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Posts from the "Parking" Category

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Thanks to Sup. Farrell, It’s Finally Legal to Store Bikes in Your Garage

In a trailblazing move that advances sustainable transportation policy in San Francisco, Supervisor Mark Farrell successfully changed an outdated and mostly unknown law that prohibited San Franciscans from using their residential garages to store anything besides automobiles.

Sup. Farrell changed a largely unknown law he said he felt “was discriminatory against bicyclists.” Image: SFGovTV

That’s right — until now, an archaic law in the city’s Housing Code required that garages be used solely for car storage. Of course, this law has never been known to have a noticeable impact on storage habits — or known of much at all, for that matter. But Farrell heard from attorney Gary Rabkin, who said a landlord was “giving grief” to a friend about storing her bike in her garage, apparently citing the Housing Code.

“We all know we use our personal garages for much more than just parking our cars, if we even have one,” Farrell said at a recent committee hearing. “I know I have more strollers and bouncy houses than I can seem to care about in my own garage.”

Rabkin “felt it was discriminatory against bicyclists, and didn’t make sense in a city that’s trying to encourage alternative forms of transportation,” Farrell said with a grin. ”Obviously, I agreed, and acted by introducing this law.”

The SF Chronicle first reported on Farrell’s endeavor in January, which is part of his larger campaign to “abolish ridiculous laws.” The effort appears driven less by Farrell’s passion to reform transportation policy and re-purpose car space for more efficient uses, and more by a general desire to bring city codes up to date. This forgotten law happened to be brought to his attention.

There are certainly other outdated parking policies, with far greater impact, that Farrell and other leaders at City Hall could get on board with. Take, for instance, the elimination of parking minimums citywide, so that unwanted and unused garages and don’t get built in the first place — freeing up space to house people, instead of bouncy houses. Or take parking metering on Sundays and evenings, which would drastically reduce the amount of time drivers circle around to find a parking spot on the street.

Unfortunately, on the parking meter front, Farrell has instead been at the cutting edge of keeping San Francisco in the mid-20th century.

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Parking Shared Cars Instead of Private Cars Isn’t Exactly “Privatization”

A flyer distributed in the Lower Haight recently made the absurd argument that converting private car parking into car-share parking is “privatization.” Photo: Amy Stephenson/Hoodline

The SFMTA’s endeavor to reserve on-street car parking spaces for car-share vehicles has yielded complaints from some car owners who, ironically, decry the “privatization” of space currently used to store private cars.

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

These folks don’t seem to acknowledge the extensive research showing that each car-share vehicle replaces, on average, nine to 13 privately-owned cars. They should be embracing the arrival of a program that provides a convenient alternative to car ownership, allowing some of their neighbors to sell infrequently used cars, and ultimately make more parking available.

But the greater point that some folks seem to be missing is this: No use of public street space is more “private” than dedicated storage of private individuals’ automobiles. To decry converting comparatively few of these spaces to welcome a much more efficient form of auto storage – making each space useful for dozens of people, rather than one or two – is absurd.

Yet that’s what Calvin and Michelle Welch argue, in flyers they distributed that protest two on-street car-share spaces in the Lower Haight, as Hoodline recently reported. ”It would privatize a shared, currently free, scarce public resource making it available only to paid members of a car share program,” the Welches wrote. (It’s worth noting that Calvin Welch is a longtime activist who opposes the construction of new market-rate housing.)

Our societal blind spot tends to make it easy to forget that the vast majority of street space has been given over to moving and storing cars, many of them owned and used by just one person each. San Francisco’s 275,450 on-street parking spaces would stretch, lined end-to-end, longer than the California coastline. Ninety percent of this prime real estate is free to use at all times of day.

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Cars-First “Restore Balance” Measure Funded by Ed Lee Backer Sean Parker

Mayor Ed Lee with Facebook-founding billionaire Sean Parker (right) and Ron Conway (center), both major campaign donors. Photo via The Bay Citizen/Center for Investigative Reporting

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook and a major contributor to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, has spent $49,000 of his personal fortune to propel a ballot initiative that seeks to enshrine free parking as city policy, according to the SF Chronicle. Parker gave $100,000 to Lee’s mayoral campaign in 2011.

