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Posts from the "Parking Meters" Category

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Census: SF Has Enough Street Parking Spaces To Fill CA’s Coastline

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SF is stuffed with car storage. This image shows only public parking spaces. Image: SFMTA

Clarification: California’s coastline (840 miles) is shorter than the end-to-end length of SF’s on-street parking spaces alone (900 miles). This post originally compared it to the length of SF’s total public parking supply (1,451 miles long), which is actually longer than the United States’ west coast from Mexico to Canada (1,360 miles).

Here’s a point of fact for those naysayers who insist that SF absolutely needs every single one of its car parking spaces, and can’t spare any for safer or more efficient streets: San Francisco has 441,950 publicly-accessible car parking spaces. Of that, the 275,450 on-street parking spaces alone are enough to parallel-park a line of cars 60 miles longer than California’s entire 840-mile coastline, as the SFMTA pointed out to the SF Examiner today. That’s enough parking to fill parking lots that would cover the Presidio, Golden Gate Park, and Lake Merced.

The figures come from SFMTA’s newly-updated parking census. The census is a manual count conducted to refine the agency’s 2010 estimate, which was based on a random sample of 30 percent of city streets. Parking spaces are most heavily concentrated in dense downtown areas, with 35,000 parking spots per square mile in areas like downtown, Civic Center, Russian Hill, and Nob Hill. On the lower end, most neighborhoods have about 10,000.

None of the counts included private parking spaces in residential garages, which are estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.

“…With almost 10,000 vehicles registered per square mile, San Francisco today has one of the densest concentrations of cars on the planet, more than any peer city in the United States,” wrote SF State University Geography Professor Jason Henderson in an SF Bay Guardian column this month.

The vast majority of curb space in San Francisco is devoted to 275,450 spaces for car storage. Each of those takes up roughly 140 square feet of real estate, 17 to 20 feet long and about 7 feet wide, according to the census. Ninety percent of those spaces are unmetered, and free to use at all times of day.

“A source of San Francisco’s parking problem is you have some of the most valuable land on Earth, and it’s free, and people complain there’s not enough,” Donald Shoup, UCLA professor and guru of modern parking policy, told the Examiner. ”I think San Francisco has to figure out a smarter way to manage parking, other than just making it free to everybody.”

Shoup called the reversal of Sunday parking metering to appease church leaders “another step backwards, telling the Examiner that ”I believe in the separation of church and parking.”

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SFTRU, Livable City Want CEQA Review of Sunday Parking Meter Repeal

Updated 4:16 p.m. with comment from Supervisor John Avalos.

Livable City and the SF Transit Riders Union have filed an appeal claiming that the SFMTA’s vote to repeal Sunday parking meters requires California Environmental Quality Act environmental review.

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Given that the policy change is expected to double the average time drivers take to find a commercial parking spot on Sundays, among other impacts, SFTRU’s Mario Tanev says the policy shouldn’t be changed without an environmental impact report. SFTRU also submitted a petition with more than 200 signatures in support of Sunday meters.

“Sunday meters were instituted after a wide outreach, yet are being discontinued based on the whim of one person in City Hall,” Tanev said in a statement referring to Mayor Ed Lee.

The appeal, first reported by the Bay Guardian, claims:

The enforcement of parking meters on Sunday in San Francisco has been doing exactly what it was designed to: reduce traffic congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase parking availability (including in commercial areas), and increase revenues for the City and County of San Francisco (City). Yet SFMTA is proposing without any meaningful analysis to stop enforcing this policy even though it provides benefits to the City and local neighborhood communities. By taking away these benefits, the Decision also increases automobile traffic in direct contradiction to the City’s Transit-First Policy, and, notably, on Sundays, a day when pedestrians and families spend significant time outdoors walking and traversing the streets to enjoy City events.

SFMTA specifically failed to analyze and consider the traffic and environmental impacts of its Decision as required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CEQA is designed to inform decision-makers and the public about potential, significant environmental effects of the Decision. Here, the public and decision-makers were not fully informed as to the impacts of the Decision – in fact they were given almost no information at all – and the purpose of CEQA was thwarted.

The appeal argues that although CEQA doesn’t require environmental review for fee hikes, such as expanding parking meters to Sundays, the act of removing fees (or Sunday meters) doesn’t fit within an exemption meant to allow for speedy municipal budget balancing.

