July - August 2010
Sierra Club Yodeler
Vol. 73 No. 4
Muni has asked the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to place on the November ballot a measure to increase the city's parking tax from 25 to 35%. The Sierra Club supports this request. The measure would provide about $24 million per year to help Muni preserve service without further fare increases and service cuts.
The key to passing this measure may be for drivers to understand that it would not increase the price of parking. How can this be?
Most of the long-term parking in San Francisco is provided by privately owned garages and lots, which collect the parking tax for the city. Each of these businesses sets its parking fees as high as possible to maximize total revenues. They frequently adjust their parking rates, based on demand, to maximize their profits. They know that they can't raise fees to cover the cost of the tax increase, though, because they would lose business: drivers would switch to a competitor's lot or find alternatives to driving. That is why these firms spent over $250,000 to defeat the 2006 attempt to raise the parking tax.
Isn't it unfair to balance the Muni budget on the back of the poor parking businesses? No, because a large portion of their profits comes from the city's policy of limiting the supply of parking downtown. This helps to reduce congestion, but it also produces windfall profits for parking operators. The parking tax allows the city to recover the windfall for the public benefit.
The tax also won't raise rates in city-owned garages. In neighborhoods these rates are pegged to the rates of meters. In city-owned garages downtown, short-term rates are tied to the level of Muni fares, and long-term rates to (slightly less than) those of nearby private garages.
Another benefit for drivers is that the more funding Muni gets from the parking tax, the less it needs to raise meter rates, short-term garage prices, and fines.
To place this measure on the November ballot, the Board of Supervisors must act by July 30. Urge your supervisor to put the parking-tax increase on the November ballot. For contact information, see the Hunters Point article.