For Shame, San Francisco

In 1998 I wrote of my unhappiness with Santa Cruz, and it’s policy of aggressively ticketing tourists. I suggested that visitors eschew SC and take their monies elsewhere.

Well, sad to say, now I must make the same recommendation with regards to several of our fair cities neighborhoods, those which have upgraded parking meters which eviscerate visitors to the tune of twenty-five cents per ten minutes. I’ve never seen a meter chew through spare change faster.

I encountered this ugly phenomenon twice in as many weeks, today at the north end of Columbus Street, nearest Fisherman’s Wharf / Ghirardelli Square.

I’m ashamed to be a citizen of a city which has fallen so far to use meter maids as a major force for balancing the budget. Run, don’t walk, to cheaper neighborhoods. It seems as though neighborhoods become too expensive or have far too few parking places (think Clement Street and the Haight-Ashbury).

We’re not doing a good job of making our city a pleasant place for inhabitants and visitors. Until the Mayor and Supervisors do better, spend your money wisely.

5 Comments so far

  1. Eric (unregistered) on August 17th, 2005 @ 7:32 am

    Yes, spend your money wisely. Instead of spending money on gas and parking, use public transit and walk around the City. You’ll notice details that people trapped in their automobiles will never find, and become a better person for it. Then you’ll start to notice how people who drive cars are sucking public resources from the rest of us in the form of road maintenance and construction, and you’ll maybe wonder what makes them so bitter about paying a few cents more for parking when the City would be much more enjoyable with a few more parks and fewer empty patches of asphalt waiting for an automobile that never comes because there’s nothing to see beyond a sea of parking spaces.

    However, you might then start to write ranting run-on sentences. And that’s not so good, really. :)

  2. Jack (unregistered) on August 18th, 2005 @ 12:20 am

    You know what? I appreciate the last comment as a bitter, sarcastic attempt to belittle the original issue, and divert attention. Yeah, you are funny guy. Ha Ha.

    So, let’s all just point the finger at automobile users, right? Forget what’s the real issue here.

    That issue at hand is the relatively poor job our city Supervisors provide in the realms of controlling expense, developing business, and growing the community in the territories they are responsible for.

    And you know, I know that there’s this ethic of “military bike nazis” in this town. But you know, some people drive to San Francisco from OTHER PARTS OF CALIFORNIA, besides nob hill or sunset.

    And the worse issue is how much they gouge you when you get a ticket. Ticketing in this city is way out of hand, and I gotta tell ya, the hostility that this town’s meter maids and bike-nazis have for automobiles is totally misplaced.

    The real resource hog – are all those commercial vehicles – you know the ones that double or triple park in the middle of the busiest intersections and roads. They are what pollute your air, not my Hybrid.

    So the state of California did something else, like tax everyone an extra 100 bucks a year, there would be plenty of resources. Look at your check – California is in turmoil because they tax so little of your pay (unlike other states).

    But no, you need that for your new bicycle tires and your dumb bike helmut right?

  3. Eric (unregistered) on August 18th, 2005 @ 7:40 am

    Dear Jack:

    Actually, I spent quite some time crafting my response to be as serious as possible, but kept wandering over into the range of spittle-flecking rage. I know that one is rarely convinced in such emotional discussions by displays of anger, so I defused my inflammatory remarks with a bit of humor to help the medicine go down. Apparently that didn’t work; sorry about that.

    If parking enforcement is supposed to be some synecdoche for the entire problem with our government, I’m not sure I see what you’re getting at. Let me try mentioning specifics that illustrate my point, rather than simply using broad generalities as I have done so far.

    The first point you make in your comment, that people drive to San Francisco from other parts of California, is an excellent one. People also take BART, ride Caltrain, and, yes, bicycle into the City. Notice how all of those options don’t require more parking spaces? Notice how increasing parking ticket fines will discourage people from driving their cars here, and possibly encourages them to find alternatives? I may not enjoy sitting next to the drunken lout on Caltrain who’s headed to a baseball game and makes ME reek of beer by time I get to the station, but I silently thank him every time for not taking up more space on our streets.

    And that’s the issue, dear Jack–not the pollution, it’s the SPACE. Note that we’re not charging you for the fumes you spew into the air, or the particulate matter rubbing off your tires and embedding into my lungs, or the pollution caused by the production of your vehicle, or the pollution it will cause when it finds its way to a landfill later in life. Those things bother us, but what really gets in our way is needing to deal with the traffic congestion caused by your car taking up space.

