Hey, SFMTA, please double residential parking fees and introduce traffic congestion fees.

sfmta muni and dpt have empty pockets

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is a bureaucratic whale, containing, in separate stomachs, the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) and the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) public transit system.

Recently, the SFMTA crunched some numbers and said, “Uh oh, we won’t have enough money to cover our costs over the next two years.” Fair enough. Next step, “We need more money.”

Ideas? The Examiner and the Chronicle report the SFMTA has publicly discussed two classes of options: increasing transit fees and increasing parking fees.

Are these ideas justified? Most definitely yes — these fee increases are justified and necessary.

But, I believe the SFMTA needs to increase some fees significantly MORE than has been suggested. If we’re smart and look at the dirty details (below) we can find some fees that we can significantly increase. This has a multiple benefits — controlling traffic congestion, reducing total personal vehicle miles driven and rationing limited road real estate while ALSO generating significant revenue for the cash-strapped SFMTA. Win, win, win?

  • Increasing transit fees: Monthly Fast Pass (unlimited bus pass) cards cost $45 per month and are priced below market. $1.50 each way to work plus 2 weekend trips per day makes a frequent Muni rider pay $90 per month if they pay per trip. The SFMTA’s analysis of neighboring communities’ monthly pass prices is wise and on par. An increase to $60 per month is more than reasonable given the value offered by the pass. At $60, the Fast Pass is still a bargain for regular transit users.
  • Increasing parking fees:
    • Parking meters are priced at $.25/10 minutes = $1.25/hour = $12.50/day. This is below market value compared to garages. This could be increased.

      Idea: Why is Sunday meter collection or extended metered hours not discussed? Meters are not collected on Sundays. Meters are not collected after 6pm. Not only is this lost revenue but it causes inconvenience for City residents struggling to find spaces in highly trafficked commercial corridors at peak times. (This is the reason we have meters in the first place — to ration limited spaces. These spaces are still in high demand after 6pm and on Sundays in many metered commercial corridors. Just look at the Mission on Sunday afternoons; it’s a zoo.)

      Idea: Why aren’t meters priced based on demand? If meters had variable pricing, the City could collect significantly more revenue on Friday and Saturday nights, in addition to busy Saturday and Sunday shopping times on commercial corridors. This is a significant revenue opportunity lost that also serves City residents and visitors who are more than willing to pay market price for convenient parking.

    • Yearly residential permits are priced at $60/year = $5/month. Residential City parking permits are SEVERELY undervalued and could easily be doubled without approaching the true market cost of parking. Yearly residential permits should be priced $120/year immediately, with a yearly increase after that.

      At $120/year this is still an amazing bargain: I can park in my neighborhood ALL YEAR LONG for only $120? Remember, monthly private spaces cost as much as $250 per MONTH.

      People may complain, but even at $120/year this would result in no fewer permits purchased. Not until we pass $200/year will quantity demanded of yearly permits even begin to see a dent. Assuming about half of SF has a residential parking permit, just doubling this permit results in about $30 million incremental revenue per year.

  • Congestion fees: Why is this not discussed as a revenue source? (Answer: The City can’t implement fast enough to be included as a revenue source for this 2-year projected shortfall.)

    Let’s change this. The City should implement congestion pricing within the next year.

    Variable City congestion pricing serves double duty as a significant revenue generator for the SFMTA AND as a traffic and transit speed increaser. It increases the speed of its public surface street-shared transit system and increases the convenience and utility of currently congested streets for frequent City street ‘power-users’ like delivery vehicles, taxis and persons with an absolute need for personal vehicle use.

So, SFMTA, go along with your plan, but let’s instead double yearly residential parking permits and let’s introduce congestion pricing immediately.

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3 Responses to Hey, SFMTA, please double residential parking fees and introduce traffic congestion fees.

  1. rzu says:

    Looking to parking and congestion fees to fund transit is a great idea. Unfortunately, there isn’t much leadership coming from the Mayor or the MTA. Check my piece in Beyond Chron: http://quartz.he.net/~beyondch/news/index.php?itemid=5458

  2. kfarr says:


    Nice piece! The article did a nice job of showing the breakdown of leadership on the panel.

    Despite the panel’s slow disintegration, I believe there is fundamental good news here: Muni operating cost increases (led in large part by labor, energy and capital improvements) dictate faster parking and congestion fee increases which have great external benefits.

    Even though leadership isn’t so strong to increase fees, SFMTA has to do something to cover Muni’s rising costs. Thanks to the genius of the SFMTA combination of Muni/DPT, they can squeeze more revenue from DPT to pay for Muni.

    So in a perverse way, increased energy costs are indirectly forcing the City to implement parking fee and congestion fees much more quickly than if left to their own impotent Blue Ribbon panels.

    This is great news! Let’s hope energy prices continue to rise so the City has no choice but raise parking fees to market rates and implement congestion pricing immediately.

    Of course, let’s pray that these proper fee adjustments coincide with proper Muni evolution such as fast and smoothly running Geary and Van Ness BRT lines so our City has a usable transit system. Don’t mess this up, Mr. Ford.

  3. Joe says:

    You can’t compare residential parking permits to private parking spaces. The permits don’t guarantee you a parking spot compared to the private parking space. It’s public parking on a first come first serve.

    Congestion pricing won’t work unless they provide free public transit downtown and increase reliability.

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