In a city known for its notoriously tough parking and equally expensive rates, one of the small perks of life is finding a spot with a broken meter.
Since roughly 300 to 500 parking meters are broken daily and cannot take coins, motorists are able to park for free as long as they do not overstay the time limits for the spot. At a meter with a two-hour time limit — there are roughly 5,500 of them in The City — a motorist could feasibly park for free for 120 minutes.
The free ride, however, is headed toward a dead end.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees parking in The City, is proposing a new rule that would mandate a one-hour cap for parking at all broken meters citywide.
The agency wants to move forward with the plan because it is introducing 5,000 high-tech parking meters to streets, some of which will allow motorists to stay in one space for as long as four hours at a time. The new meters, part of the SFpark program, would charge varying rates depending on demand.
Wary of unruly motorists breaking meters just so they can have a few hours of free parking, the SFMTA is proposing a cap of one hour at all broken-meter spaces, even at spots that would normally allow motorists to park longer than 60 minutes.
If a one-hour time limit is imposed on the spaces, vandals will have less incentive to break the meters, thus saving the agency money in repair costs, according to SFMTA spokeswoman Kristen Holland. Also, the cap will make enforcement easier for parking control officers, Holland said.
That might spell good news for the SFMTA, but it is not making motorists happy.
“Parking is already so difficult around here, and parking tickets are already so expensive,” said Eric Meza, a San Francisco resident. “This isn’t a good plan. It just hurts drivers even more.”
Overstaying your meter is a $65 ticket in the downtown core, and $55 in the rest of San Francisco.
Amy Busch, an aesthetician who lives in The City, said the SFMTA should focus on fixing the meters and not ticketing motorists.
“Having a broken meter is their problem, so they should have to deal with it,” Busch said.
On Tuesday, the SFMTA board of directors will vote on whether to authorize the one-hour cap at broken meters. Because the measure would affect The City’s transportation code, it also must be approved by the Board of Supervisors.
A change in policy would limit the time drivers can park at broken meters before a citation is issued.
26,500 parking meters in San Francisco
300-500 broken meters on a daily basis
5,500 meters that allow two-hour parking
5,100 SFpark meters, which allow motorists to stay for up to four hours