Watch Muni Explain the Need to Crack Down on Parking Scofflaws — In 1988

When it comes to effectively enforcing parking regulations to make San Francisco’s streets work more efficiently, SF hasn’t changed much since 1988.

A parking control officer marking a tire to enforce time limits in 1988. Image via Youtube

That’s when Muni planner Jerry Robbins created the above video, explaining why it’s so important to keep drivers from parking in transit-only lanes or blocking intersections, and to make sure delivery drivers aren’t hogging loading zones all day. Today, Robbins is the interim director of SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets Division, and he said he still shows the video to the planning staff he oversees.

“When I look at the video, I think of how similar things are today,” said Robbins. “The cars look different, but everything else looks pretty much the same. I think the lesson of the video is still valid.”

Robbins said the video was created at a time when city planners were considering some of the transit-boosting upgrades to street infrastructure that are now being implemented today, as part of the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project — new transit-only lanes, transit-priority signals, and bus bulbs. Last year, the SFMTA began painting transit-only lanes red on downtown streets to help keep drivers out of them, without the need to issue tickets.

But it wasn’t until recently that the city focused on making those kinds of improvements. In 1988, Robbins said the now-defunct Department of Parking and Traffic made some changes to more effectively enforce against parking violations, primarily by increasing parking ticket fines.

“It wasn’t to preclude anything, but just to treat enforcement as one of the things in the toolbox that should be considered with all the other new regulations,” he said. “Enforcement alone can be a big game changer.”

Today, Robbins said the SFMTA has roughly the same number of parking control officers, and that it’s fighting attrition as veteran officers retire. Parking enforcement can certainly be a wearying job, with officers regularly facing the threat of physical violence from ticket-irate drivers.

Cheryl Brinkman, vice chair of the SFMTA Board of Directors, said she wants to see the agency expand camera enforcement, which “is definitely one way I think we can increase enforcement — and help the PCOs and Muni operators feel more in control of situations and less threatened.”

Muni recently installed transit-only lane enforcement cameras on all of its buses, but those can only cite drivers who park in bus lanes, not those who drive in them. That job is up to the SFPD.

Other parking violations remain rampant in SF, such as double parking in bike lanes and traffic lanes, and sidewalk parking. But there aren’t any official measures proposed yet which would allow enforcement officers to cite those violators without risking confrontation.

Still, Robbins said the video “really demonstrates to the parking enforcement officers how important their job is, and how poorly the city would function without them.”

“A lot of people think the reason does parking enforcement is to make money,” he said. “To me, that’s not the case at all. Money is a nice side benefit, but the reason we do parking enforcement is because we need it to make the transportation system work.”

Note the parking crater that surrounded Third and Mission Streets in 1988, today the site of the SF Museum of Modern Art. It’s shown here in the video for its problems caused by drivers “blocking the box.” Image via Youtube
  • Mario Tanev

    Why doesn’t the blocking the box enforcement happen still? And with parking control officers at that?

  • Sprague

    A damn good question. On streets with (multiple) transit routes, like Market, there is really no excuse to not have routine/recurring enforcement of don’t block the box. Muni buses and streetcars are repeatedly subject to avoidable delays, and as long as the laws aren’t enforced there will be no change.

    Thanks for sharing this video.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Jane Kim’s office has been talking about working on this since that kind of congestion impacts district 6 the most. So far it doesn’t seem like they’ve been able to come up with much.

  • There were already too many cars in 1988 for the system to handle. I remember from those days that parking enforcement was pretty lax, even though people still complained about how heavy-handed it was. Clearly, it’s enforcement that makes the difference between transit working/not working. We’ll see if they step up to the plate on box-blocking and riding on the transit “carpets.”

  • Justin

    Aaron are you aware of what happened to those blockage boxes that used to be at those intersections? Because the intersection of 3rd St and Mission for example had em and then now in the present day they seem to be gone any clue? Finally regarding to the “parking craters” you refer to, in the photo above that visible empty lot is also where the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Yerba Buena Gardens Open Space and the Metreon further down is located as well, and not just SFMOMA in this case would be behind that old existing building in the front of the photo

  • Justin

    Clarification SFMOMA would be across the street from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and that area, that’s what my reference of behind the old existing building meant in some ways