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Posts from the "Parking Meters" Category

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Supes Hamstring SFMTA’s Ability to Expand Progressive Parking Policy

In a setback for progressive parking policy in San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors voted last week to eliminate the SFMTA’s ability to install any significant amount of new parking meters under a new five-year contract to upgrade existing meters.

The $54 million contract originally covered 25,000 parking meters that accept credit cards and multiple forms of payment to replace existing meters, plus 10,000 for backup stock and some potential expansions, which would require a separate public planning process before installation. But supervisors appear to be going along with the anti-meter campaign led by Supervisor Mark Farrell, amending the contract to remove half of the additional 10,000 meters. SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said that only leaves room for the agency to fill “very small-scale requests” for new meters from merchants.

Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich called the supervisors’ stance “disappointing”:

Parking meters are essential to San Francisco’s policy of prioritizing on-street parking for local merchants and residents before drive-alone commuters. As land uses diversify across the eastern neighborhoods of the city, there will continue to be a need for new metered areas to ensure that commuter parking not displace the short-term parking that supports neighborhood-serving businesses. A cap on parking meters will limit MTA’s ability to manage on-street parking for the benefit of local merchants and their customers.

No supervisors opposed reducing the number of meters to be purchased in the contract. Supervisor John Avalos, who introduced the contract amendment, said the SFMTA is expected to allocate the 5,000 additional meters like so: 1,200 to replace meters on Port property, 2,800 to replace damaged meters, and 1,000 “to be used as a maintenance flow.”

“There will be no expansion of meters,” said Avalos. “If that’s gonna happen, it’ll be another go-around from the MTA to describe how they will implement and with a lot of outreach to the public.”

Even though SFMTA officials stated in no uncertain terms that the location of any significant expansion of meters could only be initiated through a publicly-vetted planning process, supervisors unanimously approved the amendment, citing a lack of confidence in the SFMTA’s outreach process. The SFMTA Board of Directors voted last week to require more stringent outreach measures for new parking meters.

The lone vote against the contract from Supervisor Jane Kim apparently wasn’t intended as a stand for rational parking policy. Instead, Kim said she wanted the contract to include provisions that would bind the SFMTA to adhere to its allocation plan for the meters — an authority that the Board of Supervisors doesn’t have, according to the City Attorney.

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SFMTA Board Greenlights Push to End Free Disabled Placard Parking


The SFMTA and the Mayor’s Office on Disability produced this video explaining why free parking for disabled placard holders is bad policy.
Looking to end the dysfunction caused by California’s failed policy of giving free parking to disabled placard holders, the SFMTA Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday giving agency staff the green light to pursue state legislation that would allow local jurisdictions to charge placard holders at meters.

The policy change has been recommended by a committee comprised mostly of disability advocates that was formed to tackle the growing problem of placard abuse, which deprives legitimately disabled drivers of reserved parking spaces close to their destinations, cheats the SFMTA out of revenue, and lets drivers occupy high-demand parking spots all day with no incentive to limit their stay. Consequently, abuse of placards by non-disabled drivers is rampant.

California is one of only 15 states to exempt disabled parking placard holders from having to pay at the meter. Pursuing a change in that law is one of six recommendations made by the SFMTA’s Accessible Parking Policy Advisory Committee, but it’s the only one that the SFMTA can’t implement without approval from the state legislature. It’s currently unknown which state assembly member or senator might introduce a bill.

Bob Planthold, a senior and disability advocate who served on the SFMTA’s committee and initially opposed charging placard holders for parking at meters, pointed out that the 35 states that already do so include Florida and Arizona. “A lot of people retire and move to those states,” he said. “Those states are not having people move away because they require people to pay at the meters.”

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Supervisor Farrell Ramps Up Misguided Campaign Against Parking Meters

Supervisor Mark Farrell is apparently so repulsed by the idea that people should pay for the parking spots they use, he’s lashing out in increasingly irrational ways.

