Sunday, April 20, 2008

City drivers: Chumps and cash cows

Ken Garcia writes about how city officials continue to see car owners as nothing but cash cows and how city drivers suffer silently under the city's aggressively anti-car policies:

For the only people more upset about a ridiculous proposal to once again raise parking fines and meter rates than city residents are those people once referred to as meter maids---for the simple reason that they fear they’re going to get punched while placing those expensive tickets on our windshields...How is it that each time San Francisco needs money because of its free-spending officials it targets car owners? But everything is going to go up---fees for residential parking permits, Fast Passes, curb painting, you name it. I call it taxation without representation. You call it whatever you like, but call often---it’s a plan that should drive you mad.

City drivers may be mad, but they have few avenues to express their anger. Yes, there's the occasional driver who attacks a meter maid after getting a parking ticket, but the overall acquiescence---especially the political acceptance---of this kind of treatment is still a little mysterious. True, the city's drivers occasionally lash out at the ballot box to defend their interests: In 1998 the city's voters insisted on allowing the garage to be built under the Concourse in Golden Gate Park; in 2000 they voted against closing part of Golden Gate Park to autos on Saturdays, but the city went ahead and did it anyhow; and city voters resoundingly rejected a hike in city parking fees a few years ago.

Nevertheless, let's count the ways---and the dollars---that the city continues to use/abuse its drivers as cash cows. According to MTA's Transportation Fact Sheet of August, 2007, the city collected $29,687,616 from its parking meters in fiscal year 2005-2006. In the same year, it collected $33,350,354 from the operation of its 20 garages and parking lots. In FY 2004-2005, the city collected $5,492,633 from its Residential Permit Parking Program, wherein city residents pay the city for the privilege of parking on the street near their homes. But the big money-maker for the city is evidently parking tickets, since it collected $88,174,228 this way in FY 2005-2006.

Add it all up, and it comes to $156,704,831 extracted from drivers in the city in a single year.

Why do city drivers put up with it? Probably because they seldom have the opportunity to express their displeasure politically. Last year was a good opportunity to do so with Prop. A and Prop. H, but the shameless demonizing of Don Fisher and the effective wagon-circling by the city's elite stampeded voters for Prop. A and against Fisher's sensible parking proposition.

Regular readers of this blog won't be surprised to see a link between the bicycle fantasy and the city's anti-car policies. Following the lead of the politically influential SF Bicycle Coalition, city policymakers consistently pass measures that make it as expensive and difficult as possible to drive a car---or a bus or a taxi---in San Francisco. Hence, our city government is not just pro-bike, even though less than 2% of city residents commute by bike. It is also anti-car, even though there are 465,905 motor vehicles registered in SF.

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At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So car owners are not being coddled enough for you?

The residential parking pass would be a bargain at twice the price. For a full year it costs less than two MUNI FassPasses. It gives car owners unlimited parking on public streets so those of us who don't drive are forced to subsidize car owners who won't pay the real cost of garaging their cars.

Yeah, the city makes $156,704,831 off of the residential parking permits, but that's not how much each car owner is paying.

Cost of a permit for 12 months: $60
Cost of a MUNI pass for 12 months: $540

Who's the one suffering their? And have you ever been on MUNI? It certainly is not worth the money. Maybe if there were less cars out there double parking and blocking the tracks it would run faster, but you seem opposed to raising the fines for doing that.

You're always so aggressive about the city obeying the law, but here you suddenly are against penalizing those who break the law. If a driver doesn't want to pay a stiffer fine, then they could always not break the law.

A number you didn't post is what it costs every year to maintain the streets. How much does it cost to build and repair roads, sweep the streets, maintain the lights, keep everything powered?

What does it cost to maintain the roads for these car owners and how much of that do they actually pay, because all you're doing is presenting numbers that look really big to make us pity the poor person who decided to waste money buying a car.

At 10:17 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Car owners are being "coddled" at more than $156 million a year? Cars, transit, and trucks are crucial to the country's---and this city's---economic well-being. Yes, I ride Muni every day and think it's a pretty good system. Whatever it costs to maintain city streets, evidently the city isn't paying it, since the streets are in terrible shape.

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Car owners are being "coddled" at more than $156 million a year?"

You're being a bit misleading here because each car owner is not being charged $156 and you have not provided the actual cost per driver. You've also lumped together both regular fees with the cost of tickets and fines.

Of that $156 million, $88 million is in fines and tickets, so the law abiding car owners are only paying $68.5 of that through parking fees. If we figure the average cost with only the number of cars registered in the city, the cost of parking is only $149/year per car. But that's just using the 460,150 cars registered in the city, it gets lower if we figure out how many additional cars there are in the city registered elsewhere.

So for the SF resident, the average cost of parking is only $149/year, while a Muni FastPass ($45/mo. x 12) will cost $540/year.

"Whatever it costs to maintain city streets, evidently the city isn't paying it, since the streets are in terrible shape."

Seems that the city isn't making enough of drivers to pay for, are they making enough to cover the costs?

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I clearly referred to car owners/drivers as a class. Why would the cost per driver help this analysis? When it comes to traffic/parking fines, "law-abiding" is a relative term. Ever try to appeal a traffic/parking ticket? All your calculations are irrelevant, but nice try.

At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When it comes to traffic/parking fines, 'law-abiding' is a relative term. Ever try to appeal a traffic/parking ticket?"

