Broken parking meters no longer constitute free parking

The SFMTA hopes that a newly proposed parking plan to change parking at broken meters to a two-hour time limit will dter drivers from breaking the machines to get unlimited free parking and cut down on city-wide repair costs. Karen M. Kinney / staff photographer

In the land of one-way streets and no left turns, driving in San Francisco can be enough of a challenge. When you tack on the obstacle of finding parking, trying to scrounge enough coins and keep track of how long you parked at a meter to avoid getting a parking ticket, the feat becomes nearly impossible.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, though, is proposing another challenge for drivers that limit the time someone can park at a broken or inoperable meter to two hours.

“I think it sucks,” said SF State student Ted Shroiock, 19. “I hate parking meters in general. There is no way to tell it’s been two hours. I would rather park where there’s no restriction to avoid getting tickets.”

Shroiock is one of the many people who inevitably receives several parking tickets for parking for too long in a limited area.

“I’ve gotten 10 tickets in like two years,” he said. “And they are so expensive. Like $55 a ticket. I just try to be careful about it.”

The current rule on broken parking meters is that someone can park in a spot for free for as long as the meter indicates the time limit is. So, a driver can park at a broken meter with a two hour parking limit for two hours and a broken meter that has no time limit can be parked at for an unlimited time.

The measure was introduced at an SFMTA board meeting, where the proposition was agreed upon, and was then sent to the Board of Supervisors and forwarded to the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee.

“It was heard at a hearing on Feb. 1 with the SFMTA’s commission,” said Gail Johnson, a city operations and neighborhood services clerk.

This attempt is not the first that SFMTA has sent to supervisors. In December 2010, the SFMTA sent a proposal to establish a one-hour time limit, which did not pass.

Aside from raising revenue for the SFMTA, the agency issued a statement that said the purpose of the ordinance is to reduce the incentive for parking meter vandalism and to make enforcement easier for officers so they don’t have to discern limits depending on each individual meter.

According to the statement, it will also decrease operational costs of fixing broken meters.

The statement suggests that a decal can be placed on all meters if the uniform 2-hour limit gets implemented to keep drivers easily informed of the time limit.

“I would imagine the intent is also to prevent people from parking extended periods of time and keep cars moving rather than camped out at broken meters,” said Alex Volberding, legislative aide to District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd.

Because this proposal involves changing the transportation code, which has to be approved by the Board of Supervisors as part of policy, the Board of City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee will bring the proposition to a vote after consideration.  The committee consists of supervisors Elsbernd, Eric Mar and John Avalos. The measure must be considered for 30 days before it can be voted on by the committee and, if passed, will be voted on by the complete Board of Supervisors.

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