District giving up parking spaces for car sharing

by Thomas K. Pendergast

At least 18 public parking spaces in the Richmond District will be turned over to private car-sharing companies for a pilot program, amid concerns that the City is not providing enough parking.

According to the SF Chronicle, the San Francisco Municipal Trans­portation Agency (Muni) has selected three firms to use 900 "car share" spaces throughout the City: Zipcar, the Bay Area nonprofit City CarShare and Getaround, a company which allows people to rent out their own cars when they are not using them.

The pilot program will require that cars be available for sharing 75 percent of the time (to make sure the spaces are not being used for storage) and the companies must charge customers by the hour to keep traditional rental car operations from usurping the parking spaces. Half of the total spaces, 450, are being made available this summer and they will be marked with signs and paint and assigned to a specific vehicle.

Jay Primus, manager of SFpark, the city's parking management program, told the Chronicle that at least 30 percent of the spaces must be located in the outer two-thirds of the City. The prices charged for these spaces become less expensive in the outlying neighborhoods, with fees ranging from $50 per space, per month in the outer third of the City, to $150 in neighborhoods closer to downtown and $225 in the downtown area.

"Anytime we change parking, there is opposition," Primus said. "The challenge for the MTA and the car-sharing companies is to get awareness of the benefits of car sharing. Academic research shows that every shared vehicle takes 10 private vehicles off the road. But we know that communicating that will be a challenge."

At a recent Muni board meeting in June, SFpark manager Andy Thornley acknowledged that there is some opposition to the program, but insisted there has been ample community outreach.

"Since last July, which is embarrassingly almost a year ago, we have been moving forward with due deliberation and some caution and our eyes open to realize the project," Thornley said. "The City sounds like it's selling curb space to private business. I understand that concern and I would be very resentful of that, but this is a pilot (program).

"The MTA believes there are many public benefits to car sharing and in our strategic plan we elevated the nurturing of car sharing. We're conducting this larger pilot (program) to really test those premises and to find out if there are true public benefits to using the curbs for car share," Thornley said. "We will be obliging the participating organizations to supply a great deal of data so we can review it very carefully and if at the end of the pilot program we see there is substantiation of that notion, we'll bring back a proposal to this board, to make it into a permanent program."

Parking is indeed a hot-button issue in the City, so much so that a coalition of San Franciscans calling itself Restore Transportation Balance recently submitted more than 17,500 signatures to the SF Department of Elections, which they say has certified their initiative for the November ballot.

Although most of the initiative deals with parking meters and bicycle lanes, one section of it does touch upon the issue of providing enough parking on and off street:

"The City has eliminated thousands of off-street and on-street parking spaces through new construction and the creation of new bike lanes. The City also removed the requirement that one parking space be created for each new residential unit constructed. To make matters worse, the SFMTA has not constructed a single new parking garage since the '90s. These out-of-balance policies have contributed to a severe shortage of parking spaces in the City," the ballot initiative says.

The website for one of the car share companies proposed to operate the spaces, Getaround, claims that for every car they have available to rent, 10 cars are "taken off the road. Sharing cars makes a difference."

They also claim the average car sits idle 22 hours a day.

Here is a list of locations where public residential parking spaces will be turned over to the pilot car share program:

• 27th Avenue, east side, from 24 feet to 64 feet north of Geary Boulevard for two car share parking permits; 

• 28th Avenue, east side, from Clement Street to 38 feet northerly for two car share parking permits; 

• 33rd Avenue, west side, from 16 feet to 52 feet south of Balboa Street for two car share parking permits;

• 34th Avenue, west side, from 16 feet to 52 feet north of Geary Boulevard for two car share parking permits;

• 42nd Avenue, east side, from 16 feet to 52 feet south of Geary Boulevard for two car share parking permits;

• 42nd Avenue, east side, from Balboa Street to 35 feet northerly for two car share parking permits; 

• Anza Street, north side, from 9 feet to 29 feet east of 44th Avenue for one car share parking permit space; 

• Balboa Street, south side, from 3 feet to 37 feet west of 20th Avenue for two car share parking permits;

• Balboa Street, south side, from 28 feet to 71 feet west of Sixth Avenue for two car share parking permits;

• Cabrillo Street, south side, from 20 feet east of 37th Avenue for one car share parking permit space.