When The City first installed its SFpark meters — devices that would increase hourly parking rates based on demand — many motorists complained that it was one more way to gouge drivers for extra dollars.
In fact, the program has done the exact opposite.
Since taking effect in April 2011, average hourly rates have dropped by 14 cents from $2.73 to $2.59 at the 7,000 SFpark meters. Overall, 17 percent of those meters offer hourly rates of $1 or less — prices that are significantly cheaper than the ones offered at The City’s 22,000 older meters. And 6 percent of SFpark meters go for as cheap as 25 cents an hour, according to data from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees parking policies in The City. The drop in prices for on-street parking meters coincides with a 20 percent rate decrease in SFMTA-run garages.
Donald Shoup, a UCLA professor whose theories on parking were instrumental in developing the SFpark program, said he expected prices at meters to rise in the first year, given the demand for spaces in San Francisco. He said the drop in meter rates is proof that the agency is concerned about responsible parking management and not price-gouging policies.
“I don’t understand how anyone can keep parroting that this is a money grab,” Shoup said.
Because the SFpark meters provide more payment options for motorists, ticket citations have decreased.
Previously, the SFMTA received about 45 percent of its parking revenue from citations. At the SFpark meters, that rate is 20 percent, agency spokesman Paul Rose said.
Rates at the SFpark meters are adjusted every six weeks to reflect demand for specific spaces, with prices as high as $5.75 an hour. Jay Primus, project manager at SFpark, noted that only half the meters were changed during the last adjustment, meaning that prices are nearing an hourly rate that will consistently manage demand.
“The meter rates aren’t changing as much, which is proof that we’re zeroing in on the rates that aren’t too high or aren’t too low,” Primus said.
Instead of drawing in reams of revenue for the SFMTA, the SFpark program has actually contributed to a slight loss. The agency expects to receive about $5.5 million less than expected from parking citations this fiscal year, although those losses are offset mostly by an increase of $4.4 million from additional meter revenue. The agency has a total budget of $830 million.
“The obligation of this program from the onset was to achieve the lowest parking prices possible to achieve our goals,” Primus said. “I think we’re proving that.”
That argument might be lost on some city residents. Several neighborhood groups have formed organizations to oppose the new meters. Mari Eliza, a spokeswoman for Eastern Neighborhoods United Front, said the new meters are confusing and they are slowly creeping into residential areas.
“The arguments the SFMTA uses about managing parking don’t really hold water with residents here,” Eliza said. “Personally, I’m perfectly happy with the old meters. That’s how I use up all my spare change.”
Cheap parking spots
|500 Franklin Street||25 cents per hour||7 a.m.–noon||Civic Center|
|600 Golden Gate Avenue||25 cents per hour||7 a.m.–noon||Civic Center|
|400 Merchant Street||25 cents per hour||7 a.m.–noon||Downtown|
|300 Washington Street||25 cents per hour||9 a.m.–noon||Downtown|
|1000 Fillmore Street||25 cents per hour||9 a.m.–noon||Fillmore|
|2800 Leavenworth Street||25 cents per hour||7 a.m.–noon||Fisherman’s Wharf|