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“MonkeyParking” — A Testament to the Absurdity of Free Car Storage

A new app called “MonkeyParking” being tested in San Francisco has made the rounds in local media this week for its bizarre driver-to-driver payment system. Here’s how it works: A driver leaves her car in a valuable parking spot and tells other app-using drivers that she is willing to move it for a price of up to $20.

Whether the app will have any effect or even pass muster with the law is almost beside the point. “MonkeyParking” is a great illustration of how free or underpriced curb parking in SF is completely absurd. If the city isn’t willing to put a rational price on a limited resource in high demand, profiteering drivers can and will step in to take advantage. Talk about the high cost of free parking.

It’s no wonder drivers are willing to create their own ad hoc market to allocate the limited supply of curb parking. As Streetsblog has written extensively, underpriced parking is bad for everyone, including the drivers who end up wasting time and fuel circling around for a spot because none are available.

“MonkeyParking” isn’t a fix for the problem — it’s a way for people of means to try and circumvent it or cash in on it. One man predicted to KCBS, “You’ll end up with space squatters.” Unlike a city program like SFpark, “MonkeyParking” doesn’t create systemic change because it doesn’t affect a large enough chunk of the parking supply. And none of the revenue goes to the city to improve transportation options.

Others have found different ways to make money off San Francisco’s free on-street parking, including a van owner who rented out his vehicle on AirBnB, effectively turning it into a subsidized hotel.

MonkeyParking’s legality is dubious. Clearly, you can’t reserve the legal right to a parking spot from the previous occupant, but can you fork over $20 nonetheless? A spokesperson for the City Attorney told SFGate it’s being looked into. “So far, all we’ve determined for sure is that it’s extremely weird.”

The app, though, is actually a rational response to the weird and irrational world of parking policy, where Mayor Ed Lee pushes the SFMTA Board to repeal Sunday parking meters, and then people complain about how they can’t find a spot.

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Free Parking Forever: Motorhead Group Wants to “Restore Balance” in SF

Won’t somebody think of the cars? Photo: Sergio Ruiz/Flickr

The vast majority of San Francisco’s street space is devoted primarily to moving and storing cars, and most of that curbside parking for private automobiles is given away for free. Most of the city’s street infrastructure is not paid for by fees related to driving, so it is disproportionately bankrolled by those who don’t drive, through general taxes. By any objective measure, the state of affairs on San Francisco’s streets is heavily tilted toward cars and designed to incur minimal personal cost to drivers.

At least, that goes for those of us here in the reality-based community. Then there’s the alternate reality espoused by one group, calling itself the “Free the Streets Coalition,” who believe the city’s streets are too unfriendly to cars. The “coalition” of undisclosed size has filed a ballot initiative with the city seeking to “restore transportation balance in San Francisco.” Chief among the group’s proposals is permanently enshrining existing free parking hours, prohibiting new parking meters except by petition, and encouraging the creation of new parking garages.

The group has only released the names of three organizers — Jason Clark, who ran on the Republican ticket for State Assembly in 2012; Claire Zvanski, the former president of the Health Service System Board; and David Looman, a political consultant.

These folks don’t see the SFMTA Board’s recent reversion of Sunday parking metering at the behest of Mayor Ed Lee as a sign of how motorist entitlement already holds sway at City Hall. Instead, they see the fact that the policy was instituted in the first place as a sign that motorists are a persecuted group. The status quo of free parking giveaways cannot be impinged upon — not even a bit.

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SFMTA Board Repeals Sunday Parking Meters

Get ready for the return of Sunday traffic dysfunction and double parking. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA Board of Directors today caved to pressure from Mayor Ed Lee by removing Sunday parking meters, a move folded into its approval of the agency’s two-year budget.

The Sunday meter reversal was supported by all but one of the SFMTA’s board members, who are appointed by the mayor. Board member Cristina Rubke said she thought reversing Sunday metering is “a mistake.”

But the change went unopposed even by other progressive board members, like Cheryl Brinkman and Joél Ramos, who had supported Sunday parking metering when the policy was approved in 2012. Brinkman and Ramos said they agreed with Mayor Lee’s stated strategy of bringing back free Sunday parking to win support for transportation funding measures headed to the ballot in November, and that SFMTA needed to do more education about the rationale behind parking metering.

