Make San Francisco holiday meter parking free for public

Make San Francisco holiday meter parking free for public

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Shuo Luo started this petition to London Breed and

No one wants to see a parking ticket at the windshield of their cars after they finish a joyful shopping, sightseeing or a meal with family and friends, especially when it is on a national holiday. In fact, it was what happened to me on September 7, 2020, the Labor Day. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) determined that my parking violated their regulations and issued me a $79 parking citation.

The parking citation is totally unexpected to me because in my understanding, street and meter parking is free to public on Sundays and national holidays in most, if not all cities across the nation. I have lived in major US cities in mid-west, east coast and west coast and have never come across such situation. In St. Louis, meters are not enforced and parking is free on national holidays. According to the parking regulations of the City of St. Louis (https://parklouie.com/faq/), parking at street meters on the national holiday including the Labor Day is free of charge. And the same thing applies to the City of Boston (https://www.bostoncentral.com/events/sales/p49997.php). In fact, a little bit research revealed that even in the bay area, Oakland, Berkeley, Daly City and San Jose all have free parking at street meters on national holidays including the Labor Day (Oakland City Code Sec 10.36.090; Daly City Code Sec 10.36.090; https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Public_Works/Transportation/Parking_Meters.aspx#_Holidays; https://sf.lawsoup.org/legal-guides/parking/parking-holidays-in-san-francisco-area/). So the parking regulations of the City of San Francisco are very different from most, if not all other major US cities. To make things even more confusing, meter parking is not enforced on some holidays such as the New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving in San Francisco but it is indeed enforced on other holidays including the Labor Day (https://sf.lawsoup.org/legal-guides/parking/parking-holidays-in-san-francisco-area/). Thus it is very difficult, if not impossible, for drivers like me to expect to pay street meters on the Labor Day based on prior experience or common sense.

Even if with such confusing parking regulations, the City of San Francisco fails to explicitly reveal its parking guidelines to drivers. In fact, for something that is beyond common sense and prior experience, explicit guidelines and signs are required to keep drivers informed. For example, there could be signs of parking policy on the meters or along the curbside. However, I did not find any signs indicating meters being enforced on holidays like the Labor Day. Before I left my parked vehicle, I searched carefully for signs that might indicate any parking violations, but I did not find any. In fact, the only way for me to know my parking violation is through a parking citation. In other words, I need to pay the $79 fine to learn the parking rules that the City fails to reveal to me in a clear and explicit way.

I assume that I am not alone in this situation and the same thing has happened to hundreds, if not thousands of residents, non-residents and tourists. Getting a parking citation on a national holiday does feel bad, and it can feel worse after the SFMTA declined my appeal twice in a row. Given that many tourists traveling to the city on holidays risk getting a parking citation without knowing the policy, it will very likely generate a negative impression of the city in their mind.

So I strongly urge the San Francisco City to follow other major US cities and make the meter parking in the city free to public on all, not just on 2 or 3, national holidays. This is essential for providing the convenience to people who want to travel to the city on holidays and enjoy their time with family and friends. SFMTA generates nearly $90 million in revenue through 1.5 million parking and transit citations every year (https://www.sfmta.com/units/revenue-collection-sales#:~:text=Oversight%20of%20the%20processing%2C%20payment,approximately%20%2490%20million%20in%20revenue) and I assume that they would probably function well without enforcing the meter parking on a few days throughout the year. 

Even if SFMTA feels it is absolutely necessary to enforce meter parking on some national holidays, it could provide a more driver-friendly way to do this. For example, the City of St. Louis has already employed a new technology to prevent motorists from mistakenly paying a parking meter on designated holidays (https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/treasurer/news/treasurers-office-designates-parking-holidays.cfm), so SFMTA should be able to use similar technology on the meters to guide drives for proper parking payment. San Francisco is known for its homing of numerous high-tech companies, and the city can and should employ such a system to prevent unfair parking citations to naïve drivers. If installing such a system on all parking meters is not immediately possible, it should at least issue first-time violators a warning notice (just like the 72 hour-parking warning notice) instead of a hard, cold $79 parking citation. After all, the regulations should be there to help motorists follow proper parking rules, not to trick them into paying parking violations they are not aware of. Thank you for your prompt attention.

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