San Francisco will explore whether to charge parking meters at night in some areas.
The move was seen as an effort to mitigate the impacts of lowered towing fees for drivers that were approved Tuesday.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors asked agency staff to study the impacts of charging for nighttime parking meters at the board’s meeting Tuesday, citing the need for more revenue amid a budget shortfall in the next two years.
Just minutes before the agency discussed the possibility of charging parking meters at night, the board voted to lower towing fees through a contract with the company AutoReturn, which left the agency on the hook for $3.5 million, board Director Cheryl Brinkman noted.
The SFMTA, which runs Muni and manages The City’s streets, is debating its budget for the next two years. The budget is slated for final approval in April.
The agency has funding challenges ahead, directors noted. SFMTA staff anticipates a $13.5 million and $14.3 million budget shortfall in 2017 and 2018, respectively, according to budget reports.
Many budget proposals this year affect transit riders, with few new financial burdens to drivers, critics of the budget noted previously. Addressing that concern, Brinkman suggested charging for parking in “targeted” areas at night may help mitigate the lost funds on the AutoReturn contract.
She said lowering the AutoReturn fees was a “very, very, very, worthy goal,” but “I want to make sure we’re managing the resources of our parking better.”
Brinkman also reminded the board that the SFMTA backed off its proposal to charge for Sunday parking meters, which lost the SFMTA another $8 million annually.
“I’m not suggesting we go back to the Sunday metering,” she said, but “I want some targeted meter hour extensions to show up in this budget, especially since we’re another $3 million behind.”
The board previously reversed their position on charging for Sunday meters at the behest of Mayor Ed Lee, who heard concerns from drivers across San Francisco.
But, Brinkman said, not charging for parking in “thriving nightlife” areas is “unheard of in every other city I’m used to.”
Ed Reiskin, the SFMTA’s director of transportation, told the board that the SFMTA is not enforcing parking, nor does it charge parking meters, during nights of peak activity.
“Stopping [enforcement] at 6 p.m. in a vibrant, commercial evening district doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” he said. “From a parking management perspective, it could be a chance to advance our transportation policy that has some revenue benefits.”
Malcolm Heinicke, another board director, said he supported the study if the business community is consulted heavily.
He noted that when some new parking meter fees were announced, business owners disagreed with the proposal — at first.
“We heard, ‘They hate it, they hate it,’” he said. But, he added, “We did it and they said, ‘We love it, we love it’ because there was more turnover, and more people were parking their cars.”