America may be free, but parking in San Francisco on Independence Day is not 

Kristy Raney hesitated before depositing an hour’s worth of quarters into a parking meter near Washington Square Park. Since it was the Fourth of July, she shouldn’t have paid to park, right?

Think again.

Raney was smart to take the gamble and fill the meter Monday, because San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency parking and traffic enforcement officers were out in full-force ticketing residents and visitors who didn’t pay.

“I wasn’t sure if I needed to pay,” Raney said. “But it’s taking my quarters.”

Raney and her boyfriend visited The City on Monday from Alameda hoping to enjoy a leisurely lunch. But given the scant eight minutes per quarter they received, their lunch turned out to be a quicker one than they had envisioned.

It wasn’t known Monday how many tickets were issued to violators on the federal holiday, but a parking  enforcement officer who declined to comment on the record acknowledged that “many tickets” were issued throughout the day.

On a one-block stretch of Filbert Street, for instance, half the 12 metered spots on one side of the street had expired, while people using the other meters still had time left. And on a small stretch of Powell Street between Columbus Avenue and Union Street, three of seven parked cars received tickets for not feeding the meter.

Parking tickets for expired meters start at $55 and increase depending on the location.

Daniel Marshall, 55, of San Francisco searched a meter in vain for any indication of whether holiday parking was free.

“It should say it right on there,” he said.

Meters did not indicate whether holiday parking was free. Some drivers took their chances.

But not Ran Oehl. After debating with her partner whether to feed the meter, she inserted enough coins to buy 13 minutes in which to do errands.

“He said it was a holiday and we didn’t need to pay, but to me you don’t pay only on Sunday,” Oehl said.

The agency’s rationale for charging for parking on the nation’s birthday was not immediately known.

According to its website, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day are the only holidays on which meters need not be fed.

The Fourth of July falls in the new 2011-12 fiscal year, for which the transit agency must bridge a $10 million budget shortfall over two years.

To Dean Furnish, though, that didn’t matter.

“It’s July Fourth; it stands for independence and revolution,” the 57-year-old San Franciscan said. “If they want to charge on that day, it’s time for another revolution.”

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