The More Space SF Uses to Store Cars, the Less We’ll Have to House People

The Fifth and Mission parking garage. Can SF afford to continue devoting so much space to personal car storage? Photo: Sirgious/Flickr

What if San Francisco stopped adding car parking? The idea might sound a little odd to the average person, but when you look at where the city is heading, the really crazy scenario would be to keep on cramming more cars into our neighborhoods. Under current policies, SF is poised to build 92,000 spots for personal car storage by 2040, consuming an ungodly amount of space in our compact, 7-mile-by-7-mile city. At what point does it stop?

“If we were really serious about” curbing emissions and creating a livable city, “we would just cap it at zero right now,” said Jason Henderson, author of “Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco,” at a forum this week on San Francisco’s parking policies.

Henderson took the figure of 92,000 projected spaces from Plan Bay Area, which is supposed to start the region on a path toward smart growth, but still foresees a heavily car-dependent future in 25 years. The SF Transportation Plan, created by the SF County Transportation Authority, projects “total gridlock” within the same time frame unless the city makes serious changes to its car-centric land-use planning policies.

Although the move away from policies like minimum parking requirements, which mandate a certain number of cars per household in new buildings, is often framed as an ideological shift, Josh Switzky of the SF Planning Department says it’s simpler than that — there are physical limits to cramming cars into the city. “It’s about geometry,” he said. “We have to figure out ways to accommodate people more efficiently.”

In other words, there’s a finite amount of space in the city. Does it make any sense to squeeze thousands of additional cars into San Francisco when we’re still struggling to create enough space to house people? What are the full costs SF will absorb if it continues to build more infrastructure for cars?

As studies have shown, building parking leads to more driving — if you build it, they will come. Yet the Planning Department has never seriously considered a citywide parking cap. In fact, the closest the city has come to the concept is a recommendation in the Transbay Center District Plan to study an absolute limit on parking within that portion of SoMa, which is set to grow around a major hub for regional transit and high-speed rail.

That study, however, has no timeline or funding behind it. And much of the rest of the city still has minimum parking requirements for new development, though progress in recent years has been made in the eastern neighborhoods on abolishing minimums and setting parking maximums.

There’s not even a parking cap in the Market-Octavia Plan, which encompasses the area around Hayes Valley. According to Switzky, that land use plan is looked to nationally as a model for limiting parking. Created after the removal of the Central Freeway spur a decade ago as a guide for the development of newly-opened land, it contains some of the nation’s strictest maximum parking ratios — generally, 0.5 parking spaces per housing unit.

But like the rest of the city, the Market-Octavia Plan allows the expansion of car storage to scale infinitely with housing growth. There is no overall limit on new parking.

Unless plans and the priorities of our leaders change (lately, some supervisors have actually pushed for more housing for cars and less for people), San Francisco is destined to have worse congestion, less effective transit, and unlivable streets.

The point was powerfully conveyed by a quote Switzky cited from Allan Jacobs, once the head of the SF Planning Department, and professor emeritus of city planning at UC Berkeley: “No great city has ever been known for its abundant supply of parking.”

Streetsblog won’t be publishing on Presidents’ Day.

  • Upright Biker

    How about we consider no net increase, but trade the removal of an equal number of existing on-street spaces for new garages located right next to the freeways, with their own exits, and with super-frequent public transport to the center of the city?

    Cars are not going to go away as a mode of transport to the city, but this way we limit their impact _on_ the city.

  • djconnel

    The longer I live in the city, seeing the endless bickering and so-called compromise which gets in the way of any real reform, the more I like the idea of reckless, radical policy change. Sure, there’s some temporary chaos, but then people manage. We see this over and over when our precious car infrastructure is compromised. Dream on, I know…

  • voltairesmistress

    Cities with great transit (usually an extensive subway or dedicated routes with no other users) built those systems BEFORE car congestion became unbearable. We must elect politicians committed to doing this. One can cap number of spaces, sure, but there is only one way to reduce car travel: market price all parking all the time And combine that with building a great transit system that gets people places as fast as by car.

