Despite concerns of implementation, Sunday meter enforcement moving forward

S.F. Examiner File PhotoCongregants at St. Peter and Paul Church in North Beach will have to save change for the meters soon.

Despite lingering concerns from business and church groups, a plan to enforce parking meters on Sundays is set to make its debut next month.

Starting Jan. 6, The City’s 29,233 parking meters will be operational from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays, providing $1.9 million annually for the perennially cash-strapped San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

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Although Sunday enforcement was approved by the agency’s board of directors back in April, there are still questions about motorists’ ability to pre-pay for meters and park for extended periods of time.

To ease the concerns of churchgoers, who were nervous about having to leave their congregations in the middle of sermons to feed parking meters, the agency said it would allow motorists to pre-pay and park for time periods of up to four hours.

Yet only some meters are currently capable of accepting those payments. The remaining meters only allow for stays of one to two hours and don’t accept payments other than coins or Transportation Agency parking cards.

“I really don’t know how they expect to implement this program citywide if they still have all these old meters,” said Jim Lazarus, public policy director at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, which supports the plan.

Lazarus said The City’s meters are already confusing, noting that those on Port of San Francisco property are already enforced every day of the year. Enforcing different policies for pre-payment and parking times will only increase that confusion, particularly for out-of-town motorists, he said.

Michael Pappas, executive director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, said he’s been unsure about what to tell congregations. His organization, comprising different religious groups, is part of an advisory council assembled by the Transportation Agency to provide outreach on the Sunday meter plan.

“There has been strong consensus in the advisory group to only implement Sunday enforcement on the new meters,” Pappas said. “But we really haven’t received any definitive word from the SFMTA on how they’re going to move forward with this plan.”

Agency spokesman Paul Rose insisted that all San Francisco parking meters would be capable of accepting pre-payments and offering extended stays by the time Sunday enforcement debuts next year. And parking control officers will issue motorists reminders instead of citations during the first three Sundays of the plan, Rose said.

At its board meeting today, the agency will provide an update on its plans to implement Sunday meter enforcement.

Joel Ramos, a member of the board of directors who has been supportive of the plan, said Sunday meter enforcement will eventually be embraced by The City’s residents. He pointed out that Muni service is not free on Sunday, unlike metered parking.

“We cannot continue to subsidize motorists at the expense of transit riders,” Ramos said. “Everyone needs to pay their fair share.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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