Street Parking in SF: Fees for Car-Share, Free for Car Owners

With hundreds of on-street parking spaces around San Francisco set to become available for car-share vehicles, the SFMTA plans to charge companies monthly fees for the conversion of curbside spots that are normally free. So while companies like City Car-Share, Zipcar, and Getaround  – which offer services that make it easier for residents to go without owning personal vehicles — will pay up to $225 per month for reserved spots, private car owners will generally continue to pay nothing for the use of unmetered spaces.

While it makes perfect sense to charge car-share companies a fee for on-street spaces, the new policy highlights the absurdity of giving away the same precious real estate for the storage of privately-owned automobiles.

“If you’re going to charge the car-share people $200 a month or so, how come you’re giving parking places away for $100 a year?” Howard Strassner, chair of the local Sierra Club chapter’s transportation committee, told the SFMTA Board of Directors at its most recent meeting. “I mean, this is craziness.”

The “$100 a year” Strassner was referring to (more accurately, $106 per year) is the cost of a residential parking permit in SF. The fee is limited by state law to cover no more than the administrative cost of running the program, and RPPs are given out in unlimited numbers, so they essentially serve as a hunting license in neighborhoods with high demand for parking. So even in neighborhoods where RPPs are required, drivers circle around for spots and add to traffic on the streets.

While the vast majority of on-street parking spaces in San Francisco are free, the going rate for parking is reflected in rents for private parking spaces, which typically cost hundreds of dollars per month.

As we’ve seen, at least one enterprising van owner has taken advantage of the city’s real estate giveaway to set up a subsidized hotel.

The car-share fees are scaled to provide an incentive for companies to distribute spaces equitably in the outer neighborhoods, and not just the denser neighborhoods in the city’s core where car-share markets are already well-established, according to Andy Thornley, project manager for the SFMTA. Spaces in the inner zone will cost $225 per month, the middle zone $150, and the outer zone $50.

The SFMTA Board approved the curbside car-share program last month, and the first new spots are expected to open up in January.

Fee zones for car-share spaces. Image: SFMTA (PDF)