    I am afraid that in SF we will limit parking first without providing great transit or pricing parking to demand. People think that simply capping parking and making life frustrating for all will create the political clamor for transit. It might, however, result in more parking structures as political sops. And even if transit improves, it will take 20 to 50 years to build it, long after people have grown furious.

  • murphstahoe

    It comes down to – you can make it harder to have a car and easier to have a place to live, or easier to have a car and harder to have a place to live.

    For someone starting from ground zero – the only rational choice is “easier to have a place to live”

    The problem with this dilemma is that if you already own a home or are rent controlled, changes in supply or demand on housing have no impact on you – it is inherently easy to have a place to live. So you have zero incentive to push for the living side of the equation.

  • Greg Costikyan

    How do you persuade people to change their habits? I used to live near Alamo Square, and biked to Soma every damn day, but remember the fellow across the hall talking about the problem of parking nearby. Somewhat incredulously, as in “why should you need to park,” when there are plenty of transit and other options. I guess mitigated when I realized he had a small kid, but I survived with a kid in a stroller using the PATH train and NYC subways when I was a young dad. If Muni were more reliable, that would make a big difference. Let’s not even talk about how much reform of the school system would enable SF to retain people who otherwise flee to the burbs.

  • Zig

    It’s a nice thought experiment but practically speaking 1/3 of SF is zoned SFH and we have heavy rail stations in the region next to malls and big box stores.

  • mikesonn

    We’d see marked improvement for Muni if we just enforced the already existing bus only lanes. Then a couple more steps like dedicating certain routes transit only (like Stockton or Market). We can’t even do the easy stuff, I really doubt we’ll get the hard stuff (subways, etc).

  • As available net energy per capita continues to decline in the US, I think we’ll see a number of trends that affect car parking, some new, some continuing. Continuing: almost all car infrastructure in dense urban areas such as San Francisco will continue to be transformed into housing or office space. This includes surface parking lots, car dealerships, gas stations, brake shops, muffler shops, autobody shops and above ground multi-story parking garages. The real estate will be just too darn valuable! Street parking will turn into transit lanes, bike lanes, parklets, public plazas, outdoor eating areas, and even vegetable gardens.

    But what indeed will happen to the acres of rather expensive underground car storage we are presently creating with the all the new condo and apartment buildings? Well, first off, many boomers will be downsizing when they move to the city and will have difficulty jettisoning all their stuff. But self storage units in the city will have largely turned into housing, too, because above ground space will be too valuable for just storage. So people living in these condos/apartments may well be happy to rent out a below ground parking space for storage for, say, $50 a month. And families may be happy to rent out a space to keep a bulky cargo bike, or keep their family’s collection of six bikes, say. (My husband owns three bikes, and I have a heck of time keeping him to that number!) Some will even keep a car in their parking space even though they will largely use it for only trips out of town. And a number of spaces will end up usefully employed for carshare, bikeshare, electric scootershare, etc.

    But will this really fill all the underground parking the city currently has and is busy building? A couple other potential uses for underground parking–nightclubs and bars. These places don’t need natural light (just good ventilation) and being underground (combined with excellent soundproofing and some vibration isolation) would help to minimize the negative impacts these types of business often find neighborhoods objecting to. Business such as welding or light manufacturing could also potentially set up shop in an underground garage. Some of the garage space might make entertaining skateboard parks for the teen crowd. I hope we never get to the point we think it’s a good idea to have people live in them. That would be sad indeed.

  • Because housing for cars is more important than housing for people. <– /snark

  • sebra leaves

    Bay Area public transit systems are maxed out. We need an easy way for folks to exit the freeway and park, then jump on a shuttle, bus, taxi or whatever to their final destination. Oakland Airport had the BART to airport shuttle years before they connected BART to SFO and it is a lot cheaper alternative.

  • david vartanoff

    Parking space fees priced to discourage them.!