“I know Mayor Lee has some of the best political minds in the city working with him in his office, and that they are very focused on helping to solve the city’s transportation funding issues,” said Brinkman, who is up for re-appointment at the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee on Thursday. “It sounds like the mayor’s office is certain that this is going to help us in November.”

Brinkman said she’s “calling upon the mayor’s office to work with the MTA Board around education and community involvement in San Francisco’s parking problems. I feel we need to step back and find a way to work with our communities to really explain the reasons behind, and the need for, progressive parking management.”

“We have failed, frankly, to convince the great majority of people” of the benefits of Sunday meters, said Ramos. “You can listen to Matier and Ross, or read the papers, and see that the general sentiment of it is a negative one.”

Mainstream news reporters who have covered the Sunday metering issue, like columnists Phil Matier and Andrew Ross at the SF Chronicle and CBS affiliate KPIX, typically don’t mention that the SFMTA found that meters cut cruising times for parking in half and increased turnover for businesses by at least 20 percent. Instead, parking meters have typically been framed as a way to collect revenue, even in the Chronicle report on today’s vote.

Mayor Lee issued this statement about “reinstating free Sunday parking in San Francisco”:

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Speak Out: SFMTA Board Could Scrap Sunday Parking Meters Tomorrow

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Correction: The SFMTA Board meeting begins at 2 p.m., not 1 p.m. as previously stated. Depending on the number of speakers, the meeting could last hours. You can view the meeting live on SFGovTV 2.

Tomorrow is your chance to speak out about the SFMTA’s proposal to repeal Sunday parking metering, as the agency’s Board of Directors will vote on a new budget that eliminates the $9.6 million in annual revenue that the meters bring in. It’s up to the board to stand up to Mayor Ed Lee, who has sought to reverse one of the smartest transportation policies to begin under his administration with unfounded claims of a popular revolt against Sunday meters.

The SFMTA Board of Directors. Photo: The Phantom Cab Driver Phites Back

Although SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin proposed compromises, such as re-directing parking enforcement away from Sunday meters, or only enforcing four-hour time limits, the proposal on the board’s agenda calls for a complete reversal of the policy. Lee’s office reiterated to CBS just last week that the mayor is unwilling to accept anything less than free parking on Sundays. Reiskin and the SFMTA Board, all mayoral appointees, appear poised to undo the hard-fought policy success, even though it has cut cruising times for parking in half and has increased parking turnover near businesses by at least 20 percent.

“It’s highly disturbing that SFMTA staff is presenting a proposal that is straight from the mayor’s office,” said transit advocate Mario Tanev, who called the proposal a “complete betrayal of transit-first, SF businesses, shoppers and common sense.”

“This will set a really bad precedent. SFMTA and progressive transportation policy will be severely damaged by this reversal. It will feed into the narrative that parking meters are somehow a failure that nobody wants.”

Even though the push against paying for Sunday parking appears to be coming from church leaders, Mayor Lee claims it will win voter support for three transportation funding measures proposed for November’s ballot. Yet it’s not clear that will win over many votes, given strong support behind Sunday meters: The Chamber of Commerce, the SF Bicycle Coalition, and even former Mayor Willie Brown all declared their support in two Chronicle op-eds published last week.

Brown’s support is especially surprising, considering that his views on transportation policy are usually more car-centric. Then again, Sunday meters benefit drivers by making it easier to find a spot, and even Brown recognizes the pro-business side of it.

“Free parking on Sundays is a throwback to 40 years ago when stores were closed that day,” Brown wrote in his column Saturday. “Now it is ‘open for business’ seven days a week, and stores can’t afford to have cars camped outside for hours when there are potential customers circling.”

The SFMTA Board meeting starts tomorrow at 2 p.m. at City Hall, room 400. If you can’t make it to speak during public comment, you can email the board at MTABoard@sfmta.com.

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The Case for Evening Parking Meters, Graphed

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In many neighborhoods, blocks are more likely to be full of parked cars — and cruising for an open space spikes — after meters shut off at 6 p.m. (1800).

Every day at 6 p.m., San Francisco’s parking meters shut down. But in many neighborhoods, motorists continue to seek parking, and without the turnover brought by meters, the streets become clogged with drivers circling around for a spot.

The big mismatch between meter hours and actual demand for curbside parking spaces in SF was demonstrated in a new study of SFpark [PDF], which found that the program has cut cruising times for parking by 50 percent in the areas where it’s in place. The study, featured yesterday in Next City and The Atlantic Cities, was conducted by researchers at UC Santa Cruz, Carnegie Mellon University, and Nelson/Nygaard, who used data on parking occupancy from the SFMTA to model the effect of SFpark on driver behavior.

