Today, SFGate reported on the findings of a Board of Supervisors study that indicated San Francisco’s parking rates were among the highest in the nation. The study was requested by District 2 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier at a time when the SFMTA has been adding many more meters around the city. The agency is also preparing to launch the SFpark congestion pricing model in dense neighborhoods.
As someone who chooses not to drive into the downtown core, I was actually surprised at how inexpensive the rates really are. They are nowhere near market rate for prime street space in our dense urban environment. Let’s take a look at what was reported:
San Francisco charges $2 to $3.50 an hour to park at a meter, with downtown costing the most and neighborhood commercial districts the least.
Parking meters are not enforced in the evening, on Sundays, or on several holidays throughout the year; in general, they operate between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., so parking at one meter for a day would cost a maximum of $38.50. By comparison, a Muni transfer costs $2 for 90 minutes and is enforced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
The fine for parking at an expired meter is $55 in neighborhood commercial districts and $65 downtown.
This fee seems entirely reasonable. Parking is in general very limited, and time limits are there to create turnover which is good for local businesses and reduces congestion caused by people searching for open spaces. By comparison, the fee for an expired Muni transfer or for no proof-of-payment is $75.
The report by Budget and Legislative Analyst Harvey Rose surveyed meter rates and fines in Boston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, Philadelphia, Washington, New Orleans, Chicago, New York City and Portland, Ore.
With any comparison study, it is important to look at the “competition.” Of these cities, New York and San Francisco are in an entirely different class. The average population density of the 12 other cities surveyed is about 6,663 people per square mile. San Francisco has a population density of 17,323 per square mile, and New York City has a population density of 27,532 per square mile. Higher population density makes congestion management much more important and drives up the cost of our precious parking real-estate. By this metric, and noting the fact that San Francisco and New York have much more comprehensive transit systems compared to other American cities, it would seem justifiable to charge higher rates.
When put in their proper context, I don’t think San Francisco’s parking rates seem that excessive. Please let me know what you think, and confine your hate mail to the comments!