Supervisor Mark Farrell. Photo: SFGovTV

In his most recent stunt, Farrell delayed approval of a $54 million contract that would replace 25,000 worn-out, coin-fed parking meters with modern ones that accept credit cards, and purchase 10,000 additional meters. Before any parking meter could be placed in an un-metered space, it would still have to be approved in a separate public process. Although the contract passed the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee in October, which Farrell chairs, he voted against it, and consideration by the full board has been delayed for reasons that remain unclear.

There are also murmurs at City Hall that Farrell wants to push legislation that would remove sole approval for new parking meters from the SFMTA Board of Directors and require the Board of Supervisors to sign off as well.

“On this matter, I am very, very sensitive,” Farrell told Sonali Bose, the SFMTA’s chief financial officer, at the committee meeting in October, staking out a stance against a “blanket authorization” for funds that could potentially be used for new meters. The only new meters that have been proposed in the city since Farrell took office have been in the northeast Mission, Potrero Hill, Mission Bay, and streets surrounding the University of SF — none of which are in Farrell’s District 2.

Nonetheless, Farrell said the outreach and planning process for those meters, which has dragged on extensively and resulted in several changes, is “lacking,” and that supervisors “are the ones who hear about it all the time” from their driving constituents.

As we reported in February, Farrell’s sudden opposition to new parking meters seemed to arise from his suspicion that the SFMTA planned to add meters in District 2. As if it would be a bad thing to put a price on the limited supply of street space, like just about all other goods.

Free parking is bad policy — it encourages car owners to occupy valuable parking spaces all day, leaving other drivers to circle the block for a spot – creating heavier traffic on streets, greater wear on the roads, more illegal parking, and worse delays for Muni, all while hampering customer access for businesses. Metered parking, when priced to achieve occupancy targets (the goal of SFPark), makes the best use of a limited supply by keeping a spot open on each block.

Even though Farrell later admitted that his suspicion was unfounded, his bizarre attempt to put an moratorium on all new meters in the city by opposing the meter contract is even more illogical.

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ENUF Delays Mission Parking Meters by Protesting the Wrong Ordinance

The Eastern Neighborhoods United Front, a group publicly represented by resident Mari Eliza, apparently turned out enough speakers and letters to postpone the approval of parking meters requested by merchants in the Mission at a hearing Friday.

Mari Eliza, as illustrated in San Francisco Magazine's December issue (digital version here).

But in what appears to be a misinterpretation of the hearing notice, Eliza called on residents to protest Order #5176, which is simply the mandate to post notices about the public hearing. Apparently, Eliza fixated on this phrase at the top of the hearing notices posted on poles in the neighborhood, and the people who responded repeated her error.

Up for approval at the hearing were about 80 parking meters requested by merchants in the eastern Mission, an initial step in the SFMTA’s efforts to manage parking demand and reduce the amount of drivers circling the neighborhood for a spot. The hearing officers reportedly postponed the approval of the meters after being convinced that the hearing wasn’t publicized clearly enough for residents to understand.

Eliza sent out an email declaring victory against Order #5176. Here’s her interpretation of the outcome:

NE Mission won a reprieve at the hearing!

Thanks to everyone who sent letters and comments re: Order 5176. The hearing officers agreed with everyone that there is no point in rushing a decision on installing spot parking meters in our neighborhood. NOT ONE PERSON other than SFMTA staff showed up to request the meters. Three businesses said no to spot metering.

Eliza won a Streetsie Award last year for making the most absurd argument against SFpark meters. After receiving the news that SFpark is, on balance, saving motorists money, she told the SF Examiner in December 2012, “Personally, I’m perfectly happy with the old meters. That’s how I use up all my spare change.”

As of press time, decision-makers at the SFMTA are still taking her seriously.

Here’s a scan of the notice that ENUF organized against, via Eliza’s blog:

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Shoup: SFpark Yields Promising Results, Lessons for Demand-Based Pricing

Drivers were most sensitive to changes in parking prices in the early afternoon, and were more sensitive during the week than the weekend.

Donald Shoup may be known as a guru of smart parking policy, but even he has found a few surprises in the data collected so far from SFpark.