The study re-affirms the findings of a report published in the Journal of the American Planning Association last May [PDF], which showed that pricing parking according to demand is effective in reducing cruising. But as Donald Shoup, parking guru and one of the authors of last year’s study, told Streetsblog in August, the successful SFpark program goes to waste after 6 p.m. due to SF’s outdated meter hours, which were crafted in the mid-20th century when fewer businesses were open past that time.

“I hope San Francisco will ask, ‘Why is the right price at 7 p.m. on Union Square $0?,’” Shoup said. “We have the equipment, all the software, and we just put it to sleep at 6 p.m.”

As the graph above shows, the biggest spike in evening cruising is in the Inner Richmond, a non-SFpark neighborhood studied as a control sample. Cruising there peaks at about 8 p.m. In every area except downtown and Fisherman’s Wharf, the daily peak in traffic caused by cruising was after 6 p.m..

If Mayor Ed Lee wanted, he could nudge the SFMTA to simply extend meter hours to cut traffic on the streets in the evening. But rather than fixing SF’s traffic problems, Lee has been more inclined to use his influence to move the city in the opposite direction by undoing Sunday parking meters.

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Reiskin: Let’s Keep Sunday Parking Meters, But Not Enforce Them

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said today that he thinks the agency should keep Sunday parking meters but back off on actually enforcing them.

At an SFMTA Board of Directors meeting, Reiskin said he recommends “that we significantly re-deploy our resources away from Sunday meter enforcement. We have a lot more higher-pressing needs, particularly during the week during the evening rush, for example, in terms of traffic enforcement.”

“I think that leaves us the most flexibility while directly answering the mayor’s call of addressing the concern about Sunday parking, and particularly the high rate of citations that would be issued,” said Reiskin, who said the other options on the table would be to only enforce four-hour time limits or to end Sunday metering altogether. “Given the strength of the mayor’s resolve, and the concerns we’ve heard from the community, that pursuing one of these options would be a good-faith gesture while preserving the transportation benefit that we were seeking by instating the meters.”

Sunday metering has cut in half the time it takes to find a commercial parking spot on Sundays and boosted turnover for merchants by at least 20 percent. Would it still work if motorists know that no one is minding the store? Meters-with-no-enforcement might salvage some benefits, but it would still be a frustrating setback, all based on the mayor’s unfounded claims of “non-stop” complaints about Sunday metering, which don’t seem to be coming from anyone but church leaders.

Sunday parking meter citations have been slowly declining as drivers get used to the policy. The citation rate is still higher than normal — but not by that much. According to a recent SFMTA report [PDF], the rate of citations as a proportion of meter revenue on Sundays was at 35 percent in December, down from the peak of 48 percent in February. For all seven days of the week, the rate was 24 percent in December — though it varies, running as high as 34 percent last March.

Reiskin acknowledged the benefits that Sunday metering has brought, but as a mayoral appointee he isn’t expected to stray far from Lee’s irrational, pandering push for free parking. “Our analysis of the program in the first year showed that it achieved the goal,” he said. “It did increase parking availability, so we’re happy with that, but share the mayor’s concern that a very high number of people are getting parking citations, whether it’s because it’s a new program, or the signage wasn’t good enough, or for whatever reason, people were so used to there not being enforcement on Sundays.”

SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan, who has said he supports the mayor’s push to repeal Sunday parking metering, didn’t comment on the issue at the meeting. Cheryl Brinkman, the board’s vice chair, noted that the SFMTA is working on upgrading parking meters to accept credit cards, and suggested that the SFMTA simply “add better signage, re-deploy enforcement to days and areas that it’s really needed, then take another look at that.”

“If we can’t get that citation rate down to something that looks like the other days of the week, then maybe we need to re-visit that,” she said.

Sunday meters brought in $6 million last year for Muni, walking, and biking improvements. If the city does eliminate Sunday meters, it would have to be approved by the SFMTA Board as part of its budget, but laying off on enforcement could be done without their vote.

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Will SFMTA’s Board Buck Mayor Lee, Keep Sunday Parking Meters?

It’s hard to believe that San Francisco officials are seriously considering repealing Sunday parking metering, and thus abandoning the entire basis of its lauded parking management program.

SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan and Vice Chair Cheryl Brinkman. Photo: Steve Rhodes/Flickr

But next month, the SFMTA Board of Directors could send us back to 1947 — the last time parking meter hours were changed, before they were updated last year — and undo a simple move that has both cut traffic and boosted commerce by increasing turnover. According to the SFMTA’s own report, Sunday metering has cut the time drivers take to find a parking spot in half.

Apparently, the backwards proposal is on the table because Mayor Ed Lee has made a poorly-calculated bid to win the political support of church leaders, who bristle at the idea of having their congregants pay for on-street car storage and worry about losing double parking privileges. As we recently reported, there’s no evidence to back up Mayor Lee’s claims that San Franciscans have revolted against Sunday meters, but he’s pushing the SFMTA Board for repeal anyways.

The mayor wields power over SFMTA’s board, since he appoints all of its members. Yet when the board considers the agency’s two-year budget at meetings starting tomorrow, its members can stand up to Lee’s political antics. There’s no need to make our streets more dangerous and hurt local businesses, just to try and please an influential group with an irrational policy stance.

Mayor Lee has continued to ignore the SFMTA’s report about Sunday meters, which estimates that removing them would:

  • Double the average time drivers take to find a commercial parking spot on Sundays.
  • Reduce turnover by at least 20 percent, meaning that fewer customers can park in each space.
  • Cut the availability of commercial parking during Sunday business hours in half.
  • Reduce occupancy of underutilized parking garages on Sundays by 13 percent.

The hypocrisy in all this is painfully glaring. We’ve heard the benefits of metering high-demand parking spots espoused by Mayor Lee and SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan, who has said he supports the mayor’s push “to make living in San Francisco more affordable.”

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Contrary to Ed Lee, Records Show No Popular Revolt Against Sunday Meters

A public records request for all emails to the mayor’s office regarding Sunday parking meters revealed very few complaints.

Contrary to Mayor Ed Lee’s assertions that the public has revolted against Sunday parking meters, records indicate that hardly anyone has complained to City Hall about the policy via email or 311 calls.

Mayor Lee, seen here preaching the gospel of smart parking management at an SFPark press conference in 2011, claims there’s widespread opposition to Sunday meters. Where is it? Photo: Mayor’s Press Office/Flickr

When Lee announced his push to undo Sunday parking meters, disregarding the increased turnover and reduced traffic that metering has brought to commercial streets, he claimed that the public has complained ever since the policy was implemented.

“It hasn’t stopped, it hasn’t ended since the day the city and Muni imposed it,” Lee told Bay City News in January. “People are still not used to it.” At his State of the City address later that month, Lee claimed: “Nobody likes it. Not parents. Not our neighborhood small businesses. Not me.”

Is this public outrage real? If Lee were really facing an endless barrage of criticism, there would be some record of it. We’d expect to find, for instance, a litany of emails decrying Sunday meters addressed to the mayor. But a public records request to the mayor’s office for all emails about metered Sunday parking turned up just 54 emails protesting or supporting the policy — most of them in January 2013, the first month the meters went into effect, followed by a handful in the next two months.

The records, furnished to Streetsblog by Ed Rosenblatt, a hardware store merchant who supports Sunday meters and filed the request, indicate that no one emailed the mayor’s office about Sunday meters between March, 2013, and this January, when Lee announced his push to repeal them. What’s more, of the January emails, 17 were in support of keeping the parking meters, and only seven were against it. The policy is also supported by many merchants and the Chamber of Commerce since it allows more driving customers to use the limited supply of parking.

The purported Sunday meter revolt was also not evident in calls and emails to 311. According to the SFMTA’s December report [PDF] on Sunday meters, 311 received just 41 calls and emails about the policy, with 23 of those in support of meters.

Of course, calls and emails aren’t the only ways to complain to City Hall. But if there’s really a popular revolt driving Lee’s sudden push to undo smart policy, you would expect to find some trace of it in the easiest ways to lodge a complaint with the city. And there is no such trace.

There is one influential group, however, that has continued to fiercely fight Sunday parking meters — church leaders. In fact, within a day of the mayor’s announcement that he wanted to reverse Sunday metering, the SF Interfaith Council sent out an email to its members praising Lee, saying that his new position “reflects thoughtful appreciation for the broad, adverse impact of this policy.”

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