For the past year, San Francisco has enforced parking meters on Sundays. After years of city officials backing down from moving forward with the smart-transit policy — and fearing a political backlash from fear-mongering, overly vocal merchants — San Francisco decided to make drivers pay for parking spots just as they would for the other six days of the week.
The news: There was no huge fallout. The business corridors in San Francisco with Sunday meters are just as busy as ever — and just as full of cars. And The City — along with the majority of residents — likely came out ahead. The meters have raised millions in revenue. More money has flowed to city coffers from citations.
In addition, the paid meters extended to Sundays continue the smart-transit benefits that parking meters bring to areas. Parking meters have proved to stimulate turnover of parking spaces, freeing up spots for drivers who can then park more quickly instead of circling around the area looking for parking, spewing pollution with wasted vehicular miles.
Despite the benefits the meters bring, there have been vocal critics. Now Mayor Ed Lee is proposing to roll back the Sunday enforcement, saying in his State of the City address that San Francisco should “stop nickel-and-diming people at the meter and work together to pass a transportation bond and vehicle license fee increase in 2014 instead.” In the next sentence, Lee also proposed extending free Muni for low-income youths, which has been a pilot program.
There is no doubt that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and more specifically Muni, have dramatic funding needs for infrastructure. A voter-approved bond for transit and an increase to the vehicle license fee, back to the level it was before then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger slashed it, would be a steady funding stream for transit.
Lee's backing of a transit bond and the local vehicle license fee shows that he understands the need to invest in San Francisco's transit future. But these items do not show real innovation or forward-thinking, smart-transit options. Additional funding could bring SFpark to more areas. That program, as it did in other areas, could allow for Sunday pricing at meters to be adjusted in each commercial corridor based on supply and demand.
In fact, the money could be earmarked for street repaving — funding that is still needed to catch up with years of underfunding. There is a 2011 bond that allowed San Francisco to repave a record number of streets last year, but there still is not a secure source of funding for future repaving needs.
Charging for parking meters on Sundays is part of a smart-transit strategy for San Francisco, and ending that enforcement is taking a step backward while asking voters to pass a bond to move forward. The SFMTA board of directors should keep The City moving ahead by maintaining enforcement at meters on Sundays.