Muni brews storm with meter plan

Drivers will be paying to park until midnight under a proposal to help raise money for transit in The City.

Operating hours at all of The City’s roughly 24,000 meters would increase under the plan, which would generate almost $9 million per year for the cash-strapped San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni.

The proposal calls for several neighborhoods to have paid parking until midnight Mondays through Saturdays, and paid parking until 6 p.m. on Sundays. The plan would extend some time-limits to four hours instead of the current two.

The Mission district, Geary Street and North Beach would bear the brunt of the longer hours, according to a Muni parking meter study released Tuesday that was requested by some members of Board of Supervisors.

“I think Muni’s transit riders have disproportionately felt the burden of the department’s financial problems,” said Supervisor John Avalos, who has supported the study. “We’ve had the same parking policies for 50 years now, and in some places, the policy is a huge subsidy for cars. It makes sense now to reexamine our parking situation.”

While Muni would see a financial windfall from the plan, department chief Nathaniel Ford emphasized that the main focus of the study is on improving traffic congestion in The City and implementing San Francisco’s transit-first policy.

Ford is certainly bracing for a fight — he acknowledged that Mayor Gavin Newsom doesn’t support the proposal.

“The time isn’t right,” mayoral spokesman Nathan Ballard wrote in an e-mail. “In this economy, we can’t ask people to pay more for parking. … We want to encourage people to have dinner and go out on the town, not make it harder.

“That said, it’s a useful study because it lays out some options that could be weighed during the next round of budget talks,” he added.

A recent decision by the Oakland City Council to reverse extended meter hours also shows the issue will be a hotly-debated topic, Ford said.

Longer meter hours would open up normally-occupied spots in commercial business districts, allowing more shoppers to visit, according to Muni’s finance director Sonali Bose.

Jim Lazarus, public policy director for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, said his organization supports metered parking on Sundays in some city neighborhoods, but is adamantly opposed to extending hours during the week and on Saturdays.

“Meters are there to encourage turnover, and if cars can park for four hours, then there is no turnover,” Lazarus said. “The nighttime extension is simply a way to shake down people for more money.”

“It’s nice to get a debate going on this,” Ford said. “We know any discussion about parking is going to be passionate, and we welcome that.”

Under the clock

Parking meter hours would be extended across The City under a Muni proposal:

Until 6 p.m. Monday–Saturday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
Neighborhoods: Bayview

Until 6 p.m. Monday–Thursday; until 9 p.m. Friday–Saturday;
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
Neighborhoods including: Financial District, Taraval Street, Irving Street, West Portal, Inner Richmond, Outer Mission

Until 9 p.m. Monday–Thursday; until midnight Friday–Saturday;
11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sunday
Neighborhoods including: Financial District, SOMA, Mission district, Cow Hollow, Outer Richmond, Van Ness corridor, Fillmore district, Divisadero Street

Until midnight Monday–Saturday; 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sunday
Neighborhoods including: Mission district, The Castro, North Beach, Union Square, Tenderloin, Fisherman’s Wharf
Source: SFMTA

What’s next

  • Proposal will be discussed at the Oct. 20 SFMTA Board of Directors meeting
  • No timeline for further action, which includes gathering feedback from the public, elected officials, business districts and transit advocates

Where the money would go:

  • $9 million in additional annual revenue would support Muni operations

Changes accompanying extended meter hours could include:

  • Increasing the availability of prepaid parking cards, which are currently available online and at around 65 retail and transit outlets citywide
  • Allowing residents to extend parking permits to match or top meter hours
  • Reducing meter rates at SFMTA parking lots when occupancy falls below 60 percent

Download a map of proposed parking changes

Source: SFMTA

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

 

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