“The biggest surprise I got was that prices went up and down, but overall, they stayed the same. The average price actually declined by 1 percent,” said Shoup, professor of urban planning at UCLA and author of The High Cost of Free Parking, the bible of modern parking policy. “That surprised everybody. People thought it was just a way to jack up prices, but the city specifically said, ‘We are going to set prices according to this principle.’”

SFpark, which uses “smart meters” and ground sensors to measure parking occupancy and adjust prices accordingly, is providing valuable lessons for San Francisco and cities around the world that want to reduce the amount of time drivers spend cruising the streets for a parking space.

The growing body of data collected from the program is shedding more light on the complexities of parking demand. But overall, Shoup says, it’s providing hard evidence that raising and lowering meter prices is an effective way to keep enough parking spots available for drivers who need them — and to help ensure too many spots don’t sit empty.

Donald Shoup at the launch event for SFpark in 2011. Photo: Bryan Goebel

Keeping, say, one parking spot open on every block “will make the transportation work best — it’ll reduce cruising, speed up buses, reduce air pollution,” said Shoup. “It’s easy to explain [a goal] like that — we’re aiming at what you want to see.”

In a recent report [PDF] published in the Journal of the American Planning Association, Shoup and UCLA doctoral student Gregory Pierce explain that since SFpark managers began adjusting meter prices in August of 2011, the “elasticity” of parking demand — the degree to which price changes affect parking occupancy — has varied across different locations and times of day (due to different trip purposes, they surmise), and that drivers changed their behavior most profoundly after the second price adjustment, possibly due to a spike in awareness of the program. As prices have been refined, elasticity has declined.

Prices appeared to have the lowest impacts in highly residential neighborhoods like the Mission and the Marina, while retail districts like Fisherman’s Wharf and the Fillmore saw the most drastic adjustments to new prices, according to the report.

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Advocates for the Disabled Say Free Parking for Placard Holders Must End

A panel of disability advocates, the SFMTA, and other entities has recommended that handicap parking placard holders no longer be given free parking at meters.

Photo: SFMTA

As the SF Examiner and the Chronicle reported, the policy recommendation came out of a committee formed to tackle the growing problem of placard abuse, which deprives legitimately disabled drivers of reserved parking spaces close to their destinations, cheats the SFMTA out of revenue, and lets drivers occupy high-demand parking spots all day with no incentive to limit their stay.

“Current disabled parking placard and blue zone policies are failing to increase access for people with disabilities, and reduce parking availability for all drivers,” said Jessie Lorenz, executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco, in a statement.

As we’ve reported, lifetime free parking for placard holders — an incentive for abuse — is enshrined in state law, and repealing it would require a bill to be passed by the state legislature. There’s no word yet on which senators or assemblymembers might take up such a bill, but city officials said potential legislation could either call for the free parking repeal statewide or for SF only, and that they hope to pass it by 2015.

Carla Johnson, interim director of the Mayor’s Office of Disability, said California is one of only 15 states to have such a law in place. When it was enacted in the 1970s, she said, the limited parking meter technology at the time made payment more physically challenging, and the law was intended to help disabled drivers get around that obstacle. “Back then, we had to use coins, we had to manually turn a dial, we didn’t have curb ramps that allowed you to get up onto the sidewalk,” said Johnson. “Things have changed since then.”

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Supes Farrell and Cohen Have Yet to Grasp Why Free Parking Hurts SF

Mark Farrell and Malia Cohen emerged as the most vocal proponents of free car parking on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at a hearing on parking meters last week. Farrell called the hearing in February based on an admittedly “unfounded” suspicion that the SF Municipal Transportation Agency was planning to install parking meters in District 2, which he represents.

Supervisors Mark Farrell and Malia Cohen: Misguided champions for free parking.

Despite the traffic dysfunction caused by free parking, which leads motorists to cruise fruitlessly in search of an open space, Cohen made her anti-parking meter stance clear at the introduction of the hearing. “I’m looking forward to, possibly, [SFMTA Director] Ed Reiskin saying, ‘I quit, you won, we’re not going to be doing parking meters,’” she said, eliciting applause from an audience composed mostly of the city’s usual stable of free parking activists.