The ballot initiative, which proponents frame as an attempt to “restore balance” to city transportation policy, first surfaced in April. While the measure would be non-binding, if it passes it could further slow much-needed policies to prioritize transit and street safety in San Francisco. One stated goal of the campaign is to kill Sunday parking meters for good. The SFMTA Board of Directors, which is appointed entirely by Mayor Lee, repealed Sunday metering in April, after Lee made unfounded claims about a popular revolt against the policy.

Parker on the cover of Forbes.

Several veteran opponents of transportation reform in San Francisco are aligned with the ballot initiative. And, in addition to the backing from Parker, another $10,000 for the measure reportedly came from the San Francisco Republican Party.

Parker’s funding for the ballot initiative apparently helped pay petitioners to get out and collect the 17,500 signatures submitted last week to place the measure on the ballot. Two Streetsblog readers reported being approached in Safeway parking lots by petitioners who falsely claimed that the SFMTA had not repealed Sunday parking meters. A flyer distributed for the campaign [PDF] claims the measure calls for “restoring free parking at meters on Sundays, holidays and evenings.” Campaign proponent and previous Republican Assembly hopeful Jason Clark told SFist that the allegations were “hearsay,” but that the non-binding resolution would “ensure [SFMTA] can’t” bring back Sunday meters.

Parker has a reputation for selfish extravagance at the expense of the public realm. In February, he denied accusations that he had workers bulldoze snow from in front of his $20 million home in New York City’s Greenwich Village onto the street. The snow was reportedly cleared so a high-speed internet cable could be hooked up to the home. Last year, he was fined $2.5 million for damaging a Big Sur redwood grove that served as his wedding backdrop.

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Parking: Searching for the Good Life in the City

Streetfilms is proud to partner with ITDP to bring you this fun animation that’s sort of a cross between those catchy Schoolhouse Rock shorts and the credit sequence for a 1960s-style Saul Bass film.

For too long cities tried to make parking a core feature of the urban fabric, only to discover that yielding to parking demand tears that fabric apart. Parking requirements for new buildings have quietly been changing the landscape, making walking and transit less viable while inducing more traffic. Chipping away at walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods has been a slow process that, over the years, turned the heart of American cities into parking craters and even mired some European cities in parking swamps.

Many cities around the world are now changing course by eliminating parking requirements while investing in walking, biking, and transit. Soon cities in the developing world will follow, providing many new lessons of their own.

Parking isn’t the easiest topic to wrap your head around, but it is right at the core of the transportation problems facing most cities. We hope this film helps illuminate how to fix them.

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Be Jealous of São Paulo’s Precedent-Setting New Parking Policy

São Paulo has moved to entirely eliminate minimum parking requirements. Photo: ITDP

São Paulo has moved to entirely eliminate minimum parking requirements. Photo: ITDP

It may not be much consolation after yesterday’s World Cup defeat to Germany, but Brazil should feel at least a twinge of national pride over the groundbreaking new parking policies its largest city has adopted.

Late last month, leaders in Sao Paulo approved a strategic master plan that will go a long way toward making the city more walkable and transit-oriented. The plan includes what may be the most progressive parking policy of any city in the developing world and would vault Sao Paulo well ahead of any U.S. city.

The plan eliminates minimum parking requirements citywide and imposes parking maximums — one space per residence — along transit corridors. Getting rid of parking minimums is expected to reduce traffic and make housing more affordable.

Sao Paulo is the first “megacity in the developing world” to entirely eliminate parking minimums, according to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. Many major U.S. cities have dropped parking minimums in their downtown areas, but so far none has applied this smart policy reform citywide.

“By reducing parking around transit corridors, São Paulo will start reducing traffic, improving street life, and encouraging the use of public transit,” writes ITDP. “Though parking minimums have long fallen out of favor in many American and European cities, São Paulo is leading the way for cities in developing countries to pass major parking reform, making the city more transit and pedestrian friendly.”

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Did “Restore Balance” Petitioners Lie About Sunday Meters for Signatures?

Two people said they’ve seen “Restore Balance” petitioners in Safeway parking lots claiming Sunday parking meters are still in effect. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Petitioners for the “Restore Transportation Balance” initiative aimed at enshrining cars-first policies apparently made false claims about the state of Sunday parking metering to collect signatures.

Backers of the Republican-crafted ballot measure turned in 17,500 petition signatures — well over the 9,000 required for it to qualify for the ballot this November, the SF Chronicle reported yesterday. But according to two separate reports from Streetsblog readers, petition collectors seen outside Safeway stores made false claims that the mayor had not repealed Sunday parking metering, and that the ballot measure would “restore” free parking.

