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.”