Wiener to SFMTA: Don’t Warn Double-Parkers, Cite Them

Seventh Street in SoMa. Photo: Matt Montagne/Twitter

Typo correction: The SFMTA says commercial vehicles are only allowed to double park when there is no legal parking space nearby.

At a hearing this week on the prevalence of double-parking in SF, Supervisor Scott Wiener said parking control officers shouldn’t give double-parked drivers a chance to move before receiving a citation.

“If the worst thing that’s going to happen to you is you’re going to be asked to move, how is that in any way a disincentive to double parking?” Wiener asked SFMTA Parking Enforcement Director Cameron Samii.

Samii said that such warnings are only given to delivery drivers, and only when there is no legal nearby parking space and they are not blocking a Muni line or “creating a hazard.” He said an exemption in state law allows commercial drivers to double park while loading under those conditions.

However, private auto drivers have long been known to get off with warnings, and there is no clear evidence that practice has changed. And for people on bikes, any double-parked vehicle creates a hazard.

Double-parking tickets have recently been on the upswing, however, with monthly citations rising from 1,808 in September to 2,947 in January, though they dropped again slightly in February to 2,495 [PDF]. Compared to all double-parking tickets, bike lane violations increased at a faster rate, from 110 in September to 285 in January.

The SF Bicycle Coalition recently conducted a social media campaign called #ParkingDirtySF, asking the public to tweet photos of drivers parked in bike lanes and blocking intersections. With more than 500 responses, the SFBC listed the 15 worst locations and the most common types of violators.

Image: SFMTA

Samii did acknowledge that being asked to move “is not a disincentive,” though even when commercial drivers receive citations, they accept it as “the cost of doing business.”

Wiener first held a hearing about the lack of enforcement to deter double-parking in September 2013, but citations dropped 9 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year, which Samii blamed on staffing attrition. Parking control officers are regularly subjected to intimidation and violence from drivers, and keeping them on board is a challenge.

But lax enforcement is also ingrained at the SFMTA and SFPD.

At the 2013 hearing, Lea Millitello, a former SFPD lieutenant who was then the SFMTA’s director of security, investigations, and enforcement, said that “in many instances, a citation is kind of a last resort.” She also promised the SFMTA would not start to ticket double-parking by churchgoers on Sundays, calling the exemption “part of San Francisco’s history.” Church parking wasn’t discussed at this week’s hearing.

Despite the drop in total double-parking tickets from 2013 to 2014, Samii said citations for parking in bike lanes increased from 1,213 to 1,424.

Image: SFMTA

Double-parking tickets dropped steeply on busy Muni corridors such Geary Boulevard and Third Street, though transit-only sections on both corridors have received the red paint treatments, and Muni has been installing enforcement cameras on all buses, which allow tickets to be mailed to transit lane violators. It’s possible those measures could have reduced double-parking, though Samii didn’t mention if they did.

Mission Street, a notoriously-clogged transit corridor, saw the most double-parking tickets by far over the last three years. Tickets spiked from 1,500 in 2012 to 2,200 in 2013, but dropped to less than 1,600 in 2014.

Samii noted that the SFMTA is also struggling to enforce other violations, including a new campaign against box-blocking and the new shuttle regulation pilot program, which requires PCOs to ticket commuter shuttles that use Muni stops without a permit.

When Wiener asked what needs to be done for the SFMTA to increase its PCO staff, Samii said the agency is working with consultants to develop “an optimization tool” that “will give us some sense of what the right level” of staffing is. “It doesn’t make sense to me to say I need more people on double parking without an understanding of what I have to give up for it,” said Samii. He promised to report back to the supervisors in about two months on those efforts.

Supervisor Malia Cohen said there seems to be a surging number of drivers for ride-hail apps like Uber and Lyft “completely disregarding traffic rules,” as they stop to pick up and drop off passengers. She asked if there is a way to increase fines for those drivers in particular, but Samii said that may require state legislation.

Wiener said he doesn’t think increasing fines will help, and that the problem is that “there appears to be very little double-parking enforcement, period.”

Double-parking is “a pretty equal opportunity endeavor” which drivers of all types tend to do, he said. “I really don’t care” if it’s a taxi, ride-hail driver, delivery driver, or a private auto driver. “It doesn’t matter. They’re blocking traffic.”

