New Report Nibbles at City's Disastrous 'Free' Parking Policy


For half a century San Francisco has given away billions of dollars worth of public land rent-free so that people could store their cars, gratis. The idea has been to facilitate car-based transportation.

In pursuit of this goal, the city has set vast tracts of valuable public land for free on-street parking, while simultaneously building parking garages where parking spaces have been offered at government-subsidized, below-market rate. This land giveaway subsidy has helped encourage San Franciscans to choose automobiles above other forms of transportation.

The disastrous result has been ever-increasing congestion, pollution, traffic deaths, poor use of public land, and perennial budget shortfalls. A new city report by the San Francisco County Transportaiton Authority, to  be considered Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors, suggests taking baby steps to end this policy by charging more for parking in certain areas, at certain times.

Ironically, the stated purpose of this proposed new pricing policy -- in which newly metered spaces would be more expensive during peak demand hours -- is to make parking even easier for motorists. Rather than reverse the years-long trend toward subsidizing car use, the program's aim is to make more parking spaces available to shoppers, workers, tourists and anyone else who needs them. The idea is that by fine-tuning parking subsidies, rather than simply giving them out willy-nilly, the city can more efficiently ration scarce parking resources, and thus make it easier to get around by car.

"Variable pricing of on-street spaces  according to parking demand is a strategy to ensure sufficient availability, improve utilization, and value on-street space appropriately," the report says. "Addressing availability -- within the confines of finite supply in an urban environment -- is the central purpose and benefit of parking pricing. Secondary benefits include a reduction in 'cruising' behavior and the opportunity to reinvest new parking revenues in transportation improvements."

The Board of Supervisors, will consider the report tomorrow.

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