Parking meter prices will depend on what time it is

An unpopular proposal to increase meter rates citywide by 50 cents has been shelved by Muni officials, who are counting, instead, on a program of costlier parking stays during peak travel times in certain parts of The City to help make up a budget shortfall.

The variable-pricing scheme is part of Muni’s SFpark program, a collection of pilot projects that will be implemented this September. Motorists can expect higher hourly rates for meters during peak times in the morning, but summarily less for parking during slower times in the afternoon. A parking meter could charge $3.50 an hour from 8 to 10 a.m., but only $1 an hour from 7 to 9 p.m., according to a hypothetical example provided in San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency documents.

SFpark will be implemented in 6,425 on-street metered spaces — about 25 percent of all The City’s meters — and in 11,667 spaces in SFMTA-managed parking garages and lots, according to department documents. The SFpark pilot programs will include programs that allow drivers to access available parking information online and pay for meters using cell phones.

Initially projected to have an $81 million shortfall over the next two fiscal years, the SFMTA has reconciled that gap in part by adding $10 to all parking fines, implementing a $10 raise to Muni’s 30-day Fast Pass and increasing costs for residential parking permits. On Tuesday, the increases will be voted on, within a two-year budget proposal, by the department’s board of directors.

Originally forecasted to bring the department an extra $10 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year, the financial expectations of the SFpark program have now increased to $13 million, to offset the $3 million decrease from not implementing the across-the-board meter-rate increases.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, who earlier this week met with Muni officials to express his disdain for citywide meter increases, said the variable-pricing pilot program was a justifiable way to raise parking rates.

“I believe people are concerned this is a backhanded way to pay more for meters, but that’s not our intention,” Newsom told The Examiner. “It’s a more thoughtful, targeted way to takeadvantage of technology, and I’m hopeful this will change people’s behavior in a positive way.”

SFMTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford told The Examiner that “SFpark is a great opportunity for The City to move forward with actual congestion pricing.”

Of SFpark’s $23 million total costs, $18.4 million will be provided by federal grant money. The pilot programs will last two years, at which time the SFMTA will evaluate the effectiveness of each program and decide which ones it will further enhance, Ford said.

wreisman@examiner.com

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