MTA Releases Parking Meter Study that Proposes Extending Hours

sf_park_small.jpgPhoto: Bryan Goebel

MTA Chief Nat Ford, at a reporters' round table today, released the long-anticipated parking study conducted by his agency to measure the traffic impacts of increasing parking meter hours on weekday evenings and on Sundays [Summary PDF] [Full Study PDF].

The study recommends that the agency extend parking meter hours in specific commercial districts on Sundays and until as late as midnight in some districts on weekdays when parking occupancy is over 85 percent or businesses are open. This would be done on targeted commercial corridors and would not be a blanket application across all of the more than 25,000 metered spaces the MTA manages.

"We've moved away from a blunt instrument to something that is much sharper and based in data that is pretty straight forward," said Ford, referring to a previous proposal to extend meter hours to 8 pm citywide.

MTA CFO Sonali Bose explained the details of the study, which compiled numerous customer intercept surveys, business interviews, and massive data gathering at meters across the city. Bose said that San Francisco parking policies haven't been significantly updated for decades and many of the meter hours are based on a time when fewer businesses in the city were open late on weeknights or on Sundays.

One of the more interesting findings in the study was that the vast majority of people don't drive to shop. Intercept surveys found data consistent with previous San Francisco County Transportation Authority (TA) studies that roughly three quarters of shoppers walk, take transit, or ride a bike to do their shopping. Further, for businesses that are worried increasing meter rates would drive away customers, the study notes that increased turnover is good for business. For instance, extending parking meter hours would allow 12 cars to park in one space, instead of seven, a 71 percent increase in potential customers.

When and how the study's proposals will be implemented is not certain. In response to a question about the timeline for rolling the study out, Ford said there was none.

"Right now, the only timeline we can truly bank on is October 20th, presenting this at the MTA Board," said Ford. "Based on what we get back, both formally and informally in terms of support or opposition, then we'll start building a schedule in terms of implementation. Or maybe this is a discussion and implementation is something that is discussed more earnestly in terms of next year's budget."

Although Ford and Bose tried to explain the MTA's parking study is different from the situation in Oakland because it is based on hard data and good parking policy, and because increased revenue would support transit, Oakland parallels were ubiquitous.

"I hope that the MTA leadership has taken heed of what happened in Oakland and will think twice about extending meter hours in this recessionary time," said Ken Cleaveland, spokesperson for the Building Owners and Management Association (BOMA). "Let's delay that conversation for a later date."

MTA Board Chairman Tom Nolan countered that Oakland and San Francisco should not be equated. "I think everyone is taken aback by the strong and effective rebellion in Oakland. But this is a transit-first city,"  said Nolan, who reiterated the dire financial situation the MTA faces with the budget deficit, which he estimated at $30 million.

When pressed whether the MTA Board would stand up to Mayor Gavin Newsom if it believed extending meter hours was better for the MTA and the city, Nolan admitted the board hadn't opposed the mayor "really in much of anything." But, he added, "We keep turning down revenue options, if it's not going to be on the revenue side, it's going to be on the service side."

Supervisor John Avalos was concerned that Mayor Newsom was more concerned with bad publicity than with balancing the MTA budget. "
I believe the mayor's office is not thinking about what's best for the city and trying to ward off possible outcry that could result from people opposed to the changes."

He added, "I think [the MTA] came forward with this despite the pressure because they have a huge hole to fill. They have a growing budget deficit that they need to move on. To not do that would be irresponsible."

Vowing to push the MTA to action if the Mayor and Board President David Chiu did not, Avalos said, "I will do what I did last May, trying to push for the MTA to be funded by different funding streams, including reducing subsidies for drivers."

Parking Study in Detail

meter_map_small.jpgClick to enlarge. Download PDF here.
The MTA proposal would increase meter hours at all metered spaces from 11 am - 6 pm on Sundays. In addition, the following areas would have these specific changes:
  • 3rd Street in Bayview would add Sundays, but evening hours would end at 6 pm, as they do currently
  • Parts of the Financial district and parts of Mission Street in the Excelsior, West Portal, Taraval, Irving, Balboa, and parts of Geary and Clement in the Inner Richmond would add Sundays, with evening hours until 6 pm Monday through Thursday and 9 pm Friday and Saturday
  • Most of SoMa, Hayes Valley, Civic Center, Parts of Chinatown, Union Street, and parts of Geary and Clement in the Outer Richmond would add Sundays, with evening hours until 9 pm Monday through Thursday and midnight Friday and Saturday
  • Inner Mission and Valencia Streets, Upper Market Street, parts of Castro, Inner Geary, parts of Chinatown, Columbus Avenue, and parts of Fisherman's Wharf not operated by the Port would add Sundays, with evening hours until midnight Monday through Saturday

The MTA proposal also suggests changing other parking policies to complement the increased meter hours, including:

  • Provide four-hour time limits after 6 pm and on Sundays
  • Provide option for residents to extend Residential Parking Permit enforcement hours to match or exceed meter hours
  • Improve availability of MTA parking cards
  • Reduce meter rates at MTA parking lots when and where occupancy does not exceed 60 percent
  • Ensure that all metered commercial areas have tow-hour time limits.

The expected impacts and benefits from the proposal include:

  • Muni customers: Muni will be faster and more reliable because of fewer unpredictable delays
  • Drivers: Will have an easier time finding parking spaces and can park for four hours
  • Businesses: Improved access to stores should support economic vitality; customers can park for four hours
  • Residents: No net loss of parking spaces; residential parking demand will be focused in residential areas
  • Environment/Safety: Less unnecessary circling will improve safety for all road users, save fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.