San Francisco motorists are paying the price for The City’s decision to start charging for street parking on four holidays.
They’ve been shelling out an extra $75,776 a day in parking meter citations.
City parking control officers issued 72 percent more parking citations than normal during its last fiscal year on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Veterans Day — four formerly free holidays.
In July 2010, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency began operating its meters on those days, collecting a daily average of $181,125 in parking meter citation revenue. That is 72 percent higher than the $105,474 daily average earned on normal days. Such fines range from $55 to $65.
The agency justified the change by noting that most businesses are now open on those holidays. The City’s meters were originally installed to create parking turnover in front of businesses, spokesman Paul Rose said, and by enforcing payment on the holidays, the policy is actually good for the local economy. The increased turnover also means that fewer cars circle around looking for parking, which frees Muni vehicles from traffic congestion.
“Low parking availability on high-demand days when many people visit San Francisco is bad for our economic vitality and our transportation system,” Rose said.
However, Jim Lazarus, the public policy director for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, disagreed with that sentiment. He said many retailers close on Fourth of July, Labor Day and Memorial Day.
He questioned the agency’s intent in charging for parking on holidays.
“Enforcing meters to encourage turnover is good policy,” Lazarus said. “Fooling drivers into thinking that meters are not being enforced because it’s the Fourth of July is wrong. Holidays are supposed to be excluded from meter enforcement — if the Fourth of July isn’t a holiday, what is?”
With expansion of the meter plan, the agency currently charges for parking on eight of The City’s 11 official holidays. The only three holidays on which motorists can park for free are Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Despite agency assertions that most businesses are open during those holidays, there are more open spots at meters on those days. During a regular business day, meters were occupied 64 percent of the time. On a holiday, those rates drop to 54 percent, according to the SFMTA.
The SFMTA collected $2.9 million in total holiday parking revenue — $1.2 million from the meters and $1.7 million in citations.
The City’s decision to start making motorists pay for parking on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Veterans Day is not only producing more parking meter revenue for The City, but it is producing almost twice the average daily revenue from parking tickets.
$24,837 - Average nonholiday meter revenue
$155,000 - Average holiday meter revenue
$105,474 - Average nonholiday parking citation revenue
$181,250 - Average holiday parking citation revenue