  • If your goal is to be an antisocial jerk, do it right. Just park in the car lane. When the cars line up behind you screaming and honking, just answer, “Do I look like someone who gives a shiitake mushroom?” It’ll be awesome! Worst case, you get asked to move.

  • What, when I can block the turn lane, bike lane, and traffic lane all at the same time?

  • Prinzrob

    “an exemption in state law allows commercial drivers to double park while loading under those conditions”

    I’ve heard this referenced before but have never actually found the code in question. Can anybody cite it specifically, or is just another of those myths that just won’t die because it’s too convenient?

  • Prinzrob

    Truck drivers parking in a bike lane is just a bad idea either way, though, because they end up blocking both the bike lane and half the next lane over. If loading vehicles just took to blocking the travel lane instead of the bike lane (especially on multi lane streets) they would be inconveniencing fewer people, overall.

    I also see plenty of truck drivers parking in red zones ahead of crosswalks, creating zero visibility between car/bike traffic in the street and pedestrians about to step into the roadway.

  • misterfranklin

    The closest thing in the vehicle code is CVC 22502(b), which permits commercial vehicles to park more than 18 inches from the curb.
    http://dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/vctop/vc/d11/c9/22502

    Note that 22502(b) does NOT exempt commercial vehicles from CVC 22500(h), the section that prohibits double-parking.
    http://dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/vctop/vc/d11/c9/22500

  • Golden Gate Shark

    I like how Samii blamed the lack of enforcement on staffing attrition. If they hired 1 traffic control agent to only enforce double parking. How many tickets an hour would it cost to cover him/her, the interceptor (or bicycle), and all of the officers expenses?? I am pretty sure the city would not only break even but probably create a surplus. Not to mention the fact that they would be increasing the safety of our residents, and increasing the flow of their precious traffic.

    The logic is so backwards at the sfmta. This is like how they stopped cleaning streets as often because it was too expensive and they had a budget shortfall. Only to realize that they were now loosing the revenue created by those who would rather not be bothered to move their car instead of having a clean street. Thus increasing their budgets shortfall.

  • Samii did acknowledge that being asked to move “is not a
    disincentive,” though even when commercial drivers receive citations,
    they accept it as “the cost of doing business.”

    Has Samii discovered a limitless mechanism for funding government? If commercial drivers accept fines for violations without changing their behavior, SFMTA may raise them infinitely and enforce them universally. Everybody wins!

    Or. Perhaps costs of doing business are not fixed but variable, and a business that lowers is costs may increase its profit margin and/or offer lower prices? If so, a creative business that finds a way to better comply with traffic laws, even marginally so, has an advantage over its competition. Higher fines and more rigorous enforcement would translate to greater (but never universal) compliance in a straightforward way.

    But that’s crazy, pie in the sky thinking. In the real world, real american business capitalist heroes accept costs unthinkingly, amirite?

  • Fran Taylor

    Wow, they’re up to four bike lane tickets a day! For the whole city? On an average day, I see that many on Harrison between Cesar Chavez and 14th Street, often outside Local Mission Market, where the owners ooze entitlement when I’ve complained.

  • SF_Abe

    @Prinzrob

    Personally, I’d prefer they pull as far to the right as possible. I don’t like the idea of riding through the narrow canyon between the truck and parked cars (where the driver can pop out any second). I’d rather pass the truck on the left, in the part of the traffic lane that isn’t blocked.

    You’re absolutely right, though, about how dangerous it is to park a truck right at a crosswalk. I regularly cross 16th and 17th at San Bruno (or Utah) and the UPS drivers are almost always either in the crosswalk or up against it, making it impossible for drivers to see me crossing (the fact that they don’t have any stop signal means they’re not even thinking about people crossing there).

  • sfo2cnx

    Would towing double-parked cars work as a deterent?

  • mx

    Samii said that such warnings are only given to delivery drivers, and only when there is a legal nearby parking space and they are not blocking a Muni line or “creating a hazard.” He said an exemption in state law allows commercial drivers to double park while loading under those conditions.

    This makes so little sense. According to the head of enforcement, average joes get tickets immediately, while delivery drivers are entitled to warnings. That’s bad enough, but it gets worse. Delivery drivers are apparently allowed to double park when “there is a nearby legal parking space.” Why? If there’s a perfectly good legal parking space nearby, act like a non-moron and put your vehicle in said space while you’re making your delivery.

