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Posts from the "Parking Permits" Category

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How SF’s Residential Parking Permit Prices Favor Car Owners

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Residential parking permits in San Francisco are a steal. At just $110 a year, or about 30 cents a day, the costs come nowhere near the market value for use of prime SF real estate. The fee is especially favorable compared to the single-day permit rate, which is 40 times higher. That means people who only occasionally need to park a car in their neighborhood pay a lot more per hour than people who take up street space every day for personal car storage.

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Parking permits may be a small step toward regulating the free-for-all parking situation that reigns on 90 percent of SF’s streets. But even under the current permit fee system, year-round car storage remains severely underpriced, amounting to a vast subsidy that leads car owners to fill up every inch of available curb space. More traffic, double-parking, and slower transit are the inevitable results.

The discrepancy between short-term permits and annual permits was recently noted by Michael Smithwick, who lives in the proposed RPP Area Q, expected to be approved by the SFMTA soon.

Smithwick said the price hike for short-term parking permits “unfairly discriminates against non-car-owning residents,” which is “at least half of the households in the proposed area.”

The discrepancy “is in conflict with SFMTA’s own policies to reduce car trips in favor of other sustainable transit modes,” Smithwick said, noting that non-car-owners can occasionally find permits useful when they rent a car or have visitors.

Even the lowest available rate of $8/day for a book of 20 parking permits is 27 times higher than the annual rate, and a maximum of 20 permits per year can be purchased at that rate.

“Because the market prices for parking in San Francisco are so high, free and cheap parking in the city’s 475,000 on-street spaces (which amount to a total length greater than California’s coastline) are probably the biggest subsidy the city provides for its citizens,” said UCLA professor and parking policy guru Donald Shoup. “A city’s budget should reflect its policies, and free parking on so much city land suggests a car-first policy.”

Under current law, meters are the only way the city can put a better price on curb parking. State law limits the price of residential parking permits to the cost of administering the program, preventing rates from reflecting the true market value.

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Free Parking Addicts Blast Proposed Parking Permits Near Alamo Square

Residential Parking Permit Area Q would encompass nearly 50 blocks around Alamo Square. Image: SFMTA

After months of planning, the SFMTA gave initial approval on Friday to a new Residential Parking Permit (RPP) zone known as Area Q in the Alamo Square and North of Pandhandle neighborhoods. If the zone is enacted, parking permit holders would pay a $110 annual fee (about 30 cents per day) to get an exemption from two-hour parking limits instituted during daytime hours.

Even though a majority of households in an area have to request RPP just to reach this point in the process, the hearing, held on a Friday at 10 a.m., was swarmed by loud opponents. Perhaps recognizing that the people who shout the loudest at meetings don’t necessarily speak for the neighborhood, hearing officers signed off on the new zone and sent it to the SFMTA Board of Directors for final approval.

These anonymous flyers, imitating a parking ticket, were placed on car windshields throughout the Upper Haight and may have helped draw out opposition to the so-called “parking tax.” Photo: Stan Parkford

The proposed RPP zone is currently a parking free-for-all surrounded by other RPP zones. While permits do little to effectively manage parking demand — they merely give resident car owners higher priority for on-street spots – Area Q would at least establish some order on streets where car commuters have flocked to take advantage of unregulated parking.

Gus Hernandez, president of the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association, said that some residents are concerned about out-of-district car owners who are attracted to the free, long-term parking in their neighborhoods. An SFMTA analysis in 2012 found that more than half the cars parked on streets in the area are registered in another zip code.

“Car owners don’t want to be stuck in this ‘doughnut hole,’ where its basically a magnet for people who choose not to, or can’t, buy a permit,” said Hernandez.

JJ Strahle, president of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association, added, “People drive in, park their cars, and get on a bus to head downtown. Those types of situations would be alleviated if we had parking permits.”

The impetus for a new permit zone came after roughly 100 parking spaces were removed to make way for protected bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets. All of Masonic Avenue’s 167 spaces are also set to be removed later this year for a long-awaited street redesign. The SFMTA has already added 43 parking spaces on Baker, Fulton, and Scott Streets to appease local car owners, but some still feel that more has to be done to address “the parking problem.”

While Hernandez and Strahle said they have seen substantial support for the RPP zone before Friday’s hearing, most of the residents who turned out to speak were vehemently opposed.

Neighborhood resident Daniel White said RPPs only “push that [parking] problem into adjoining neighborhoods,” and that the proposal is “pitting neighbors against each other.”

Reverend Amos Brown of the Third Baptist Church, who is no stranger to using incendiary rhetoric in defense of free parking, said RPPs discriminate against African Americans. Others called the SFMTA “greedy” for imposing a “parking tax,” and questioned why something that’s always been “free” is suddenly being priced.