    I’ve read trivia that point out, for every automobile to be appropriately berthed during its various errands, we need to create seven parking spaces for it. Multiply that by the number of visitors coming to this fine metropolis, each of them driving a single car, and we’ve got a situation.

    So we have to discourage people from taking cars, and get them to try alternatives. People are often discouraged by fines. Perhaps we need to have a little more carrot? We maybe don’t do enough to encourage people to find the alternatives so that they see we’re not just blankly punishing them, but instead trying to guide them to other other fine options? I’m trying my hand at that here in my comments, reminding people that the fines are the punishment, and the reward is the pretty good transit system here–park in Millbrae and take a Baby Bullet into SF if one is coming from the peninsula, eh? (I’m not sure how much parking costs at Millbrae; there might actually be a better alternative, but my point is: there ARE alternatives.)

    As for “all those commercial vehicles”, you have a good point. But commercial vehicles are necessary for delivering goods and services–when I moved into my apartment, the only option for parking was to stick it right in the single lane on my street, completely blocking traffic going both ways. Because of all the cars sitting on the street, taking up space, when the owners had several alternatives to using their car to get to that location. I’m not aware of any good alternatives for moving an entire apartmentful of stuff, but I know some for getting my ass to my street. My legs seem to do just fine.

    You see commercial vehicles double-parked. I see several automobiles that were used to carry one or two people to their destinations, then left sitting on the side of the road, getting in other people’s way. Which pollutes the air more, a commercial vehicle or the 15 cars surrounding it? I appreciate your driving a Hybrid in the City, but you’re going to require seven parking spaces to use it here, and I’ve got better things to do with the parking spaces you’re not using when you’ve gone home. Given the choice between having a little more infill space to use and finding a place for you to park your refusal to find transit alternatives, I’m happy to have the infill space. I do still hope you’ll come visit, though. But please leave the Hybrid at home

    I apologize for the somewhat rude tone of my remark that automobile owners are “sucking public resources from the rest of us”. Your answer to this is that we all should chip in another $100 annually–doesn’t that kind of prove my point, Jack? San Francisco’s lack of resources is land, not money, and the last thing I want is to pay another $100 every year so that automobiles have an easier way of getting around. I pay all sorts of federal, state and local taxes in order for you to drive your car around the state willy-nilly, but what’s the benefit I get from it? I get people trying to run me down while I’m crossing the street, then flip me off when I make eye contact with them. I get all the goop spewed over the railing of the freeway I walk under on my way home. I get to hear complaints about how these people who don’t have to spend funds out of their own pockets for the ease of automobile transportation encounter a small snag in their way of life when they come to visit SF, when there are absolutely fine alternatives available. Automobiles are turning into a resource suck that will continually encourage us to throw money into a very deep hole with ever-increasing verve. Let’s direct those energies to other solutions!

    Jack, I’m just saying: try getting out of your car for two months. See the world though my eyes. I spent nine years living in the your car-trapped world; do you have the creativity and daring to spend nine in mine?

  4. Sugam Jain (unregistered) on August 18th, 2005 @ 10:25 am


    Generally I enjoy your writings, but today I’ll have to disagree. So you got a parking ticket, Big Deal! Was there not a sign? Did you lose your watch? Was the meter broken? You cant blame the city for something they expressly told you about. Now, although I agree with Eric that people should get out of their cars more, I’ll say its not that easy for everyone to do. I occasionally use my car as well, but I understand the costs involved in using it. But lets see why meters are so expensive and why “meter maids” are so vigilant down where you were in the wharf. On any given day there are fewer spaces then there are cars looking for parking, this obviously drives the price of parking up, it is simple economics a scarce resource gets sold to the highest bidder. A high cost also ensures that there is constant turnover, something the local businesses love. Lets say I need to run down to the wharf in order to pick something up from a store down there. If prices were low, and tickets were negligible then I would be screwed as all the spots would be taken up. But, in an ideal world, they would be priced at market value and I would be easily able to stop, pay a couple bucks, do my business, and leave. There is a reason besides fillilng the city’s coffers for tickets and high parking prices, it provides for a fluid market which is what merchants and customers need and want. As for your situation, park in a garage and realize that you’re paying for a scarce resource and deal with it. If you dont want to pay that much for parking, then dont drive. A very interesting article that you might consider reading is here: “>

  5. Eric (unregistered) on August 18th, 2005 @ 7:37 pm

    Wow: “…according to the Department of Parking and Traffic, [San Francisco] has more cars per square mile than any other city in the nation.”

    No wonder it’s such a touchy subject.

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