Isn't this the same Rob Anderson who believes the city is not above the law when it comes to environmental laws? Why should drivers be above the law? There are laws in place, if drivers violate them, they pay a penalty. Does the law only apply when you want it to? Does it not apply just because you don't like the appeals process?

Funny that you think it needs to be followed to the letter when you can use it against cyclists. Your true motivations always come through loud and clear.

Easiest way not to pay a fine is to not do the crime.

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You completely miss the point I was making, that the law on traffic/parking fines is often applied arbitrarily by cops and meter maids. Technically you have the right of appeal, but it's meaningless they way the deck is stacked against motorists. Hence, the whole notion of "crime" in this context is problematic.

Actually, the best parallel is the way the city treats CEQA, stacking the deck against the citizenry: simply ignore the law whenever possible and hope no one litigates.

At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leaving your wild exaggerations and half truths about the city planners trying to "...make it as expensive and difficult as possible to drive a car..." all those millions of dollars "extracted" from car owners is still less than three tanks of gas.

So do any of you actually know what this huge scary anti-car price increase is? Since drivers are paying hundreds of millions every year it must be absolutely mind blowingly huge right? If any of you actually did the most minimal research you'd find out it's almost nothing.

The proposed rate increases would be $10 for a parking violation and $14 for an annual parking permit.

$60 residential parking permits go up to $74. But these supposedly "anti-car" city planners aren't going to raise the cost of riding Muni right? If they are so anti-car, they're going to give the rest of us who ride Muni a break right? No!

Muni Fast Passes would go up $10, and that's monthly. Rob makes this out to be anti-car, but us Muni riders get it worse.

- Parking permit: $60/year
- Muni Fast Pass: $540/year

- Parking permit: $74/year
- Muni Fast Pass: $660/year

- Parking permit: $14/year
- Muni fast pass: $120/year

Are the planners real anti-car? It looks more like anti-transit.

At 3:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the only way for these figures to mean anything is to compare what costs drivers impose on the city vs. the fees that are taken back in.

If, for example, the city takes in 150 million in fees from drivers, but spends, say, 200 million on services for drivers, it would be very hard indeed to consider drivers the city's 'cash cows'. In fact, the opposite would be true.

At 4:27 PM, Anonymous those dudes said...

Motorists hardly pay a thing to store their cars on public right-of-way in San Francisco. The City practically gives away scarce public land for folks to use to store their private property. This is completely backwards! The City would NEVER do this to allow folks to store other items (such as buildings) in the public right-of-way. Those of us who choose not to own cars end up subsidizing those that do own cars and store them on public streets. People who store their cars on public streets should pay rent for this storage. A $60 RPP permit falls woefully short of covering the costs to the City to provide this space for car storage.

At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Jen said...

Yeah those people who pay for registration, gas taxes among the the other fees associated with owning a car that get fed right back into local and state. Imagine parking in front of your home for free, those bastards!

At 10:05 AM, Anonymous those dudes said...


Sounds like you could use a quick brush up in economics. Try this for starters:

At 7:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a very easy way not to pay a stiffer fine: park legally.

At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A residential parking permit does not buy you a parking space. It allows you to store your car on public property, nothing more.

If you wish to have a guaranteed spot for your car at your house, most housing in the country is zoned for that and you are perfectly free to find a home with a garage.

At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More comments about the anti-car movement in SF: Safety: While reckless drivers and red-light runners have never been condoned and have been penalized for decades, the increasing 'traffic-calming' measures have only caused more congestion and impede the non-sight-seers from doing their jobs. I grew up in NY and, as a kid, was taught to take responsibility as a pedestrian, look both ways before crossing, don't jaywalk, cross-at-the-green, etc. Why is there no talk about pedestrians' taking responsibility? Increased congestion seems correlated with increased frustration, road-rage, and even more traffic accidents. Let the traffic move through. Let people get to their job sites. If there are too many cars, maybe it's because there are too many people. Let's talk about population control and less development.

Cyclists' attitudes: They seem to hate pedestrians as much as drivers. While walking, I've been given dirty looks and almost run over by bikes! When did we decide to all make SF "La Tour de France" 24/7, 365 days a year?

Costs: Car owners pay dearly for vehicle licensing, which perhaps should be used to subsidize public transport. Car owners pay dearly for auto insurance. I personally have paid over $50,000 in 25 years and haven't cost my insurance company anything. Where are their huge profits going?

Residential parking permits: The cost of a ticket for parking legally on the street is so steep if I run over the 2-hour limit that I try to avoid doing business in those neighborhoods. Result--less business! Further, if the idea is to get more cars off the streets, why is there no moratorium on expansion of private dwellings? Why isn't there a movement to force those who don't use their garages as garages to do so?

At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've assumed you are generating the most possible revenue during those 2+ hours parked in a neighborhood. If that same space were limited to 30 minutes, 4 times as many people would be able to shop the neighborhood in the same period of time. Result: more business, higher exposure and impressions.

Take it a step further and convert the parking space into a bus bulb and you've got a muni bus stopping every 10-20 minutes bringing in even more customers who will not have the same time limits.

Increased congestion meanwhile is a result of increasing and inefficient use of cars. Were you to control the population, congestion would increase even further as a result of forcing workers to liver further distances from their job. The way to get around this is to reduce the number of cars on the street. Trains, busses, carpools, and yes, even bikes, do so to different degrees of effectiveness.

At 3:54 AM, Anonymous Alexander said...

Good post, very interesting


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