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Avalos “Disgruntled” Over Paying for His City Hall Parking Perk [Updated]

Update: Avalos said on Twitter that his email was meant as a joke.

Supervisor John Avalos sent out an email today complaining about the $173 he pays monthly for a reserved parking spot in front of City Hall. That’s even though he pays less than half the $395 going price for a reserved parking spot at the Civic Center garage. The $173 fee is apparently set to offset the cost of lost revenue from the meter occupied by a reserved spot.

Supervisor John Avalos. Photo: Steve Rhodes/Flickr

Responding to a notice sent by City Hall’s building services manager to the Board of Supervisors about the annual parking fee agreement, Avalos said the fee “is totally messed up and makes no sense policy-wise,” since parking used to be a free perk for supes. Avalos’ email was sent to all supervisors, their staff, and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin.

Dear Government Overlords:

The City Hall parking fee for elected officials is totally messed up and makes no sense policy-wise. For years the policy was a parking space for elected officials as part of holding office. What’s next? Will we be paying rent for our offices at City Hall?

I don’t drive every day, but often I don’t have much of a choice as I have to be in multiple places, often mixing work with driving my kids around, over the course of the day. When I go on errands with my car, I pay for parking meters and garages and even pay for tickets and towing when I mess up, so I am not getting special privileges beyond what comes with holding elective office and being very busy with my family and service to the city.

Signed,
Disgruntled Supervisor

It would be disappointing to hear Avalos divulge such a retrograde stance about his personal parking spot, particularly since he’s one of the only elected officials in recent years to have supported Sunday parking meters. In 2009, he also supported installing parking meters in Golden Gate Park, and as he noted in his email, Avalos is known for sometimes walking, biking, and taking Muni to work. He even campaigned for mayor on a strongly pro-bike platform, has pushed for better Muni service for low-income riders, and wrote the ordinance requiring secure bike parking in downtown office buildings.

On the other hand, Avalos also introduced the SFMTA meter contract amendment that hamstrung the agency’s ability to install new meters over the next five years.

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SFMTA Abandons Parking Meter Plans in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill

The SFMTA has given up on its neighborhood-scale plans to install parking meters in the Dogpatch and Portrero Hill, while parking meter approvals in the northeast Mission move forward at a snail’s pace. After two years of tangling with the city, the defenders of dysfunctional free parking have effectively caused a huge setback for progressive transportation policy – meaning more traffic and slower transit in the future. Hooray for San Francisco.

Potrero Hill and Dogpatch will continue to be saddled with car traffic circling for free parking spots for an indefinite period of time. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Potrero Hill and Dogpatch will continue to be saddled with car traffic circling for free parking spots for an indefinite period of time. Photo: Aaron Bialick

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told the Potrero View this month, “Any parking changes in the [Portero and Dogpatch] area are likely to be ‘small in scope and iterative, with the goal of addressing parking on the busiest of commercial blocks, where customers are currently having a challenging time finding parking spaces. A comprehensive approach is not likely.’”

Rose told Streetsblog that down the road, the SFMTA will try to incorporate comprehensive parking management into longer-term area plans such as its Waterfront Transportation Assessment, a guide for development and transportation planning in areas near Dogpatch and Potrero Hill. “We are taking a step back to better work with the residents and merchants in the area to implement necessary changes,” he said. “While every block will not be considered at once, we do want to implement more efficient strategies that address parking on the busiest of the commercial blocks where customers are currently having a challenging time finding spaces. We received significant feedback requesting that any parking discussions occur in the context of other major transportation and development projects in or near the area.”

As for the parking-crunched northeast Mission, the first of the three neighborhoods where the SFMTA initiated its drawn-out parking outreach, only a small fraction of the planned meters are moving through the approval process — nearly half a year behind the schedule presented at a public meeting in March [PDF]. The initial meters were delayed even further by meter opponents who protested the wrong hearing ordinance.

The baby-steps approach “should help create pockets of availability in some otherwise parked-out areas of the neighborhood, making it easier for visitors, customers, employees, and residents to find spaces,” the SFMTA said in its latest email update on the plan. “Although this approach is a significant reduction in scope from previous parking proposals, it will still help open up some key spaces around the neighborhood. The changes outlined in this approach will give the SFMTA and neighbors the opportunity to see how a few blocks of parking meters and extended [residential parking permit] work and evaluate their effectiveness over time.”

Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, said the SFMTA shouldn’t have abandoned the neighborhood-scale planning approach in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill, as it “makes a lot of sense.”

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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.

An on-street car-share parking spot in SoMa. Image: Google Maps

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.

