San Francisco mayor suggests congestion pricing; SFMTA approves parking proposals

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The SFMTA Board of Directors unanimously approved parking proposals under their Curb Management Strategy.

RELATED: SFMTA considering dramatic changes to parking

While the board unanimously approved these proposals, they still have a lot of work ahead for them. They need to collect data and talk to the public.

Pamela Karkazis drives from Belmont to San Francisco for work practically every day. She was eating her lunch in her car so she wouldn't lose her space.

ABC7 News asked her what her thoughts are on increasing meter times in the evenings at getting rid of free parking on Sundays.

"That's absolutely ridiculous. You're going to see less and less people wanting to come here. Period," Karkazis said.

Denise Ondayko drives to the city from South San Francisco. She makes a list of when street closures and street cleanings are, and then plans her errands around that.

"I try to make a list of places I need to go to in San Francisco, and I see what the parking restrictions are, then. And then I try to get there right when it ends," Ondayko said.

Tripp Taylor drives into the city from Mill Valley and pays around $450 a month to park his car at a garage downtown.

San Francisco enforced metering on Sundays in 2013 but ended it the following year.

Mayor Breed was asked whether or not recommendations of congestion pricing is just another expense residents and commuters will have to deal with in an already expensive environment.

"The fact is we are going to explore it, we are going to explore how it works in other places and whether or not it could work here," Mayor Breed said.

The Mayor went on to say, "we are going to have to look at all the options- it's not to suggest the option is a done deal, it's just to look at whether or not, it could work."

Mayor London Breed's full letter can be found in its entirety below:

February 18th, 2020

Hon. Malcom Heinicke, Chair
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors
1 South Van Ness Avenue, 7th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

Dear Chair Heinicke and Members of the Board of Directors,

I am writing to express my appreciation for the work by staff and others that went into developing the Curb Management Strategy that is before you today. As you consider this comprehensive plan, I would like to call out two of its recommendations that are essential to the future sustainability and livability of this city we all love: congestion pricing and Sunday and evening metering.

San Francisco has changed considerably over the past decade. We have experienced unprecedented growth in both population and jobs, paired with more options to move around the City like bikeshare and scooters. Just as the needs of our streets have changed, we must be willing to do things differently to achieve our mobility objectives. The Curb Management Strategy recommendations ensure San Francisco is using its limited street space to achieve our collective goals: a safe and equitable transportation system that supports the City today and into the future.

Congestion Pricing

Today, people traveling in San Francisco experience gridlock on a daily basis, particularly downtown and in Soma. This is frustrating for drivers, but it also has a negative impact on the entire city. Families that depend on Muni and emergency responders are delayed. Pedestrians and cyclists are less safe. Businesses receive their deliveries late and everyone, particularly those in our most sensitive communities, breath more polluted air. We cannot make our streets wider, so we must find other solutions.

The Curb Management Strategy highlights how pricing can help us tackle these challenges, and peer cities around the world have employed similar concepts. Given the successes and lessons learned from those programs, I am now convinced that we must develop a model that works for San Francisco.

This means proposals based in fairness and equity. First and foremost, we must consider those who are least able to pay or have limited transportation options. We must also ensure that any revenues are directed back towards building a world-class transportation system: expanding our subway system, making transportation more frequent and pleasurable to use, and improving service in our underserved and growing neighborhoods.

Work is already underway by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to develop recommendations on how congestion pricing
could work in San Francisco. While recommendations are due by the end of the year, I have requested that the agencies accelerate their work and develop draft recommendations within six months to help us achieve these bold objectives.

Sunday and Evening Metering

Cities around the world look to San Francisco's demand-based parking meter pricing as a best-practice. Here, we use the meter price to ensure a spot is available on any block. If the rate is set too high, spots will be empty. If the rate is too low, they will all be full. We have a process that sets the price in the middle to ensure a few spaces are always available for someone visiting a neighborhood and patronizing a local small business.

We have employed this model to our parking meters during weekdays and Saturdays before 6 PM. However, we know that small businesses depend on customers in the evenings and on Sundays too. Today, when meters turn off during business hours, vehicles will stay parked, limiting others from
coming to that space. The time has come to extend hours into the evening and on Sunday. This will reduce congestion, emissions, and safety issues associated with double parking and circling the block looking for a place to park.

While I support extending metering to Sundays where it makes sense to do so, we must also be sensitive to the needs of our faith-based community. I am committed to finding that balance. Where there is not the need to generate additional turnover, we should not be charging at our meters.

San Francisco needs to be bold as we rethink and invest in our transportation infrastructure. Our population is growing yet our roads cannot get any wider, nor can we add additional curb space for parking. We need to use data and smart policy to better use the infrastructure we have, and ensure that we are planning for and investing in the transportation infrastructure for the future.

I would like to thank you and your staff for preparing this thoughtful and provoking strategy.

Sincerely,
London N. Breed
Mayor


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