  • Suburban Bubba

    San Francisco is not hermetically sealed off from the SF Bay Area. From where I’m walking, one parking space in SF that connects one household from the region to a job in SF adds to the city’s wealth through payroll taxes–and for the area of one parking space, saves the City one housing unit. That beats a new wave of project housing towers in my book.

  • david vartanoff

    No, the capacity is constrained mostly by incompetence and bad design. BART claimed in the paper propaganda before they started building a train every 90 secs–something that was already possible in “analog” control system subways in both NY and Chicag– but has never achieved it. Part of the problem will be cured when the new cars with 3 door sets each arrive.
    As to Muni Metro, they too are underutilising the tracks they have by running fewer cars/trains than needed because they bought junk which spends way too much time being repaired. Exacerbating the problem is Muni’s well known lack of hustle.

  • I ended up owning some storage rooms in the Clock Tower Lofts. They rent for more like $3-$5 a square foot, so the value is more like $1000 per space! More valuable than for a car!

    In Singapore they have started to put some commercial facilities underground. There is a lot of stuff that doesn’t need views, and there is new technology in “light pipes” that makes bringing natural light underground quite feasible.

    I find above ground parking garages a terrible waste of built urban volume, squandering premium space for living on a harmful use. Underground garages have many potential positive uses as you point out, and they are difficult to add later, so I don’t oppose them personally. And where am I going to put my cargo bike when I’m living in that micro senior unit?!

  • Shared mobility options are already disrupting established transit concepts in SF. In 50 years people will wonder at all the giant car storage structures we’ve built in this era, and the concept of owning your own vehicle will be only for the very wealthy. I’m making book on this prediction right now, so place your bets here.

  • jamiewhitaker

    With 3,000,000 additional square feet of office space getting built and another 2-3 million on the drawing boards (assuming about 250 square feet is needed per office worker), let’s assume another 20,000 jobs are coming …. probably leading to the SFCTA’s foregone conclusion that we are absolutely going to experience over saturation on the streets and total traffic gridlock if we don’t push to somehow stagger the times of day when people drive into and out of the downtown area. Congestion pricing the only way to go … too bad nobody has the gumption to pursue it and chooses to watch air pollution carcinogens increase and kill San Franciscans prematurely instead as a consequence of their lack of a spine.

  • Jame

    I find driving in SF frustrating (I live in Oakland). And some areas of SF are poorly accessibly by muni from BART. So I basically only go to places that have an easy connection to downtown SF. Unfortunately that excludes the Western half of the city. SF doesn’t seem to have the will to improve reliability and speed of muni to better connect the city.

    Couple this with the idea that, If I recall correctly, in 2012, 60K jobs were created in SF and 150 new housing units were created in SF. (and obviously the surrounding areas aren’t building housing fast enough to keep up.).

    We don’t want to build new housing, we don’t want to improve our existing transit. It is like the powers are be think if they ignore it, it won’t come.

  • andrelot

    If stupid dirty low-tech BUSES are the reference for “good transportation option”, there is something already wrong with it.

    Subways and elevated rail, monorail and other physically segregated infrastructure are great in that they add capacity without reducing availability of car spaces/roadway.

  • Speaking of bus-only lanes, I’ve often wondered where to bike up Sutter. The cars go too fast uphill for me to keep up, and the right lane is technically bus-only. That said, once I pass one bus, they never pass me again (and I look; they’re just really slow).

    I just started reading Henderson’s book and am enjoying it heartily. Great breakdown.

  • wklis

    One parking space needs about 156.7 sq. ft.. That’s not including the aisle, so double it to 300 sq. ft.. That is more square feet than a typical office cubicle.

    Some apartments are being built for 600 sq. ft..

  • Erica_JS

    What you’re describing is the system where lower-paid SF workers are unable to afford housing anywhere nearby, so they drive an hour or more through stop-and-go traffic into the city, racking up frustration and pollution along the way, spend another 15 minutes looking for non-performance-priced parking, then repeat in the reverse direction at the end of the day. This is a terrible system for people’s stress levels and the environment. Instead let’s build more housing near job centers and better transit connections between them.

