The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency would like to work toward balancing its budget by extending meters on evenings and to Sundays. Not only is this a regressive and backward thought process, it will create collateral consequences for everyone. Policies that are based solely on the idea of creating revenue are always unwise.
The SFMTA runs an archaic transit system and has yet to provide efficient, effective and reliable service. This has little to do with revenue and can be attributed to the poor structure of the organization as well as the seemingly tied hands when it comes to making financial decisions. The small amount of revenue that extended meters will bring will not fix the SFMTA’s underlying structural and organizational problems.
What extending meters will do, however, is further drive families out of San Francisco and keep commuters from staying to dine and shop, thus continuing to hurt small businesses. In a city that claims to be trying to keep women and families from fleeing en masse, extending meters is a naïve and regressive measure. Many realize that our wonderful city has turned into one of landowners and serfs, and although there will always be young people flocking to live in San Francisco, those young people eventually grow up and want to have a family, which has become increasingly challenging to do in San Francisco. Even if they are content with renting for the rest of their lives and with trying to navigate the complicated public school system, few are content with having to rely on an archaic transit system with children if they don’t have to.
For many living in certain areas of San Francisco (mid to Outer Richmond, for example), it could take up to two hours on buses to get to other areas of The City. And that’s on a weekday. With meters extended to Sundays, when bus service is nearly nonexistent, few working mothers will want to spend their day commuting on Muni to get a week’s worth of errands completed. And with schedules unreliable and some buses simply ending their routes midway between the start point and the end point of the route on random buses, the SFMTA cannot expect families to rely on transit first. Some have argued that extending meters will create more turnover for businesses. People certainly circle for parking on the weekends, but this has more to do with the fact that San Francisco is an urban environment, not because there aren’t meters to force turnover. In five years, I personally have had only two or three occasions where I circled for more than a few minutes before a spot became available during nonmetered times. Extending meters will hurt rather than help many businesses. Why would people brunch and shop on Clement or Valencia streets when they can drive for 10 extra minutes to the Peninsula where they don’t have to worry about being 30 seconds late to re-feed a meter and getting an exorbitant parking ticket?
There’s nothing progressive about trying to feed a bloated and ineffective agency more and more revenue in the hope that it will magically turn into the type of agency that manages the transit systems of Washington, D.C., or Paris. And there’s nothing progressive about funding a bloated and ineffective agency on the backs of small businesses and working families. This working, middle-class woman encourages the SFMTA and the Board of Supervisors to use common sense to create policies that will help rather than hinder San Francisco.
I am confident that we can make San Francisco a haven for families and small businesses. Regressive policies such as extended meters on top of inefficient and unreliable public transit will only continue to drive people away, literally.
Dr. Amy Bacharach is a policy researcher and professor and a proud Richmond District resident, and is a candidate for Community College board of trustees in November.