SFMTA report recommends extended parking meter hours

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By Steven T. Jones

A just-released San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency study has recommend extending parking meter hours to Sundays and nights as a means of raising $8.8 million in annual revenue, increasing parking availability, and reducing traffic congestion and illegal parking – setting up a potential clash with Mayor Gavin Newsom, who opposes the idea and who appointed the MTA board members who will make the decision.

The detailed SFMTA study, launched in May as part of a budget compromise, took a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to its analysis, recommending varying hours and conditions to try to achieve the 85 percent occupancy rate it considers ideal. For example, 59 percent of metered spaces would have hours extended to 9 pm Monday through Thursday and until midnight Friday and Saturday, while 23 percent of spaces would remain at 6 pm on weekdays and 9 pm on weekends. And at 17 percent of meters with the lowest parking availability, drivers would need to plug meters until midnight everyday except Sunday, when metering hours would end at 6 p.m. citywide.

“This proposal for extended meter hours fits into a larger vision of the SFMTA’s overall transportation and parking policy goals and furthers San Francisco’s Transit First policy,” Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., executive director of the SFMTA, said today in a prepared statement. “Parking meters create parking availability and they support economic vitality by helping business customers find parking when they need it.”

Both the SFMTA report and press release announcing it say the business community – which recently successfully pushed Oakland to repeal its extended hours, and for which parking has always been a sensitive topic – has been extensively consulted on the proposed changes, and that most businesses would benefit from them.

“When San Francisco’s meters were first introduced in 1947, many businesses kept traditional hours, usually from 9 am to 5 pm, Mondays through Saturdays. Today, many businesses are open late in the evening and all day on Sundays, which creates demand for parking at times when parking meters do not currently operate,” says the 37-page report’s executive summary.

But the Mayor’s Office has cited the slow economy and the desires of the business community as reasons for reneging on the parking compromise that it helped negotiate as part of a May budget deal. The MTA board was given full autonomy to regulate parking under 2007’s Proposition A, which Newsom supported, so those appointees must now choose between SFMTA staff recommendations and Newsom.

“Our approach is based on extensive research and includes outreach to dozens of stakeholders, including businesses. We know that this study will engender significant discussion and feedback from elected officials and the general public. We welcome that discussion. We believe that the excellent work that went into this study will elevate San Francisco’s always passionate debates about parking,” Ford said.