    I have some degree sympathy for delivery drivers who wind up double parking in areas where they can’t find a legal place to park. The solution to that problem is more loading zones (and enforcement of said zones) in place of parking. But if there’s a perfectly good parking space next to you and you choose to abandon your car in the middle of the street instead, you’re being a jerk. The same applies to driveways (obviously not those serving large garages). Which is better? A FedEx truck blocking a driveway for two minutes or the same truck blocking Pine St., putting everyone in danger as they have to maneuver around it?

    I also routinely see SFPD routinely ignore double parking. When a patrol car isn’t actively responding to an emergency call and has to go around a double-parked car or truck, the very least they could do is hit the horn and instruct the driver to move on.

  • Will Snyder

    Question: are the bus stops just to be used by a Muni bus or can a private bus company have use of the space. About three weeks ago, I was waiting for a 14 Mission at about 2:15 am. It was bad enough, I was waiting about 45 minutes for the 14, but with a 14 in sight about five or six blocks away, a private company— I think it was Bauer— parked its bus right in the middle of the bus stop and just sat there. When the light turned green and the 14 Mission approached the spot, it didn’t hit the horn demanding the private bus move 30-45 feet up in the space. It just sped by and I was forced to wait ANOTHER 45 minutes for ANOTHER 14 Mission.

  • Prinzrob

    As someone who bikes a lot and is used to signaling and merging into traffic to pass on the left, I agree with you about the potential dangers and share the same personal preferences. From what I observe, though, many other people biking past a double-parked truck are just as likely to hop onto the sidewalk, squeeze past on the right via an even tinier channel, or merge to the left at the last second without looking or signaling. Based on that reality, I would rather have the bike lane open and allow people to bike through that narrow canyon but at least do so legally and more predictably. Anyone who doesn’t want to stay in the bike lane there could still signal and pass to the left of the truck.

    Thoughtful truck drivers also opt to stop in a center turn lane, or on the left side of a one-way street when possible.

    With such rampant double parking and almost zero enforcement I’m at the point where the only real solution I see involves more physically protected bike lanes. The upcoming bikeway on Telegraph Ave in Oakland, half of which will be physically protected and half using a painted buffer, will be an interesting experiment to test this theory.

  • Prinzrob

    SFMTA Parking Enforcement Director Cameron Samii should probably be notified of this. Anyone have contact info available?

  • Mario Tanev

    Hold on, wasn’t the shuttle program supposed to be self-sufficient. That is, the cost of PCOs is already covered by the fee imposed on the shuttles. Why all of a sudden are they cited as a reason to not do double-parking enforcement?

  • Andy Chow

    Then what is your suggestion to lower the cost of delivery services. Circling for legal parking means lower productivity and high labor cost. Hire driver assistants… higher labor cost.

  • Golden Gate Shark

    that is horrible. I am sorry that happened to you

  • NoeValleyJim

    Deliver off hours, like they do in most crowded cities throughout the world.

  • Andy Chow

    You should know that parcel delivery companies need someone there working for the company to receive the shipment. Sure night and weekends are nice with no traffic, but most companies are closed. Would companies want to spend $20 a hour to hire someone sitting there to receive the shipment?

    Garbage trucks however can do off hour trash collection without problems.

  • NoeValleyJim

    There are lots of work that can be done off hours: cleaning, stocking, bookkeeping, paperwork. Having someone there at a modest fee is just part of running a legal business.

  • Prinzrob

    It’s up to the delivery companies, not us, to figure out a business model that doesn’t involve breaking traffic laws. Delivery vehicles in many part of Europe tend to be much smaller and easier to park than the US versions, for instance, and they still stay in business somehow. http://www.citylab.com/cityfixer/2014/11/how-smaller-european-style-delivery-vehicles-could-make-us-streets-safer/383027/

  • Dark Soul

    That what u get for narriowing the road more double parking

  • Jim

    It was DPW’s decision to cut back on street cleaning, not MTA’s. I forget if CA ever passed legislation allowing forwarding facing enforcement cameras on SF’s street cleaning trucks. It was supposed to be a pilot for SF and LA. It doesn’t makes sense to have PCOs work between midnight and 6am printing street cleaning tickets when the PCOs could be better used during day.

  • Bruce

    I see that many on the one block of Townsend between 6th and 7th.

