SFMTA falls short with parking meter revenue

A report from the San Francisco controller’s office shows The City could have potentially collected more revenue from parking meters during the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

The report said that if every one of the 28,000 metered spaces in the city had been fully paid, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency could have generated as much as $190 million in revenue.

Though it might seem to drivers that parking spaces are always taken,  at least 40 percent of parking metered spaces are not occupied at any given time, according to data from the SFMTA’s SFPark program.

The report took that into account and said the transit agency could have generated $112.1 million in parking meter revenue from the occupied spaces.

The SFMTA instead collected $54.6 million in parking meter revenue and $23.2 million in citations related to parking meters for a total of $77.8 million, according to the report released last week.

Director of Audits Tonia Lediju said in a letter to the SFMTA that staff from the controller’s office analyzed reasons why the transit agency was not able to collect the potential maximum revenue from parking meters in The City, which included the misuse of disabled parking placards, drivers not paying and the transit agency not acting fast enough to repair broken meters.

Lediju said the transit agency lost $22.7 million because of drivers with disabled placards who get to park for free at metered spaces:

“The high occurrence of nonpayment resulting from these vehicles increases the cost to park for all users and threatens the effectiveness of SFPark’s demand based pricing which is intended to create availability and improve accessibility.”

The report said that 40 percent of nonpayment at the meter come from drivers with disabled placards.

Though state law requires for the City to provide free parking with drivers with disabled placards, the free parking privilege could attract drivers who abuse the placards — costing the city millions in parking revenue, the report said.

The SFMTA reported that they issued 60,750 disabled placards in San Francisco in 2012— twice as many metered spaces available in the City.

A common form of illegal use of the disabled placards are drivers without disabilities using someone else’s placard.

The SFMTA said in the report that it has a Disabled Placard Detail team assigned crackdown on the misuse of placards consisting of 11 parking control officers who conduct stakeouts and twice-a-week sting operations. The team confiscates about 1,800 placards a year.

The report said it can difficult though to catch violators because officers have to observe drivers arriving or departing from their vehicles.

In Oct. 2012, the SFMTA formed a task force made up disability advocates, businesses, regional transportation agencies and medical stakeholders to create recommendations on how to combat the illegal use of disabled placards.

The recommendations included providing more blue zone parking spaces in the City, conduct efficient enforcement of placard use and to charge placard holders at meters. Charging disabled placards though would require changes in the state law.

Other findings in the audit include the transit agency losing out $26.4 million in unpaid revenue from drivers who did not pay at the meter. The lost revenue though was offset by $23.2 million from parking meter citations.

The transit could also do a better job in fixing broken parking meters. The controller’s report said that the SFMTA does not efficiently track the progress of broken parking meters, which can prevent the SFMTA from determining if parking meters are repaired in a reasonable amount of time and assessing the revenue impact from broken meters.

The SFMTA receives reports of broken meters from the SF 311 system, but also from meter venders and parking control officers. The controller’s office recommends the transit agency make a comprehensive list with all the reports it receives from the different sources.

About $2.4 million in revenue is lost from broken parking meters.

The SFMTA said in the report that they will continue to pursue its efforts on the misuse of disabled parking placards, but said many of the factors are outside of the control of the transit agency.

The transit agency also said they will assess the feasibility of combining reports of broken parking meters to include complaints from SF 311 and its enforcement division. The study will take place after the installation of new parking meters is complete in March 2015.

A data-driven methodology to create and update enforcement beats is also being worked on to improve enforcement efforts, said the SFMTA.