  • It’s interesting to look at the historical data on population, employment and units of housing in San Francisco.

    In 2000 at the height of the dot com boom, San Francisco had 613K jobs, a population of 778K, and 345K units of housing. Apartment hunting was a very unhappy business that year but so much VC money was flying around, no one seemed to care.

    The next year 40K jobs disappeared. For rent and for sale signs were everywhere. It took the ensuing four years for population to drift down to 773K. Jobs kept drifting down, too, to a low of 530K in 2004. Housing prices dove by 30%, but it does not appear the number of housing units declined during this period. And after a while another bubble formed, for rent signs disappeared, and house flipping became a very lucrative activity.

    In 2008, just before the subprime bubble burst, jobs had popped back up to 573K, population 808K.

    After the subprime crash, people didn’t skedaddle quite as much they did after the dot com crash. in 2009 SF had 548K jobs, a population of 815K, and 368K units of housing. Fewer jobs, more people, lots of unemployment, but more housing. Between 2000 – 2009 22.4K units of housing were added, thanks to the real estate frenzy.

    In 2010 1230 units of housing were added, most in the pipeline from 2008. 558K jobs, 806K people. Added jobs and housing but lost people.

    In 2011, only 269 units of housing were added because almost nothing was put into the housing pipeline in 2010. 572K jobs, 813K people. Added more jobs than people with an accompanying drop in unemployment.

    In 2012 SF had 604K jobs, a population of 822K. It’s estimated 4000 units of housing were added. (Previous data source on housing ends with 2011 data.) Would bring housing to 373K. Again, added more jobs than people.

    In 2013, SF had an estimated 616K jobs, 831K people. It’s estimated roughly 2000 housing units were added last year. Would bring housing total to 375K. Finally have jobs similar to the dot com era but with 53K more people and 30K more units of housing. As San Francisco grows denser, it doesn’t need car commuters to fill jobs. What it needs is for anyone commuting to take transit. Because with all the new people living here, there isn’t room for suburban cars.

    Now, in 2014, real estate is at yet another frenzy. During the next two years it’s estimated that 6000 units that are currently under construction will be added to SF housing supply. Pie in the sky plans for 72,000 more units in the next decade. Treasure Island won’t be built (will be literally under water in 20 years) and Park Merced will go very slowly; but my guess is Hunter’s Point will happen over next five years; Mission Bay, SOMA, Showplace/Potrero, and Ocean/Balboa Park will continue to zip along; and that developments at Candlestick, Executive Park and Visitacion Valley will pick up steam because they are within a mile of the Bayshore Caltrain station. Anything in SF within a mile of a BART or Caltrain station is going to get developed whether this current real estate bubble pops or not.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Ride in the bus lane and don’t block buses. If there’s a bus, just pull over either to the left (into the mixed traffic lane) or to the edge of the bus lane, depending on what is safest and most comfortable for you.

    If cars (or lawsuit-on-wheels unskilled dangerous Uber/Lyft surrounding-oblivious GPS-glued fly-by-night cowboys) get behind you in the transit lane, screw ’em, move into the middle of the transit/taxi lane and show down.

    First rule: do what is safe.
    Second rule: do what makes the world work most nicely.
    Third rule: follow the letter of the law.

    Transit lanes, with their largely professional and largely skilled drivers, and politely-piloted competently-piloted bikes can co-exist nicely.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Bay Area public transit systems are maxed out.

    If by “maxed out” you mean “functioning at 10% of the utility of any number of easily visited first world transportation systems which are run for public utility rather than as pork barrel scams and employee welfare operations” then, sure, they’re maxed out.

    I mean, our local Parsons Brinkerhoff friends only have the Central Subway and the BART extension to the SJ Flea Market and the California HSR mega-scam on their plates, and really couldn’t eat another bite right right. Maxed right out! Burp!

