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A San Francisco Cow / cashcowicus san francisciano

Meter Hike Hijinks

Budget Problem? City Hall's Reliable Cash Cow to the Rescue!

Glenn Rogers
Glenn Rogers

•••••••••• June 15, 2023 ••••••••••

The SFMTA has proposed increasing meter parking to compensate for the City's budget shortfalls. Such a meter increase would be expected to generate a revenue of $18.5 million. San Francisco's debt — said to be $780 million — resulted from the many businesses leaving the City during the Covid-19 crisis. The loss of giant corporations has dramatically reduced the City’s tax income. Ironically, the state now demands more housing in San Francisco, even as businesses leave the City and workers can perform remotely from anywhere.

WHERE WILL METER INCREASES OCCUR?

One source of meter increases includes districts without parking permits. They would be required to pay for parking permits in the future. Other additions would result from longer hours for meter parking. Today, meters operate from 8 am to 6 pm; in the future, they could run from 8 am to 10 pm. Also, Sunday parking — now free — would require metered parking. On May 23, the Supervisors voted to postpone this issue to a later date. Let your supervisor know if you disagree with the proposed increased metered parking. This increase could be the most significant change in parking policy in 70 years.

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Unfortunately, SFMTA employees are often educated out of state, typically live in Oakland, and have never owned or operated a small business that depends on foot traffic or available parking to be successful. ”

WHERE DID THE OTHER MONEY GO?

Prop L, approved in the November 2022 election, allowed for a sales tax increase. This 1/2 cent increase was supposed to provide SFMTA with $2.6 billion over a 30-year time frame. Prop L money was intended for newer streetcars, better roads, and paratransit for seniors and people with disabilities. Now SFMTA has suggested this parking increase policy. Part of the cost is for new kiosk meters everywhere. These new meters are easier to use and have instructions in three languages. When a meter runs low, they text the vehicle's owner, who can deposit funds electronically. In this writer's opinion, the meter's screens are hard to read in the sun, and nothing is more convenient than adding a quarter to a meter for short-term parking. I oppose an increase in meter rates and length of time of parking time.

The SFMTA received $1.1 billion in federal funds in 2021 to continue public transportation services during the Covid -19 pandemic. How much of that money is left? And why isn't that money being discussed as a funding source instead of raising meter prices to augment the budget shortfall? The public needs to be informed about this revenue.

RIDERS PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE

A poll by SAVEMUNI has determined that half of the ridership taking MUNI avoid payment. SAVEMUNI is a neighborhood organization comprised of past retired high-level transit employees, architects and concerned citizens. Youths under 18 are exempt from MUNI fares, and that seems fair. However, getting ridership to pay their fair share would be essential in making MUNI solvent. In New York, a public announcement encourages riders to "pay their fair share." Why don't we do the same thing? Instructions over a loudspeaker on how to buy a Clipper Card in MUNI terminals could increase revenue. Or does the SFMTA think the fare should be free?

INEFFICIENCY

Past improvements to transportation have been riddled with design flaws. For example, building the Central Subway under the existing streetcar lines was a big mistake because the lines were so deep that water from the San Francisco Bay inhibited construction. Those who constructed the tunnels spoke of a river at their building depths. That was a big surprise despite San Francisco being surrounded by water on three sides.

The SFMTA pays more for their projects than necessary because the bidding process for hiring contractors for San Francisco infrastructure projects has been flawed for years. Favored bidders for City projects often did not have contractor's licenses. After winning contracts, these favorite bidders would pass the projects along to contractors with licenses — after adding a stipend for themselves. The SFMTA could have complained about this behavior to the City for price gauging, for projects lasting longer than they should have, or for poor design. But it did not do so in a meaningful way.

THE SOLUTION

Every neighborhood has different conditions for parking. SFMTA should poll the neighborhoods and ask the residents how it could help their parking problems. Unfortunately, SFMTA employees are often educated out of state, typically live in Oakland, and have never owned or operated a small business that depends on foot traffic or available parking to be successful. Today SFMTA conducts outreach to different businesses, churches and community centers to understand the neighborhood's transit issues and concerns and to discover their recommendations. When asked if neighbors could vote on a concern to learn the most desirable transit issues solution, an SFMTA employee replied that voting by neighborhood residents on a transit issue is to be avoided. SFMTA wants the last say on any topic they design and become legally responsible for.

Understandably, most who ride MUNI are willing to pay for suggested increases in fares or taxes. These riders, faced with the alternative of buying a car and finding parking (which is becoming increasingly more difficult), have yet to find any other option. When fear tactics are posted in the media on May 29 by SFMTA Director Tumlin — threatening to cut 20 MUNI lines — if more money is not available, it's no wonder they are willing to pay for any increase in fare Muni demands. SFMTA is crying "wolf" again. Will this tactic ever fail?

 

Glenn Rogers, RLA
Landscape Architect / License 3223

June 2023

Glenn Rogers
Glenn Rogers
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