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Year after year, free parking advocates defend their sanctity when the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) finds the courage to address the problem while seeking budget solutions.
As confidently as drivers search endlessly for coveted free parking spaces every Sunday, opponents like Ken Garcia from the San Francisco Examiner will try to suppress the demand for an extension of the paid parking times.
Unfortunately, public discourse on the issue is repeatedly aligned with the SFMTA’s budget deadline, which helps dispel the widespread misconception that parking pricing is nothing more than money theft and its potential as an overdue solution to streamlining the use of ours Streets veiled.
In his column yesterday, Garcia called for the “tired” practice of using cars as “moving ATMs” to be crushed once and for all.
Keep in mind, however, that San Francisco is already using general fund bonds to pave the roads in lieu of the car owner payments that wear them down. For Garcia, setting a reasonable price for parking spaces is “a kind of“ gouge and go ”philosophy to get urban planners off the hook because their bosses are unable to run their own departments efficiently.” Unfortunately, Mayor Ed decided to go along with it Lee Garcia’s ranting.
While there are many steps the SFMTA could take to become more efficient, how to rate parking doesn’t necessarily depend on budget. It’s about fixing an outdated system of lavish freebies that ultimately benefit no one – not even the drivers.
As Streetsblog has written extensively, we all pick up the tab when parking is undervalued. Free parking across the city on Sundays and weekdays after 6 p.m. means drivers have no incentive to curtail their stay during periods of high demand and busy business districts are inundated with car traffic as drivers drive to park.
The costs add up, and in some cities up to 30 percent of drivers are downtown looking for somewhere to park their car.
We all expect to pay the market price for a scarce resource, whether it’s a Friday night movie ticket or an apartment in San Francisco. Why should the 140 square feet of public space used to store a car be any different?
Of course, instead of paying in cash, drivers pay for “free” parking by queuing. The problem is, they make others pay too. You can see the real cost of free parking every Sunday in my neighborhood, Inner Sunset. Frustrated drivers make endless loops around the same blocks. Many give up and double-park on streets like Irving, forcing cyclists onto the tram tracks, and often blocking N-Judah until the driver blows the horn on them.
This is the dysfunction Garcia wants to keep. Meanwhile, a better system is right under his nose. The innovative steps taken by the SFPark program to accurately price parking spaces have received widespread praise in this city and across the country.
Even Mayor Lee touted the reasons behind the parking fees when SFPark launched in April: “You know, if you drive around looking for a parking space and double-park, you’re running around trying to see if something opens. You are stupid.”
“We want to be less stupid,” said Lee.
But now Lee seems to be giving up smart politics and playing it safe like his predecessor. He told Garcia that getting more parking revenue, including updating parking hours, was “an old, overhauled idea” and that we need a better “long-term solution”.
Lee’s claim that setting the counter hours is an old idea is absolutely correct. The opening hours of parking meters in San Francisco have generally not been updated since they were first installed in 1947 to help drive business-hour sales.
A lot of things have changed since then – like business hours.
But as long as the city guides play against the misguided attacks from people like Garcia, San Francisco will lag behind.