[Marxism] A Meter So Expensive, It Creates Parking Spots -- in the City by the Bay

Bonnie Weinstein giobon at comcast.net
Fri Mar 16 12:14:43 MDT 2012

A Meter So Expensive, It Creates Parking Spots
[Just think--if they make parking meters $100.00 per hour--how many  
more parking spaces there would be for the 1/10th of the One Percent!  
Why not make it illegal for any person earning less than a million  
dollars a year to park anywhere in the city--then fine them their  
yearly pay if their car is found parked on the street; put them in  
jail if they can't pay their fine; and then to work without pay as  
prison labor! My oh my what creative thinkers these people are! Way  
to go to create parking spaces in this congested city! ...Bonnie  
March 15, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — The maddening quest for street parking is not just a  
tribulation for drivers, but a trial for cities. As much as a third  
of the traffic in some areas has been attributed to drivers circling  
as they hunt for spaces. The wearying tradition takes a toll in lost  
time, polluted air and, when drivers despair, double-parked cars that  
clog traffic even more.

But San Francisco is trying to shorten the hunt with an ambitious  
experiment that aims to make sure that there is always at least one  
empty parking spot available on every block that has meters. The  
program, which uses new technology and the law of supply and demand,  
raises the price of parking on the city’s most crowded blocks and  
lowers it on its emptiest blocks. While the new prices are still  
being phased in — the most expensive spots have risen to $4.50 an  
hour, but could reach $6 — preliminary data suggests that the change  
may be having a positive effect in some areas.

Change can already be seen on a stretch of Drumm Street downtown near  
the Embarcadero and the popular restaurants at the Ferry Building.  
Last summer it was nearly impossible to find spots there. But after  
the city gradually raised the price of parking to $4.50 an hour from  
$3.50, high-tech sensors embedded in the street showed that spots  
were available a little more often — leaving a welcome space the  
other day for the silver Toyota Corolla driven by Victor Chew, a  
salesman for a commercial dishwasher company who frequently parks in  
the area.

“There are more spots available now,” said Mr. Chew, 48. “Now I don’t  
have to walk half a mile.”

San Francisco’s parking experiment is the latest major attempt to  
improve the uneasy relationship between cities and the internal  
combustion engine — a century-long saga that has seen cities build  
highways and tear them down, widen streets and narrow them, and make  
more parking available at some times and discourage it at others, all  
to try to make their downtowns accessible but not too congested.

The program here is being closely watched by cities around the  
country. With the help of a federal grant, San Francisco installed  
parking sensors and new meters at roughly a quarter of its 26,800  
metered spots to track when and where cars are parked. And beginning  
last summer, the city began tweaking its prices every two months —  
giving it the option of raising them 25 cents an hour, or lowering  
them by as much as 50 cents — in the hope of leaving each block with  
at least one available spot. The city also has cut prices at many of  
the garages and parking lots it manages, to lure cars off the street.

It is too early to tell whether the program is working over all, but  
an analysis of city parking data by The New York Times found signs  
that the new rates are having the desired effect in some areas. While  
only a third of the blocks in the program have hit their targeted  
occupancy rates in any given month since the program began, the  
analysis found, three-quarters of the blocks either hit their targets  
or moved closer to the goal. The program has been a bit more  
successful on weekdays.

Of course, price is only one factor that influences behavior. About a  
fifth of the time prices rose but more spaces filled up, or prices  
fell but fewer people parked. And the full effects of the phased-in  
price changes have yet to be felt, because the most expensive spots  
cannot hit the $6-an-hour maximum until next year at the earliest.

Jay Primus, who manages the program for the San Francisco Municipal  
Transportation Agency, said city was trying to reduce traffic and  
pollution and make parking easier — and not just to raise revenues.  
“We only need a few people to see there is a price difference and  
choose to park in a different location to open up just a few spaces  
here and there,” he said.

Meters here can now charge different prices at different times of the  
day, and the city has lengthened or eliminated time limits. Since the  
city made it easier to pay for parking with credit cards, and began a  
program that allows people to find spots and pay for them on their  
mobile phones — so they no longer have to run out of meals to feed  
the meters — fewer parking tickets have been issued.

The program is the biggest test yet of the theories of Donald Shoup,  
a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los  
Angeles. His 2005 book, “The High Cost of Free Parking,” made him  
something of a cult figure to city planners — a Facebook group, The  
Shoupistas, has more than a thousand members. “I think the basic idea  
is that we will see a lot of benefits if we get the price of curbside  
parking right, which is the lowest price a city can charge and still  
have one or two vacant spaces available on every block,” he said.

But raising prices is rarely popular. A chapter in Mr. Shoup’s book  
opens with a quote from George Costanza, the “Seinfeld” character:  
“My father didn’t pay for parking, my mother, my brother, nobody.  
It’s like going to a prostitute. Why should I pay when, if I apply  
myself, maybe I can get it for free?” Some San Francisco  
neighborhoods recently objected to a proposal to install meters on  
streets where parking is now free. And raising prices in the most  
desirable areas raises concerns that it will make them less  
accessible to the poor.

That was on the minds of some parkers on Drumm Street, where the  
midday occupancy rate on one block fell to 86 percent from 98 percent  
after prices rose. Edward Saldate, 55, a hairstylist who paid nearly  
$17 for close to four hours of parking there, called it “a big rip-off.”

Tom Randlett, 69, an accountant, said that he was pleased to be able  
to find a spot there for the first time, but acknowledged that the  
program was “complicated on the social equity level.”

Officials note that parking rates are cut as often as they are  
raised. And Professor Shoup said that the program would benefit many  
poor people, including the many San Franciscans who do not have cars,  
because all parking revenues are used for mass transit and any  
reduction in traffic will speed the buses many people here rely on.  
And he imagined a day when drivers will no longer attribute good  
parking spots to luck or karma.

“It will be taken for granted,” he said, “the way you take it for  
granted that when you go to a store you can get fresh bananas or  

Michael Cooper reported from San Francisco, and Jo Craven McGinty  
from New York. Malia Wollan contributed reporting from San Francisco.

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