Will SF Park Shoot Itself in the Foot

According to this article, the SFMTA, the San Francisco Metro, that runs parking in the city, is under siege. As it begins to expand pay parking into new neighborhoods in the city by the bay, residents and merchants in the area are up in arms. When they go to meetings and talk to the city officials they use works like “fascism” and “tone deaf.”

As I understand it the SFMTA has three broad goals with SF Park — reduce congestion, increase revenue, and reduce automobile diving in the city. So far so good.  Enter Don Shoup.

If you remember your Shoup 101 — there are three goals when you strike back at free parking — charge market rates, remove parking requirements and return the money to the neighborhoods from whence it came.  Shoup notes that the third is there for two reasons, first to make the programs politically popular and second to assist in the revitalization of the neighborhoods (ala Old Pasadena).

However in their wisdom, the powers that be at SFMTA seem to have skipped the ‘return money’ part completely.  Neighborhood merchants and residents may not have been quite so vocal if they felt that they were getting the money back into their neighborhoods with better street lighting, redone sidewalks and streets, neighborhood marketing, and the like.

I’m pretty sure that now they see the program as a “money grab” and the funds going into a black hole that may or may not benefit them. In any case, they will see little if any of the money in their neighborhoods.  Think globally, act locally.  The SFMTA seems to be thinking about the entire SF metro area, but asking local neighborhoods to fund their projects.

Here’s how the Metro is handling it:

“Parking is always an emotional and delicate issue in San Francisco, as it is in most cities,”Jay Primus (Who runs the parking program for the SFMTA) said, citing protests against charging for parking going back to when the first meters were installed in 1947. “This has happened at every block that has gotten meters.”

But now, there are even more benefits and ease of use with modern meters, which motorists can pay with a credit card or even remotely. Variable pricing is also used to ensure more parking based on demand, although it’s being kept at a very low rate in areas where businesses or residents still need all-day parking.

“If people are opposed to paying 25 cents per hour, the lowest rate in the city, then they are opposed to paying for parking,” Primus said. He said it’s a matter of equity among citizens: “There’s nothing equitable about providing parking for free and asking people to pay $4 for a round trip Muni ride.”

That’s a notion that is echoed by others who say it’s time for motorists to start paying their fair share.

Ahh, “equity” raises its ugly head. Of course this is San Francisco, so of course it would. Is the city’s long term goal to provide “equity” or to remove all personal vehicles from its streets? I think we all know the answer to that.

Shoup was quoted as follows:

“Everybody wants something for nothing. We all want that. Nobody wants to pay for parking, not even me,” Don Shoup, the UCLA professor who wrote the influential book The High Cost of Free Parking, told us. He later added, “That whining you hear is the sound of change.”

Sorry, Don, can’t agree with you here. That “whining” is the result of folks having programs shoved down their throats without the proper up front work, and also the result of a city not following your advice.  “Send the money back to the neighborhood from whence it came.”  My guess is that if SF did that, at least partially, the whining would clear like an early morning San Francisco fog.

JVH

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