Any doubts that most of San Francisco’s public space is consumed by private automobiles, whether moving or stored, could probably be put to rest with a quick glance at the city’s car-dominated streets. But a new study pulls together some eye-opening numbers about just how unbalanced SF’s priorities have been in allocating street space, prioritizing cars over people, and in charging drivers little relative to the costs they incur.
Here are some of the highlights from the San Francisco Modal Equity Study [PDF], published by the Transportation Choices for Sustainable Communities Research and Policy Institute:
- Parking lanes in San Francisco constitute 15 percent of the paved roadway area, equal to real estate valued between $8 and $35 billion.
- Street parking in San Francisco totals 902 miles in length, six times longer than the 143 miles of bike lanes.
- 75 percent of all bike lane miles were built since 2000.
- Bicycling constitutes four percent of trips, but only 1.4 percent of roadway space is dedicated to bicycle lanes.
- There are 36 lane miles of dedicated transit lanes, but 211 lanes miles of freeway lanes.
- General tax revenues, not user fees, pay 75 percent of roadway maintenance costs in San Francisco.
- The federal gas tax, in inflation-adjusted dollars, is at its lowest point since 1983, when the Reagan administration doubled it.
The parking count figures came from an SFMTA census report published in May, which showed that SF’s 275,450 on-street parking spaces are enough to parallel-park a line of cars 60 miles longer than California’s entire 840-mile coastline. Ninety percent of those spaces are free at all times. In total, SF has 441,950 publicly-accessible car parking spaces. Private parking spaces, like those in residential garages, haven’t been counted at all.
The report provides some perspective for those who say “restoring transportation balance” in SF means giving even greater priority to cars, enshrining free parking, and building even more parking garages. That backwards view has spawned Proposition L, which will go before voters in tomorrow’s election.
This new report has some useful stats to counter misconceptions commonly thrown around in discussions about streets. You’ve heard this before: Bicyclists don’t pay enough for the construction of bike lanes, right? In reality, most of the costs of our streets — bike lanes, parking lanes, traffic lanes, and all — are covered by the general public, and to a greater extent than in prior decades. Yet people who use the streets but don’t drive impose lower costs, which saves the public money.