  • mikesonn


    As in, ain’t gonna happen.

  • Actually, private cars *are* going to go away as a mode of transport to the city. Due to falling world net energy. Due to falling oil production world wide. Due to the oil fracking bubble in the US bursting. Due to fracking requiring massive amounts of water and natural gas fracking making locals sick. Due to climate change necessitating near term reduction in coal use, and due to the fact that half of electricity in the US (including a substantial portion California buys from other states) still comes from coal. If people are too poor today to buy an electric car and also enough solar panels to run it, they will still be too poor next year and the year after that. People will move closer; the outer suburbs and those not on some kind of transit line will depopulate. Car driving will be a luxury activity that some will still be able to afford (say the top 5% in come) but the seismic shifts in energy consumption ahead are going to clobber this country. (Will we have riots? Will we elect populist leaders who tell people what they want to hear, but then impose draconian reductions in civil liberties to maintain order? Or will we be sensible, roll up our sleeves, and adapt to what we must even though it means stranded assets right and left? There are a lot of possibilities ahead.)

    For anyone who wants an eye-opening understanding of what is happening in the oil industry and what is likely to occur over the next few years, I recommend this video from the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy. Among the many rather astounding facts explained: oil production by the oil majors (Shell, Exxon, et al) has dropped off so much and oil exploration has proved so unprofitable the last five years that these companies are giving up on exploration and selling off assets in order to pay dividends.

  • Sprague

    Although it’s probably most often the case that cities with great transit had great systems in place before the car began to dominate, some cities have boldly prioritized transit expansion in recent decades. Vienna, Austria implemented a city policy of significantly increasing transit mode share (with a simultaneous decrease in automobile mode share) and they followed this up with massive investments in new subway lines and subway expansions. New subway service and service improvements on existing heavy rail lines helped enable many fairly car dependent neighborhoods into places where transit is a viable and fast option.

    On a different note, thank you Aaron for drawing attention to the current alignment of housing and car storage. San Francisco successfully added thousands of housing units (without parking spots) a century ago. With transit improvements, there is little reason that housing and parking should not be decoupled in urban areas.

  • murphstahoe

    Subways and elevated rail are great in that anyone who wants zero transit improvements can insist on projects that we can’t get the money to build, and thus nullify all projects.

  • murphstahoe

    It also requires freeway expansion which lowers our wealth.

  • andrelot

    Much on the contrary. Part of the high costs of transit expansion on Bay Area is the piecemeal approach: one 2-station BART extension here, one subway link Downtown there, couple re-routed buses elsewhere…

    If the city wants to tackle transportation needs on a larger scale that can meaningfully reduce the need for use of cars, it needs, for instance, a East-West subway all the way to Richmon District

  • andrelot

    For people to use transit, it needs to be good. Caltrain is not bad in terms of speed, but lacks frequency. BART does mostly fine. MUNI is the dark spot, actually a black hole of SF transportation with average commercial speeds below 8mph. The city needs more subways, like a line connecting the Richmond District (which could be zoned up then), and more.

    Buses and very slow streetcars won’t do the trick. And they are low tech anyway.

  • andrelot

    They should extend BART to Martinez, and then build some high-rises close to a some 2 or 3 BART stations. It is a good place, especially if they reclaim some area used by shut down industries. Then people can commute from there to the city

  • Eliza

    Hi Richard- I am sure that coexisting in the same lanes with buses works well for you and many others. However, some people like me do not feel comfortable maneuvering a bicycle around such large vehicles. Last october, there was a man on a bike killed by a muni bus. Even if that is rare, i get off my bike and walk it on the sidewalk when there are a lot of buses.

  • aslevin

    re: frequency. Caltrain’s lack of frequency nights and weekends is just money. They had half-hourly service that they cut a few years ago – they could potentially restore that with the revenue from recent high ridership. Electrification will help with more frequent service since it is expected to lower incremental cost (electricity is cheaper than diesel). At rush hour the frequency isn’t bad at well-served stations (4/King). Electrification could help getting more frequent services at underserved stations while keeping the same schedule. Caltrain frequency is capped at 6 trains per hour at rush hour by the deal with High Speed Rail, but they could add more passengers with longer trains.

