A Change of Heart on Sunday Parking Meters for Newsom?

mayor.jpgThe Mayor is now apparently willing to consider Sunday metering. Photo by Bryan Goebel.

After months of opposing an extension of parking meter enforcement hours, Mayor Newsom may be finally open to a limited proposal that would help reduce Muni’s staggering budget deficit. The Chronicle’s Heather Knight  and The Appeal’s Chris Roberts report that Newsom is still against extending weekday metering to evenings, but has come around on the idea of Sunday enforcement, which would raise an estimated $2-3 million dollars annually. Knight writes:

The mayor is open to charging drivers to park at meters on Sundays
because he said merchants have told him it helps car turnover near
their shops rather than allowing people to park all day long for free.

That’s also what an MTA study on extended meter hours found, and what we’ve reported extensively. San Francisco lags behind many other cities in this regard. Los Angeles, Long Beach, Glendale, Pasadena, Montreal and Princeton,
New Jersey are examples of cities that have implemented parking
enforcement on Sundays.

Unfortunately, on weekday evening metering, Newsom remains spooked by Oakland’s experience.

"Just look at the East Bay and the revolt," he told Knight. A vocal group of Oakland business owners and residents protested vigorously when their city council changed meter hours last year, but the parallel is a shaky one since Oakland’s meter hour changes were far less targeted than the MTA proposal. The agency has done a considerable amount of outreach to merchants and community groups.

In response to complaints from Muni riders that they’re getting hit
harder by the MTA’s budget
than drivers, Newsom repeated the same argument he made to us last year: that drivers have had a threefold increase in parking meter rates downtown over the past
five years, and there’s some "amnesia" over the issue. "I know there’s an
exuberance to keep driving up parking meter costs, but there’s another
constituency that needs to be factored in," he told the Chronicle. Nevermind, of course, that the city’s official policy is Transit First.

The total cost of riding transit has arguably increased at a far
rate than the total cost of driving in recent years. Muni riders face a
ten percent reduction in service under current budget proposals, and
have seen the price of a monthly fast pass rise by a third or more in
the past year.

Newsom made the comments to the Chronicle following an address to a regional after-school
conference at Balboa High School today. He gave similar remarks to The Appeal at the Hall of Justice. Phone calls to Newsom’s
communications director, Tony Winnicker, were not returned.

The sudden about-face on Sunday meters makes us wonder: Is the Mayor communicating with his own staff? Just yesterday we heard through sources that Chief of Staff Steve Kawa was telling MTA directors the Mayor is still flatly opposed to extending meter hours, even on Sundays. Why didn’t you say so before, Mr. Mayor? We hope you stick to your word.

  • Parking meters are not the only source of funding available. San Francisco has a large, intricate budget. If there were a gasoline shortage tomorrow, you can bet the city would find a way to transfer funds from other sources to make Muni work. As much as I support our city’s green initiatives, it’s ridiculous if they advance while Muni–the greenest thing this city has going for it–regresses.

    The Mayor needs to believe that if these service cuts go through, there will be half a million upset Muni riders that will pale in comparison to the Oakland “revolt.” I sent my letter to him. Please call, email or send yours ASAP.

  • Got my imagery wrong. The Oakland “revolt” will pale in comparison.

  • Has anyone heard from Allen Michaan lately? I assume the Grand-Lake area businesses are just flourishing now that the archaic meter rates have been reinstated for a quarter of a year now.

    Can we get a call back from the reality-based community before we stumble blindly down the same path?

  • PARKING AND TRAFFIC; GOVERNANCE. (San Francisco City Charter, Section 8A.113)

    (a) The Agency shall manage the functions of the Department of Parking and Traffic
    so that the department:

    1. Provides priority to transit services in the utilization of streets, particularly during commute hours;

    If you ask me, that pretty much says – if it’s MUNI or parking, parking takes it on the chin. That hasn’t been the case at all. And someone needs to say to Newsom’s face that the Oakland situation does not apply here cause I’m sure the Chron reporter didn’t say anything, probably just nodded and got back into her car.

  • MUNI is green? What’s the gas consumption per passenger mile of a MUNI bus, averaged over 24×7, compared to a hybrid-electric taxi? Now let the taxi take more than one passenger at a time and recalculate.

    The whole bus infrastructure is, as it has always been, wrong. It was used as an excuse to rip up a far more extensive network of street rail. There’s nothing green about MUNI other than the budget.

