The common denominator is the desire of San Francisco and Oakland transit officials to move cars through parking spaces quicker and at the same time increase the flow of money at a time when California cities are tapped for revenue by a bad economy and a desperate state government.
The city of Oakland is projecting to make an additional $1.3 million a year with the extension of parking meter enforcement times for two hours in the evening; the effective hours are now from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. With the extension of enforcement time comes the addition of a roving crew of parking enforcement officers working in the evening, said Karen Boyd, assistant to the city administrator. The crew is estimated to cost an extra $295,000 a year.
The city is looking for shorter stops of cars along commercial strips. “We’re looking for a balance make sure that cars turn over and that merchants feel that Oakland is a friendly place to do business,” said Boyd.
The city extended the metering hours on June 30. Since then, some merchants have voiced objections to the policy change.
The city has sent a blast email to community members explaining the new policy. It has, as well, compiled a sheet of frequently asked questions that was distributed at community centers and libraries as well as on the city’s Web site.
One answer to a frequently asked question is: “The current rate is $2.00 per hour. This is an increase of 50 cents per hour over the old rate, effective July 1, 2009.”
All changes — extending meter hours, increasing the hourly rate and fine amounts — are projected to add $4.5 million in revenue for Oakland.
Across the bay, a new study takes a comprehensive look at San Francisco’s 600,000 parking spaces (320,000 of them are on-street spots). In late July, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority released “On-Street Parking Management and Pricing Study,” calling for broad policy changes in the regulation of parking spaces.
The study calls for policy and price updates to the city’s Residential Parking Permit (RPP) in certain neighborhoods that have opted in. RPPs go for $76, an annual fee that hasn’t kept pace with inflation since the program was authorized in 1976. That’s a little more than $6 a month.
“We want to look at more comprehensive yet flexible approaches for neighborhoods, and ways for them to share in the benefit,” said Jesse Koehler, author of the report for the SFCTA.
San Francisco has 28 RPP zones. In 2006-07, the city issued 89,271 annual permits and 2,867 temporary (visitor) permits.
The report suggests neighborhoods be given the opportunity to upgrade their RPPs into Parking Benefit Districts, as set up by a San Diego ordinance in 1997. PBDs have provisions for a substantial part of the revenue generated by the districts to be returned for use in district projects. The PBDs have district boards that can have a neighborhood voice in, for example, how those monies are spent, encouraging the use of mass transit and setting the rates for neighborhood permits and parking meters.
“Traditionally, parking management is not all that well coordinated at the neighborhood level,” Koehler said. The PBD proposal looks to get community input to counter the perception that parking management activities are mostly punitive and motivated solely by revenue generation, Koehler said.
The San Francisco report also cited experiences in other cities in and out of state. It looked at a four-year-old project with market-rate pricing in downtown Redwood City and the Old Pasadena Parking Meter Zone, with a board made up of business representatives and property owners to allocate parking revenues in the area.
The San Francisco study nods at a bigger study under way that local transit officials (and indeed national ones) are watching, the SFpark project funded in 2008 by a $24.75 million grant from the federal Department of Transportation.
“SFpark has the potential to be the nation’s premier example of advanced parking management,” the SFCTA report states.
Variable pricing is designed to leave a reasonable number of spaces available in desirable blocks and reduce the urge to double-park or cruise for an open spot. SFpark’s motto is “Circle less. Live more.”
Through the SFPark pilot studies, by next year some 6,000 San Francisco meters (about a quarter of the total in the city) will have been replaced by multi-space, networked “smart meters” (known in some cities as digital stations or kiosks) with the capacity to vary rates according to demand.
The first such results came from parking spaces governed by the Port of San Francisco along the waterfront in 2006 and 2007. The study looked at progressive pricing (the price goes up in successive hours to discourage long-term parking) and supply-and-demand pricing (price rises as spaces in an area fill up).
As cited in the SFCTA study, a 50 percent fee increase for the first two hours of parking resulted in a 25 percent increase in revenues (the latter figure became a 37 percent increase with the elimination of two blocks that had equipment malfunctions). The port experiment also noted the high rate of scofflawism — only 41 percent of parking sessions were paid for.
Lance Howland can be reached at email@example.com