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Extended Meter Hours Study

San Francisco study of parking supply and demand with an eye toward extending hours in order to attain goals for parking management

Executive Summary

The SFMTA currently manages approximately 24,000 on-street metered parking spaces, most of which are operated from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The SFMTA uses parking pricing and time limits to:

  • Achieve desirable levels of parking availability
  • Reduce congestion and illegal parking
  • Improve Muni’s speed and reliability
  • Increase overall safety for all road users
  • Increase economic vitality

In May 2009, the SFMTA initiated a study to refine an April 2009 proposal to extend the hours of meter operation to 10 p.m. citywide Mondays through Saturdays, and to operate parking meters from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. The study was intended to better match when and where meter hours are extended with when and where parking is difficult to find in commercial areas. This study includes a survey of other jurisdictions’ practices, a review of previous reports on parking in the City, and the collection of new data on parking occupancy levels, business hours of operation, stakeholder concerns, and residents’ opinions. The study found:

  • Demand for on-street parking is high in the evenings and on Sundays, which results in parking occupancies that are often higher than 100 percent due to illegal parking. It is hardest to find available parking spaces after 6 p.m. and on Sundays, when parking at meters is currently free and unrestricted.
  • When San Francisco’s meters were first introduced in 1947, many businesses kept traditional hours, usually from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. Today, many businesses are open late in the evening and all day on Sundays, which creates demand for parking at times when parking meters do not currently operate.
  • Many cities and towns around the country operate their parking meters Monday through Saturday until 10 p.m., midnight, or 2 a.m., as well as on Sundays.
  • Parking availability is the aspect of parking that San Francisco residents value most highly. Cost, though not unimportant, ranked fifth (out of nine) as a concern.
  • A plurality of residents supports metering in the evenings and on Sundays if meter revenues are used to improve pedestrian and bicycle facilities and Muni service. Residents who never drive or drive rarely are more likely to support extending the hours than those who drive frequently.

Using this study, the SFMTA has refined the original April 2009 proposal for extending metering hours when and where warranted. We recommend that the operation of parking meters be extended as follows:

  • Sundays: Establish metering hours from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. citywide (instead of 10 a.m.).
  • Mondays through Saturdays: Operate parking meters until 6 p.m., 9 p.m., or midnight when and where parking demand warrants (rather than 10 p.m. citywide):
    • Extend meter hours until 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until midnight Friday through Saturday at 59 percent of metered spaces.
    • Extend meter hours until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at 23 percent of metered spaces (leaving Monday through Thursday until 6 p.m.).
    • Extend meter hours until midnight Monday through Saturday in areas where parking availability is low throughout the week, which is 17 percent of metered spaces.
    • Operate meters Monday through Saturday until 6 p.m. at one percent of metered spaces.
  • Rates: Retain current rates (but use demand-responsive pricing in SFpark pilot areas).
  • Time limits: Establish 4-hour parking time limits after 6 p.m. and all day on Sundays.

We make the following additional recommendations, based primarily on the feedback we gathered in intercept surveys and stakeholder interviews:

  • Improve the availability and marketing of SFMTA Parking Cards to make it easier for drivers to pay for parking and avoid parking tickets.
  • Offer residents who live adjacent to commercial corridors the option to extend Residential Parking Permit (RPP) enforcement hours to reduce potential parking “spillover” in their neighborhoods. Hours of RPP enforcement could either match or extend beyond metering hours.
  • Review metering hours at least every two years using 85 percent occupancy as the criteria and adjust metering hours as necessary to achieve availability goals.
  • Reduce hourly meter rates in SFMTA parking lots when and where parking occupancy does not exceed 60 percent and consider lengthening time limits at those lots to improve driver convenience.
  • Accelerate the implementation of two hour time limits in metered commercial areas.