Guardian editorial: The parking war


EDITORIAL When you talk about changing parking rules in San Francisco, you're setting off the political equivalent of shooting war. Nobody wants more parking tickets, nobody wants more expensive parking meters, nobody wants to pay for parking that's been free for years — and the Municipal Transportation Agency has, by most accounts, done a pretty poor job of selling its new parking management program.

That's too bad, because the MTA proposals aren't all bad. In fact, the agency is doing exactly the right thing by looking at a long-term citywide plan for altering the way people pay for and use on-street parking. If the bureaucrats at a city department that isn't used to San Francisco's often slow community-oriented planning process can shift their outreach efforts into a different gear, there's no reason they can't come up with a plan that most neighborhood residents and small businesses will support.

The MTA's SFPark program uses high-tech meters that accept credit cards and change prices at different points of the day to maximize turnover on the streets. That's actually good for local businesses — the less time people spend circling the block looking for a parking space, the more likely they are to stop and shop. Limiting the number of cars cruising for a space improves traffic flow. And parking for an hour or two at a meter is still much cheaper than parking in a garage.

But when the MTA announced that it was expanding SFPark into the Northeast Mission, Dogpatch, Potrero Hill and Mission Bay, the neighborhoods rebelled. Some of that was just anger over the prospect of meters being installed on streets that don't have them. Some of it comes from the changing land use in areas that are increasingly both residential and commercial. Some of it comes from the intense development pressure in those areas.

But a lot of it was a legitimate response to a perception that the MTA was trying to ram the changes through without making a serious effort to work with the community. It's not surprising — the MTA has been somewhat isolated from the politics of land use and planning in the city. So the staff isn't used to the fact that San Francisco is a process-oriented place where a wide range of constituent groups want input before anything happens where they live or work.

The neighborhoods also  need to understand reality: The era of free parking in San Francisco is coming to an end. That's a good thing — the city as a matter of policy should discourage the use of cars, and charging drivers for parking (and using that money to improve Muni) is an obvious solution. And the proposals aren't that onerous: Paying 25 cents an hour for all-day parking where you work is hardly a terrible financing burden. (And let's face it — the neighborhood parking stickers are way, way too cheap.)

But much of the southeast is badly served by transit and there are vehicle-intensive production, distribution and repair uses, and MTA needs to understand that. The agency has wisely delayed the program -- and after its shown it can work with the neighborhoods, this sort of bold initiative will be possible.




I love where I live in the NE Mission, and I purchased a home there a couple of years ago not only because I love the neighborhood, but because the street parking situation was very easy in the couple of blocks surrounding my neighborhood.

I understand the need for parking management, and I also understand the distaste many feel as the city subsidizes free parking. But if their going to start to charge for parking by literally blanketing entire eastern neighborhoods, they should consider going after the higher income neighborhoods as well, such as Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow, and North Beach, where parking turnover is more needed. MTA needs to face the fact that the majority of businesses in the Eastern Neighborhoods do not benefit from parking turnover.

As noted in the article, MTA messed up big time by poor outreach. They really should give more notice if/when they decide to install meters. I first heard about their plans to install meters on my block right around the new years. They were planning to install meters this spring. That would've effectively give me less than 6 months to:

(A) sell my condo so I could move (tough in this housing market, plus a huge financial loss to me, since I've only been there 2 years)
(B) find a new job that didn't require me to drive (tough in this economy, especially in my field)
(C) stay in my home, keep my job, and be a slave to the meter, babysitting it 6 days a week so I wouldn't get a ticket!

Just to be clear, I do a combination of driving and public transit, depending on what's going on at work. My job does require me to drive, often late into the night, and often into outlying suburbs. If I had the choice to work full time in the city where I could rely on public transit alone, I would love it. The idea of signing up for zip cars and only driving for shopping trips and such is very appealing to me.

Residential parking permits would solve the problem of turnover. A big problem of the lack of daytime turnover in the NE Mission can be attributed to "outsiders" using the neighborhood as a BART parking lot for the 16th St station. I witness it routinely.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 01, 2012 @ 8:40 am

Bruce, it is not a parking war, there is no conflict, just a bureaucracy that is being schooled in working with the communities that pay its bills. If SFPark was brought to your neighborhood out in the avenues of D7, there would be a war and 1 South Van Ness would probably be aflame by now.

Our North Mission motorist neighbors agree that the era of free parking is over.

Variable priced meters mean that $.25 is the starting price. It can rise to $2/hr and the meters can run up to 24/7. Please take care to not repeat the MTA misrepresentation that the teaser rate will not go up.

Planning has gone to lengths to protect PDR, production, distribution and repair. In one instance, a motorcycle repair shop had its motorcycle parking metered. For a repair and resale business that keeps inventory and customer bikes on the work floor at night and then moves them onto the streets during the day to have space to work, street parking is not a luxury, it is built into the business model. The put the "R" in PDR.

The SFPark variable pricing program is designed to raise prices so that there is always 15% of parking spaces available. This means that a pricing barrier to parking is erected in order to remove another barrier, lack of parking availability. In an increasingly affluent city, price points are less of a barrier than the time saved by driving over taking transit. Time sensitivity trumps price sensitivity. It is current city policy to decrease parking supply in new developments. Yet increasing availability is tantamount to increasing supply.

Increased parking supply via increased availability is a vehicle trip generator. Auto trip generators are known to generate congestion as well which snarls transit. Muni is currently one of the slowest major transit agencies. Steps are being taken to reduce service by eliminating bus stops to make the system run faster. This places a burden on transit dependent populations like seniors and the disabled. Yet Muni is poised to make those sacrifices by vulnerable populations a wash.

In addition, former Supervisor Dufty was in the house on Monday to represent Caltrain's concerns that the MTA did not coordinate with the toy train service when it put SFPark meters along Townsend. Many commuters to points south would get around the first/last mile problem of crappy Muni service to CalTrain by driving and parking at 4th and King and taking transit on the long haul. Pricing parking to the cost of the Caltrain ticket probably induces mode shift away from transit.

The MTA is implementing SF Park as a pilot project to avoid an EIR. The MTA has taken no baseline data with which to evaluate the pilot. There is a fair argument that SFPark variable priced parking to ensure availability might snarl Muni. The MTA needs to take a pause here and conduct an EIR so that it does no harm to transit. Muni is already Planning's infinite sink. The last thing that Muni needs is for the MTA to pile on that.

Market pricing of parking is a good idea. But it is not just or equitable for this to happen first in a moderate income mixed ethnicity neighborhood that has traditionally not been organized, we haven't have neighborhood associations here. MTA's tone deafness is changing that, our community is finally organizing. This would never be suggested for a highly organized white neighborhood with real congestion and very low parking availability like Noe Valley. Market pricing for availability is not a good idea, at least not until it is proven to not induce mode shift from transit to autos and in so doing, not snarl transit.

Just because market pricing is a good idea does not make staff's plan a good idea because it conflicts with other established policy goals.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 01, 2012 @ 8:58 am

house only because there was street parking. Moving the goal posts after the game has started is a no-no.

And meters only make sense in commercial area's, like downtown and major shopping streets. the problem with this scheme is that it starts putting meters on streets where people actually live. Am I really supposed to get up at 6am in my pyjama's to feed a meter?

SFMTA should instead have talked to the residents about what they want. For instance, I'd support meters on my street but only as long as those with a resident's sticker were excused. Oh, and maybe extend resident's parking until 9pm, and put a stop sign at the end of my block.

So, SFMTA, start out by offering me something. Don't just take, take, take.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 01, 2012 @ 10:23 am