Drivers Lose a 27-Cent Parking Subsidy – KPIX and KTVU Lose Their Sh*t

The sky is falling! San Francisco drivers paying parking meters with credit cards will no longer get their 27-cent credit card transaction fees bankrolled by the SFMTA.

Image: KPIX
Image: KPIX

For KPIX and KTVU, this was the scandal du jour. “It’s already pricey to park,” said KPIX anchor Elizabeth Cook. “How bad is it really going to get?”

“We’re talking 27 more cents!” reporter Mark Kelly responded. “When word got out parking in San Francisco would cost even more, upset drivers weren’t hard to find.”

Is it ever hard to find upset drivers?

Reporters also had no trouble finding drivers unaware of key facts. Like that the cost of transaction fees was previously subsidized, or that drivers who pay by phone will actually drop from 45 cents to 27 cents per transaction, or that 90 percent of street parking in SF is free at all times.

In February, the SFMTA upgraded all city parking meters to accept credit cards. At meters that offer more payment options combined with SFpark’s demand-based parking pricing, drivers save time and, in many cases, money. At SFpark meters, rates have dropped by an average of 4 percent, and meter-related citations decreased by 23 percent.

The SFMTA has been paying the credit card transaction fees for meter payments thus far.

Context isn’t necessary, though, when KPIX has a target audience to enrage. “Now it’s on you, the driver, to foot the $47.7 million bill over the next nine years,” Kelly said in his segment.

“Muni doesn’t have the money to absorb that?” Kelly asked SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose. Read: “How dare you make motorists cover a little bit more of their own costs! Can’t you cut some bus routes or something?”

People called the surcharge “a frustrating sign of the times,” said KTVU’s Cara Liu. “The cost of city living getting just a little more out of reach.”

Ah yes, in the midst of a housing crisis that’s driven the median rent up to $3,450 a month, a 27-cent credit card fee for drivers is the straw that might break the camel’s back, according to KTVU and KPIX.

The SFGate blog also quoted a couple of “annoyed” drivers, though their comments about the fee weren’t quite as inflammatory. “Locals say 27 cents isn’t a significant amount of money,” SFGate noted. “The pay-by-phone option is great because it is convenient,” one woman said. “Paying a steep convenience fee won’t stop me but it will certainly annoy me.”

  • Let me guess, they didn’t bother to mention that Muni fares are going up?

  • ladyfleur

    I love how they focused on an edge case–a delivery driver–in the story. What’s the average number of times a day SF residents put money in a meter? Even for people who drive most places, I’d guess it averages to once or twice a day.

  • BBnet3000

    “Now it’s on you, the driver, to foot the $47.7 million bill over the next nine years,” Kelly said in his segment.

    Who else would they expect to foot it? Non-drivers?

  • KillMoto

    “Is it ever hard to find upset drivers?”

    Driving makes everybody frustrated and angry.

    Why again do people drive?

  • The cost of sending a person around to collect the coins and then depositing them isn’t free either, yet is rolled into the parking charge. I’m all for parkers paying their fair share, but if they should be covering the payment processing costs as part of overhead. If that requires a $/hr fee increase, so be it, but the cost should be uniform regardless of payment method.

  • 94110

    I predict Valencia will become a ghost town as penniless drivers are unable to afford curbside parking.

    The few who cannot drive to greener pastures will be forced to swallow their pride and rely on the charity of the valet services that have sprung up in this economically depressed neighborhood to help those priced out of other forms of parking.

    Our only hope is some of spots underutilized by off street parking can be torn down and paved so that the neighborhood’s numerous bars can once again be patronized by drivers, proudly slapping their $0.27 on the bar.

    PS: Since SFPark is/was supposed to find the proper price, wouldn’t an addujustment in a month or three theoretically drop the price across the board if the fees make an impact?

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Mostly because BART is in flames.

  • murphstahoe

    I’m not sure, it might not be correct to attribute to “losing their S**t” that which could easily be attributed to “thinking this will attract viewers”

  • gb52

    Well even at 27 cents higher, people will stay pay with credit, and all the parking spaces will remain full… I really hope SFMTA can roll out SFpark throughout the city. There are many days where lower rates can be justified, and it just makes sense. And for all the drivers out there that are ENRAGED… go fish, you can still empty out your pocket full of change and not pay the surcharge; meters still take coins. TADA! Oh and yes, you can even pay that $6 fee with a few dollar coins. (yep, they’re still common currency, even if there are only a handful of people using them).

  • 27 CENTS!!!! OMG!!!!! That’s like 1/2 the price of a stamp!!

  • SuperQ

    Yup, it depends on what the percentage of costs coin collecting is compared to the credit card fees. Credit cards cost anywhere between 2-5% to process, plus a per-transaction fee of about $0.10 to $0.20. Small transactions tend to be more expensive. For $2.50 added to a meter, 3% + $0.2 is about $0.27. Because of the per-transaction fees, this makes the overall transaction cost for credit cards about 10%.