  • I don’t disagree that Bay Area transit could and should be much better. But at this point we’ve wasted too much of our time and money when we could’ve made great strides, the clock has largely run out, and there’s going to be limited money ahead in the near and medium-term future to do much in the way of tunneling due to its enormous expense.

    I agree that rather than following the lead of corrupt politicians and their cronies, we should have prioritized a light rail line down Geary from 48th ave to Montgomery station that went underground the two miles from Divisadero to Montgomery. Because it wouldn’t have had to go underneath the Muni and BART tunnels on Market, the engineering would have been much easier and the tunneling quite a bit cheaper. It could have had well-designed transfers with a *short* walk to BART and a slightly longer walk to the Transbay Center. The underground ride of 8 minutes from Divisadero to Montgomery would have had great daily utility to about 200K people.

    Instead we built/are building the Central Subway that will be largely for journeys under a mile that people can easily make by walking, and will only provide travel times a couple minutes faster than just walking for a large percentage of the people it’ll serve. (It won’t connect with the Transbay Center, and poorly connects to BART. None of its stations are closer than 3 blocks to Powell Street Station. It will almost be as fast–likely faster when including wait times–to walk from Chinatown to the Montgomery station (10 minutes) as it will be to take the Central Subway to Union Square and then walk to Powell. It will definitely be faster to walk from Yerba Buena/Moscone station to Powell. And it won’t help Caltrain riders, because most trains will terminate at the Transbay Center, not 4th and King. Maybe not at first, but eventually, because the triangle of the Transbay Center/Embarcadero station/Montgomery station will become the great transportation nexus of the entire Bay Area. If we end up putting rail on the Bay Bridge again, that’s where it’ll terminate, at the Transbay Center. I suppose the Central Subway will be useful for somewhat reducing commute times for folks in Mission Bay. South of Mission Bay, the T is so slow, shaving a few minutes is not going to help much.)

    However, since surface light rail isn’t nearly expensive as tunneling, I expect before 2020 we’ll see light rail down Geary and probably down Van Ness, even if both start out as jury-rigged BRTs. (Energetically, anything on rail is a much better deal than anything on tires and requires much less street repair and maintenance. This will become more and more important.)

    The problem with at-grade surface light rail is that even if we put stops no closer than 1/3rd mile apart, took out two-thirds of the lights on Geary in the avenues, made the rest of the lights Muni-responsive, had decent light rail cars instead of our noisy, heavy, junky Bredas, and ran the line as efficiently as the Swiss or Germans, I still don’t see how it could average more than 10 mph. There are just too many stops, and too many pedestrian crossings and pedestrians, especially east of Van Ness, to make faster speeds safe. It’s hard to imagine an at-grade, mixed traffic light rail line will ever take less than 35 minutes to go the five miles from, say, 32nd and Geary to Powell.

    Whatever its flaws and faults, the transit we largely see today will serve for 35% of all trips taken in the near future. Another 40% in San Francisco will be by biking or walking. Since SF is a very wealthy town, 20% of trips will probably still be by driving, but very few in the NE quadrant. The last 5 % will be by taxi/scooter/other. I would make the transit number higher, but sadly I think we’re going to be constrained capacity-wise due to lack of sensible investment over the last ten years. Whether this mode share occurs by the end of 2015 or the end of 2020, the result is largely the same. In 2011, the latest numbers I can find, mode share for all trips in SF (not just commute) was 21% transit, 54% car, 23% walk/bike and 2% taxi/other. So yes, we’re in for a lot of change.

    However much we all like to complain about Muni (and much of the criticism and complaining is, in my opinion, deserved) it is still offers a better transit system in terms of coverage and frequency than is available at the moment to 95% of Americans. Americans are shortly going to be very unhappy about this fact.

