Parking breaks - Page 2

Supervisors and angry citizens fail to deter the SFMTA from managing on-street parking

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SF EXAMINER PHOTO BY MIKE KOOZMIN

But in Potrero Hill and the few other parts of the city that still have unregulated street parking, other issues arise, such as out-of-town commuters parking for free all day and limiting availability in a region slated for lots of new development in the coming years.

"Parking management matters," Reiskin said, adding that without it, "we won't be able to achieve our goals of having an efficient transit system."

He cited policies in the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan that the supervisors approved that call for parking management and noted growth projections that could draw another 100,000 people into San Francisco in the next 20 years.

"The competition we feel today in the public right-of-way will only grow more intense," Reiskin said.

Farrell argued that families and many individuals need cars to get around: "The use of a car is simply necessary." Reiskin acknowledged that cars are still the top transportation choice in San Francisco and they will remain so for the foreseeable future. But he said that each person who opts to use a bike, Muni, or to walk is an important gain in the efficiency of the overall transportation system, given how much space cars take up, so eliminating free parking is an important incentive.

"There is a clear relationship between transportation choices and costs," Reiskin said. "If there is free parking, a lot more people will choose to drive."

Farrell then repeated the other big criticism that gets aimed at the SFMTA over its parking management program, that it's simply a "revenue grab" that uses meter and parking citation revenue to make Muni and cycling improvements. But Reiskin said the $200 million in revenues from parking have been fairly consistent, with increases in meter revenue being offset by declining revenue from citations (which he attributed to longer meter hours and new payment options) and lowering the rates in city parking garages to make them more competitive with street parking.

"We're lowering your rates as much as we're raising them," Reiskin said after noting that, "We'd much rather get the revenue through the meter than through citations."

Finally, Farrell got down to the crux of the criticism from car owners: why can't everything else wait until the SFMTA makes Muni more efficient and attractive? This is a car-dominant culture, and people won't take the bus until it's easy and reliable. Bike advocates make a similar argument, saying completion of a safe system of bike lanes is the only way to substantially increase cycling in the city. But Reiskin said the SFMTA has to do everything at once lest traffic congestion slow the entire system.

"I know it's a challenge for you, but it's a challenge for us with how to respond to it as well," Reiskin replied to Farrell. "I don't think we have the luxury of putting one part on hold while we make up for decades of underinvestment in public transit."

Sup. David Campos said he understands the frustrations of his northeast Mission constituents and he thought the SFMTA was right to delay the implementation of parking management programs there (the revised plan comes out this summer).