  • djconnel,

    You are very much mistaken. Perhaps you are unaware that “Muni” means all street cars and buses in the city, not just the buses. Furthermore, fully half of the MUNI transit system is electric with the electricity supplied by Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric. (Perhaps you haven’t noticed all the overhead wires that many bus lines travel connected to?) While there are certainly arguments that the Hetch Hetchy valley shouldn’t have been dammed 80-some years ago, it is where we get our drinking water and provides San Francisco public entities with power. So please calculate that there are zero carbon emissions for half the Muni system. Only bicycles and walking beat it. Your taxi example does not.

    For the other half of MUNI–the diesel buses–check out the charts here:


    Pounds of CO2 per passenger mile
    SUV (solo driver) 1.6
    Car (solo driver) 1.2
    Diesel bus (1/4th full) .8
    Prius (solo driver) .6
    Diesel bus (3/4th full) .3

    I realize there are a scattering of Prius taxis around, but in general hybrid SUVs don’t do much better than the average car and must be considered as such CO2-wise. Even if you put three passengers in the average taxi, it doesn’t beat a diesel bus 3/4th full. (A Prius taxi with two passengers would equal a 3/4th full diesel bus.)

    Now I don’t argue that taking the occasional taxi is better than owning car. But the emissions of your taxi are very likely worse than even a 1/4th full bus, and that doesn’t count the emissions created when the taxi roams the streets looking for fares. In addition there is no way the taxis of San Francisco could come anywhere near to transporting half a million people day. Furthermore if Muni didn’t exist, no one would get anywhere at all because gridlock would result. Muni reduces our congestion, improves our air quality, and reduces our city’s carbon emissions, giving future generations at least a slim chance at a tenable future. It fully deserves your support.

  • patrick

    So after months of study by MTA, which the mayor completely ignores, a few of his business connections say they are fine with it, and he completely flip-flops on the subject. Pretty much tells us where Newsom gets his orders from.

  • susan king

    At a Mission merchant meeting last year, one speaker stated: ‘We want turnover not leftovers’ when commenting favorably on the proposal to institute Sunday parking meters. Business operators there (and probably other parts of the city including the Richmond, Inner Sunset) realize that customer parking on merchant corridors is severely impacted by residents parking their cars in metered spots all day because they are free on Sundays.

    The concept of free parking on Sunday reflects a time when there were no businesses open on Sundays, and therefore no need to regulate parking. This is clearly no longer the case. Rather than looking at extending parking meters to match demand as a penalty on drivers, the concept needs to be re-framed to reflect the benefits of this practice- outside of additional revenue- higher parking turnover in busy areas, resulting in more parking for those willing to pay for it.

  • That CO₂ emission chart may apply for the same trip, but a MUNI bus is stopping every block, while a taxi stops only at its destination, to which it takes a relatively efficient route. If you’re arguing express routes, that’s another matter.

    Wikipedia says buses on routes in Santa Barbara average around 27 mpg per passenger under typical (9 passenger) load. In my experience buses in Santa Barbara, even in the downtown, make fewer stops (counting traffic lights) than San Francisco MUNI lines.

    Electric buses do better with regenerative braking.

    So you’re partially right: my comments really apply only to the diesel bus fleet.

  • Dan – a lot of buses run with light loads, but a rush hour 48 from Noe Valley to Caltrain is never under 40 passengers, with people getting on replacing those who get off.

    The lighter loaded buses mean that I can use the bus whenever – not just during rush hour, enabling me to use the rush hour bus even if my return is off hour.

  • Alex

    djconnel: The mileage figures are on the MTA’s site. I believe the fleet averages about three or four mpg. Let’s say your hybrid taxi gets 50mpg.

    In fifty miles the taxi has used one gallon of gas (50mi/50mpg) to transport three people. Each person has just used one third of a gallon of gas (1gal/3ppl), no?

    In fifty miles the bus has used 16.67 gallons of gas (50mi/3mpg) to transport about eighty people (figures are available on the MTA’s site, but their goal is about 86% of capacity and the 40ft buses hold about 100 people). Each person has just used (16.67/3) about one fifth of a gallon of gas (about 40% — 0.20/0.33 less).

    Of course some buses use more gas (the 60ft buses which hold more people) and some use less (the hybrids). Some are less heavily loaded. Some are more. I’d be hard pressed to believe that a cabbie would get anywhere near 50mpg in a hybrid SUV like most of them drive.

