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.

While the vast majority of on-street parking spaces in San Francisco are free, the going rate for parking is reflected in rents for private parking spaces, which typically cost hundreds of dollars per month.

As we’ve seen, at least one enterprising van owner has taken advantage of the city’s real estate giveaway to set up a subsidized hotel.

The car-share fees are scaled to provide an incentive for companies to distribute spaces equitably in the outer neighborhoods, and not just the denser neighborhoods in the city’s core where car-share markets are already well-established, according to Andy Thornley, project manager for the SFMTA. Spaces in the inner zone will cost $225 per month, the middle zone $150, and the outer zone $50.

The SFMTA Board approved the curbside car-share program last month, and the first new spots are expected to open up in January.

Fee zones for car-share spaces. Image: SFMTA (##
  • Neil

    Fair enough, although technically I’ve never met you. Just traded the odd barb here 😉

    My intended point was more that, for many working families, the need for a car is an inelastic demand. So when you raise the price they cannot usually sell their car, but rather they just become poorer.

    Or drive an older more dangerous car, which benefits nobody.

  • Neil

    I’d agree, coolbaby, except that many people who live in SF work outside it. So while those who live outside SF but work in it can use transit, as transit is organized to funnel commuters into downtown SF, that doesn’t help those who work in another county, or where their children attend a school miles away.

    One family I know live in SF, the parents have jobs in Marin and San Mateo County, and the children attend a private school across town. They don’t need a car. They need two.

  • Elizabeth

    Many people live in San Francisco, work in Silicon Valley and take Caltrain or bicycle to and from the stations. I see them everyday. For those with reasonable access to Bart or Caltrain, it beats driving for an hour +. That doesn’t help anyone headed to Marin or who lives far from reasonable public transportation (Muni doesn’t fall in that category in my opinion).

    I know parents who have their kids going to school all over town. The parents always seem exhausted, and the children miss out on the freedom we had long ago in being able to walk or bicycle to school. In Barcelona, they have special public transportation specifically for school children. Better transportation options are needed so that driving becomes more of an option and less of a necessity.

  • mikesonn

    No, SFSD needs to not require kids to travel all over the city which I believe they are finally doing away with.

  • Anonymous

    That’s the best example you can give Neil? Do they also need a car to get to their country club? I thought we were talking about how increased car costs hurt poor people, even though you’ve ignored low car ownership among low income San Franciscans this entire conversation.

    Last time I checked dual income families with jobs worth commuting to and sending kids to private school wasn’t considered low income. My friends who went to private school in SF took muni, or maybe your friends’ kids go to a private pre-school for children with overbearing parents? Just kidding, but you’ve provided a good example for the overuse of “need” or inelastic demand when it comes to car ownership. Of course people are free to own as many cars as they can afford, but they are also free to make life changes that mean they don’t have to spend so much of their money on cars and lives in traffic.

  • Neil

    Mike, these particular kids attend private school, as do mine.

    My understanding was that the SFUSD still has a form of bussing (in the sense of that word that doesn’t imply that buses are provided – only that some type of enforced diversity is imposed on the schools meaning that some kids have to travel far from home).

    Some changes were made to get rid of the worse excesses of the previous quota system, but parents still to not always their local or first choice school, and that involves extra load on the roads whichever way you look at it.

  • Neil

    coolbaby, my point was that an increase in car costs would not cause this particular family to lose a car because they need two. I never said it was my “best” example but it is a real life one.

    I suppose you’re going to say that they could completely change their lifestyle and then they’d only need maybe one car. But then isn’t that the transit tail wagging the lifestyle dog?

  • Anonymous

    I never said they should give up their cars. But at the same time i’m not buying it that they need them either. I would need a car too if I chose to drive across the US tomorrow, but only because I chose to drive across the US.

    Your friends might find that their lives are better if they made a few changes that enabled them to live healthier and richer lives, but that’s their choice.

  • mikesonn

    Cool, it ain’t worth it.

  • gneiss

    Neil, We live on a 7 x 7 mile peninsula. Even accounting for a full ‘across town’ commute, the difference in time between cycling between those destinations and driving is minimal, particularly when you factor in that cars typically only average 15 mph on their trip times between locations.

    Making safe routes to school from different neighborhoods is a priority of the bicycle coalition and represents one of the primary reasons why we should be building a safe, complete bicycle network. Then many children could get themselves to school rather than having to rely on their parents or MUNI.

    I too send my child to private school. However, my wife and I use a trailer bike on the back of our bikes to get her to school and home from the Upper Haight to the Mission. It takes us *less* time to drop her off and pick her up by bike then either car or MUNI and has the added bonus of saving us money on parking MUNI fares, etc.

    If more people felt comfortable riding bikes (and letting their kids ride bikes) in the city, we’d easily reduce traffic congestion by a significant amount during the school year. Just think of how much easier it would be to drive around town without all those parents transporting their kids by car everywhere.

  • Neil

    gneiss, if SF were a 7 by 7 city with nothing else around it, I’d agree with you. But that’s looking at things from a very SF-centric perspective.

    I think in terms of the Bay Area, which is more like 70 by 70, and bikes are a much more marginal mode of transport when you look at it that way. The Bay area is really one big city with 5 million people, 500 square miles, nine counties and dozens of cities. But it’s all one big conurbation in the end.

    If you can organize your life so you never leave SF, or maybe never leave your zip code, then that’s great and those options are plausible. But many of us traverse several counties, if not daily, then certainly weekly or a few times a month. The city line doesn’t mean much to people like me.