  • baklazhan

    They’re also an order of magnitude more expensive.

    And while there may be good reasons to build underground, doing so to preserve parking– when most street parking isn’t even metered– would be spending billions of dollars in order to save millions. Of course, the billions would be spent by the government, while the millions would be paid by drivers, which apparently makes that seem like a great idea.

  • baklazhan

    They could (and should) do that now, around existing Bart stations. If Bart were competently run, it would make a lot of money from deals like that, which could be used to expand service. Plus, if it added commercial space around its stations, it would create demand for anti-commute and off-peak travel, which is pure profit for Bart.

    Hong Kong’s MTR has used this strategy to not just break even, but become enormously profitable, even with very low fares. Unfortunately, all of Bart’s expansion plans so far seem dedicated to limiting the development to money-losing parking lots. Even developments such as the one at MacArthur are committed to spending hundreds of millions on parking– one can only assume that Bart is dedicated to spending whatever it takes to make sure that no one needs to ride Bart.

  • Paul Godsmark

    I was at a workshop in SF in February attended by the City, the Port, developers, architects and design consultants and the subject was designing for a driverless world. I find it amazing that this incredible technology of automated (autonomous, self-driving, driverless) vehicles (AVs) is being led by Google in California, and yet more people in SF haven’t worked out how it might change the transportation and parking paradigm completely. I explained to the workshop why there it is inevitable that shared vehicle fleets (‘robo-taxis’) will rapidly develop and that this will see a reduction in demand for parking, which over time will reduce very significantly from current levels. With Google aspiring to have their technology in public hands by as soon as 2017 then I argue that SF should already be considering AVs and their impacts in their plans.

  • 94103er

    I’d like to see some proof of the claim that cities had great transit before the streets were congested with cars. Wasn’t that precisely the problem with Copenhagen in the ’70s, that people were still addicted to their cars no matter how comprehensive the public transit? Don’t they have a lot of buses and trams there? I’m just gleaning recollection from stuff I read here and elsewhere, but I think the collective decision to build safe bike infrastructure (brought upon by revolt) helped pull it all together.

    So we can do that here, too. We have the extensive bus network in place. But the only way to make the buses run better–and also, make cycling safer–is to limit parking. The improvements will be visible immediately.

    Oh, BTW, the only way also to shut down the angry critics of the corporate shuttles is to limit parking–in the sense that you should take some spaces away and make them loading zones. Again, immediate, visible, improvements.

    In any case, why are we so afraid of pissing a few drivers off? Haven’t we Muni users and cyclists been pissed off for decades?

  • 94103er

    Exactly. Low-speed mingling on dead-flat roads like you’d find in low-lying areas of Europe: OK

    Mingling with buses on momentum-killing hills while buses gun their loud diesel motors behind you, powered by drivers who don’t lose their jobs after killing cyclists and pedestrians: No freaking way

  • 94103er

    If this were a true game-changer imminently near the rollout stage, it would already be reflected in developers’ plans. The private sector can respond pretty quickly to economics changing on account of technology, after all. I think a quick perusal of projects on the horizon will tell you that no one agrees, and that they’re betting that people will want their autonomous cars for the near future.

    So no, ‘SF’ should continue to price car use appropriately and figure out how we can use fewer car trips to get around, just as we have for a large chunk of the city’s history.

  • @andrelot – Nothing wrong with reducing space for cars, traffic evaporation happens and liveability improves.

  • That’s not what he advocated.

  • Don’t know if I’ll be here in 50 years, what with all the cars trying to run me down. So far the disruption has seemed incremental, with car infrastructure being built anyway, except some portion is for “shared” cars. (The infrastructure is just regular old dead space car infrastructure with a green sign next to it.)

    I encounter more and more car “shares” stopped where they shouldn’t be, “sharing” the sidewalk, crosswalk, bike lane, MUNI stop, or just double-parked wherever. Ditto for ride “shares,” though they are more likely to be spending their time diddling with a phone app. The obvious annoyance factor aside, what all this indicates to me is that this stuff isn’t really making much of a dent into car infrastructure. If it was, there’d be legal places for them to pull over and use.

