The SFMTA unveiled its proposed two-year budget today, and it includes extending car parking meter hours to Sundays  between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m., but not during evenings. On those afternoons, the proposal promises to curb the congestion that results from drivers cruising for free parking  when it’s in high demand. The measure is one of many budget gap-closing components in a plan that avoids raising transit fares.
SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said parking meters wouldn’t run on Sunday mornings because there isn’t enough demand for commercial parking spaces at those times. When asked if church leaders had persuaded the agency not to charge for parking in the morning, he claimed the hours were only chosen to reflect commercial demand.
“The most concerns about Sunday mornings was that [they] start later than Saturdays, and it’s a little bit of a different business model, so we felt like this was the right approach,” said Reiskin. He also said complaints about church members needing to leave Sunday sermons to pay meters, which Interfaith Council member Rev. James Delange  voiced to the SFMTA Board earlier this month, have largely died down because time limits would be three to four hours long, and many churches don’t even have metered parking.
Reiskin also said that Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors seem more receptive to extending meter hours than the last time around. “I’ve been working on educating folks at City Hall as to the policy rationale and operating benefit of it,” he said. “I think when you just throw something out there, you know — ‘Do you like more taxes? Do you want to pay more for something?’ — everybody, of course, is going to say no.”
Running meters past 6 p.m., however, has drawn more resistance from car commuters who want to park for free after arriving home from work, said Reiskin. But he conceded that there is “an equally compelling argument” for pricing parking during the evening as there is on Sundays, and that “most of the cities across the country” price parking as late as 11 p.m. He also admitted that not metering high-demand parking in the evenings, which often forces drivers to circle for spots and slow down Muni, goes against the city’s transit-first policy.
Still, there’s cause for optimism that the days of evening parking dysfunction might be numbered. Reiskin said some businesses have been asking for evening meter hours, and that the SFMTA may still “pilot” evening meters in some districts “in the next year or two.”
“We’re trying not to do too much at once,” he said. “It was really, frankly, just a pragmatic decision, listening to the feedback we were getting. We’ll do a little bit more due diligence on the evening side before considering really jumping fully into it.”
The budget would also add 500 to 1,000 parking meters throughout business districts where parking is in high demand.
The budget goes to the SFMTA Board of Directors next Tuesday for approval.