    I’ve seen meter money collectors, they walk and collect at about half normal walking speed. Say it takes about 15-20min to walk both sides of a long SF block in SOMA. Let’s assume it costs $50/hour for a SFPark employee to empty meters. That means a collection round for a block would cost $12.50-16. Each parking meter probably has probably $50 in quarters in it. There’s maybe room for about 80-100 parking meters per block (again, both sides). This means we’re collecting 4-5k every time the meter collector goes over a block. This means we’re talking about an overhead of 0.4%. Say I’m off by 2x, we’re still under 1% overhead to collect cash from meters.

    This makes collecting cash cost 1/10th as much as credit cards, so the cash collection fee would be $0.03.

  • bobster1985

    Remember when KTVU was a quality newscast? Where have you gone, Dennis Richmond? A city turns its lonely eyes to you.

  • StrixNoctis .

    I have a feeling your recommendation for plastic people to touch coins of peasants which can not only dirty hands but break freshly manicured nails is a nightmare.

  • StrixNoctis .

    Since when do the crowds who frequent Valencia Street use curbside parking? Unless parking meters are to be installed in the double-parking lane/i.e. bike lane, the Valencia Street crowd will be unaffected.

  • DC

    That…and I have no idea what that delivery driver was talking about. I did deliveries by car in SF for a few months and, by far, the most miserable day of the week to work was Sunday with the free parking. I was glad to drop some money in the meters to preserve my sanity (plus probably be able to pick up another job or two which more than offset the parking money).

    And it’s not that hard to keep a bunch of coins in a car. You just go to a bank or laundromat and get what you need. So not only did they focus on an edge case, they also focused on one who was not very bright.

  • I disagree with this post. With rates well over $2 an hour, paying with coins is simply not practical. As such, the cost of the payment (credit) should be included with the hourly cost. This is also true of the absurd fees they try and charge you for using electronic tolling. Imagine if your supermarket charged you a 3 cent fee per item scanned by the cashier?

    On the other hand, Im fine with merchants charging a credit card fee because paying with cash is easier. They dont restrict you to quarters and provide change. If SF has change making machines on every block, it would be a different story.

  • p_chazz

    Actually, paying with cash is not easier. Cash requires security; vaults, armed guards, etc. It is bulky. It needs to be counted and stored until it is taken to the bank.

  • But your argument is unfair to those who pay with coins — if the cost of all cc transactions were rolled into the overall cost of parking, everyone would pay a little bit more but those who paid with coins would be subsidizing those who paid with cc’s.

  • mike_napolis_beard

    In some cases, people need to drive (mobility issues; workplaces inaccessible by transit). In others, people have considered the trade-offs of driving versus other modes and chose driving; in yet others, people haven’t fully considered the trade-offs and rely on worst-case scenario assumptions about transit to fuel their choice.

  • mike_napolis_beard

    Wow, great point.

  • mike_napolis_beard

    It’s worked so far… why upset the boat? /s

  • Jame

    It is amazing how much we expect all driving costs should be subsidized at every level. It sounds totally reasonable to me that I would need to pay my credit card fees for the parking meter. Yes it would suck, and I hate paying for parking, but that is the cost of driving.

  • murphstahoe

    This is also true of the absurd fees they try and charge you for using electronic tolling.

    Last I checked I get a discount for using FasTrak

  • michaelinsf

    I buy SFMTA parking cards with pre-loaded value – $20 or $50. No coins, no credit card, no pay-by-phone hassle. I recommend it. And there is no transaction fee.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    This is all true, but most merchants (especially small stores) still prefer cash because they don’t have to pay fees to visa/mastercard or whatever.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    I believe you can still buy prepaid parking cards from the SFMTA and avoid both coins and the transaction fee.

  • davistrain

    What percentage of TV advertising revenue comes from automobile- related businesses? As the medieval minstrels used to say, “He whose coin I take, his song I sing.

  • It used to be easy to find by-industry stats in Advertising Age, but now they provide free infographics and offer to sell the data that underlies the graphics:

    The 2014 infographic shows auto-marketing at the #1 spot, followed by insurance (including car insurance), wireless services (for motorists to use while driving, of course), and credit cards. That’s for all media, but spend any time watching teevee and you’ll see pretty much the same thing.

  • Muni’s ticket machines dispense dollar coins as change, and have done so for years.

  • I can’t imagine why we have to have television going 24/7 to inform us that driving is freedom, and sexy. (See previous comment about how it’s the #1 source of advertising revenue.)

  • sebra leaves

    Since they want to nickel and dime us I return the favor by using nickels and dimes in their meters.

  • Alicia

    Chances are, they dump everything into a coin sorting machine anyway… but if you want to make more work for yourself, have fun.

  • Except the costs dont end there. The coins need to be transported, counted, sorted, and audited at HQ.

  • Sorry I meant easier for the customer because you can pay with any bill and receive change.

  • Collecting coins isnt free either for the agency. And as meter prices keep going up, north of $5 an hour in some spots, paying with coins is almost impossible.

  • xc ❄

    too bad they stopped accepting pennies!


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