Electeds like Farrell and Cohen still see parking as an entitlement for drivers, and tend to resist any effort to encroach on that entitlement. Based on what they said at the hearing, they believe the amount of driving is fixed, and that the demand for car parking is a natural force that must be accommodated, not managed to achieve goals like traffic reduction, transit efficiency, and street safety. They say they won’t tolerate parking reform unless Muni is first improved to their standards. (Oddly, we never seem to hear these folks actually push for more Muni funding, or call for safer streets for walking and biking.)

Meanwhile, the SFMTA’s SFPark program has enjoyed broad political support where it has replaced existing parking meters with smart meters. Those meters adjust prices to demand throughout the day to keep about one parking space open on every block and provide multiple payment options. Prices have dropped about as often as they’ve been raised, so SFPark has actually saved motorists money and reduced citations.

While supervisors and the mayor have gotten behind SFPark as a symbol of San Francisco’s innovation, that’s not the case when it comes to converting free parking spaces to SFPark meters — even in neighborhoods like the northeast Mission, where drivers circle around endlessly for spots on weekday mornings.

At the hearing, Farrell and Cohen waved the flag for the camp that insists San Franciscans shouldn’t pay for car storage. ”What do you do first: Do you make public transportation so attractive that people will voluntarily choose to abandon their cars, or leave them at home, and take public transportation?” said Farrell. “Or do you make it so challenging and frustrating to drive a car, with increased parking rates and what have you, that people are — this is extreme, but — coerced out of their cars? I think I hear from a lot of folks that it’s the latter, not the former.”

The problem with that assertion is that free parking is itself a subsidy that leads more people to drive, creating a traffic-clogged street environment that degrades transit service and makes bicycling unpleasant. That only further coerces people into cars. So while it’s clear that Muni, walking, and biking conditions do need to be improved, continuing to give away in-demand parking spaces for free only perpetuates the vicious cycle.

“We have a charter mandate to” manage parking, said Reiskin. “It would be irresponsible of us to do otherwise.”

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SFMTA’s NE Mission Parking Management Plan Rounding Into Form

Efforts to reduce traffic caused by drivers circling for parking in the northeast Mission took another step forward last week when the SF Municipal Transportation Agency presented its revised proposal for the expansion of parking meters and permit regulations. Opposition seems to have slightly dwindled compared to the first neighborhood meeting in November, though the SFMTA’s presentation was still interrupted by shouts from audience members who seemed to feel that drivers shouldn’t have to pay the going rate for limited street parking.

Drivers hunt for scarce, unregulated parking on Shotwell Street in the northeast Mission. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Under the SFMTA’s new proposal, about half the area’s currently unregulated parking spaces would be metered, with the other half subject to time restrictions for those without residential parking permits, said Jeff Tumlin, an SFMTA consultant with the transportation planning firm Nelson/Nygaard.

SFMTA planners have been tweaking the mosaic-like map of proposed parking regulations for months, using an unprecedented level of data collection and community input to tailor it to a neighborhood with a mix of residential, retail, and PDR (production, distribution, and repair) buildings that can make it hard for planners to determine where meters and permit restrictions are most appropriate.

But with growing parking demand, it’s become increasingly clear that the status quo of free parking is exerting a high cost in transit delays, noise and air pollution, degraded conditions for walking and biking, and wasted time and fuel. According to the SFMTA, finding a parking spot in the area in the morning hours takes, on average, 27 minutes, or 3.3 miles of driving, with search times running as long as 50 minutes. In the afternoon, the average search time drops to just over 2 minutes. At any given time during business hours, one out of every four blocks reportedly has a double-parked vehicle on it.

“As we all know, the neighborhood is changing, and changing rapidly,” said Tumlin. “As a result, the period of laissez-faire management doesn’t work as well as it once did.”