  • p_chazz

    At that hour you should hail a cab or use Uber.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    Not everyone has the ability to just “hail an Uber”..

  • p_chazz

    You misquoted me. I actually I said “hail a cab or use Uber.” And if they don’t have the ability they should get it. It’s not safe to wait for buses on Mission Street at that hour.

  • jd_x

    Totally. Because we all know on all those roads that weren’t narrowed there is no double-parking.

  • Gezellig

    https://nbchardballtalk.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/citation-needed.jpg

    Btw, I took the 14-Mission last night at about 2a. Have done it countless times before. As always, was fine.

  • Will Snyder

    PChazz—In over 30 years in this city, i’ve never had a problem at 9th and Mission, nor will I allow one. As for hailing a cab, it’s getting a cowardly cab driver to stop there. I’m angrier at Muni for not making sure they stick to their words and run on time.

  • Gary Fisher

    San Francisco needs to catch up to advanced cities around the world that are closing most major shopping streets to cars and trucks between 10 am to 2 am. Deliveries are made when the shops are closed. 2) the use of smaller trucks, even e cargo bikes. 3) better route mapping and receiving.
    That said, it has taken so long to get even a runt lane on Oak and Fell, We need to take different steps as we have been given a royal lip service. All is not well.
    100 years ago, a city is where you raised your children. Culture was there. We can have this back, without the poison and violence. Our leadership has slowed this vital movement. San Francisco is headed to be less.

  • joechoj

    Yes, protected bike lanes are the only sensible solution, and what all cyclists should be pushing for, IMO! All this hand-wringing over how much enforcement is done, do city officials have the will to enforce, fine amounts, cajoling officials to enforce the law, etc. – goes away when it’s physically impossible to double-park in bike lanes.

    We’ve been at this a long time. If by now drivers still can’t be counted on to park politely, and officers still can’t be counted on to enforce the laws, then we need a new solution. Physical separation takes all the messy, angsty human element out of it; it’s no longer a request on the honor system – it’s a physically imposed mandate.

    And let’s not forget the other benefits that come along with this solution: 1) cycling becomes massively safer, attracting more riders; 2) drivers are no longer required to cross bike lanes to access parking spots; and 3) pedestrian crossing distances are vastly reduced.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    I’m talking about money. Neither Uber, Lyft, or taxis are inexpensive.

  • Andy Chow

    Doable if it is a 24 hour safeway. Small businesses and office business tend to have the boss or supervisor present to have the employees working.

  • i don’t believe they’re even allowed to charge the cost of the program…

  • Andy Chow

    Banning day time delivery is problematic because many smaller businesses are not in a position to have an overnight shift just to accept deliveries.

    In terms of the overall transportation spectrum, attacking commercial vehicles just goes the wrong way. Most of the traffic and parking is consisted of passenger automobiles used by people for commuting purposes. These kinds of traffic are in a better position to be switch to transit, carpool, or bikes. Commercial traffic are not in a good position to switch without increasing cost and cutting productivity. If suddenly automobile traffic cuts say by 25%, perhaps the remaining commercial traffic wouldn’t have to double park.

    How many cargo bikes are necessary to replace a UPS truck while maintaining the same productivity? How many regular bikes are necessary to replace a single occupancy automobile?

    There’s a preference for on street parking for autos because the residents use the spots and are able to pressure the politicians. Commercial traffic doesn’t get that kind of political treatment. The parking tickets are absorbed by the delivery companies and the customers, who could lobby for more commercial zones, do not feel the impacts of the parking tickets.

  • Gary Fisher

    Go overseas Mr. Chow? UPS can answer your questions. I see I talk beyond your vision. Your productivity is others death by crushing. Thank you Mr Chow.

  • p_chazz
  • p_chazz

    Less expensive than a visit to the hospital, or a funeral service.

  • Andy Chow

    I have gone and lived overseas, and at those times never I have not drive for months even though I had opportunities to do so. Most people do not commute to work by driving, and that most people do drive are doing so as an occupation. Deliveries are done during the day like everywhere else because that’s when the companies are open and bosses are around.

    If you think that large vehicles are something that safety can’t ever be improved and that should be eliminated, then essential vehicles like buses, garbage trucks, fire trucks should be on your list. I don’t think that even the most bike friendly cities not having them. Everywhere the challenge is how to manage these and other traffic.

  • murphstahoe

    I see your hyperbole bone is intact

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