  • mikesonn

    Then we need a more dense Bay Area which makes the car even less practical.

  • Anonymous

    so good, there are no inter-county transit options either! I either drive or take my helicopter.

  • Anonymous

    “My understanding was” only that some type of enforced diversity is imposed on the schools meaning that some kids have to travel far from home

    Another topic you are pontificating on either without much knowledge or intentionally throwing in some classist (in this case racist) undertone.

  • gneiss

    Neil – while I agree that the city is part of an integrated network with other communities in the Bay Area, many of the city streets that people navigate to get to schools are traveled primarily by locals. In addition ask yourself what is more important – making streets more ‘convenient’ for people who are commuting in or out of town or making them safer for our kids? To me it’s a no brainer. Let’s make the city safe for kids first. It it means adding an additional 15 minutes of time for commuters, then so be it. In my mind safety trumps convenience any day.

  • Neil

    murph, although my children are outside the public system, I know enough parents of kids who are in the system to do that there is an allocation process which gives priority, among other things, to ensuring that the schools in Noe Valley aren’t all white and asian, and the schools in the Mission aren’t all black and hispanic.

    I also know enough parents whose children have to travel a few miles to school when there is a school a short walk from their home.

    There are other factors as well, and the system is better than it used to be. But many parents either leave SF or go private because of the school allocation system. It’s a problem and not just because it creates many un-necessary commutes.

  • Anonymous

    to ensuring that the schools in Noe Valley aren’t all white and asian,
    and the schools in the Mission aren’t all black and hispanic

    [citation needed]

  • Great, so families that “need” to drive as their primary transport can do that. For others who prefer healthier and cheaper options, the city should provide excellent public transit, plus a well-connected network of lo-motor and no-motor streets and paths, 8-to-80 friendly, where people don’t have toxic second-hand exhaust fumes thrust upon them.

    What I don’t get: why punish families by forcing more expensive, toxic, and dangerous options on them? You’ll just lose hearts and minds.

  • Neil

    Where’s your citation for claiming that factors like race and socio-economic background are ignored?

    If they were ignored, there would be little point in having an allocation system at all. Every kid would simply go to their closest school. That doesn’t happen.

    There is ideology and political correctness on the allocation system. But that’s not a relevant debate to have here anyway, except of course that it means many SF children cannot walk to school.

  • mikesonn

    “But that’s not a relevant debate to have here anyway, except of course that it means many SF children cannot walk to school.”

    Which is exactly why it is a relevant debate to have here. *smh*

  • If the closest school is full, you might have to go to one further away.

  • Anonymous

    This statement…

    “Where’s your citation for claiming that factors like race and socio-economic background are ignored?”

    Is not the same as this statement.

    “some type of enforced diversity is imposed on the schools meaning that some kids have to travel far from home”

    There is no “enforced diversity”. School choice in the form of children from areas with lower performing schools having the opportunity to attend higher performing schools is not “enforced diversity” nor a quota system. In a school system where some schools are dramatically underperforming, some schools will be higher on the preference list for enough parents that some children who live near a school will not be allocated to that school. This sucks, but that’s a problem with the whole school system having problems, not “enforced diversity” (nice dog whistle, Rush Limbaugh).

    Either you have no clue or you are completely trolling. “every kid would simply go to the closest school” – a goal you are probably lauding but you probably don’t have a problem with some kid living next to Sacred Heart choosing to go to Saint Ignatius – that is of course “choice”. You also probably don’t have a problem with parents from Noe Valley trying to get into West Portal or Clarendon instead of Alvarado – some of the longest commutes caused by the system happen when wealthy kids from the Marina get into Lowell and eschew Galileo.

  • Neil

    But “lower performing” is code for black and hispanic. The lower performing schools are typically in minority areas.

    You know and I know that’s the case. it’s just dressed up in code to avoid looking overtly racist.

    What would be amusing, if it weren’t so sad, is that this pitches two liberal groups against each other. The educational ideologs who want school bussing against the “livability” folks who want to see less stress on transit and the roads.

  • Neil

    Yes, Peter, and the main reason your local school might be full is because kids from other neighborhoods want to go there and the city doesn’t give them a lower priority.

  • Neil

    I know, Mike, I meant the whole diversity/quota allocation system isn’t a valid topic here EXCEPT insofar as it causes un-necessary journies.

  • Anonymous

    But “lower performing” is code for black and hispanic. The lower performing schools are typically in minority areas. You know and I know that’s the case. it’s just dressed up in code to avoid looking overtly racist.

    Good to know you aren’t so politically correct and are willing to be overtly racist.

  • Neil

    No, Murph, it was the former race quota system that was overtly racist. The new method which instead takes account of “under-performing” schools (which of course correlate highly with non-white areas) appears to be much less overtly racist. While of course ensuring similar outcomes.

    I am neither politically correct nor racist, and that’s a fairly small group in America IMO. Most folks are either one or the other.

  • Anonymous

    My partner and I sold our cars shortly after moving into the city because they were more hassle than they were worth.

  • Kids near the school now get priority. The problem is that the distribution of schools, and their capacities, does not exactly match the distribution of kids looking to enroll. Figure it out logically. If there was a perfect match, it would be a miracle. BTW, my two kids are in public school, and neither has far to go. One walks, the other has a short MUNI ride.

  • Anonymous

    Who says ‘cars pay for this city’s streets?’ Source?


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