San Francisco Parking Meters Among Most Expensive In Nation

According to a new study released by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco is one of costliest cities in the country to park an automobile.

The study looked at parking meter rates and the cost of a ticket for parking at an expired meter in 40 urban centers around the country. San Francisco was tied for first with New York City for the most expensive fines, $65, and came in fourth for the highest hourly parking rates, which top out at $4.25.

These standings only represent the ceiling of what SFMTA charges for both parking meters and tickets. The fine for parking at an expired meter drops to $55 in areas outside the city's central, urban core and, largely due to SFMTA's innovative SFPark variable pricing program, parking meters in some areas of the city can dip as low as $0.75 per hour during certain times of the week.

Interestingly, the study found little correlation between price of a parking meter and the cost a citation in any given city.

While the city is experimenting with using parking meters to battle congestion by using pocketbook policy to change drivers' behavior, meters also are a big money maker for the agency. Revenue from meter-related charges and fines amounts to more than $50 million a year.

A recent SFMTA plan to add 5,000 new parking meters in the Mission, Potrero Hill and Dogpatch neighborhoods has been put on indefinite hold after being met with stiff opposition from area residents not particularly keen on suddenly having to pay for parking on streets where it was previously free.

The study found the American city with the highest parking meter rate to be Chicago. This fact is largely owed to the sharp spike in rates that occurred after the Windy City signed over the rights to its meters to a private firm partially funded by the nation of Abu Dhabi's state-controlled investment arm. Needless to say, the move was highly unpopular locally.

The city of Sacramento hopes to avoid a similar public relations debacle if a plan to sell the rights to its parking meters to pay for a new area becomes a reality.