mck_meter.jpgThe San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider a report recommending higher rush hour parking rates, increased enforcement and technology improvements to ease the city’s pervasive parking problems.

Much of the report centers on the same theme-residents, commuters and visitors need to pay more for street parking in San Francisco.

The five supervisors on the planning committee for the San Francisco County Transportation Authority will review the On-Street Parking Management and Pricing Report on Tuesday before sending it on to the entire Board of Supervisors in their capacity as the city’s Transportation Authority board. The city commissioned the study to examine options to better manage one of its most scarce and finite resources-parking spots.

Paying more for meters will make parking more efficient, according to Jesse Koehler, a transportation planner with the SFCTA.

For maximum efficiency, 85 percent of parking spaces should be in use, he said, which is seldom the case in popular business, retail or sightseeing areas. Paying more to park during peak evening hours can help achieve this by giving people an incentive to make trips earlier in the day, he said. Higher rates in heavily trafficked areas could encourage people to use off-street parking lots that sit empty because they are more expensive than meters.

“People are inclined to drive around the neighborhood several times looking for that hard-to-find, very inexpensive parking space,” he said.

Would-be parkers circling the block contribute significantly to traffic congestion, according to Koehler.

San Francisco also needs to step up its technology so parkers can pay by phone or debit card, rather than a fistful of change, according to the report. Koehler also spoke of technology that would allow motorists to call 511 or go online and check parking availability in real time.

The measures outlined would impact the city’s neighborhoods more than downtown, where street parking is scarce and private companies control more than 80 percent of available parking. The city must come up with a plan to accommodate a projected 150,000 new residents in the next 30 years, Koehler said, many of whom will make enough money to own a car.

San Francisco has about 320,000 on-street parking spots, according to the study. Of these, 24,000 are metered. The study recommends adding more meters in mainly residential areas, and extending metering hours into the evening for areas with lots of restaurant or nightlife traffic.

Residents who buy street parking permits should also be paying more, according to the study.

While efficiency is technically the reason for higher parking rates, the study does note that “underpriced parking theoretically represents a significant source of untapped revenue.”
However, the document cautions that residents will not agree to pay more unless they see some reciprocal benefit, like funding for neighborhood transportation improvement projects. The report examines the idea of neighborhood parking councils that help determine how to structure street parking, then get to allocate a portion of the revenue for landscaping, safety improvements or other benefits, Koehler said.

Thanks to a federal grant, a pilot program will be testing out the study’s main proposals in spots throughout the city. The program, SFpark, will test tiered pricing based on both time of day and location, Koehler said, and in come cases a combination of both. The new pricing will take effect this fall, first in the northeast waterfront area, then in other spots in the city.

Staff from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority will present the findings to the plans and program committee Tuesday. The full board will consider the plan and take action to adopt it on July 28.

However, the report is strictly advisory, meant to be used as guidelines when other agencies re-examine parking rates.

“We are not proposing or instituting this pricing,” Koehler said. “We are simply laying out the background and rationale for investigating these strategies.”

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