    The Escape hybrid is rated at 34mpg in the city. In fifty miles the taxi has used about one and a half gallons of gas (50mi/34mpg) to transport three people. Each person has just used about one half of a gallon of gas (1.47gal/3ppl), no? That’s twice what a person on a bus would use. What about if you’re the only person in the tax? The only person in your car that’s likely to get about 20mpg in the city? How about an SUV that’s lucky to break 12mpg city?

  • I’d be impressed if the buses run close to 86%. If you can find those numbers, I’d appreciate it. Personal observation (on the very rare situation I take the bus instead of cycle or run/walk) is the classic “biased sampling” problem. More people observe full buses, nobody observes empty buses except the driver. So going on my personal experience, for example, is biased high. Your numbers are close to what I figured makes sense: it’s just the utilization which is the issue. I suspect VTA is another matter… but that’s off topic.

  • My family’s Prius in San Francisco driven around in the city with usually 2 – 3 people in it gets about 35 mpg, and I really do try to drive it mileage-consciously. If we drive on the freeway, then our mileage goes way up (50mpg). The hills in San Francisco really cut the mileage. You don’t get back going down what you lose going up, and of course there are all the stop signs and stoplights that require constant bouts of acceleration. Also I’ve noticed that the weight of every additional person decreases the mileage a few points when hills and stops are in the mix. I would be very, very surprised if Prius taxis average much over 32 mpg in this city. I would extremely surprised if a Ford Escape hybrid taxi gets over 25 mpg in real life conditions. And all this assumes that you can get a hybrid taxi when you want one, since (as of 3/09) only 14% of San Francisco’s 1500 taxis are hybrids of any kind. (I’m still wondering how 1500 taxis can carry half a million people a day?)

    Also, remember that Muni diesel buses use 20% biodiesel. While I’m not a big fan of using farmland to produce fuel (I hate,hate,hate subsidized corn going into ethanol), some of the biodiesel is from the SF Greasecycle program which diverts grease that otherwise would have gone down the drain and interfered with our sewage processing system and turns it into fuel for our bus fleet. This further reduces the net CO2 that our fleet produces.

    As far as empty buses go, the bus schedule backs off considerably at night, so even if those buses tend to be emptier, there are a lot fewer of them running. Where Muni really screws up is when two buses come along in a row, the first packed to the gills, the second empty. Very annoying. Of course this is anecdotal, but of the last fifty or so times I’ve taken Muni, only once or twice were there no people standing in the aisles. The more frequent problem for me is that no bus is coming for fifteen minutes so I give up and walk the last half mile home. (All uphill, but perhaps I should thank Muni because the exercise is good for me.)

    To get people out of their cars, public transit must be frequent and pleasant to use. The trick is to get utilization up while not cramming people in like sardines and making everyone miserable.

  • ZA

    San Francisco spatial economics, how many…

    Fixie Hipsters buying a can or 6-pack of PBR can fit a car spot,
    That might otherwise have a car buying a case of Pacifico,
    Or a resident car buying nothing?

    I wager the first two are about even value for a local business.

  • Nick

    Concerning the “Rail Replacement Projects” on Judah, Taraval, and soon to be Church Street:

    These aren’t full track replacment projects as many might think. They are localized at intersections of heavy auto traffic (19th and Taraval, etc).

    This begs the question: if automobiles cause damamge to the rail system, should not those costs be recouped through additional fees on said automobiles?

    For all the popular outrage of “using parking fees to fund transit” there lies the scandal of automobiles causing fiscal damamge to the transit system. When you see a car rear end a MUNI bus, who pays for the damage to the bus?

  • Lead story on CBS 5 Sunday night was this one, completely slanted to what an outrage Sunday enforcement would be.

    Re: the whole taxi thing – we’d need enough cabs for peak usage. On Geary? Fahgettaboutit!

  • I don’t drive around the City, so I’m cool with $50 per minute parking meter rates personally …. however, I think they would have an easier time making the case for extending hours and charging on Sunday if they did it while installing those demand-based pricing, multi-spot meters like the Port is using along The Embarcadero. The rate charged on downtown meters when several hundred thousand people come here to their jobs Monday through Friday should not be the same rate charged to someone driving over from Pleasanton to visit me at my home in RIncon Hill on a Sunday morning when tumbleweeds or blowing through the street parking spaces … but I’m cool with whatever, I walk, bike, and would prefer improved MUNI services.


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