A flyer [PDF] posted on the initiative’s website states that the measure calls for “restoring free parking at meters on Sundays, holidays and evenings.” Parking is currently free during all of those times, and there is no serious proposal from the SFMTA to change that.

According to a “Restore Balance” petition flyer, the intitative calls for “restoring free parking on Sundays,” even though it’s already free. Image: Restore Transportation Balance

Patrick Carroll, one of the readers who was reportedly approached by a petitioner in a Safeway parking lot, said he told the petitioner that he’d understood that the SFMTA Board of Directors had already repealed Sunday parking metering at the behest of Mayor Ed Lee. The petitioner then claimed that “the mayor had backed off.”

The SFMTA Board did, in fact, vote to repeal Sunday parking metering in April, pressured by the mayor, who made unfounded claims about a popular revolt against the policy.

In a city where the vast majority of street space is dedicated to moving and storing private automobiles for free, the initiative’s proponents seem to be inventing a struggle in their bid to “restore balance” for motorists. Last month, right-wing author Bill Bowen also penned a Chronicle op-ed pushing the measure that was rife with misinformation.

As Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich told the Bay Guardian today, “The idea that anyone who walks or cycles or takes public transit in San Francisco would agree that these are privileged modes of transportation is rather absurd.” The coalition is “co-opting the notion of balance to defend their privilege. They’re saying the city should continue to privilege drivers.”

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Watch: D10 Supervisor Candidates Weigh in on Muni, Parking, and Bike Lanes

The candidates running for District 10 supervisor this November gave some telling responses to transportation questions last week. The first debate of the D10 race was held at the Potrero Hill Democratic Club and moderated by SF Chronicle reporter Marisa Lagos, who asked some pointed questions on issues around Muni, parking, and bike lanes in SF’s eastern and southeast neighborhoods.

District 10 encompasses neighborhoods like Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, Bayview-Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley. Image: SFGov

The five candidates, as seen seated from left to right in the video above, included Ed Donaldson, Marlene Tran, incumbent Malia Cohen, Tony Kelly (the close runner-up in the most recent election), and Shawn Richard. The video was provided by Kelly’s campaign.

Here’s a summary of highlights from the transportation section:

  • 38:00: Lagos tested candidates on some transit fundamentals by asking them each to write down all of the Muni lines that serve Potrero Hill, then show their answers to the crowd. The responses, which acted as a score card of sorts, weren’t exactly uniform.
  • 40:30: Lagos also drew some differing responses with her follow-up question: ”What would you do to improve Muni service to the hill?” Notably, Donaldson was the only one to mention bringing back Sunday parking metering for Muni funding, and was met with hisses from the audience.
  • 43:00: Lagos asked, “Should private buses be allowed to stop at public bus stops?” The consensus from candidates is a resounding “no.”
  • 44:35: Candidates were asked whether they “agree with the current ratio of residential units to parking spaces in new developments.” All candidates except Kelly said they felt current parking maximums were too low. (On parking, it’s worth noting that Kelly pushed the idea of allowing nearby residents to park at new meters for free.)

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Map: SFMTA’s 900 On-Street Car-Share Parking Spots Coming Along

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A snapshot of the SFMTA’s draft map of 900 proposed on-street car-share parking spots. See the full map [PDF].

Updated with new version of the map here [PDF].

The SFMTA is rolling right along with its plans to reserve 900 on-street parking spots for car-share vehicles, which will bring a convenient alternative to car ownership to more of the city. The agency has published a draft map [PDF] of proposed car-share spaces throughout the city. The map isn’t final, but residents can start to get a sense of where they might see car-share pop up in their neighborhoods starting this year.

The SFMTA Board of Directors gave the green light to the first 25 car-share spots last week, with the rest expected to be approved in batches over the coming months. Dozens more spots have already cleared the first hurdle, having received preliminary approval at bi-weekly SFMTA public engineering hearings.

Car-sharing ultimately frees up more parking spaces. A growing body of national research shows that each car-share vehicle typically replaces nine to 13 private vehicles, and car-share users walk, bike, and take transit more often. The SFMTA says that those findings were confirmed by their experience with both a test program with 12 on-street car-share spots, as well as the hundreds of off-street car-share spots that have been in place for years.

“There’s an opportunity to free up 10,000 parking spots,” said Padden Murphy of Getaround, which allows car owners to rent their vehicles to their neighbors.

