SF fails to collect bulk of parking meter revenue

San Francisco only collected $29.7 million from its 23,000 parking meters last fiscal year, even though it could conceivably collect $127.2 million from them, according to a report issued Thursday by the Office of the Controller.

Even taking into account broken meters, construction zones, unoccupied meters and cars exempt from having to feed meters, TheCity could still expect to collect $54 million, nearly twice what it is currently collecting.

The report “confirms the fact that we should be collecting more money at the meters,” said Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who requested the report.

The agency did partially offset the loss in parking meter revenue by the $19.7 million in parking meter citations issued last year, the report pointed out.

Among the report’s findings, 75 percent of meter hours are occupied and more than 40 percent of drivers do not feed the meters. “If the cost of parking at a meter is high enough and the chance of receiving a citation low enough, drivers will choose to risk receiving a citation over the guaranteed cost of paying the meter,” the report said.

Nearly $6 million in potential revenue was lost to meters not in service because of construction zones, and $15.4 million was lost because of vehicles that had a handicap placard (which makes metered parking free), according to the report. There are an estimated 53,000 handicap placards issued in San Francisco.

The meters fall under the control of the Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni and the Department of Parking and Traffic.

As the MTA struggles to balance its budget while attempting to turn around the beleaguered Muni system, city officials are examining all aspects of the agency to make it more efficient.

MTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said the agency is in the midst of increasing parking enforcement officers and figuring out better enforcement strategies. He also said the agency is evaluating different meter pricing strategies and new meter technology, such as “pay-by-cell programs.”

In March, Mayor Gavin Newsom and Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin submitted legislation that would establish a board to examine the medical justification for the issuance of handicap placards. The legislation has yet to be heard by a Board of Supervisors committee.

San Francisco has four parking meter zones, with separate hourly rates for each zone ranging from $3 to $1.50. The zones are the downtown core, the ring around the downtown core, outlying commercial areas and Fisherman’s Wharf. Meter rates last increased in July 2005. Most citations for meter violations are $40.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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