The proposed meters would start with a rate of 50 cents per hour (a full day of metered parking would cost just $4.50), and all meters could be paid by coin, credit card, phone, or an SFMTA debit card, all in advance of enforcement hours. Meanwhile, any resident within the project area would be eligible for a residential parking permit — a departure from normal rules that only allow residents on RPP-designated blocks to acquire them. The price for a parking permit is $104 per year, or 28 cents per day.

While some attendees did offer some nuanced critiques of the proposal, many of the plan’s staunch opponents seemed to simply dismiss the notion that charging for parking makes spots more readily available. When Tumlin said, “The data is really clear that in the neighborhood as a whole, there is a severe parking availability problem,” a woman in the audience shouted in response, “That’s not going to change.”

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SFMTA Unveils Proposal to Curb Cruising for Parking in the NE Mission

The SFMTA's proposed parking management plan for the northeast Mission, which will be presented at a meeting on Thursday, is now posted on the agency's website.

A draft of the SF Municipal Transportation Agency’s hotly-debated plans to install parking meters and expand permit zones in the northeast Mission has been posted online ahead of a community meeting on Thursday, where agency officials will present it to residents.

Following months of data collection, planning, and community meetings, the SFMTA’s map shows where the agency thinks meters and permits would be appropriate to ensure that enough parking spaces remain available to prevent drivers from needlessly circling the block.

According to the documents, all meters would start at a rate of 50 cents per hour and accept multiple forms of payment. Many would have no time limits. Some blocks would have residential parking permit restrictions, and all residents in the project’s area would be eligible to buy a permit. Since the meters won’t be part of the SFPark program, the SFMTA Board of Directors will consider a proposal tomorrow that would lower the current floor for non-SFPark meter rates outside of downtown from $1.00/hour to $0.25/hour.

Mario Tanev, who started the group sfMORE in support of the SFMTA’s efforts to price parking according to demand, wrote in a blog post that “so far it looks like a very balanced proposal.”

The plans do not include the provision proposed by Potrero Hill Boosters Association President Tony Kelly, who wrote in a Chronicle op-ed last week that RPP holders should be able to park at meters in the area for free.

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Parking Expert: Underpriced Parking Permits Won’t Curb Cruising for Spots

Underpriced curb parking contributes to the traffic mess on 17th Street near Folsom. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A lot of traffic in the northeast Mission consists of drivers cruising for parking spots. Motorists in the area circle for an average of 27 minutes in search of a free spot on weekday mornings, according to the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, which has held community outreach meetings in recent months to develop a plan for new parking meters and permit restrictions to curb excess traffic in the neighborhood.

In response to fervent opposition to metered parking in the eastern neighborhoods, the SFMTA has pushed back its timeline for installing meters, devoting more attention to data collection and community feedback as it develops parking management plans. On March 21, the agency will present a proposal for the northeast Mission, before beginning the same process of community meetings in the Potrero Hill and Dogpatch neighborhoods.

Rather than asking car-owning residents to pay the going rate for on-street parking, Tony Kelly, a runner-up in the most recent District 10 supervisor race and president of the Potrero Hill Boosters Association, says he has a better idea. In an op-ed in the SF Chronicle today, Kelly said the SFMTA should implement meters and residential parking permits — $104 annual bumper stickers that give parking priority to local car owners — but let permit holders park at meters in the area for free.

Kelly claims that the proposal, which hasn’t been used in any other neighborhood, would free up parking for residents by shooing away car commuters. (According to the SFMTA, only 26 percent of cars parked in the neighborhood are registered in the local zip codes.) He calls it “a better solution, one suggested by planners, transit advocates and local businesses, that can prioritize parking for residents and also handle parking congestion the way the MTA wants.”

Kelly asserts that the northeast Mission is being unfairly targeted because other neighborhoods get RPP zones and no meters, and accuses the SFMTA of “turning its back on decades of transit-first policy.” (In fact, the transit-first policy makes no mention of parking permits.)

Do planners really think parking permits that exempt residents from paying for metered parking are such a good idea?

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