The on-street spots will be available to Getaround and to conventional car-share organizations, like ZipCar and City CarShare, that own and maintain fleets of shared vehicles. The on-street car-share program was spearheaded by the SFMTA in partnership with the non-profit City CarShare, which started the earlier on-street car-share pilot in 2011. The current SFMTA initiative extends the pilot by two years and expands its scale.

Nonetheless, the SFMTA Board did hear from a handful of detractors who don’t seem to buy the evidence, arguing instead that the program is an incursion on storage for personal cars and complaining that the SFMTA didn’t adequately notify neighbors about the proposal.

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Eyes on the Street: This Is Not a Sidewalk, It’s Parking

At first (and second) glance, this block in south SoMa appears to have cars parked across what clearly looks to be a sidewalk. The area in question is up on a curb, has curb-level sidewalks leading to it from the streets that intersect on either side of the block, and even has both a trash can and fire hydrant on it. If there’s somehow another a sidewalk there, it’s nowhere to be found.

The block in question is on Henry Adams Street, also known as the north end of Kansas Street where it meets the roundabout at Division Street. Patrick Traughber called attention to it on Twitter, perplexed by a scene of what could be easily mistaken as pedestrian space overtaken by careless automobile storage.

But the SFMTA assures us: ”What looks like a sidewalk is not; it is actually valid parking,” said agency spokesperson Paul Rose after I presented the photo and location to him.

“It is an odd configuration (curbed), but you can see the signs in the background that say 2-hour time limit,” he said. “The location is enforced for the time limit. In front of the public parking is a private business with their own parking spaces.”

Could’ve fooled me. It appears that this side of the street functions as a “shared” space for both pedestrians and drivers. The only sidewalk to be found is on the opposite side of the street, and it’s both elevated and separated by a guard rail.

Perhaps some folks with deeper historical knowledge of this area could fill us in via the comments. But one guess of mine is that this was a sidewalk decades ago, which was informally taken over for parking, then legitimized for that use by a past generation of city officials who would actually do such a thing.

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SFpark Releases Pilot Report, Considers Giving Revenue to Local Streets

SFpark cut car traffic by nearly 30 percent — just one of the program’s numerous benefits. Image: SFMTA

SFpark has released new comprehensive stats collected during its two-year pilot program phase, documenting the numerous benefits that it garnered by pricing parking according to demand. SFpark is being watched closely by cities around the world, since it’s the first program to thoroughly test demand-based parking pricing principles first professed by UCLA’s Donald Shoup. But the SFMTA hasn’t yet adopted one of Shoup’s key recommended strategies: Giving some of the revenue to local community benefit districts to help win support for parking meters.

An SFpark multi-space parking meter behind City Hall. Photo: SFpark

In the areas where SFpark was tested — Civic Center, the Embarcadero, Downtown, the Mission, the Fillmore, the Marina, and Fisherman’s Wharf – the SFMTA found that SFpark resulted in cheaper parking prices overall, more readily available parking, many fewer parking citations, and much less time wasted by drivers circling around, looking for open parking spots:

  • Average on-street meter rates dropped by $0.11 per hour, or 4 percent;
  • Average garage rates dropped by $0.42 per hour, or 12 percent;
  • Target occupancy of 60-80 percent was met 31 percent more often;
  • Blocks were full (i.e., no available parking) 16 percent less often;
  • Average time spent searching for parking decreased by 5 minutes, or 43 percent;
  • Meter-related citations decreased by 23 percent; and
  • Vehicle miles traveled, and greenhouse gas emissions from cars circling for parking, decreased by 30 percent.

SFpark has been widely lauded wherever it has replaced existing, flat-rate parking meters, but it’s a different story when it comes to expanding parking meters to new areas. Due to fierce neighborhood resistance, the agency abandoned its plans to install SFpark meters in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch, and watered down and delayed its plans in the northeast Mission. In each of these areas, street parking is mostly free and nearly saturated, with drivers circling for an average of 27 minutes during weekdays in the northeast Mission.

Sharing some meter revenue with neighborhoods could help debunk the prevailing assertion that parking meters are just a revenue ploy for Muni. But the SFMTA has never seriously considered the idea because, as then-SFMTA CEO Nat Ford put it to Streetsblog in 2010, “Our financial situation is so dire that I need to get every penny that we have.”

But the SFMTA’s current chief, Ed Reiskin, told Streetsblog yesterday that “it’s something we’re going to look at.”

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