argument that increasing meter hours will free up parking spaces in commercial districts to improve business. What’s more, unlike Oakland, the MTA would not lump the increased parking meter revenue into a general fund as a budget stop-gap, but would use the money to improve transit.

Mayor Newsom should embrace the MTA’s study, let Ford and the MTA Board implement extended metering and help the agency find additional new sources of revenue instead of trying to quash some of the most important, sensible options on the table.

  • What a surprise. “Green Gavin” believes in subsidizing cars, and cutting transit. Can we please get this guy to resign and get a real Mayor for a change?

  • psyclist

    If Nat Ford backs down from charging reasonable rates for parking to preserve transit service, it should be clear that the strategy to make the MTA independent from politics has not gone far enough. Though the MTA Commissioners serve for term and the Mayor can’t summarily replace them, they still cave in to the Mayor’s whims, ignoring their own professionals.

    It’s time to finish the job, and either split the MTA appointments or have an elected Board. I think we sustainable transportation advocates and the bus drivers’ union, working together, could muster a majority on the Board to support a shift from private cars to transit, walking, and bicycling.

  • oridnary_valet_parking

    “Right now, with the economy where it is, the burden on ordinary people for city services is already stretched to the max, …”

    since when does someone who can afford to own a car and drive it around the densest city on the west coast qualify as “ordinary”? if you can afford the hundreds of dollars a month for a permanent parking space near your home, i think you can pay the parking meter.

    newsom has confused a luxury with a basic need. (and NO, a car is NOT a basic need in this city, get real.)

  • Parking revenue (esp. parking tickets) should never be used as a form of revenue enhancement. Not even for Muni.

    That is one of main principles behind Shoup’s theories on parking management. Moreover, using parking ticket fines in this manner degrades public perception of the court system — meter maids become seen as nothing more than shakedown artists.

  • Right now there are 2 people controlling entrance and egress to the parking lot of the new Whole Foods in Noe Valley. The lot is small given the potential customers – the “guards” have cones with “LOT FULL” on them that they put in and out of place as the lot empty and fills.

    Meanwhile, 24th St has loads of metered parking that sees high turnover until 6 PM, when residents fill those spots and leave their cars overnight (this is somewhat mitigated by the every other day street cleaning that happens early in the AM, but suffice to say those spots aren’t of much use to Whole Foods or the other businesses on 24th after 6 PM).

    The cost of paying parking on the street compared to the typical grocery bill – nominal (and less than a MUNI fare).

    Meanwhile, WF installed rack spots for 8 bikes in front of the store, an improvement from the zero rack spots in front of the store when it was Bell Market. The first two days of operation, I have ridden into the parking lot to find the racks full, with additional bikes locked to random poles and to the shopping cart corral. Random sampling of the bikes parked in the racks at Rainbow could have cast a light on whether 8 rack spots would be enough in Noe Valley.

  • My husband was thrilled today to find a parking meter to park his bike to within half a block of Whole Foods on 24th Street. Didn’t dream of using the bike racks there as there hasn’t been a spot open since Wednesday. We need to get the word out that if you need to drive to Whole Foods, go to the one on 17th st in Potrero Hill. It’s right off the freeway and has a nice big garage. The Noe Valley lot is minuscule. Do not drive there. Maybe the whole lot should be just for bicycles with a few handicapped spaces. There are people from South San Francisco coming to the Noe Valley Whole Foods. It’s insane.

    I am all for extending parking meter hours as long as you could plug the meters for four hours at a time–long enough for dinner and a movie/symphony/opera/whatever. One hour parking in the evening is cruel.

  • If you can not afford to pay an extra dollar an hour, or for an extra hour to park your car, then the fact is, you can not afford your car in the first place.
    I am with taomom. Make spots open for 3-4 hours in the evening, but make them expensive- $3 an hour. Every parking space in SF should cost money. Every residential spot should have a residential parking permit attached to it, every meter should be 24 hours. If you have overnight guests, they should have to buy a permit to park overnight (or if you have a garage, let them park there and you park on your street with your residential permit).
    My family has 2 cars that we have to park on the street and I would be willing to live with having to pay to park them. I already do with the stupid # of parking tickets I get each year : )

  • I think what is missing here is the argument murphstahoe is making in that allowing parking to end at 6 is actually SUFFOCATING businesses in the districts. That should be the frame, not saving motorists money. In fact its a double whammy, because if you’re depressing sales without metered parking, you’re also depressing sales tax. So that is a lack of meter money and sales tax. A double whammy for the city. When do we get a smart urban mayor?

  • Be careful what you wish for.

    The _only_ problem solved through market-rate pricing at the meters would be increased utilization and convenience of the curbside parking for shoppers. That, in turn, leads to greater incentive for car trips and greater traffic. Whatever revenue might be earned is too marginal to help Muni (in the unlikely event those funds were even made available to transit).

    Really, the discussion needs to be not how much to charge at these meters, but why have curbside parking there at all. In a place like Amsterdam or Copenhagen, that parking would have been removed to make way for bike lanes.

  • Drunk Engineer,

    I agree with you, I’d like to see lots of car parking removed to create bike lanes. (Oak Street between Baker and Scott, anyone?) I’ve heard there’s a lot of this happening in Paris, too, very successfully.

    The main advantage to charging more and longer for parking in a livable streets context is that it will make owning a car more inconvenient and expensive, thus pushing some people to get rid of their car altogether. Which in turn would mean less cars needing to be parked.

    It’s too bad we can’t charge parking by car size. If all the ginormous SUVs and vans in San Francisco were turned into Honda Fits, we’d need about half the parking we do in the city.

  • taomom: In this situation, the purpose for higher meter rates is increased turnover — so that drivers guaranteed that some parking spaces are available. Nobody is talking about meter rates so prohibitively expensive that drivers are forced to sell cars.

    Far from discouraging driving, this makes driving more convenient for shopping trips. It is a step backwards.

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