  • Eliza

    Mike- is it much more expensive to build a subway east west out to richmond as compared to going out to pittsburgh bay point or livermore? Forgive me if this is an ignorant question. Are there geological issues? I have heard that the area around golden gate park was once called the great sand waste.

    From outside the city such as east bay or farther south on the peninsula, there is no practical way to get out to that area without a car. Trip planner says it is between an hour and a half to two and a half hours from my house. So, if I want to go to the legion of honor, I go in a car because it takes less than an hour in non-peak times.

  • EastBayer

    Eliza, yes, because there’s a lot more stuff in the way heading out to the Richmond than heading out in a freeway median. Perhaps three orders of magnitude difference per unit length? Freeway-median systems have 99 problems, but cost ain’t one…

  • murphstahoe

    The biggest issue is probably that it will be “relatively easy” to sell Livermore on one of the project options. In San Francisco, a project of that sort of scale would be subject to millions of dollars in community outreach and arguments over where the stations go before the first shovel was turned.

  • SFnative74

    I find the idea of not adding parking to the city intriguing, assuming it’s part of a smart strategy that also provides a variety of quality means for getting around the city.

    In addition to not adding parking, how about we think about where that parking is? Parking garages are not all bad if used and designed in a smart way. For instance, parking could be removed from a certain area to discourage car trips AND create space for transit, ped and bike facilities, with garages added outside that area to capture any car trips that do occur. People who drive are then directed to park immediately (rather than circle around looking for on-street parking), and then either walk, ride (via bike share) or take transit for the rest of their trip.

    An area like this could be the South of Market/Transbay Terminal area or the Financial District. And it doesn’t have to be 1:1 replacement of on-street parking removed from the area. You could remove 1000 on-street spaces and replace with 900 spaces spread over three strategically located garages.

    Divers could be directed to that parking via smart signs that show how many spaces are available. The signs don’t have to be freeway-scale monstrosities either. I saw a number of signs like this while riding in central Copenhagen. CPH clearly has great bike facilities, but it also has off-street parking near its city center. They aren’t mutually exclusive, and can both be part of a smart overall transportation system.

    Pics below from a past streetsblog posting show these parking signs (look for the “P”):

  • baklazhan

    Of course, all that car infrastructure was the result of an earlier “reckless, radical policy change”. I think that one of the main reasons there are so many roadblocks today is that people have seen the results of earlier efforts, and they’re not pretty.

  • jonobate

    Yes, exactly. To most people, planners today are the same as planners in the 1950s and are not to be trusted. It’s probably going to require a generational change or major crisis to get people to embrace radical change.


Census: SF Has Enough Street Parking Spaces To Fill CA’s Coastline

Clarification: California’s coastline (840 miles) is shorter than the end-to-end length of SF’s on-street parking spaces alone (900 miles). This post originally compared it to the length of SF’s total public parking supply (1,451 miles long), which is actually longer than the United States’ west coast from Mexico to Canada (1,360 miles). Here’s a point […]

At 40 Years, San Francisco’s Transit-First Policy Still Struggles for Traction

The first private automobile users on early 20th-century American streets were generally accorded no special privileges on the public right-of-way. “The center of the road was reserved for streetcars, and the new automobiles had to move out of the way,” as Renee Montagne describes it in the 1996 documentary Taken for a Ride, which chronicles […]

“Street Fight”: The New Guide to SF’s Transportation Politics

On the Sunset District’s 19th Avenue, a street transformed into an urban highway environment in the mid-20th century, Muni buses jostle for room on a car-clogged six-lane roadway, where residents put their lives in the hands of long-distance car commuters every time they cross. And all but the exceptionally adventurous can forget about bicycling on the […]

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. That’s right — until now, an archaic law in the city’s Housing Code required that garages be used […]

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

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. 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 […]