Is San Francisco's New Parking Plan a Libertarian's Wet Dream?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 , 3 Comments

As a libertarian in San Francisco with a car, I'm going to have to give this an enthusiastic hell no (sorry).

Quote me in last month's San Francisco Wastes $25 Million to Find Out Its Parking Situation Sucks when I first heard of this stupid ass idea to offer some kind of app to check for available spots and use some kind of twisted supply-and-demand system to price its parking meters - as if it isn't treacherous enough out there with these idiots and SF wants to give them a fucking app to find parking, how hazardous could that possibly be?

Let me save the city $25 million it doesn't have and call this doomed right off the bat because there is never available parking in San Francisco. A supply and demand parking system would work great in a city that actually has its parking in order to begin with. Being that this is San Francisco, I can almost guarantee parking spots will cap out at the maximum nearly all hours of the day and off-meter parking in residential areas will be even more impossible to secure (as if it isn't already).

Way to go, SF, you just chased out the last remaining car owners you had, not to mention scared away any Bridge and Tunnel folks looking to cruise around in their Land Rovers on weekends. FAIL.
So as you can see, it didn't arouse my inner libertarian.

Human Transit seems to love the idea of this free market parking system but I have to point out the obvious flaw in this "libertarian ideal": the supply is horribly scarce and targeted by broke City Hall, desperate to make whatever cash they can out of their limited but lucrative parking gig. I have to fight to park near my office and get ticketed constantly in my own neighborhood if I forget to move the car when I'm home on a weekday. I might as well drive a pink piggy bank with an I <3 JDA bumper sticker for Christ's sake.

Perhaps in a larger area where prices were actually realistic instead of terribly distorted (generally upward. See also: $3000/a month studio by my office) this would be a free market cheerleader's favorite parking system. But this is San Francisco. I showed up in the middle of dot com so truth be told I have never actually seen a free market here in this city but am fairly sure this is not it.

They see $$ or else they wouldn't do it.

American parodies of San Francisco as leftist and socialist may soon need some revision. San Francisco will soon have the most libertarian, free-market parking policy in the nation. And it should become easier to find parking.

Conventional American policy says that parking should be made available at subsidized discounts, or even for free. The fact is, 12 square meters of real estate in a dense city has a land value, and that means it has a fair rental value. What's the value? Easy. Ask the market.

Under SF Park, the cost of parking on-street will vary by time of day based on observed demand. As their website describes it:

To help achieve the right level of parking availability, SFpark will periodically adjust meter pricing up and down to match demand. Demand-responsive pricing encourages drivers to park in underused areas and garages, reducing demand in overused areas. With SFpark, real-time data and demand-responsive pricing work together to readjust parking patterns in the City so that parking is easier to find.
The goal is to ensure that there's always a space available, so that people stop endlessly driving in circles looking for parking. People will be able to check online to find out the current parking cost in the place they intend to visit. Parking garages will have a better chance of undercutting on-street rates, so that those garages can fill. If you've ever driven in San Francisco, you know that it's hard to decide to use a garage because, well, if you just drive around the block once more, you might get lucky. Under SF Park, if you just drive around the block once more, you'll probably find a space, but it will cost more than a garage, especially if you'll be there for a while. So drivers are more likely to fill up the garages.

If the program fails, which I hope it doesn't, it will be as a result of being too timid. There will inevitably be pressure to set a maximum parking price, at which prices will stop rising, which means that space will fill up, which means that everyone will be driving around the block again. Andrew Price at Good asks: Could parking costs reach $10/hour? Conceivably yes, for a few high-demand hours, which are almost certainly also hours when transit is abundant. What's wrong with that?
What's wrong with that is that the spot in front of my house is already a $10 (or more) spot if I ignore the circling SFMTA sharks waiting to slap another ticket on my poor ass piggy bank (Zoom zoom). Sometimes I have no choice but to leave it on a street cleaning block because I've driven around for hours at midnight looking for a spot. In my own neighborhood. You tell me it's normal to have to wake up at 5 in the morning just to move your car. Somehow pricing in premiums is going to help the situation? They already do that, that's why a quarter gets me twice as much time near my house as it does downtown, North Beach or the Mission. God forbid one have to go to the Wharf (some of us actually have to work there, you know), Union Square or Pier 39. I think people forget that some of us actually have to live here and these fuckers are sucking every last penny out of us that they can. I'm punished for being at work and I'm punished for being at home. And somehow a running tally of how much each meter is making for these money-hungry pricks to pull a price trigger on is my idea of a libertarian parking Utopia? Please.

You can't build a free market within a completely manipulated system, which is why I don't support this plan and have pretty much given up hope that we'll ever pull our heads out of our asses when it comes to the manipulation we have now.

And I'm not just talking about the assholes who stalk my neighborhood chalking my fucking tires. Nothing free market about that.

Additionally, in what universe does Human Transit live where transit is "abundant" in San Francisco? I want to move to that neighborhood.

Jr Deputy Accountant

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.


Anonymous said...

Sounds pretty bad. Horrible congestion, very high cost of living. I'm assuming there are other advantages that draw you to the area. Some other values are clearly making the parking costs pretty inelastic.

As a self-proclaimed libertarian, what seems like a better option to you? I'm assuming it's not anything like: "Subsidize all the parking using tax funds.", or "Give away all the parking spaces for free to users and charge every taxpayer for the cost."

Given your description of the parking situation there, I'm sure I'd be at least as angry. I might even be angry enough to move.


I have lived here for 11 years (moved from Wisconsin when I was 18) and am preparing to move later this year, I can't take it anymore.

The libertarian ideal, being free to make my own decisions for my own well-being and sanity, is for me to get the hell out and let them stab each other for parking spaces for all I care. I don't have a solution for San Francisco's parking situation but do know it's going to get worse with this new plan... as if that were possible.

I gave up my car years ago and rode Muni exclusively but my Mom passed away in April and I now have her car. I can't transfer title until 6 months after her death (no will, California probate laws) so I can't sell it just yet if I wanted to nor can I get a residential parking permit to at least be able to park in my own neighborhood without having to move it every 2 hours as the car isn't in my name at this point. And I'm punished for that.

There are obviously too many cars in the city but pricing in premiums is not going to help the congestion, I don't feel that is the goal. The goal is for City Hall to rake in even more than it already does (you should see the sharks, they've gotten voracious in recent weeks. I got ticketed twice in two days!), not to fix the parking problem. It is beyond fixing and California can fall into the ocean at this point for all I care, I'm done.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a wise choice to me.