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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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Aiming to Win Over Critics, SFMTA Spells Out Its Parking Policies on Paper

On Shotwell Street near 17th Street, three drivers apparently cruising for parking stopped at the sign of an opening parking spot (left). (The driver of the red car, seen through the silver car's windows, won.) This is one area where parking meters would be installed under an SFMTA plan to free up parking spaces. Photos: Aaron Bialick

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency’s embattled efforts to put a rational price on the city’s car parking supply by expanding parking meters have led the agency to develop a document [PDF] that, for the first time, lays out its parking policies in one place. SFMTA officials, who presented a draft to the SFMTA Board’s Policy and Governance Committee today, say the document is intended to clarify the agency’s goals and make its parking management decisions more transparent.

As Streetsblog has written, when parking is free or underpriced, spaces fill up, and drivers cruise around for a spot. That means more pollution, traffic congestion, gas consumption, wear on the roads, slower transit, more danger for people walking and biking, and fewer driving customers able to park near businesses.

The SFMTA’s plans to install parking meters in the Dogpatch, Potrero Hill, and northeast Mission neighborhoods ran into heavy opposition in January from the Eastern Neighborhoods United Front (ENUF), which was formed in opposition to the parking plan. Among the group’s wide-ranging complaints, it says the SFMTA performed poor outreach, and that some of the proposed locations for meters aren’t appropriate. The SFMTA delayed its metering plans to do more analysis and outreach and plans to hold community meetings later this year.

But whether ENUF’s members just don’t want to pay for parking (which they deny), or the group’s complaints are legitimate, one thing is clear: many members say they distrust the SFMTA when the agency says its goal is to properly manage its parking supply. Rather, it seems to many car-owning members, the SFMTA is simply after their money (even if the cost of free parking is externalized to the general public, and the meter expansion plans are supported by advocates like Livable City who don’t receive revenue from them). Mari Eliza, an organizer with ENUF, told the SF Chronicle this week that “people are really ready to fight back” against parking meter expansions. “The city is just going too far,” she said.

“Meters are appearing all over San Francisco,” ENUF’s website says. “Next, the meters will be on your street in front of your home.”

In response to the insistent opposition to SFPark, the SFMTA’s promising pilot program to test out demand-responsive meters which accept credit cards (and can even have lower rates than conventional meters), the agency removed SFPark from the meter expansion in those neighborhoods. By adjusting prices according to demand, SFPark’s goal is to generally keep one space open on every block. Instead, the SFMTA is developing a plan which will only include conventional parking meters.

While the new document doesn’t actually change any policies or practices, SFPark manager Jay Primus called it “a really positive step forward.”

“This mundane document, like the parking census, is actually very exciting,” said Primus. ”This helps the MTA communicate how, where, and why it uses different parking management strategies, it increases the transparency of its parking management decisions, and it explains how those decisions are consistent with the MTA’s goals.”

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Palo Alto, Choked By Famously Free Parking, May Consider Pricing the Curb

Smarter parking policies could lead to less congestion on streets such as University Avenue. The current volume of autos on University is 20,000 per day, according to the city. Photo: Richard Masoner/Cyclicious

For the first time in 15 years, Palo Alto’s outdated parking policies are being reviewed, and planners will consider recommending sustainable parking principles in the downtown core to better manage the supply. The affluent Silicon Valley city has not had a comprehensive examination of its parking strategies since 1997, when it installed four color-coded parking zones downtown. There is a two-hour limit in each zone but all curb parking is free.

“I think everything’s on the table right now. We don’t want to exclude anything at this particular state,” Jaime Rodriguez, the city’s chief transportation official, told Streetsblog.

The study will explore charging for on-street parking, installing SFPark-like meters and sensors and a number of transportation demand management (TDM) measures to discourage single-occupant vehicle trips. Advocates pushing for parking reform hope that Palo Alto will follow cities such as Redwood City or Boulder, Colorado, which have implemented innovative performance-based parking policies and benefit districts that helped spruce up their downtowns and boost business. Two other Peninsula cities — San Mateo and Burlingame — also charge for on-street parking in their downtown business districts.

Palo Alto Mayor Yiaway Yeh led the charge for a comprehensive parking study at the July 16 City Council meeting. A proposed residential parking permit program for the Professorville neighborhood was nixed in favor of the review. Some residents in Professorville and Downtown North have complained that downtown employees who take advantage of unpriced on-street parking on residential streets make it difficult for them to park near their homes.

Some influential merchants and residents are framing the problem as a downtown parking shortage. ”There has always been a parking deficit in the downtown,” Barbara Gross, board member of the Palo Alto Downtown Business and Professional Association, told the City Council. “Parking has a direct influence on the success of the business district and has overflow impacts on surrounding residential areas.”

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